by Matthew A. Everett • August 10, 2008 • Best Thing I Saw Friday
(still one performance left of this one, today, Sunday, August 10th, 5:30pm)
5 Stars – Very Highly Recommended
Michael Shaeffer is a wizard with language. Fair or foul, the words fairly dance in the air around him. Music and sex and sci fi and religion, old movies and old memories, along with his love for toying with the English language, all mix together in a brew that often provokes gasps and laughter, but also surprising moments of tenderness. It’s a pleasure to spend time hanging out in his company for an hour. Nice to know he’s moved back to the area, because it means we’ll get the chance to see him onstage more often between Fringes. Show page here, video clips here and here
The next two are already closed…
A Quirky Epic Journey
4-1/2 stars – Very Highly Recommended
One friend said it was a nice presentation but the plot was a little flimsy. Another friend said, “Who cares about the plot?” Uh, I do. The reason this rates as highly as it does is that the plot does indeed, unlike some other Fringe offerings, have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It just doesn’t deliver that final punch I kept expecting. The reason I was expecting it is 3 Sticks has crafted another production full of beguiling characters and images. Out of nothing more than four basic character costumes, an overhead projector, a metal barrel, some plastic tubes, a sheet, some rope, a little parachute silk, and a collection of colored socks, the ensemble creates an epic journey across the sea, into the jungle, over the desert, through the mountains and finally into the air in a hot air balloon. The whole thing is accompanied by a musician and original songs that help glue the narrative together and keep it moving along. It’s an enormously seductive and quirky production. The general on her quest, jettisoning fellow travelers as they get in her way, seems to be setting us up for some final moment of revelation, but it never comes. The set-up is fantastic. I’m just waiting for the payoff.
They’re an active bunch, so follow along between Fringes at www.3sticks.org
Forcefully Presented Trio of New Plays
3 stars – Recommended
These plays have been painstakingly crafted over a number of months in the writing group I’m a part of, and I was looking forward to seeing them realized onstage. The four person cast throws themselves into the roles with gusto. There was much laughter in the audience of which I was a part. My sense was that the production was going for broke with the big comedic broad strokes, but in that strategy, a lot of the subtlety was lost. The sense of menace in one, the sense of an alternate reality in another, the levels of relationships in the third, all seemed to be present on the page, but missing from the production. This was a production choice and the actors delivered what they were asked to deliver – which was big laughs. As comedy that’s funny, I can’t find fault with it. I just found myself wishing the director, also the author, had trusted his work on the page enough to allow it to breathe a bit more – to not always go so hard for the joke and instead go for the humanity (even in his inhuman characters) underneath.
Entering his sixth year of blogging about the Minnesota Fringe Festival (and bringing Mom along for the ride as a guest reviewer), Matthew A. Everett is also a local playwright and three-time recipient of grant support from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Information on Matthew and his plays can be found at matthewaeverett.com.