A Geek's Eye
11th August, 2014. 2:30 pm. My Fringe Reviews for 2014
I saw 26 performances out of this year's lineup of 169 different productions!
Browse a listing of this year's shows
What do those kitties mean?
Thursday, July 31
Green T's 2001: A Space Odyssey
Review: A very cool blend of the novel and the film, this production combines dance, pantomime, and full-body acting to really nice effect. A few times the sound effects in the background overwhelmed the actor playing Frank making her impossible to hear. But all the elements of the great story are here with an excellent portrayal of HAL 9000 and some really creative choreography.
Review: This is one of those shows I want to see again. A really hilarious production with some fun dance numbers and absolutely brilliant mime by Kirsten Stephens. Having really talented performers go back to explore works they did in the days when they were amateurs and kids is a great concept. Further, it is expertly handled by this crew. Great way to spend your Fringe!
The Adventures of Tapman
| |Review: Really excellent, rapid-fire dance with a very loosely-woven plot about a super-hero tapper.
Four Humors Does Every Show in the Fringe
| |Review: I was laughing so loud for so long, I came away with facial pain. But, really, this is the kind of pain you want: it was earned! I would pay to see this show each run during the Fringe. Four Humors is amazing! I would love to see what they do with other shows. Tonight, opening night, we saw them tackle "Cursed". From dog-men to a tragic, tortured artist to Downton Abbey references, these amazing improvisational comics knocked it out of the park!
Friday, August 1
Failure: A Love Story
| |Review: Heartbreaking and funny, this wonderful tale blends physical stagecraft with stellar acting, fast-paced dialogue, compelling characters, and an ending that is still compelling even though you know the main plot points within the first minute of the show. You know the Fail sisters are about to die. You even know the order and means of their deaths. But this heartfelt show about love and life nevertheless takes you in unexpected directions. It's charming while being a bit of a tear-jerker. Simply beautiful! I would pay to see this remounted as a full-size production without thinking twice.
| |Review: I had no idea... I honestly didn't know what this was going to be about. But within seconds of the play starting, I realized I was watching a celebration of Marx Brothers-style comedy. This is classic story-telling with rapid-fire witticisms, puns, physical comedy, and a break-neck pace (including a wonderful chase scene). Hilarious from start to finish this is one of my favorite comedies: Fringe or otherwise. I fully suspect this one will start selling out as soon as word spreads.
Uptown Bank Heist
| |Review: A farce that puts a bickering couple, a jaded bank owner, an enthusiastic (and love-lorn) bank teller, and three criminals in the same room during a bank heist, this was a fun, light-hearted comedy. For those who like simple, enjoyable fare, this is a charming and light way to spend an evening.
Sunday, August 3
The Boy Boy Friend: A Gay Romp
Theatre in the Round
| |Review: A fabulous, funny musical about being young and very, very gay, this enjoyable farce was fun to watch unfold. A few of the singers really blew me away, especially Annie Deutsch who has a voice the likes of which I've rarely heard. She's amazing! The thing I didn't expect was the (brief) nudity. I probably should have read the play disclaimer a bit more thoroughly.
Theatre in the Round
| |Review: I was amazed. The staging and lighting for this wonderful tale that explores friendship, science, and the respect shown to amateur astronomers by professionals, are beyond compare. The acting was amazing and the story shows a proper evolving friendship (not a "relationship" in any romantic sense) between two people where, in Hollywood or a mainstream production, there would have been the spectre of romance. There is no romance, here. There is intelligence, drama, humor, and a fantastic exploration of the human condition all in the shadow of our sun's fifth planet: Jupiter. A wonderful show that deserves to be re-mounted.
U of M Rarig Arena
| |Review: Mixing up which actors play which parts in Cyrano, Midsummer Night's Dream, and the Importance of Being Earnest not only made a really great point about expectations on the part of theater goers but also allowed the words and scenes to stand on the merits of their performers in non-traditional casting. I was really blown away by Susanne Becker and Dawn Krosnowski. I would really love to see this done more often. The change in perspective really takes something you think you know and enables the audience to really appreciate it in a new light, highlighting the original brilliance in the script.
Yama & Kalindi: a Transdimensional Love Story
Theatre in the Round
| |Review: This tale, told non-sequentially, explores concepts ranging from the Multi-Worlds Hypothesis and free will to black holes and relationships. Taking its stepping-off point from a mythological tale about the introduction of death into the universe, "Yama & Kalindi..." weaves the lives of several different characters together in different permutations around a central theme. Scientific exploration goes hand-in-hand with building relationships and contemplating the nature of endings and beginnings. It truly was a wonderful story!
Jumpin' Jack Kerouac
U of M Rarig Proscenium
Review: When finding out how writers, who are often so much in their heads that they find it difficult to let go and just enjoy dancing, embrace the creative challenge of telling a tale with their bodies, Windy Bowlsby and her cast crafted a show of pure happiness. Further, the brilliant and experienced writers who put their feet on the line by performing also contributed written observations which served as introductions to each dance. So, not only does the audience get a fun time watching creative folk outside their comfort zone embracing a challenge for the sheer joy of doing so but we also get some of their trademark wit and insight at the same time. This show blends choreography and writing to create something really special!
Fringe Orphans 3: The Legend of Orphans' Gold
Theatre in the Round
| |Review: Like previous installments, "Fringe Orphans" is a collection of vignettes. None of them really grabbed me, I'm afraid, and a few just seemed opaque, preventing me from really embracing the idea this year. But perhaps next year will be better. During the show I saw, phillip low did not perform, sadly, so maybe that explains the overall short run-time and lack of engaging dialogue. I will say that one segment, "Bizarro World" was fascinating and made me wish for a full play based on those concepts.
Monday, August 4
Native Man the Musical
U of M Rarig Xperimental
| |Review: Unshirking from using political language and harsh truths, this presentation mingles live hip-hop, folk-style music, personal stories, recorded interviews, and audience interaction to discuss what it means to be a Native American man in today's society. There are some elements a bit distasteful but the message is powerful enough that, for most, it can push past. The transitions and video/audio editing needs polish and some of the performers seemed a bit wooden in delivering their dialogue. And while, as a liberal, I find the messages brought forth to jibe with my political views, others who don't share them might not find this show to their taste.
U of M Rarig Thrust
| |Review: For all the years I've been coming to the Fringe, this is the first time I've been able to get in to see a Mike Fotis show. Further, the topics he addressed (creating a family-of-choice, facing anxiety, dealing with family members and family expectations) really hit close to home. I usually try to be impartial when I write a review. In this case, I'm not going to. This was an amazing show! It struck very potent chords with my own life. Funny, fast-paced, insightful, and quick to work with the ASL interpreter's own interpretations, Mike Fotis has created a show that floored me. I could not get enough! I definitely want to see Fotis Canyon again and again.
U of M Rarig Proscenium
| |Review: This sweet and fun musical tale of Mario (you know: the plumber) on his quest to rescue the princess from the clutches of the evil Bowser is a tale anyone into video games knows. But here, these young performers interpret it in a new and hilarious way. Fun songs and a great, very ambitious staging, made for an excellent show!
Thursday, August 7
Top Gun: The Musical
| |Review: Not having seen the original movie, I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this. I was completely, totally wrong! I do know the writer and choreographer (both are friends) and I have another friend in the cast. That said, if I don't like something or have a lukewarm response, I say as much. I should never have doubted that my lack of exposure to the original film would dampen my fun. The songs, unlike so many at Fringe musicals, were full-length productions. Most shows are more-or-less "fun sized" with their music. Each song in "Top Gun" was a full song. Plus, the lyrics were catchy and funny. The dances (especially the dog-fights) were brilliant! I did have some trouble making out lyrics during solos but ensemble songs were full-power and great!
A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant
| |Review: Perhaps the creepiest, most fun show I've seen this year. This "celebration" of the religious legacy of L. Ron Hubbard was presented in the style of your average Church Christmas Pageant complete with forced smiles and plastic cheer. It was hilarious, well-sung, brilliantly-acted, and extremely memorable. I heartily recommend this to any Fringer. These young performers have a great future ahead of them and the writer really nailed the subject matter. The pacing was perfect and break-neck with the show flowing easily from number to number and act to act. It's clear the show was very well-rehearsed. A must-see!
Friday, August 8
U of M Rarig Arena
| |Review: My brain kept trying to relate all the different vignettes together but that was mostly because three of them had direct ties. I'm still not sure if the rest go together. Each, however, was powerfully acted. Very moving work, indeed! Excellent use of the arena space. But because there were no clear connections, except for a few, I kept trying to draw connections and, thereby, got distracted. It could be that I was just missing something. Still, I have to say this was a good show. I enjoyed it. It's solid.
Defiance Alliance! An Atomic Comic
U of M Rarig Xperimental
| |Review: I did not anticipate going to this, originally. I chose to attend because I had a time-slot between two shows. I came away with a mile-wide grin and wishing I'd seen this earlier in the weekend. This brilliantly funny and fun story of super-villains, super-rivalry, and super-heroism was low-, low-, low-budget. But that was a huge part of its charm. With all the sets and props made from what looked like cardboard, colored paper, markers, and glue, the performers still wove a wonderful narrative that tickled the comic-book lover in me while engaging the theater-lover.
Shakespeare Apocalypse: A New Musical
Theatre in the Round
| |Review: Usually when you see "Shakesepeare" in the title or description of a Fringe show, it means shoe-horning Shakespearean dialogue into an already-existing format ... often as a parody. However, this is a complete show playing with the idea that a Faustian pact between Shakespeare and the Devil to have his plays run until the End of Days would trigger the Apocalypse when a frustrated actor's anti-Shakespearean rant goes viral and starts undermining The Bard's legacy. This is very original with excellent songs and acting. There is an amazing soprano at one point and the over-the-top portrayals of Shakespeare and Jane Austen were hilarious. Great comedy and great music!
The Tourist Trap
Theatre in the Round
| |Review: A horror story is a tricky thing to do in general largely due to how personal horror is. Therefore, I cannot say that this show will work as well for others as it did for me. But with a minimalist set, these five accomplished actors told a bloody tale of an old cult, serial killings, and the desolate backwater of South Dakota. It was honestly shocking and scary in several moments with an astounding transformation by Ariel Leaf: brilliant acting! What really got me, though, was the amazing dialogue. Delivered by this troupe of actors, it was all the more effective. The whole narrative was tight and evocative. Listening to the characters interact was poetry. Just fantastic wordsmithing!
Saturday, August 9
Mainly Me Productions' Our American Assassin -or- You Can't Handle the Booth!
Theatre in the Round
| |Review: Probably this year's best comedy if not the best show in the Fringe. In the wake of President Lincoln's assassination, the hardest hit were the actors in the theater. Just ask them. From the same minds that brought us "Class of '97", this brilliant comedy follows three actors as they seek to track down and bring to justice the infamous John Wilkes Booth. An amazingly fast-paced script and equally fast-paced actors, the three leads were amazing.
The Genealogy of Happenstance
U of M Rarig Arena
| |Review: Another first for me, I've finally seen a show by Allegra Lingo. I was told about this monologue presentation by several friends and re-worked my Fringe schedule to see it. Boy, I'm glad I did! This is an amazing dialogue following the sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, always fascinating path to raising a family that Allegra and her wife have been going through for the past year. Single-person dialogue shows can be very hit-or-miss since, if not prepared perfectly, can have every little flaw seem magnified by the lack of anyone else on stage. There were no such flaws in this production. None. Plus, the story-telling was riveting. I'm a nail-chewer when I get engrossed and this production cost me several nails. Great show!
Real Dead Ghosts
| |Review: The acting and dialogue were excellent in this play but I'm still not sure what it was about. I mean I get the main conflict but how it began seemed to have nothing to do with the rest of the play. I'm still trying to sort through how it all fits together. But following a discussion between a couple as they tell "only the truth" as they spent their fifth anniversary together in a rented cabin was a good premise but I'm not sure it went anywhere. It explored a few interesting topics but I'm still not sure there was any real resolution or even movement towards a resolution. Still, it was very well-acted and it was engaging.
| |Review: Looking at the paths several couples take in the wake of Marriage Equality becoming the law in Minnesota. From the day Governor Dayton signed the bill into law to a year later (and then some) the cast portrays several couples and explores some aspects of how the possibility of marriage impacts people's lives. Sure, it doesn't get into all the nitty-gritty of it and only explores a few angles but it's only an hour with a limited cast ... much more would not have been feasible. I feel sorry for those who were not there for the Saturday night final performance, though. Producer and Co-Creator Laura D. Thaisen came on stage after the show was done and proposed to her girlfriend, actress Rachel Rice. She said yes!
Current mood: artistic.
10th July, 2014. 5:48 am. Are There Rules For Spoilers? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios
Coming off CONvergence this past weekend, I found this particularly interesting given how much of a spoiler mine-field most fannish conventions are. Very good discussion, indeed!
25th June, 2014. 10:01 pm. Net Neutrality: Is the Internet a Public Utility? | PBS Idea Channel
"Common Carrier", "Utilities", the Internet, and Net Neutrality: this is what you need to view to understand the current decisions being considered by the FCC.
Current mood: contemplative.
17th June, 2014. 1:34 pm. Mumble Valley
So, the attic/roofing/cut-a-ventilation-hole contractor still hasn't shown up on day two of this whole thing.
I've been wrestling with them all morning.
I left a message, this morning, and got a call back from Over-Arching Home Improvement Firm around 11am saying that the roof people should be here in an hour or so. I confirmed that and made sure they had my cell phone number since I wanted to use that hour to run out and grab a burrito.
I did, got back in under 20 minutes, and still: no roofer/hole-driller/ventilator.
I stayed parked in the front room and waited.
Then, I came upstairs (about to call them again) when a work emergency came up. I'm working from home so I immediately jumped onto a Skype call but kept my iPhone and the house landline nearby. Writing a code-fix for my employer took about an hour. Still, no call.
I phoned Over-Arching Home Improvement Firm again and left another message detailing how I'd been busy but here all the time and no one had called yet.
Then, about 8 minutes later, I got a call on my iPhone from the roofer/hole-driller/ventilator saying that he was driving down to Mumble-Mumble for mumble-mumble-mumble and should be there in mumble-mumble minutes. I asked him to repeat himself and gradually got that he was going to be in Golden Valley (or something ... it was very mumbley) in about 20 minutes. He did not tell me when he would be here but promised to call me as soon as he got his supplies in Mumble Valley. Then, he implied, he'd be on his way.
That's where we are, now. It's been about 20 minutes since the mumble-call. I'm guessing he's picking up some stuff and will then either tell me "it's going to rain; I can't come, again, today" or "I'm on my way: I'll be there in mumble hours".
I'll let you know what transpires.
Okay, the house is shuddering and shaking as the contractors drill a vent hole in the roof. I'm writing this sentence during the resumed work.
When they'd finally arrived they found that insulation had been packed above the bathroom such that they could not get above the ceiling to complete the ventilation. They argued that it had been done backwards and, now, it would cost extra to actally finish the work. At one point they suggested cutting a three-foot by three-foot hole in the bathroom ceiling, pulling down the insulation, and then doing the work with the vent fan.
Both they and I tried calling the Over-Arching Home Improvement Firm but only got voice mail.
Frustrated, both of us, they eventually started packing up to leave. I sat down to commisserate via email and social media. I was, frankly, very annoyed and started writing this.
Okay, quite a bit of time has passed. Where was I? Ah yes...
I was just reaching the five-minute mark of being frustrated after they left, feeling a nice angry boil coming on, when my iPhone rang.
It was the Over-Arching Home Improvement Firm.
I told the woman on the phone that the attic/roofing/cut-a-ventilation-hole people had left. She assured me that she had just spoken with them and told them to finish the work, tonight. She also reminded them, apparantly, of how most of the work had been done for them. They just had to crawl up there and finish it. She assured me that they'd re-certify the insulation they'd already put in and re-blow some in, should it become necessary after the drilly-people got done crawling around up there.
So, after confirming that the guys were indeed coming back in the house, I closed my door and worked on stuff for my employer. About an hour later, they were done.
Only an hour!
I'm really not sure who to trust anymore with the implied accusations of incompetence.
When the hole-drilly-guy asked if I would vacuum up after them, I just decided "sure". I mean there was insulation everywhere but, at this point, I didn't care. I just wanted it over with. I don't know if they were supposed to clean up or if I was ... it just didn't matter to me.
We tested the vent fan and they packed up.
Then I spent a three-quarters-of-an-hour cleaning between 4 and 4:45.
I'm really pooped. I'm having a bit of an asthmatic problem, but at least it's done. All that's left, now, is to get the wall's switch plate put on over the exposed light/fan switches. Apparently the eletrician will do that.
I don't know when.
But for now, I'm just tired and sweaty and glad its over with.
Current mood: annoyed.
2nd June, 2014. 5:41 pm. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): Net Neutrality
Quite a bit has been written on Net Neutrality, especially in the last few weeks. If you still haven't learned about it, you may want to see John Oliver's take on it along with a call to action.
Spread it around and do something.
Current mood: annoyed.
19th May, 2014. 8:02 pm. The Science of Game of Thrones
10th May, 2014. 10:48 pm. Again
Fourteen years on and I had a horrific nightmare about my father's death. I woke up, crying and gasping for breath, around 2am. Honestly, thinking back on it now (although the details of the dream have thankfully fled) I still find tears coming to my eyes at having to face my father dying again.
All day, today, I tried not to think about it.
I managed to put it out of my mind for brief periods.
Thankfully, today was a gaming day. I was able to immerse myself in playing roles and socialization with fellow geeks. But it was never far from my mind.
As it stands, I didn't give a damn about my diet, today. I ate out for breakfast and had a second burger for dinner.
I know I was off and even alluded to the fact that I got about 3 hours of sleep last night to my friends.
I wish I knew what determined the topics and content of my dreams. I wish I could shut down the nightmares before they happened. As it is, I'm really afraid to go to bed, tonight. I don't want to go there, again. I'm tired, thoroughly exhausted, but I don't want to close my eyes.
I may go out and find an all-night restaurant or something; some place where I can get an ice cream sundae or something simple and nice that will help me just feel normal.
Nightmares aren't real. But the experiences they dredge up can feel that way. And those emotions, once conjured, are extremely hard to brush off ... especially when so personal, so vivid, and so traumatic.
Journal entries about dreams are the lowest form of blogging.
I know this.
I also can't not write about this.
Current mood: sad.
Read 4 Notes -Make Notes
3rd May, 2014. 5:12 am. Migraine, perhaps, again
I'm going to give the Imitrex a work-out. I woke up with a glimmer of a dawning headache. I took my last pill and drank some caffeine before taking a shower. I want this thing gone by the time Free Comic Book Day starts and for it to stay gone while I'm out at the MN Furs spring picnic.
Current mood: pained.
30th April, 2014. 11:09 pm. Hard-Sell
Going to bed, now.
We just had two home repair contractors leave the house. We had an appointment for 7:30 with them for them to estimate the cost of replacing two exterior doors. They arrived ten minutes early. They left around 10:40.
Nice enough people but the door estimate was, on its own, about $10,000. I think. I'm bleary; can't think. But it was waaaayyyy expensive.
On the other hand, they discovered another problem, with our insulation, and offered to fix that for about $4,000.
We went with that.
But, boy, did I start feeling the hard-sell...
And I had no idea they would be here this friggin' long! I had work for CONvergence to do, tonight!
I thought they were just coming to do an estimate. In the past, when going through Menards or Home Depot or Discount Carpets, the person showed up, inspected the house, and just did the estimate. These guys, as charming as they were, just wouldn't get to the point!
But we needed what they were selling and, so, we bought it in the end.
Last night, I got 4 hours. Tonight I think I'll get the same.
Oh, and one of the salespeople is coming back tomorrow night because she forgot a form that needs signing. I have to go from work to my doctor's appointment back to home to jointly sign with my co-owner, Mike.
Current mood: exhausted.
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