Fringe Festival offers satire, pratfalls, drama

  • Updated: August 3, 2012 - 4:35 PM

REVIEWS: From 'The Gay Banditos' to a Chinese dance troupe, mini-reviews of six shows seen opening night.

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Twin Cities Chines Dance Center presents "2012 Leaping Dragon" at the Fringe Festival.

Photo: Provided by Minnesota Fringe Festival

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The Gay Banditos

In a North Carolina backwater, the NASCAR and Nickelback-loving Miller family encounters its worst nightmare -- invasion by the Gay Banditos. In mockumentary style, mom, dad and son describe the horror they witnessed when forced to listen to Nicki Minaj, among other indignities. They realize that the gays hide in plain sight, alien-style, while working on their nefarious recruitment agenda. Worse, the Millers start seeing the gayness in themselves -- how else to explain a sudden fondness for museums? This broad, funny satire deftly skewers a particular paranoia, complete with Chick-fil-A. (4 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Wed., 1 p.m. Aug. 11, 7 p.m. Aug. 12; Rarig Thrust, 330 21st Av. S.)  CYNTHIA DICKISON

 

Confession of a Drunk Mother

Kristi Treinen says that "rebuilding my life has been like putting together a one-thousand-piece puzzle of the sky." Those pieces, says Treinen, are the labels of her identity: single mom, wife, bitch, drunk. For Treinen, drinking was a way to escape the labels, and alcohol became her best friend. Treinen says, "I could pick who I wanted to be at any moment, but I could never be me." Treinen reads her story from a notebook with conviction and honesty, but not a great deal of dramatic interpretation. This is indeed a confession more than a performance. (8:30 p.m. Sun., 5:30 p.m. Thu., 10 p.m. Fri., 5:30 p.m. Aug. 12, HUGE Improv Theater, 3037 Lyndale Av. S.) GRAYDON ROYCE

 

The Jesus Chair

How frustrating to be a preacher whose sermons pale beside the miracle next door. This adaptation by Front Porch Theatre of a young-adult novel swings at grownup themes, but misses. The actors bring urgency to their roles, and sparks fly when Charity (Abby Luchsinger) and her preacher dad (Jeremy Stanbary) lock horns. But they can't save a play that has only a vague idea what it wants to be. Did Jesus really appear to an artist and sit in her living room? Does his chair heal people? Could it help this script? (7 p.m. Sun., 5:30 p.m. Thu., 4 p.m. Sat., 5:30 p.m. Aug. 12, Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St.)  ERIC RINGHAM

 

2012 Leaping Dragon

Twin Cities Chinese Dance Center celebrates the Year of the Dragon with works drawing upon traditional, ethnic and contemporary influences. The opening number is a mystery (who were all those brightly costumed characters?) but a narrator guides the remainder of the show, giving context for dances demonstrating the variety, beauty and strength of the performers -- and the culture itself. Choreographer Zhang Huan Ru also enjoys kitschy fun: "The Auspicious Peacock," with its unrestrained preening and pop-up tail-feather skirts, is a guilty, Vegas-style delight. (5:30 p.m. Fri., 2:30 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Wed., 2:30 p.m. Aug. 11, Rarig Proscenium, 330 21st Av. S.) CAROLINE PALMER

 

The Gentlemen's Pratfall Club

It is hard to say just when Levi Weinhagen bruised his chin and began bleeding at Thursday's opening of this comedy that he co-wrote and performs with Joseph English Scrimshaw. What is certain is that, even as the straight man, he shows commitment to his hapless role. Plus, his injury comports with the show's mantra: "Comedy hurts." Weinhagen plays Walter, a talentless, square actor who needs to learn to fall down for a TV audition. Scrimshaw, a deft physical comedian, plays all the other roles, including Walter's nemesis. Scrimshaw slaps and tumbles his way to boatloads of laughs in a show that appeals to the children in us. (8:30 p.m. Sun., 10 p.m. Thu., 7 p.m. Fri., 2:30 p.m. August 11, Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Av. S.) ROHAN PRESTON

 

Billy Beechwood and the Mountain of Terror

This Depression-era adventure story centers on a 12-year-old. Billy's father perished trying to scale a mountain peak. Billy volunteers to try it again, to save Somewheresville, USA, which is broke but may be rescued by a philanthropist named for 19th- and 20th-century robber barons. The three-man cast of this seat-of-the-pants comedy includes Mike Fotis, whose roles include the mayor as well as Billy's imaginary friend, and Aric McKweon, whose parts include a radio announcer and a yeti. Because of their light-heartedness, even their mistakes are charming. (7 p.m. Sat., 8:30 p.m. Mon., 10 p.m. Tue., 7 p.m. Aug. 11, Rarig Thrust, 330 21st Av. S.)  ROHAN PRESTON

  • MINNESOTA FRINGE FESTIVAL

    What: 164 shows, and more than 800 performances in an 11-day festival.

    When: Weekdays, beginning at 5:30 p.m., with last show at 10 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., beginning at 1 p.m. Ends Aug. 12.

    Where: 14 venues in Minneapolis, one in St. Paul.

    Tickets: $12 individual shows. Must purchase $4 Fringe button. Multi-show passes also available, 1-866-811-4111 or www.fringefestival.org.

    Friday in Variety: Complete guide to the Fringe.

    Web: Listings and reviews at www.startribune.com/fringe.

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