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11 buzzworthy shows from opening weekend of the Minnesota Fringe Festival

August 4, 2018

Kaboom

Omigosh, theyre already on stage. This is magical, said the woman who entered behind me. True, on both counts. Kaboom-goers are greeted by the backs of Robb Goetzke, as an idiotic (fictional) U.S. president and Joey Hamburger as defense secretary. Sheep Theaters sure-footed homage to Dr. Strangelove updated to include present-day, our-world-is-a-mess concerns is smartly, explosively funny. The president has received a nuclear threat, hes ready to retaliate (his target will alarm Minnesotas neighbor to the south) and everyone in the room where its happening is about as equipped to deal as the dolts on Veep are. Comic magic.

(7 p.m. Sun., 8:30 p.m. Mon., 7 p.m. Thu., 4 p.m. Aug. 11, Rarig Thrust, 330 21st Av. S., Mpls.)

CHRIS HEWITT

Not Fair, My Lady!

Talk about breaking the fourth wall. As the actors recite the throwback plots of Broadway offerings such as Kiss Me, Kate, they utter deadpan profanities expressing how their #MeToo-era audience might feel about these problematic relics. Using musical vignettes and sharp satire, creators Shanan Custer and Colleen Somerville call out the misogyny and sexism embedded in beloved titles such as The Fantasticks! (which condones rape) and Carousel (domestic abuse). But, like the shows they critique, the seven-person ensemble which includes Somerville, Suzie Juul, Marcie Panian and Rue Norman does so with sweet melodies.

(5:30 p.m. Sun., 8:30 p.m. Tue., 10 p.m. Aug. 10, 2:30 p.m. Aug. 11, Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St., Mpls.)

ROHAN PRESTON

Have You Seen This Girl?

Thursday was a beautiful evening for a walk in the West Bank, but Ariel Leafs show offers anything but comfort. The audience is trying to find Annie, a 16-year-old runaway. As Leaf leads us around the neighborhood, we meet those who know Annie, from a hard-nosed social worker to a pair of high-as-a-kite teenagers. They fill in the story of why Annie prefers life on the streets to her home, while noting that the worst way to get to her is through a gaggle of well-meaning folks. Thats where the discomfort arises, as Leaf asks whether we just want to be spectators in another persons difficult life.

(7 p.m. Sat.-Sun., Tue.-Wed. Aug. 11-12, Hard Times Caf, 1821 Riverside Av., Mpls.)

ED HUYCK

The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist

Which nation has the highest apologies per capita? If you guessed Canada, youd win the sweepstakes for this often hilarious musical, inspired by a true story of the daring robbery of Canadas maple syrup reserve. So much of theater is built on stereotypes, and writer/director Tavis Carpenters show is full of them, even if they compliment a people who love hockey, get soused on syrup and are unfailingly polite. Erin Kennedy plays Josephine, who wants to get back at bloated Maple Syrup Reserve chair Francois LaDouche (Doug Neithercott). Aleksandra Sobic plays one-eyed gangster Zed and Lynn Hu is a toughie undone by kindness. As the show says, revenge is best served syrupy-sweet.

(4 p.m. Sat., 10 p.m. Mon., 8:30 p.m. Aug. 10 12, Mixed Blood.)

ROHAN PRESTON

A Family Friendly Pulp Fiction

The basic joke of this show is right there in the name. The concept of sanitizing Quentin Tarantinos famously profane, hyperviolent film is ridiculous enough to make a decent comedy sketch, but the show jells into a sharp satire on the hypocrisy of Hollywood, family-values advocates and internet tone police. Tim Wicks script follows Pulp Fiction beat for beat, swapping out curse words with nonsensical soundalikes (Minnesota-fringing), censoring all references to sex, drugs and gambling, but leaving the multiple homicides very much intact. Bolstered with running meta-commentary from the cast, its pretty fringing funny.

(5:30 p.m. Sun., 7 p.m. Wed., 10 p.m. Aug. 10, 4 p.m. Aug. 12, Theatre in the Round, 245 Cedar Av. S., Mpls.)

IRA BROOKER

The Buttslasher

Glen L. Dawsons sharp take on a film noir-style detective isnt quite enough to make us overlook the familiarity of this sort of Raymond Chandler/Dashiell Hammett/James M. Cain parody. A maniac is knifing the posteriors of Stillwater residents and Detective Heck Bills (Dawson), whose accent suggests he came straight to Stillwater from Boston, is trying to get to the bottom of it. Theres some decently Chandlerish dialogue (femme fatale: Spin me your worst yarn and Ill knit a sweater out of it) and the plot is suitably impenetrable but theres no getting around the fact that this postman has rung a lot more than twice.

(1 p.m. Sun., 8:30 p.m. Wed., 5:30 p.m. Aug. 11., 4 p.m. Aug. 12, Ritz Theater, 345 13th Av. NE., Mpls.)

CHRIS HEWITT

The Screaming Skull

What happens offstage is just as intriguing in this horror tale. As actor Eric Webster tells an invisible visitor a Telltale Heart-like story about the noisy skull of woman whose murder he feels guilty about, sound-effects people create the illusion of a crackling fireplace, a howling wind and blood-curdling screams. Webster is hampered by an awkward structure that leaves him in a sort of theatrical no mans land: Hes not directly addressing the audience, so he cant use our energy, but he also doesnt have a scene partner on stage, so it sometimes feels like hes talking to himself. But the second half builds to a bleakly appropriate conclusion.

(7 p.m. Sat., 10 p.m. Sun., 8:30 p.m. Aug. 10, 1 p.m. Aug. 11, Rarig Thrust.)

CHRIS HEWITT

The Immaculate Big Bang

Bill Santiago really just wants to talk about his love for his daughter and his grief over his fathers death. He gets there by way of a rapid-fire disquisition on faith, physics and Schrdingers cat that takes his audience on a whirlwind tour of world religions and the origins of being. His clever, funny and sometimes baffling wordplay, darting eyes and malleable face create a riveting presence as he knits together Einstein, Lilith, Heisenbergs uncertainty principle, quantum mechanics, Dr. Seuss and the Kama Sutra into a meditation on love, loss and regret. Its a headlong leap into metaphysics but Santiago manages to stick the landing.

(7 p.m. Sun., 10 p.m. Wed., 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10, 8:30 p.m. Aug. 11, Strike Theater, 824 18th Av. NE., Mpls.)

LISA BROCK

Now We See It

Michael Rogers evocative, nostalgia-laden and movement-driven work asks a central question: How do you slay your childhood demon? When an adult crippled by fear (Rogers) travels back in time to meet his younger self (Mackenzie Lahren), they experience together the excruciating embarrassments of middle school dances, the adrenaline shot of Mario Kart and the unresolved trauma of family dysfunction, all the while pursued by a relentless and sinister figure. Strong acting, strikingly inventive stage images and John Hilsens original music add depth to this sometimes hokey but always heartfelt journey into a magical world where fake light sabers can kill real monsters.

(7 p.m. Sat., 10 p.m. Sun., 2:30 p.m. Aug. 11, 8:30 p.m. Aug. 12, Ritz Theater Mainstage.)

LISA BROCK

What to Do in Case of Dinosaur Attack

Matt Kessen is the writer, producer, director, performer, caterer, hairstylist and assistant to himself in this absorbingly funny 55-minute stemwinder. He plays Reverend Matt, whos giving a PowerPoint lecture on how to escape with your life should you find yourself in a Jurassic Park or Godzilla scenario. With a straight-faced tone thats more professorial than liturgical, he sustains the conceit while giving us a real history of dinosaurs and our cartoony understanding of them.

(10 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Tue., 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10, 8:30 p.m. Aug. 11, Mixed Blood.)

ROHAN PRESTON

For the Love of

This collection of anecdotes about loss never quite coheres into a play. Writer/star John Paul Gamoke portrays a man haunted by a series of deaths, who tries to reckon with them in the office of his wry therapist (Kelly Houlehan). The drama is occasionally affecting as it shifts between therapy sessions and flashbacks. Polished acting and Sam Albrights evocative sound design help smooth over some bumps, but its never clear what the play is about. It feels like a story that the teller knows so well that he cant figure out how to convey it to an audience.

(5:30 p.m. Sat., 10 p.m. Tue., 8:30 p.m. Thu., 4 p.m. Aug. 12, Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Av. S., Mpls.)

CHRIS HEWITT

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