*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.
Day two of Fringe I had no show of my own so I headed out to the Northeast Minneapolis hub of theaters and saw one show at The Ritz Main Stage and two shows at Strike theater. It was my first time visiting either venue. The Ritz was nice, it has a functional industrial look, comfortable chairs and good sight lines, and they sell drinks so I enjoyed a beer during the show. Strike is a new theater that is still being opened and renovated, and is functional for Fringe, but just barely. And to no fault of the theater there is construction all around them, making parking a challenge. Overall NE is a nice area and the venues are solid for Fringe (I hope Strike is used again next year so we get a chance to see what they can do over the next year to improve the space).
Again, I don't like the star system or character limit on the Fringe Website, so I do my reviews here.
My first musical of Fringe. I'm always shocked that people attempt musicals at Fringe, they have tons of moving parts and Fringe gives you such a limited time frame to make things work. RonCom-Con works really well and is an incredibly fun show.
The premise is very fun, as the events take place at a Romantic Comedy Convention, or a RonCom-Con. The wordplay doesn't end there as all the exhibits at the Con are puns or references based on Romantic Comedies (The Annie Hall, Rob Shriner Club, and The Hudson River; an exhibit of scenes of Jennifer Hudson crying). The plot of the show follows the very similar plots of many a RonCom, but it mixes it up a bit in the final act and has a nice message about relationships and the way the world works outside of a RonCom.
The acting is great and appropriately campy from the cast and the jokes are well delivered and fun, although having a decent knowledge of 80s and 90s RonComs will help you appreciate them more. All of them pull off the singing enough to make the show work (please note I'm a terrible singer and applaud all of them committing to singing on stage for five shows) but Erin Kennedy and Nimene Wureh really shine in this regard. My usual complaint of most Fringe musicals is that at times it's hard to catch all of the lyrics because the actors can't be on microphones. This show is no exception, but it only happens a couple of times. This is less of an issue with the production and more of the reality of musicals at Fringe.
If you like constant movie references, word play, and light hearted comedy wrapped up in a well paced, well performed show I very much recommend RonCom-Con. It's an excellent entry onto the 2017 Minnesota Fringe Festival.
My life in many ways has directly impacted by President Reagan. I was born six months to the day he was inaugurated, my father lost a great job with the EPA because of Reagan tax cuts, and I live in a world witnessing a Republican Party that has become unhinged thanks to the path Reagan put them on in the 1980s. I tell you all of this because it is important to know where I'm coming from in this review.
The show features a pair of time travelers that visit President Reagan and plan to take him through time so he can learn things to become a better person and leader. In a mix up Reagan gets his jelly bean grabbing fingers on a time traveling device and he flows aimlessly through time while the cast explores a script about who Reagan was as a president and how help helped create the world we live in now.
The show definitely has a liberal view, but it's an honest one. When you take a detailed look into the polices and words of Reagan it's hard to say much positive about him. Playwright Katherine Glover obviously did her homework and she paints the foundation of the modern GOP that is based on anti-poverty, pro-corporation, and anti-POC. It works because the script uses real events, quotes, and laws passed to illustrate this rather than hyperbole and ad hominem attacks, which often do happen in politically charged Fringe shows and this show avoids.
The cast executes this show incredibly well and the blocking and transitions are amazingly high energy and physically demanding. The cast was in a full on flop sweat by the end, and this approach really works for the nature of the show.
While this is definitely a comedy, and it has some very great moments of absurdity, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The reality of the racism, classism, and ignorance displayed by the Reagan administration is not fun at all. I studied history in college an to paraphrase a quote "those who study history are doomed to scream in terror and watch as others repeat it." A specific moment in the play really brought me down as the time travelers visited Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. The events that year are one of the darkest moments in American history and it's largely unknown in our "post-racial" society the day learned about it in college I still remember. I won't go into details about the events in Tulsa as the show does this and I think you must see it.
Ronald Reagan: Time Traveler is a really well acted, written, and directed play that left me feeling hopeless about our future as a country and at a loss on how the hell we can fix it (although the show does a good job explaining listening to those who often don't have a voice is a great start). You should see the show, it's really good. But you'll need a drink afterwards.
Written by one of my favorite local playwrights phillip andrew bennet low, Serpentine blends the story of Tiresias from Greek mythology with storytelling from Jena Young and Christy Marie Kent. The show is high concept, a times confusing, but always interesting.
The cast portraying the tale of Tiresias does an amazing job with a very intimate script that is emotionally and physically demanding of the actors. The blocking is beautiful and often erotic (PG in its execution) and they make use of the Strike space as best they can.
My only complaints about the show were the poor sight lines to some of the action (mostly a fault of the small stage at the venue) and the sound design. While you can tell the sound design was detailed and tons of work was put into it, the sound levels were so off and discordant it was hard to make out and often distracting. In particular when prophesies from Tiresias were spoken by the actors the lines were also played via a recording that I could not make out. I bet those prophesies were really important and would have added something to the show, but I have no idea what they were.
The highlight of the show were the stories told by Jena Young and Christy Marie Kent. Very personal stories about Jena's transgender daughter and Christy's coming out story and relationship with her family. Both stories brought me to tears, were masterful in their presentation and incredibly important for everyone to hear. I'm so very glad I saw this show and heard these stories, I'm a better person for it.
Day two I saw three shows putting me at five total for Fringe 2017. Check in tomorrow for more reviews and thoughts about Fringe.