At this point in his career, Joseph Scrimshaw is almost review-proof. What is there to say? Go to see a Scrimshaw show, and you know what you’re going to get: a script that’s brainy but accessible, a tone that’s wry but not cynical, consistent laughs delivered by a cast evincing palpable camaraderie, and just a little too much screaming.
Besides his consistency, one of Scrimshaw’s most admirable traits as a producer/director/writer/performer is his enterprising willingness to find an audience wherever an audience is to be found. He performs regularly at the Science Museum and the History Center, he convinced a crowd of knitters to bring their needles to the BLB for Stitch, Bitch, n’ Die, and now he’s at a strip mall in Osseo that happens to be home to a very nice little performing space: the Yellow Tree Theatre. (Just because you’re in a strip mall, apparently, doesn’t mean you can’t still use the Commonwealth spelling of “theatre.”) Take a right off County Road 81 at the Champion and drive around behind the service station to find the mall; pull in next to We’re Stampin’ Mad, walk through the set of doors next to the school band supply store (yes, they have piano-key neckties and treble-clef hair binders), and you’ll find yourself in Yellow Tree’s cozy lobby. The chairs in their black-box theater are of the bouncy fabric-slung variety you’d expect to find at a suburban poolside, but damned if they don’t make for the most comfortable theater seating in the Twin Cities.
|an inconvenient squirrel, presented through june 28 at yellow tree theatre, 320 5th ave. s.e., osseo. for tickets ($12 adults, $9 children) and information, see josephscrimshaw.com.|
The show you’ll see on any Saturday or Sunday afternoon this June is Scrimshaw’s An Inconvenient Squirrel, an expanded version of his Fringe favorite from last summer. (The promotional flyers quote our blogger Wendy Gennaula calling that production “brilliantly squirrelly.”) It’s the kind of family show that’s actually a family show, with a clever script that will entertain patrons of all ages and a comic energy that will captivate the dull kids as well as the sharp ones.
Longtime co-conspirator Tim Uren plays the eponymous squirrel, whose inconvenient nature stems from the fact that he refuses to accept a name defining his essential characteristic the way every other squirrel in his tree has. The inconvenient squirrel and his obnoxious friend Socially Awkward Squirrel (Dan Rooney) undertake a sort of walkabout during which they encounter Thinks He’s a Pirate Squirrel (Scrimshaw) and Master Thespian Squirrel (Scrimshaw again), ultimately spurring a climactic confrontation between Evil Genius Squirrel (guess who) and the inconvenient squirrel’s father Really Important Squirrel (Reid Knuttila) that results in a shocking revelation about the true nature of the Big Ol’ Tree (Brian Kelly, performing with an appropriately well-rooted calmness that belies his long history as a performer in Triple Espresso).
In the end, there’s a positive message about the importance of being yourself—whatever that means—but Scrimshaw is more concerned with sending up morality tales than with delivering one. As you watch him run maniacally across the stage in a business suit, squirrel cap, and giant tail, you have to admit: when it comes to following the beat of your own drummer, Joseph Scrimshaw definitely practices what he preaches.
Jay Gabler (email@example.com) is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.
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