by Phillip Andrew Bennett Low • July 12, 2008 • I’m cutting short my writing about the Twin Cities Improv Festival, because I’ve been a baaad blogger — way behind, and Fringe season is upon us. If you still need a fix, I know that Matt Everett has a piece about it coming out for MNArtists.org. Time for me to start catching up, though — I hit up Vilification Tennis on June 28th, and, hey! there were Fringe previews happening.
It was an odd environment for it — 3-5 minutes is a pretty abbreviated period of time in which to do much of anything. And especially with an audience that came to see dirty insult comedy, the leap to more theatrical entertainments is a weird one to make. Also, with the amount of time that’s passed between seeing the previews, and writing about them — one of the biggest tests is how many of them I can actually remember.
I have to confess, the first two haven’t left a terribly vivid impression two weeks later: The Fish, the Fruit and the Pet Coffee Maker and Skunkape Sexkult. Of the former, I have retained an image of a man in a lab coat and a woman, poised for some kind of gynecological examination; and a vague impression of jokes that seemed to hinge on my being shocked by them. Of the latter, an image of a man, deliberately repulsive in both speech and bearing, running with much the same schtick. Both groups seemed to be pulling a page out of the same playbook, perhaps because they were performing as part of a group as famously controversial as Vilification Tennis; but it’s hard to beat them at their own game, and I couldn’t find either particularly memorable.
Which I also feel bad about, because they’re the two groups with which I don’t have some pre-existing relationship. Michael Shaeffer was up next, promoting two shows: All Rights Reserved: A Libertarian Rage and Roofies in the Mochaccino. The former is mine, so I won’t say much about it — but I’m more than happy to promote his. He’s the former slam master of Minneapolis, and I saw his show in the 2005 Fringe — Tantrums, Testicles, and Trojans — no less than three times, repeatedly dragging back people who I thought needed to see it. There’s so much pressure to see as much as possible during the Fringe, seeing anything more than once is about the highest recommendation I can make — and he’s as good as he ever was. I’m not a fan because I’m working with him, I’m working with him because I’m a fan.
The last group is one that needs no assistance from me: Four Humors, promoting Mortem Capiendum in a preview that probably ran too long for an audience that didn’t come to see them, but nevertheless stood out because of its extraordinary performance polish. I’ve long been a fan of Nick Ryan’s writing, but it strikes me that he could easily have ended up becoming one of those artists who other artists like, but nobody ever really goes to see — if it weren’t for his collaboration with directors like Jason Ballweber, who layers the script with a slickness that makes them accessible to a mainstream crowd.
The latter two groups, I recommend wholeheartedly — the first two, I’ve seen too little of to say much of anything in one direction or the other. So here’s hoping I get the chance to catch them again before the Festival hits.
Phillip Andrew Bennett Low is a playwright and poet, storyteller and mime, theatre critic and libertarian activist, who lurks ominously in the desert wilds of St. Louis Park, feasting upon the hygienically-prepared flesh of the once-living. His main claim to fame is probably as co-founder of the Rockstar Storytellers, and as founder/producer of Maximum Verbosity, a garage-band-like theatre troupe that is in a state of constantly re-defining itself.