Even a gorgon can’t stop Mother Nature, which delayed the debut of this outdoor extravaganza until Sunday evening. It was worth the wait, and worth the trip to Logan Park for a true Fringe experience. The familiar elements of the Medusa story are here — snake-headed woman, Perseus and his shield, an eventual beheading — but it’s amped up to 11 through the merged talents of musicians, videographers, dancers from Vox Medusa and fire artists from Infiammati FireCircus, who add primal intensity to Medusa’s path from priestess to demon. The show builds in intensity along that dark journey, ending in a truly fiery display. The giant flaming sword would not be out of place in a “God of War” game.
(8:30 p.m. Fri.-Sun., Logan Park, near NE. Broadway & Jefferson Sts., Mpls.)
The Fringe has so many half-baked shows, it’s thrilling to see something as polished and well-executed as this new play by Milwaukee-based writer Deanna Strasse. “Summers” offers a variation on the theme of Americans having revelatory romances abroad. Mara (Samantha Papke), an English teacher in her mid-30s, hires a younger Czech escort for trysts. Their straightforward transaction gets complicated by feelings. Director Kimberly Miller’s production is a gem with excellent, honest performances by Avi Aharoni, who plays a lady killer with both strength and sensitivity, and Papke, who wears the complexity of her emotions in her cadences, on her brow, and in her whole twisting being.
(5:30 p.m. Tue., 8:30 p.m. Fri., 7 p.m. Sun., Rarig Center Arena)
There’s meta-comedy and then there’s putting on a Fringe show about not having a Fringe show. Comedy Suitcase’s latest finds Joshua Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen scrambling to toss together a comedy show with three weeks’ notice after being rescued from the festival’s waitlist. Scrimshaw and Weinhagen’s exuberant brand of physical comedy has made them perennial Fringe favorites, and this entry doesn’t skimp on the slapstick as the two dance, pratfall and stage-fight their way toward filling up a 60-minute slot. Frenetically paced, aggressively upbeat and heavy on audience participation, this is both an inventive in-joke on the Fringe experience and a flat-out fun hour of go-for-broke comedy.
(7 p.m. Tue., 8:30 p.m. Fri., 1 p.m. Sat., Strike Theater, 824 18th Av. NE., Mpls.)
Nostalgia is the key to the appeal of this pair of half-hour radio plays, performed by four actors who do all the voices and sound effects (a pair of clomping shoes really gets a workout). There’s not a lot to distinguish the Bulldog Drummond adventure from the murder mystery that’s partly set at a newspaper, but the fun is in how straight it’s played by Shanan Custer (who is to this Fringe what Parker Posey was to the Sundance Film Fest in the late ’90s), Joshua English Scrimshaw, Eric Webster and Tim Uren (whose German accent sounds exactly like Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein” and I mean that in a good way). Also in how innocent the stories seem, despite, you know, Nazis.
(5:30 p.m. Wed., 10 p.m. Fri., 5:30 p.m. Sun., Rarig Center Thrust, 330 21st Av. S., Mpls.)
The subject is witchcraft in one of the most beguiling shows at this year’s festival. Brave New Workshop veteran Taj Ruler shares her memories of spells she created as a teenage witch through spoken-word segments while director Erin Sheppard and her troupe present a string of pieces embracing familiar witch tropes. We get Snow White, then a three-part tale of revenge against a couple who ridicule an witch, and — most chillingly — “Salem Town,” as the witch trials play out to the skittering sounds of DJ Shadow. Like so much of the best horror, “Book of Shadows” is by turns funny and frightening.
(10 p.m. Tue., 1 p.m. Sat., 2:30 p.m. Sun., Theatre in the Round.)
It’s said that 17th-century Hungarian countess Erzsébet Báthory killed 650 virgins and bathed in their blood, partly in the belief it would help her stay young. “Blood Nocturne,” devised by the cast and directed by Amber Bjork, does not seek to rehabilitate the reputation of a woman some dubbed Countess Dracula. The show aims to explain her influences, including early exposure to the occult. Emily Dussault plays the countess with stateliness in a handsome show with striking period costumes and live music played by the actors. For all that beauty, it’s hard to be convinced Bathory wasn’t a monster.
(5:30 p.m. Tue. & Sat., 8:30 p.m. Sun., Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Av. S., Mpls.)
Taking its name from the annual internet challenge in which authors attempt to write a 50,000-word book in the month of November, “#NaNoWriMo” is improv comedy loosely structured like a sexually charged manuscript-in-progress. Long-form improv is a genre where a knockout premise can often compensate for weak cast chemistry (or vice versa), but in this instance both come in at the “pretty good” level. The show’s grounded absurdism and bawdy talk hang together fairly well as a narrative, generating both big laughs and uncomfortable silences on their way to a fitfully funny if not especially novel chunk of comedy.
(8:30 p.m. Wed., 7 p.m. Sat., Augsburg Mainstage)
Djenane Saint Juste and Florencia Pierre created this percussion-laden introduction to the history and culture of the world’s first black republic. With dances about breaking chains, communal farming and gossip, “Experience Haiti!” is part of the new Minnesota Family Fringe at Celtic Junction, in an industrial area with lots of parking. A six-person percussion group, including Saint Juste, supplies the music and the dancers pour bodies and spirits into a show that’s infectiously welcoming.
(7:30 p.m. Fri., 1:30 p.m. Sat., noon Sun., Celtic Junction, 836 Prior Av., St. Paul.)
The superhero craze meets the baseball movie “A League of Their Own” as a quintet of young women get called up to the big leagues while all the guys are away fighting some big … thing across the galaxy. With a drunken Bruce Wayne as “mentor,” the women quickly figure out they are just a nefarious publicity stunt. Will they save the day? Well, yes, but the creators (director Josh Carson and the cast) take plenty of pot shots at superheroes, geek culture and modern society. And it all takes less than half the time of your average “Avengers” movie.
(10 p.m. Mon., 7 p.m. Tue. & Sat., 5:30 p.m. Sun., Theatre in the Round, 245 Cedar Av. S., Mpls.)
The setup is familiar — interpersonal conflicts erupt as a band goes into the recording studio — in this middling project by Philip Simondet, who wrote “Demo Tape,” another music-based Fringe show, and plays the lead here. Drummer Alexis (Erin Kennedy) is involved with Philip, who is unaware that she previously was the girlfriend of the lead guitarist (John Genz). The writing is poor, and so is the acting, but the music is passable.
(8:30 p.m. Thu., 7 p.m. Fri., 1 p.m. Sun., Mixed Blood Theatre.)
I can imagine some people being into this modern dance piece, but I’m not one of them. A dozen performers move, together or in solos, to semi-improvised pieces that seem to be about power and freedom, mostly set to the sort of bland electronica you might hear in a Belgian dentist’s office or a Jason Statham movie. The choreography is athletic and the company’s collaborative energy is impressive but the show doesn’t leave much of an impression.
(10 p.m. Tue. & Fri., 8:30 p.m. Aug. 11, Minnsky Theatre, 1517 Central Av. NE., Mpls.)
In the last few moments of this Mike’s Brass production at the Family Fringe, the performers create a beautiful image of the flying winged creature Pegasus, using only a piece of cloth and their bodies. It’s the kind of low-budget magic that makes Fringe shows so special. Unfortunately, the rest of the production doesn’t live up to that finale. Using storytelling, theater, dance, a bit of sock puppetry and a brass quintet, “Medusa” misses on a number of comic opportunities, while failing to hit the emotional range the Greek epic requires. The best part is the brass quintet, but the music isn’t enough to save this children’s show.
(6 p.m. Fri., 7:30 p.m. Sat., 3 p.m. Sun., Celtic Junction.)
The Fringe is a great venue to test-drive ideas, and sometimes even failures can be instructive, at least for the creators. Let’s hope that is true for this dance-theater work, in which Mariah Larkin and Torre Edahl explore the experience of living through trauma, “an abstract world in which time stretches, dilates and repeats.” Movements recur as a company of dancers sort and balance boxes piled at the center of the Southern Theater stage. But the themes are not fully developed and the dialogue is flat. At the end, the company simply lies down, seemingly in surrender.
(8:30 p.m. Tue., 5:30 p.m. Thu., 4 p.m. Sat., Southern Theater,.)