Middle Fringe II and Other Theater Things

12 Aug

So here’s a quick recap of some continuing adventures of the Fringe, including moments of psychotropic mania courtesy of Primadonnas and some of the most personal storytelling I have ever had the privilege of witnessing, along with some other important theater-type happenings this weekend! It’s a frenetic hodge-podge of things strung together mostly by the will to keep on seeing performers perform and knowing that at the end of the night, there might be free sake for the whole thespian lot at Moto-i, funny conversations to be had and warm bed to dream in.

Orange Sunshine Primadonnas
Rating:
4 kitties

As Primadonnas struck its final chord & the lights came up, my show companion turned to me with a giddy, hazy grin and roared out, “AM I ON DRUGS?” Which we weren’t (to my knowledge) but we had just experienced a hallucinatory, fragmented dose of surrealist theater about the extent to which people will go to create fantastical coping constructs. It was wickedly weird and funny, with campy prison lesbians, songs, drag & the bushily-bearded Garrett Vollmer pulling out wild characterizations in pearls & blond wigs. You won’t “get” the show, as any linear narrative is shattered, but if you relax your eyes (which also helps gloss over some of the Fringe-y DIY costuming & sets) to just let your lizard brain take hold, it’s a ride worth taking.

After the total absurdity of Primadonnas, the manic characterizations of Seth Lepore‘s show, Losing My Religion: Confessions of a New Age Refugee might have almost been tame, if they weren’t so thorough-goingly close to the surface reality of the infomercial quacks and faux-spiritualists who are at our every turn these days. Suze Orman, Deepak Chopra acolytes and Tony Robbins’ teeth were all over this piece and punctuated by moments of dark humor, the very personal underpinning made for an affecting piece of work.

Could Have Had a “Buddy Christ” Joke!
Rating:
4 kitties

The characters Lepore pulls out are hilarious, a rogues gallery of chakra-opening snake-oil salesmen, internet-based money-making gurus, ego-driven buddhists and self-helplessness addicts. It’s a skewering of market-based faith and the ghost of George Carlin bounds gleefully around the stage as Lepore tears out voices and burns up these surface dwellers. Even though the spark of this hysterical and righteous anger may only be intermittently revealed through the cavalcade of caricatures, the button that ends the hour is a deep humanizing note that people of any faith or paths of questioning would do well to hear.

It had been my intention on that Wednesday to make it a three-fer of personal solo storytelling, adding in The Sometimes Grace of Saint Simon of the Water to the mix, but following monolog whilst trying to drive from Augsburg to the Bryant-Lake Bowl made that impossible:

“Awesome, I’m out of Seth’s show with, like, 5 minutes to spare, next shot at 7. It’s 6:30 on a Wednesday, traffic can’t be that bad. Here I am now pulling out onto Cedar and heading towards the entrance to 94 at 25th Street. What, Minneapolis? You have that blocked off, with no warning signs? It looks like I should be able to get through to the freeway here, it just says “detour”? No? It just spins me back to where I just was? Alright, let’s get over to Washington and 35. It’s 6:34, I’ll be fine, it’ll all be good. Alright, 35 to 94 and WHAT? 94, why are you totally stopped? What’s up with you today? Here we go 11th Street, I just need to get onto the city streets and have some luck with the lights. Stop, go, stop, go, stop, go, 6:42 and Portland! Yes! heading south, and fast! Perfect, a little more luck with parking in Uptown and I’m golden. Right onto Lake, cruising, 6:45 and WHAT ARE YOU DOING CUTTING IN FRONT OF ME GOING 21 MILES AN HOUR? SERIOUSLY? AND I’M BLOCKED IN ON THE OTHER SIDE TOO? AND NOW WE ARE SITTING UNDER THE I-35 OVERPASS AND NO-ONE IS MOVING ANYWHERE. 6:53! DAMMIT MINNEAPOLIS! I’m going to Pancho Villa.”

So that’s what I did. Here’s the trailer for The Sometimes Grace of Saint Simon of the Water:

The Sometimes Grace of Saint Simon of the Water from Ted Eschweiler on Vimeo.

It was probably a good thing that I had a chance to calm down and socialize because the next and final piece of the night, Ducklings, Rocks, and Squad Cars was one of the singularly most emotionally honest, intelligent and open works of theater I have ever witnessed, and I use that word in a spiritual sense here- you see the creator and storyteller Nick Ochs in all of his humanity. It may hurt, it may heal and I cannot recommend it enough.

A Life Near Your Own
Rating:
5 kitties

This show brought my first tears of the Fringe, even if Ochs would have insisted that they weren’t necessary. Ochs’ intensely personal and physical presence makes “Ducklings” an incredibly brave work of theater, not a story like a like a fiction, but a catharsis, a purgation of Ochs sometimes terrible and sometimes sweet life. Tightly wound and well crafted by director and collaborators Tom Lloyd and Jeff Shockley, Ochs makes us feel each of his ricocheting emotions and makes the audience a witness, an exchange of trust that is incredibly powerful. If you have experienced these things, you will identify, if not, your world will grow. Afterward, although he was a sweaty mess, I hugged Ochs because it felt good, and right, to share that too.

In other theater happenings, Saturday is another day full of different kinds of independent action. First off, The Wild Plan will be pulling into town with two free outdoor performances. The Wild Plan is the brainchild of two Guthrie BFA grads, Eric Powell Holm and Ben Gansky to tour the country with a small group of compatriots putting on free shows. The tour was funded through a Kickstarter campaign (complete with lovely, quirky video) and they kicked of in Brookings, South Dakota and will make their way out to Cape Cod.

Here in Minneapolis, they will be presenting 2 shows. At 3pm at Matthews Park in Seward, they will present Boy with a Moon and a Star on his Head, an original piece conceived and directed by Gansky and created by the ensemble billed as “a new fable featuring the music of Cat Stevens”. That evening, they move to 2417 Pleasant Ave for a 7pm performance of Misanthrope, Or the Impossible Lovers, an original adaptation of the play by MoliĆ©re by Holm, which CakeIn15 live-tweeted in an odd experience at the Illusion Theater in January. The show is totally worth seeing, mind you, it was just odd to tweet directly in front of actors working. Still, with the distractions of outside, I am sure they’ll have quite a show up their sleeves to keep you engaged.

The other big news of Saturday is that the Bedlam, in conjunction with the Network of Ensemble Theaters’ Micro-Fest: USA is holding it’s 18th Birthday Bash at the Southern, sponsored by the Red Stag Supper Club. Yes, the Bedlam, though homeless, is now legal, so throw on your DJ Hot Pants and for $5, crush it until 2am.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply