The Fringe Festival starts this week -- 42,062 plays, more or less. Sometimes the description of the play is less than helpful. "The Bronze Dustpan Theater presents 'Less Than Helpful,' an irreverent romp through psycho-sexual contemporary metaphors about vampires and chicken salad!" Sometimes the work is so conceptual you don't know if it's real life, or some actors. Oh, is there really a difference, you ask. Well, yes; real life pays a salary.
But we're all actors, in a sense. So here are five plays that could be Fringe offerings:
"PAY OUTSIDE": Throughout the day, actors will show up at a SuperAmerica gas station off Nicollet and pump gas, spending the time staring off into space with that distracted expression people get when they want to check their cellphones, but can't, because something might blow up. The action picks up when John, an ordinary driver from Richfield, wonders aloud if anyone ever selects the grade of gas between cheap and expensive. What if they named the grades Rainbow, Target and Lunds? Meanwhile, on pump 2, a fellow uses the window-washer wand on his entire car, and thinks "Jeff Foxworthy would probably call this a redneck car wash." Run time: never ends.
"ISSUES, I GOT ISSUES": A young woman on a cellphone details what it's like to have a totally controlling mother who freaks out if she gets a piercing. Seriously, Mom is losing it because she got like a nose ring so she can attach like a chain from her nose to her toe ring and she's all like, "What if you trip? What if you snag it?" Like that will ever happen? Playing in constant rotation at whatever coffee shop you entered, hoping you might get some work done.
"ASK ME ABOUT SYRIA": On recycling day a man realizes he's putting out a lot of wine bottles. They had a party, OK? But neighbors might judge him. He pulls issues of the New Yorker and the Economist from the bag of recycled magazines, so the titles are visible. Somehow it evens out.
"TOUGH CROWD": This is the most audacious Fringe work ever, I think: 32 actors pose as an audience for Fringe Festival plays and make up the entire crowd for several performances of rival troupes.
No one ever knows if that standing ovation was meant sincerely, or sarcastically.