In the audience for the August 3 performance of Stubble, I ran into Minnesota Fringe Festival director Robin Gillette. “What should I expect from this show?” I asked Robin.
“I think it’s going to be a spectacle,” replied Robin. “In a good way.”
I was surprised to hear that, since the productions’s publicity materials make it look like a somber one-woman show. In fact, it’s a big ensemble piece, executed by a tightly choreographed group of performers who move smoothly from one dark tableau to another. It’s an impressive technical achievement, and a strong artistic statement by writer Martha Heyl and director Hannah Steblay.
Presented in the context of a carnival freak show narrated by a hair-raising (so to speak) ringleader (Timothy Daly), Stubble tells the story of Lola (Audrey Anderson), a bearded lady who tries to deny her nature and lead a normal life after shaving her beard. The title of the show tells you how well that turns out.
Gender identity is heavily-trod territory in Fringeland, but Stubble makes it seem fresh with over-the-top theatricality. The show’s energy starts high and keeps rising, until the show reaches a surprisingly gripping and resonant climax. As well as superb ensemble work, Stubble boasts some of the best art direction I’ve ever seen in a Fringe show, with beautiful costume design by Sarah Sakry.
Though Stubble is very different in tone than anything I’ve seen from Fringe favorites Transatlantic Love Affair, fans of that company’s inventive and elegant physical theater will find much to marvel at in Stubble. It’s a spectacle—in a good way.
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