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2018 Audience Reviews

Member Reviews

The following reviews were submitted by Fringe Member: Joe Allen

Company: Concrete Drops
Show: Inescapable
Venue: Augsburg Mainstage

The unsaid of the unseen.

This play hits the ground running at a breakneck pace - as aging Bill and Ted-types misfire on conversation and intention. Introspection on manic dissociation, continuity of self, and the limits of our minds are brought to light as permutations of the same conversation loop back and fold over on themselves . Reminiscent of Mamet, Sorkin, and Who's on First, "saying nothing like it's something." It's a spectacle in itself that the actors keep this script straight in their head, and a credit to the performances and structure of the play that even when the same lines and themes are revisited, they are enriched and deeper from the action that has come before. Paranoia and impotence mount as the future-past-selves devour themselves and become further unmoored. Funny, quick, timeless. Bonus points for a clever demonstration of scenecraft in a touring Fringe show.


Company: Marvel Ann Theatre
Show: VERT-O-GRAPH
Venue: Rarig Center Thrust

Great concept, nearly incoherent execution

The first half hour of this show could have been done neatly in about five minutes of exposition - instead we're dragged through the drudgery. By the time the concept kicks into gear, we're not given enough time to really explore the implications. There are some really fun moments and surprises in the show, but the amateur acting and inconsistent tone take me out. Really enjoyed the staircase bits, some of the moments of foley, and the ambitious scope of integrating actors with light and sound in adventurous ways. The script needs a lot of work.


Company: OverLaugh Productions
Show: YOUNGBLOOD IN THE DESERT/GATEWAY DRUG
Venue: Rarig Center Arena

Make your bed, lie in it

Love to see two new plays premiering at once, and pleased that both are fleshed out, emerging works. The arena is tough to stage. The first play is awkwardly staged, though there are some fun creativities taken with tech. The second play sits much more comfortably in the space. Some interesting themes being tackled: dream culture, spirituality, religion, and how their intersection shapes identity. Nice work from the actors, in terms of differentiating characters and committing fully to their gestural life and vocal affect.


Company: Theatre Corrobora
Show: Rejection
Venue: Augsburg Mainstage

Posturing vs. Authenticity

In another brilliant showing, Theatre Corrobora once again draws some of the most intentional and truthful theatre you'll see this year out of a talented young ensemble. Haily Colwell's sophisticated script delivers a well-crafted thesis on communication, love, relationships, and self-deception - punctuated with rapid-fire Palladino-esque dialogue. Aidan Jhane Gallivan's nimble direction neatly dissolves the constraints of time and space, delicately delivering your attention from moment to moment, seamlessly from scene to scene. So many shows, in Fringe especially, suffer from sparse sets on large, yawning stages - and they should all take note from Aidan's effective staging. Riveting, cinematic performances from Dani Sue Pazurek and Emily Rose Duea convey authentic emotion with delicate nuance. Contrasting energy from Henry and Nick deliver different yet well-crafted postures of self-deception. The ensemble is full of light, the show is full of thought, and the title credits are a delight.


Company: Play-Dot
Show: Midwestworld
Venue: Southern Theater

Short Title for My Review

A meta-play delightfully self-aware in it's self-conception, Midwestworld is an absurdity of nested layers and shell scripts deconstructing the form and challenging the ego of fellow artists. The show is quick to raise poignant themes, and not afraid to undercut them with clever wordplay and anti-jokes. This is an anti-play, steeped in academia and tainted by troll-culture, that slowly dissolves into gratuitous pop-culture hotdish. I desperately want these cats to carry the questions forward into something more than a slapdash Fringe performance, because it's brilliant. They're on the cusp of making something truly profound, and I have no confidence whether that is their intention. Midwestworld unhinges its jaw, devours the zeitgeist, and peels apart into various threads all tangled and unraveling age-old philosophical questions. Moar.


Company: Say It Loud Productions
Show: Revolt of the Beavers
Venue: Mixed Blood Theatre

Short Title for my Review (50 char max)

A well executed children's show, with small bursts of hyper-articulate political manifesto. I appreciate the revival of the old script, but I found it over-expository in a way that made it difficult to get rolling. Positive points for the ensemble and representation in casting. Negative points for an extremely flat and two-dimensional staging that does not play in the thrust. Come early enough to snag seats in the middle.


Company: Jamie Shriner Tells Stories
Show: Wife Material
Venue: Augsburg Studio

Can love be unconditional?

A well-executed, sultry, vulnerable, and confident one-woman show about body- and sex-positivity, surviving sexual-violence, and the construct of love and its media representation. Jamie deftly weaves humor and sincerity into a tell-all that is half burlesque and half show-choir. I left with a few questions regarding her stance on monogamy, and wondering to what extent she considers hyper-sexuality to be a mask/escape. There is some really beautiful and insightful stuff going on here, I'm thrilled to see a fellow artist finding such peace through honest introspection.


Company: Universal Dance Destiny
Show: African Roads, American Streets
Venue: Ritz Theater Mainstage

Energetic and Supportive community

Some very talented dancers and musicians bring a variety show that highlight the intersection of cultural forms and tells an indirect story about inclusion, compassion, and love. There's no real through-line here, and there are -minutes- of dead space on stage between different segments of the show. Where I might normally fault a show for lacking some stage management, here I'm just happy to see the representation and participation on stage at Fringe. Highlights for me were definitely the breakdance showdown, and the rich sound of the percussion ensemble on the acoustically rich Ritz mainstage.


Company: Clevername Theatre
Show: THE NEWS: A Musical
Venue: Ritz Theater Mainstage

Eat the rich! Pull the cool whip from their guts!

Alexander's books and lyrics continue to tighten up, and every year (previous works incl. the fabulous Slaughterhouse Five, Trump! the musical, and Bartleby) he and his company deliver a compelling, timely and nuanced social point in the guise of frenetic, unpolished absurdity. Drawing on Sondheim and patter, the minimalism of Brad Kalhoff's compositions don't impress on first listen, but sneak into the back of your mind. The NEWS is delightfully absurd, and the performers embody a well-crafted sweet and madcap energy even when they wander through some awkward and unnecessary scene changes across the wide Ritz Mainstage.


Company: New Endeavors
Show: The Buttslasher
Venue: Ritz Theater Mainstage

Potty Puns and Ice clog the St. Croix

During 2017's noir-themed Fringe festival, I missed this one by schedule crunch. Heard the buzz, was excited to see it back, and knowing the talent of the cast I was pretty excited. There are some nice moments, puns that land, and a thoroughly consistent style. Detective Bills and Backside Proprietor Jo really committing to the smoky, sensual noir stylings. The show really just didn't click for me. The tropes felt tired, the same three jokes were wrung to death, and air really fell out of the show about halfway through as it ground through a stale and predictable denouement.


Company: Hit the Lights! Theater Co.
Show: WHALES
Venue: Ritz Theater Mainstage

Drunk History qua Price is Right - Herman Melville

DUNGEON shattered me last year, and I am sure I wasn't the only one who had to suppress a little disappointment when realizing we weren't getting quite the same experience. That being said, I love the energy of this company, and so glad to see a broader range of their tastes and talent. The constantly shifting tones, factual and historical context, and inventive shadow magic make for a raucous and lively hour of Fringe. It's a shame the rest of you won't get to hear Jay Gabler's strangulated harpooning war cry.


Company: Nefarious Laboratory
Show: The Idaho Jackson Action Playset
Venue: Ritz Theater Studio

A Portrait of American Anxiety

I appreciate and believe fully in the therapeutic value of theatre, but I'm not sure what there is for most of us to take away from revisiting elementary school memories. The second half of the show is much stronger, as he closes on his thesis and ties together themes of alienation, anxiety, and the great lie of neo-liberal America. Personally, I found the performer's anxiety too much to handle. It crept into throat and face, muddling words and flattening delivery. At times, from four rows back, I couldn't understand half the words coming out of his mouth. A one-person show needs to have shape and texture and be vocally or physically compelling to win me over.


Company: Ruckus Productions
Show: Sidesplitting
Venue: Theatre in the Round

Delightful, Absurd, Problematic

I love when a show knows not to take itself too seriously, but the actors still commit in earnest to selling it. The show excels when clowning and embracing a lo-fi budget. It really struggles when it blithely glides past the substantial weight of some problematic content with a pseudo-ignorant "oh I was just trolling" attitude.


Company: Sidecar Theatre
Show: Summers in Prague
Venue: Rarig Center Arena

Excellent Script, Masterfully Played

I am SO happy I juggled my schedule to catch this show. Stunning performances from both actors in a beautiful story about love, light, vulnerability, intimacy, and nonmonogamy. The actors are rapturous. I found myself thankful that the Arena is such a stark space, because I couldn't take my eyes off of one for the other until they were blocked with the back of their head to me.


Company: The Band Group
Show: TITUS: Sweet Water, Silent Walks
Venue: Rarig Center Thrust

Compelling atmosphere, movement, and music

The large ensemble really establishes an effective, visceral mood. The movement, fights, and choreography are stunning - if not a little worrisome at times (young actors, please protect your knees!) The crafted music is haunting, unsettling, and well fit. However, if I didn't know the plot of Titus, I think I would have been pretty lost. The cuttings of text are dramaturgically arbitrary, and the ensemble fails to connect tone of voice, thought, or intent to their delivery. Shakespeare is difficult to convey effectively, and I applaud giving so many young performers a crack at it. Still, the cause is just and true. Raising awareness for both Cornerstone and one of the Bards' least known plays is commendable.


Company: Quasimondo Physical Theatre
Show: Mrs. Wrights
Venue: Rarig Center Xperimental

Changing, it rests.

This is a beautiful, impressive, and important piece of work - just what I hope to find at Fringe. Through constant, shifting choreography underscored by well-crafted soundscapes, Reinke embodies different accents, philosophies, and moods. It's rare to see such a thoughtfully crafted show actually follow through on its thesis statement. This is the real deal, folks. "You can become godlike, provided you struggle with yourself to overcome your weakness."


Company: Berlin Productions
Show: I Never Knock
Venue: Augsburg Mainstage

Hateful, Misogynist Wreck

Sorry not sorry for the nearly uncontainable invective in my original review.


Company: TROMPE L'OEIL
Show: Bits & Bobs: An Evening of Short Plays
Venue: Theatre in the Round

Unfocused Theatrical Romp

There's a talented ensemble here, but with new work you need clear creative direction and sharp text to really make it click. There is definitely a mixture of tastes here. For me, the show started strong, but the clarity and intention of the plays went slowly downhill along with wilder choices, questionable accents, and increasingly inscrutable direction.


Company: The Bearded Company
Show: Swords & Sorcery: The Improvised Fantasy Campaign
Venue: Theatre in the Round

Solid roll!

These guys love what they do, and they certainly have it figured out. Their formula works, the audience loves it, and if you don't know what it's about I highly recommend you come see - especially if you don't think it's your bag.


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