*Note this blog is written by our Executive Producer Kyle B. Dekker. This Fringe season he has decided to chronicle HCM's experiences at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Please enjoy the blog to read about the run of our show, and for reviews of shows Kyle attends during the Festival.
The Final Stretch
The final Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were tough for me. I had to do a balancing act of spending time with my family while putting on the last two performances of Waiting for Gygax. As a result I was only able to make it to four shows in these final three days. Apologies to the creators of these shows as the reviews won't do anything to get people into your show. But this exercise has been fun, so I want to make sure to write something about all the shows I've seen. On a quick note, I must say the amount of talent in the Twin Cities in regards to theater is tremendous, I wish I could have seen more shows.
This show is a perfect example that you can't always trust the reviews left by other Fringe audience members. This show has a five star review average yet it was my least favorite in Fringe. It wasn't poorly crafted, and the actors certainly had some chops, but I was bored to death and the show was filled with unlikeable characters you never could empathize with and it was boring.
The story follows and emotionally vapid and cruel poet and his girlfriend. He doesn't work and she is having a mental breakdown trying to support both of them while working full time. Meanwhile the poet's girlfriend's dead brother's ghost is haunting the poet and generally being a dick. The girlfriend character is the closest thing to a likable character in the show, except when she is yelling and crying, which is most of the show. The poet lacks any empathy to notice he is being a dick and the ghost brother just hangs around making everyone's life worse.
The show ends with a suicide and generally is a negative, morose show, that tries moments of humor that fall flat because the characters were so unlikable. What made this show unbearable to me was the unnatural dialogue every character spoke with poetic rhythm, alliteration, and multiple eight dollar words. In a show that is basically about a relationship falling apart, this doesn't work. People don't talk like a James Joyce poem while arguing, the whole show had a mentality of "look how sophisticated we are" while being a dumb, boring play. To top is all off the cast just walked off stage and never took a bow. As if to say to the audience "look how fancy we are, accept it as we walk away." A curtain call is a thank you to the audience to skip it can be a giant middle finger. Yes a play in a certain tone or method can earn skipping this end gesture of thanks, but this show did not.
Comedy is my favorite genre in media of any kind. And I have a special fondness for physical comedy after two years as a street performer at the Renaissance Festival. Great physical comedy takes talented individuals who understand timing and body control to make people laugh. This show absolutely aced this and upped the ante by making the show silent, save for a musician playing accompanying music (and participating in some physical shenanigans of his own).
Levi Weinhagen and Joshua Scrimshaw sacrifice their bodies in the name of comedy over and over again going from bit to bit. All of them have roots is classic vaudeville bits with unique and fun twits to them. A very 21st century approach to a picnic included a love affair with a quadcopter drone (you'd have to be there) that was incredibly fun a creative. I know Levi and Joshua will be buying Advil in bulk after this, their bodies took a beating for comedy.
I laughed harder at this show than any other show during Fringe. I saw many fantastic comedies but this show hit me in just the right spot and had me in tears from moment one. Physical comedy may not be for everyone, but I adore it especially when it is this damn good.
There are two things I love very much, fantasy role playing games and great improv. This show smashes the two together in an hilarious an creative manner that had a sold out crowd at the Theater in the Round eating out of their hands.
Great improv always looks so easy because the improvisors have the instinct and trust each other to jump in at the right moment, and take cues from their scene partners. None of these things are easy, but with a talented group like the Bearded Men you can tell they are masters of their craft.
A live Dungeon Master makes dice rolls for the characters as they play our scenes as fantasy characters. The success of attacks, stealth, bluff, and perception checks is determined by the roll of a twenty sided die. The improvisors have to roll with the results of the dice and their success isn't guaranteed.
As a member of the Minnesota improv community I'm aware of how much talent there is if you stop by HUGE or BNW on a random night. I love to see great Minnesota improv troupes get more exposure (and killer ticket sales) at Fringe, it can only grow the audiences and recognition of all improv in the area. The Bearded Men were fantastic and an example of some fantastic local improv.
Speaking of amazing improv in the Twin Cities, there may be no better example than Blackout Improv. Please note this review will be biased as I have seen this group perform before and I'm in love with the work they do.
I saw the encore performance of this show on Sunday night. The events in Charlottesville, VA had happened since their last performance on Thursday night. Once the show got into their Swag Hat portion (after some fantastic poetry from Khary Jackson) the cast attacked the events right away. If you haven't seen Blackout Improv before their Swag Hat section has the improvisors discuss a topic in earnest after the topic is pulled from a hat. We get to hear their honest points of view on the topic. The discussions are lively, engaging, sometimes funny, but always fascinating. The improvisors then do long form scenes based on that discussion.
Being able to make funny, and entertaining improv scenes from in depth discussions always blows my mind. I consider myself a competent improvisor, but I'm used to crafting scenes based on suggestions of a celebrity or an object. What Blackout does is a first rate demonstration of how in depth and nuanced improv can be in the hands of talented improvisors. In short, if you live in the Twin Cities and haven't seen Blackout, do yourself a favor and correct that oversight.
Over the course of Fringe I saw 23 shows and was a part of five, putting me at 29 used time slots for Fringe 2017. This was well short of my goal of 35, but considering my health and schedule challenges this year, a mostly worthy effort. I can't wait for Fringe 2018 just so I can see the new, awesome things yet to come. I will post a in depth 2017 Fringe wrap blogpost from the point of view of producing my own show tomorrow. Have a great day.