Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Minnesota Fringe Festival
For 11 days in August, theaters throughout Minneapolis turn themselves over to a crazy madhouse of shows. Between August 3 and 13, more than 150 shows and nearly 800 performances are presented throughout the city during the Minnesota Fringe Festival.
Now in its 13th year, the festival is a beast unto itself, providing a mix of established stars presenting new works, companies trying to get a foothold in the local community through a splash at the festival, and others embracing the old maxim of "putting on a show."
The event certainly is popular, with more than 15,000 tickets sold over the first four days (for 340 performances), up about eight percent from 2005. If this holds through the festival, the event will draw more than 45,000 patrons.
With an audience primed for experimentation, the Fringe Festival is a chance for established artists to let their hair down, and for new artists to showcase their skills.
Equally crazed is Watching Porn, which is about - well, you know. Presented by the geek friendly Council of Doom Theatre Co. (who presented the Dungeons and Dragons inspired THACO last year), the show is a, ahem, romp through the puzzling rules of pornography and how one young man tries to use that in his relationships, to understandably disastrous results.
The Fringe format - 60 minutes for the show, a short time to set up and tear down - lends itself to simple productions - and one-actor shows. These can be godawful (two that I saw, The Dr.* Matt Show (*not a real doctor) and Alice: A Comic Journey of Tragic Proportions, were painful to watch), but also provide lots of potential, especially if the artist understands how to use the format. In The Rats in the Walls, Tim Uren crafts a spooky reading around H.P. Lovecraft's story. Uren uses a piece written in the first person, and nearly devoid of dialogue, so it works quite well in the format. Though occasionally sloppy, Uren makes the narrator's descent into madness crystal clear, leaving his final ravings to haunt the viewer long after the end of the show.
With so many shows, it's impossible to check out everything that sounds interesting, but I'll give it a try. Check in later this week with a report on some additional shows.
For more information, visit www.fringefestival.org.
Be sure to check the current schedule for theatre in the Twin Cities area