There’s plenty of fine work at the 2009 Minnesota Fringe Festival, but nothing that absolutely “wowed” me. Then again, (even though I saw 14 shows over the weekend) that represents a bit less than 10 percent of the entire festival. That means there may be some absolute gems I haven’t been able to fit into my schedule yet.
Personally, the show of the festival so far is “The Harty Boys in the Case of the Limping Platypus,” created by Josue English Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen. This compact tale has everything you need: action, adventure, jokes about Minneapolis (the boys are proud of themselves because they stopped a bomb at the Mill City Museum, which could have killed “10, maybe 12,” visitors) and a guy dressed as a platypus at the end (hmm, this and the penguin-centric ‘Squawk points to a furry sub theme). You can find out more about the boys at their new-fangled website.
Scrimshaw’s brother, Joseph, also does fine work in his latest piece, “Tragedy of You.” The conceit is pretty simple. Scrimshaw randomly picks some poor soul from the audience, asks a few questions and then crafts an Elizabethan tragedy around them. See, educational and fun! Saturday afternoon, the tale involved a ruler with an indecisive nature, oranges and the off-the-cuff expletive, “Pickles!”
Speaking of off-the-cuff, this was far from the only bit of improv from the first weekend. Illinois dance troupe Back & to the Left Productions included a pair of such pieces in “Pas*sage,” which added some playfulness to the piece. English storyteller Jimmy Hogg teamed up with locals The Four Humors for a sort-of variety show, “Hogg and the Humors.” The quality was all over the map, but a dramatic reading of an awful play made for the single funniest moment of the festival so far.
Finally, I had this epiphany Saturday evening: Mirror balls = comedy gold. Dorks dancing = comedy gold. Dorks dancing while a mirror ball spins = comedy genius.
The Minnesota Fringe Festival runs through Sunday. For information, visit the festival online.