Reviews: Minnesota Fringe Festival comes to life

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 2, 2013 - 4:50 PM

From end-of-life debates to chalkboard fairytales and Martin Luther's wife, Fringe shows, as usual, are all over the boards.


Tyler Michaels’ reached for a prop in the show that he does with Tod Petersen, “Once Upon a Chalkboard.”


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Expiration Date

Candy Simmons’s simple props include a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and a movable screen in her one-woman show about the late stages of life. But she does not need more than that — and her subtle but effective theatrical gifts — to make “Expiration Date” a wry, moving, poignant and funny experience. Simmons plays Lucille Barker, who has been diagnosed with cancer at age 35. She takes us through her journey with medical professionals, her no-nonsense brother and her visit to a mortician. For a gifted actor such as Simmons, this is a showcase of strength and talent. (7 p.m. Sat., 5: 30 p.m. Thu., 1 p.m. Aug. 10, 4 p.m. Aug. 11, Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Av. S.)

Rohan Preston


Once Upon a Chalkboard

Tod Petersen and Tyler Michaels trade on their wits in a series of fairytale vignettes — improvised from suggestions from the audience. Their gimmick? Bringing other audience members down to draw props and costumes on chalkboards. The lads are charming, whip-smart and eager to look ridiculous, even if their mprov skills are a work-in-progress. The stuff here is raw, playful and inventive — just what you hope for in the Fringe. The show on occasion gets flabby, and I wish the guys would wheel out some accents other than the mincing British lilt. They’ve got the chops. (5:30 p.m. Sat., 5:30 p.m. Thu., 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10, 1 p.m. Aug. 11, Minneapolis Theatre Garage, 711 W. Franklin Av.)

Graydon Royce


The Zebra Shirt

Here is one of those shows you love to find after wading through the weeds of a long evening. Matthew Trumbull, a Minnesota actor now living in Brooklyn, tells the eloquent story of his father’s death, its aftermath and the memories he has since collated into a search for meaning. Trumbull recalls his father as a romantic who had not a bit of sentimentality, and that is what distinguishes this one-man show from others that traffic in the same sad details. He finds dimension in stories, in relationships, moments and totems. This is a must-see. To say more would be meaningless. (7 p.m. Sat., 5:30 p.m. Wed., 1 p.m. Aug. 10, 4 p.m. Aug. 11, Tek Box at the Cowles Center, 528 Hennepin Av. S., 2nd floor)

Graydon Royce

The Final Act

Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe was murdered in 1593 with a dagger through his eye. The motive always has been a mystery, and that launches Tedious Brief’s fascinating speculation, featuring spies and Marlowe’s homosexuality. The show blends Shakespearean language with the style and convoluted plot of film noir, being faithful to both. It also adds witty, comical dialogue, and camp, plus broad physical comedy. Director Carin Bratlie maintains a nice balance of all the elements. One blemish: the cavernous space made it hard to hear some of the language. (5:30 p.m. Sun., 7 p.m. Tue., 8:30 p.m. Thu., 4 p.m. Aug. 10, Woman’s Club, 407 W. 15th St.)

William Randall Beard

These Old Shoes

An ensemble known for its physical acting excellence has misapplied its signature style. Most of the actors in the Transatlantic Love Affair group appear to be under 45, and they are all fit and nimble. However, the cast plays elderly characters in a contemporary nursing home who quake, quaver, shake and shuffle as senior-citizen stereotypes. There are some genuinely touching flashback moments involving unrequited love between a Korean War soldier and his stateside sweetheart, but the convincing naturalistic acting in those scenes is crudely juxtaposed with the senior scenes. (1 p.m. Sun., 7 p.m. Mon., 8:30 p.m. Wed., 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10, Music Box Theatre, 1407 Nicollet Av. S.)

John Townsend

Katharina Von Bora

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  • “Katharina Von Bora.”

  • Fringe fest 2013, "Once Upon a Chalkboard."

  • From left:  “I Make No Promises ...” “Katharina Von Bora” and “The Zebra Shirt.”

  • Ryan Robert Nelson, left, Anna Weggel and Michael Krefting in “RT + MPLS.”

  • “The Zebra Shirt of Lonely Children.”

  • minnesota fringe festival

    What: 896 performances of 176 shows over 11 days.

    When: Weekdays beginning at 5:30 p.m. with last show at 10 p.m.; Sat.-Sun, beginning at 1 p.m. Ends Aug. 11

    Where: 16 venues near West Bank, Loring Park, Downtown, Uptown.

    Tickets: $12 per show. Multi-show passes available at discount. Plus $4 button. 1-866-811-4111.

    Web: and

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