The Things They Carried

Based on Tim O’Brien’s remarkable book from 1990, this one-man show inventories the memories a Vietnam War veteran carries through life. Actor/storyteller Jim Stowell is totally convincing as the narrator, carefully unspooling O’Brien’s expertly crafted tales from foxholes and battlefields — and from a fishing boat on the Rainy River in northern Minnesota, where the young man nearly deserts to Canada. “I was a coward,” Stowell tells the audience, repeating one of O’Brien’s famous passages. “I went to war.” Stowell has a light-footed way of shifting mannerisms and voice to inhabit the book’s various characters, from war buddies to a daughter born long after the conflict. His stage adaptation is engaging, evocative and highly recommended to anyone carrying stories — whether experienced firsthand or inherited — from this terrible war.

(8:30 p.m. Sun., 7 p.m. Mon., 8:30 p.m. Aug. 11, 4 p.m. Aug. 12, Ritz Theater Studio, 345 13th Av. NE., Mpls.)

CHRISTY DeSMITH

 

BollyProv

After three years of selling out Fringe shows with elaborate dance performances featuring sprawling casts, the Bollywood Dance Scene company takes the logical next step: two-person improv comedy. The gamble pays off with a sweet, engaging package that toys with the conventions of both Bollywood and improv. Taking their cue from a guest storyteller, improvisers Madhu Bangalore and Kya Fischer spin a long-form comedy narrative peppered with Bollywood flourishes, including on-the-spot dance routines. It’s an inventive collision of disparate forms, tied together neatly by the infectious chemistry of a top-notch comedy duo.

(8:30 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Tue., 10 p.m. Aug. 10, 4 p.m. Aug. 11, Ritz Theater Mainstage, 345 13th Av. NE., Mpls.)

IRA BROOKER

 

Our Best Life

Forget the “our” of the title. A week before the first performance of this comedy sketch show, Shanan Custer learned that her co-writer/co-star Emily Schmidt would have to bail a job because of a job, making it more like “My Best Life.” No problem. Riding a winning combo of self-deprecation and bravado, Custer is sidesplitting, whether she’s reading aloud favorite posts from the Nextdoor social network or playing characters ranging from a carton of Halo Top diet frozen dessert (“a prank for people who like ice cream”) to a woman descending into madness as she struggles to write a cheery holiday letter. There are so many vivid characters that this two-woman show does just fine with one.

(5:30 p.m. Sun., 8:30 p.m. Tue., 2:30 p.m. Aug. 11, 7 p.m. Aug. 12, Rarig Center Thrust, 330 21st Av. S., Mpls.)

CHRIS HEWITT

 

Soft

A man (J. Merrill Motz) agrees to be a test subject in a dating app experiment. He claims to be a hopeless romantic, but as he’s led through the process by a disembodied voice (Suzie Juul), he reveals veiled hostilities, misogynistic undercurrents and a tendency toward sudden rage. Meanwhile the voice — alternately flirtatious, provocative and punishing — urges him on to ever more grueling tests of his manhood and his resolve to be desirable. Strong writing and acting allows the interplay to increase to a nerve-racking level of intensity. Be prepared: There will be blood.

(5:30 p.m. Sat., 8:30 p.m. Mon., 5:30 p.m. Wed., 10 p.m. Aug. 11, Ritz Theater Mainstage.)

LISA BROCK

 

Couple Fight: The Musical!

This is a veritable franchise for director Tom Reed and producer Anna Weggel-Reed, who shares ridiculous yet relatable stories from real life couples. In the past, it’s been mostly heterosexual couples, but this year there’s even a polyamorous unit. Some of the principals come out of Brave New Workshop, and the songs have that same sharpness as tension builds between loved ones over a potential engagement abroad, a lack of adventurousness, communication issues and overflowing toilets. OK, that last bit is gross but still, it’s a lot of fun.

(2:30 p.m. Sun., 10 p.m. Tue., 7 p.m. Wed., 1 p.m. Aug. 12, Rarig Center Thrust.)

ROHAN PRESTON

 

Gunfighting: An American Story

Talk about a change of pace for the Fringe: Seán McArdle, a Nebraska-bred master of stage props who grew up around guns, presents a slideshow lecture on the hot-button issue of firearms, both their history and the history of the National Rifle Association. He believes guns will always be with us, but should be regulated, and users required to take safety classes. He also touches on issues of mental health, showing a video of Robin Williams, with whom he worked on Broadway before Williams died by suicide. McArdle is engaging and his presentation is well worth hearing.

(10 p.m. Sun., 7 p.m. Thu., 1 p.m. Aug. 11, 5:30 p.m. Aug. 12, Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St., Mpls.)

ROHAN PRESTON

 

Eddie Poe

A loud thunderstorm pitched in on this comedy Friday, upping the ante on the gloomy atmosphere. Despite the title and the reputation of actor/creators the Coldharts, it’s more wry than scary. Poe (Nick Ryan) begins by announcing he’s “mad with excessive happiness.” Apparently, it’s the one hour of Poe’s life when that was true because he proceeds to mess up everything, goaded by his doppelgänger id (Katie Hartman, who also plays a dopey millionaire and Poe’s intended). Ryan’s occasionally shaky performance and Hartman’s costume changes slowed down opening night, so the show exceeded its time limit and there was no ending. But I’d recommend it for one eye-popping scene alone, a card game in which the players become enormous, eerie silhouettes on the back of the Ritz stage.

(4 p.m. Sun., 10 p.m. Tue., 7 p.m. Wed., 1 p.m. Aug. 12, Ritz Theater Mainstage.)

CHRIS HEWITT

Writing Wrongs in a Sandcastle

A blithely narcissistic writer (Anders Nerheim) and his hard-charging editor (Madde Gibba) find themselves marooned on an island. While he preens himself and insists that a resort is just a short walk down the beach, she goes into full survival mode, searching for flints and firewood. A hand-puppet dolphin arrives intermittently to provoke, annoy and incite each of them in turn. Nerheim’s play is a clever piece of nonsense that follows a bafflingly dreamlike logic, but it offers such captivating wordplay, assured acting and hilariously conceived characters that the audience is more than happy to play along.

(5:30 p.m. Sun., 10 p.m. Mon., 7 p.m. Thu., 2:30 p.m. Aug. 11, Minnsky Theatre, 1517 Central Av. NE., Mpls.)

LISA BROCK