As someone who spent years boarding early Saturday morning buses for forensics competitions, I was a natural for “Speech.” And at first, it seemed mainly to be a humorous, nostalgic look at the character types that inhabit that world. Then one of the young competitors died on the way to the tournament, a dimwitted hockey player was recruited to take his place, and “Speech” became something much stranger, and probably far funnier.
Along the way, “Speech” features over-the-top poetry readings, a drunken superstar giving a talk about teen drinking, and a re-enactment of the finale from “The Cutting Edge.” And there’s even some real love for those who spent so many nervous Saturdays on the bus. 5:30 p.m. Thursday, 10 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday, Rarig Thrust.
Alan Berk’s “#Ringtone” starts with six characters whose only connection seems to be that they are all together at an art opening, and that they are married to their cell phones. As the intriguing plays unfolds, we learn more about their connections and what has brought them to this point in their lives.
The Fallout Arts Initiative gallery makes for a perfect setting for the show, as the actors move and mill around the audience, who have found benches, corners and bits of spare wall to watch the proceedings. And as it unfolds, “#Ringtone” becomes completely about these characters who are always talking, but rarely communicating. 7 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, Fallout Arts Initiative, 2609 Stevens Ave. S., Minneapolis.
‘Wisdom, Part 1’
Popular British (now residing in Toronto) storyteller Jimmy Hogg goes into deeper water with “Wisdom, Part 1,” where he looks at the nature of belief, religion and God, with plenty of side trips into his youth and life along the way. While it doesn’t have the same personal intensity as past Fringe shows, it still carries a lot of comedic and intellectual punch. Whether he’s wondering about the nature of prayer or wondering what heaven would really be like, Hogg brings the goods. 8:30 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. Saturday at the Rarig Thrust.
Fringe marks the welcome return of Edwin Strout’s Joking Apart Theater with “Amaretti Angels,” a sad and funny little show by Sarah Phelps. Strout plays Mike, a Manchester-based writer who left his family to pursue his dreams in Hollywood. He’s back home for his child’s wedding and has lunch with his wife, Jenny (Jean Wolff), who after all of these years is ready to move on.
They are served by Sylvana (Rachel Finch), who is either the worst or best waitress in the world, depending on your perspective. Over the course of the meal, the couple reconnects, with Jenny, at first gently and then more firmly, trying to get her husband to realize that it is absolutely over. The show is a bit static — the couple spends most of their time at their seats for dinner, after all — but the performances and script are both winning, with a general sense of sadness underlying the humor. 8:30 p.m. Friday and 10 p.m. Saturday, Rarig Thrust.
For more information on the Fringe Festival, which runs through Sunday, visit online.