Transformers, dinosaurs, creation, brain magic and something called Jerk Island are thrown out on stage. Somewhere in the imagination of Joseph Scrimshaw is a slight play. He trips through his silliness with actors Randy Reyes and Mo Perry as eager helpers. It's a high-energy romp that relies on physical gadgetry and word play. "Brain Fighters" just doesn't have the bite of Scrimshaw's entry in last year's Fringe, "The Damned Audition." Not much here other than some giggles. More show information.
- GRAYDON ROYCE
Mimi's Last Rehearsal
Mimi, the matriarch of a showbiz family, is dying. Her relatives gather to rehearse her birthday celebration, as they have for years. Ben Kreilkamp's meditation on mortality is surreal and silly, but overly self-referential. Still, he touches something profound in the ridiculousness. A listing of theatres that have passed, from At the Foot of the Mountain to The Palace to Eye of the Storm, was particularly moving. Rhonda Lund's Mimi grounds the show. Her performance is operatic in the best sense of the word, emotionally extravagant and ultimately heartbreaking. More show information.
- WILLIAM RANDALL BEARD
The Attic Room
This dance-theater work choreographed by Michael Estanich of Chicago's RE/Dance Group follows the adventures of a small group -- wearing owlish masks -- living together in a room with only paper cranes, books, a map, and a large rug for diversion. Their childlike sense of wonderment is disrupted over time by hints of a darker world that lies beyond. While the piece does possess a fanciful charm, the use of multiple scenes keeps the emotionally charged dancing, as well as the overall sense of story, from settling into a consistent poetic flow. More show information.
- CAROLINE PALMER
Core Project Chicago explores in modern dance that bittersweet twenty-something moment when you realize your mother is human just like you. Though the voiceover confessions can be a trace naïve, and the moves a mite familiar, CPC finds a genuine connection without simplifying the struggle, love, and need of the mother-adult child relationship. Mom would cry, but she'd be proud, and the rest of us will be mostly won over, too. Plus, it's hard not to smile back at these charismatic dancers -- look especially for the company's lithe men. More show information.
- LIGHTSEY DARST
This Japanese drum performance and popular sequel to last year's Fringe hit "Taiko Bam!" is undeniably energetic -- and clearly popular, as a packed house provided uproarious applause and laughter Friday night. Standout musician Susan Tanabe fills the theater with her animated facial expressions while her fellow four performers follow with impeccably fluid synchronized choreography. If looking to get lost in deep thought, "Taiko Blast!" is not the show to see. But for pure entertainment value, its beat delivers. Just don't see it with a headache. More show information.
- JESSICA BAKEMAN
How Helicopters Figure in My Dreams
Robert Hubbard, a theater professor at a small Iowa college, has a potentially nice story here about his alcoholic father, their shared passion for Denver Broncos football and quarterback John Elway. Hubbard tells animated episodes that touch on each of these icons, however he never finds the redemptive myth that he seems interested in. Did John Elway redeem the memory of Hubbard's father? Or are these loose threads wrapped around a series of anecdotes? More show information.
- GRAYDON ROYCE
I'm Making This Up as I Go
The quartet of stand-up comics changes for each performance of this late addition to the Fringe. On the night I saw it, only Wendy Maybury, a Southerner who told self-deprecating fat-chick jokes, was funny. She talked about her gothic family, including one member who suggested that since she does not have many dating prospects, she should become a bride of Christ -- "And at my age, I'd be a Jesus cougar." Maybury followed Mike Earley, a scrawny, young-looking fellow who had a deadpan routine about working in a supermarket produce section, going to community college and living at home. Comedy is often cruel, and his dying out there was hysterical. The other two comics -- Nick Hennen and Pat Susmilch -- had depressing routines. Susmilch's jokes included ones about the side effects of a drug he takes. He told about getting an erection while looking at kids playing with Legos. Sick. More show information.
- ROHAN PRESTON
Robot Lincoln: The Revengeance (The Musical)
Did you know that what John Wilkes Booth really wanted to do to Abraham Lincoln was love him, not shoot him? That's one of the takeaways from Travis Berg's and Dustin Jackson's "Robot Lincoln: The Revegeance." In this wacky imagining of history and theater, Lincoln (Adam Sahli) is resurrected as a robot. We see Booth (Jason Garton, with a Freddie Mercury-like mustache) scheming and pacing, but all he really wants is to share Lincoln with his wife, Mary Todd, who has gone crazy since losing her husband. This pastiche gleefully mangles and interpolates musical and comedic classics, including Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I laughed and laughed, especially as the robot presidents (including Thomas Jefferson as a pimp) take on Genghis Khan. More show information.
- ROHAN PRESTON