AISLE SAY Twin Cities


Minnesota 's 11th annual Fringe Festival
August 6-15, 2004

"Best of Fringe"
August 20- September 5, 2004

The Loring Playhouse
1633 Hennepin Ave S.
Minneapolis , MN

Reviewed by
Ellen Dworsky, David Erickson, and Roxanne Sadovsky

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm spent. This year's Fringe was definitely the biggest and the most intimidating by far. In addition to adding a handful of new venues (including Via's Vintage Wear, The Ice House, and Bryant Lake Bowl), they Technicolor-ized the overall look of Fringe with t-shirts, buttons, hip sponsorship, and even the "New! Fringe Central"—intended for Fringers of all ages, acts, and talent to mingle and/or kill time between shows—akin to a live chat room or an airport layover. In fact, when we visited "Fringe Central" on Friday night at Hennepin Stages, the former Hey City Theatre, it had sort of a space-station feel to it. It was positively festive, with Fringe fanfare spread all over the tables and booths, where excited participants sipped from a variety of age-friendly beverage selections. While it was definitely a social venue, there were also ongoing "previews" of shows, just like at the movies, but live action. For example, we caught the Cliff Notes to "Buckets and Tap Shoes" (who were selected for "Best of Fringe," along with "Knock"), which condensed an hour's worth of high impact music and dance into ten minutes. Fortunately, "Central" took full advantage of the spacious room, which allowed visitors to feel at ease whether alone or with friends where various tables allowed spirited Fringers to pay both their table-mates and stage equal attention. The other thing to make Fringe more accessible this year was an increase in hits to the Fringe web site, where many folks logged on to review shows as the week progressed…

PARDON ME, GOY-DAVID HERE: This sentence must be changed, for it makes no sense, grammar-wise: 'Increased hits' are not a 'feature' of a web site. Perhaps: "The other Fringe-friendly accessibility "feature" this year was a spiffed-up Fringe web site, where many folks logged on to review shows as the week progressed.

ELLE HERE: Yeah, you're right. I thought of that as I wrote it and then forgot to go back and change it to something else!

NARRATOR: Thank you, my kinder; may I move on? As I was saying about the audience reviews: Though the reviews were biased at times (how could friends not log in and compose a glowing review of a buddy's show?), they were helpful overall—not to mention entertaining and informative. It really gave me a feel for what I would like (or not like) regardless of the quality of the review. Sometimes knowing what someone else feels and thinks about something reveals way more than the content itself. Know what I mean? Nu, would you go see "Cats" just because everyone else was doing it? Okay, so, what I mean is this: I decided not to see "Ludiker" because some dude said it didn't live up to the glowing reviews it got on the site and in other places in that it was ….which may or may not be the case—and I'll never know. So what did this Jew do? Well, I proceeded to scan the remainder of said fellow's reviews, which gave me a sense of who he was, what he liked, and so on. In the end, I gambled on his good words and decided not to cram in the show. Do I regret it? Sure, a little. But with so many shows, so little time, a day job, and a fairly good sense of character, one must gamble here and there—which is good for a gal like me with trust issues. In summary, the point is this: Another great thing about Fringe is the community, so keep coming back. It works. Yes? Moving on…

ELLE: Wait a sec. Rox. You can at least mention the site and the name of the shows we reviewed. That way we don't have to double-up here.

ROX: Now, you're talking. Elle's right. You can check out all the "Two-Jew Review (with Goy David)" reviews at Once you're in the site, you want to click on the following shows (which will include our reviews in addition to some hundreds of others): Does This Monologue Make Me Look Fat?; Spilled Drinks; Buckets + Tap Shoes; 12 Lies; Improv-A-Go-Go; Punk Rock Awesome; Jaws The Musical; Radio! Radio!; Six Steps Part Deux; Fast Fringe: The Ecstasy; Spoonface Steniberg; Splotches of Spain; Close Up: Dramatic Moments Of Everyday Life; Help Is Pain; Whoppers; The 7 Project.

While it was exciting to see Fringe gain so much attention, the added hype naturally made for longer lines, sold-out venues, and rude customers—hardly a hallmark of Fringe. Personally, the hassle of waiting in long, 1-2 manned ticket lines, led us to either avoid or miss certain shows that we'd X'ed as soon as we saw the program (The Booty Cruise; Buckets and Tap Shoes) (or most everything at the Brave New Workshop for that matter). Still, we definitely had our fill and despite the move toward the mainstream, Fringe remained true to its off-off-off Broadway core. The reliable mix of fantastic, good, so-so, and really, really bad performances and visual art guaranteed the same old adrenaline rush that one gets when playing the slots: pop twelve bucks into the machine and let's see what happens this time!

With 24 venues and 100 + shows divided into a menagerie of categories including Collage, Dance, GLBT Content, Kids, Musical Theatre, Puppetry, Spoken Word, Teens, Solo, and Out-of-Towners, it would be silly to review each show—especially given the timing. Therefore, like the past two years, we at 2-Jew Review + Goy David offer the highlights, low-lights, troops to watch for and those to avoid in order to provide a review of the overall Fringe experience; not that we won't consider a clump of the trees here and there, but the focus is on the Fringe Forest.


"Once again, another reminder why we have it just as good as New York. The little venues are intimate, cozy, and clean. Plus, it's all within biking distance, and in most cases, easy to park a car, should one choose not to bike or walk, though I don't know why anyone would," REPORTS ECO-SYMPATHIZER AND TOUR-DE-FRANCE HOPEFUL, ROX SADOVSKY.

"Hooray. Fringe finally gives real stage time to Spoken Word folk instead of quarantining them to the coffee-grinding venues like the former 15 th St. Dunn Brothers." R.S., Spoken-Word Hopeful, 2005

I also appreciate Fringe for adding film this year. Usually we just have to be content with pretentious slides scanning the back wall while performers swan dive across the stage, but this year the students from MCTC produced 7 ten (or less) - minute films (The 7 Project, at Intermedia Arts). Granted some were really bad, but it was worth it to see Hennepin so many times on film." RS

"It's fun to watch people do weird/wonderful stuff in all kinds of venues. Some of the stages were more interesting than the performers. But that's the kind of unpredictability that makes the fringe such a…such a….crap, I can't do this, I can't spin this drek any more…"

House of Balls—While leaving a capably mounted, rudimentarily entertaining "Radio Radio" at the Interact Theatre—a professional-caliber cast delivers a tedious, overwritten retro piece, obviously lovingly prepared but in serious need of a redo, we became aware of the beckoning void created by the open door of the "House of Balls" gallery. Not on the schedule, not featuring volunteers standing by card tables bantering with each other about how "creative" it all is, the House of Balls invited us in without fanfare, without placards. Beautifully menacing, tantalizingly quiet after the din of well-meaning mainstream theatre flailing, we approached with apprehension, unable to resist. It was like leaving a stiff-shirt dinner party and finding an after-hours beer and jazz blowout next door. The rooms were filled, saturated with piece after piece. Products of welding, painting, wiring, endless construction hung on the walls, overran the ceiling and floor. It was like the jail cell of some damned muse, sentenced to live out its days dutifully birthing myriad expressions of the primal flow. A pixie in an overstuffed chair slouched with a laptop. "Hi, it's my Dad's studio". Really. Dad's pretty cool." Goy David

Elle says: Teresa Chandler (a fellow Northern Californian) and Lyn Henderson in "Middle Age—the musical" were side-splittingly funny. Using the audience's laughter as a guide to what's funny or not doesn't work well in Minnesota—It's 2-Jew's experience that Minnesotans laugh at the blandest stuff and sit stone-faced at the funniest. So here's how I know: Henderson used the "f-word" which is normally a guarantee that Mom (visiting for Fringe) will purse her lips and say in her prissiest voice, "I don't know why people find it necessary to use that word." But when Henderson uttered her one-liner, Mom nearly fell out of her seat laughing. I hope these two ladies are back again next year.

"The Interact Theatre is a totally cool theatre, albeit with Dudley Riggs-ish pillars that block some of the sight-lines. That's a familiar price to pay in warehouse space theatres and galleries." G.D.

Favorite Play

Elle says: a three-way tie between "Punk Rock Awesome", "Improv a go go", and "Middle Age—the musical".

"Six Steps Part Deux," G.D.

"Buckets and Tap Shoes," R.S, Tap Dance Hopeful


"The box office pace was uniformly sluggish. After the no-nonsense-yet-still-fun brisk pace of the line at Chipotle, watching an albeit volunteer tear a ticket in half while in doubt the bisecting would be completed by show time was agonizing."

"Feeling oddly cheated by slick productions presented by well rehearsed groups who perform throughout the year and who were thoroughly entertaining without being all that fringey ("fringe-like", "fringe-ish", it all sounds bad)"

"Living year-round with the usual spate of alt-theatre, activist dance, found object art, and, and…then getting the mega-dose at fringe time. Is there such a thing as too much creativity? I wonder. Maybe next year they can add food fringe, where asthetes go to binge."

"What's with the Thorpe Building being closed? It's not easy for some of us to schlep over to North Minneapolis to find the building, navigate its long dank halls like a maze, only to discover that taped to the warehouse doors is a sticky saying, "we apologize for any inconvenience but the art show like won't be opening until like 7, even though the program says, like, it opens at 5." What's the deal? If you don't pay, it can open and close on a whim, despite the schedule? Dude. Serious, serious bummer.

"Radio! Radio! was professional, slick, and clean, with an awesome venue (Interact) which is a totally cool art gallery which features work by artists with "disabilities" or art in that theme. So, if RR! was so great, why was I bored to tears? Could it be the hot, cramped space? Again, it was an awesome space, especially in that it felt like being at an actual live broadcast, but if I wanted Bikaram yoga for god sakes, I would have gone to the studio on Lyndale. Even so, when a show is good, I hardly notice the climate, but I was totally roasting, uncomfortable, and totally self-conscious propped on high in a spare bar stool in the back of the room. But at least I didn't have it as bad as David who beside me and below me in a "normal" chair, was the victim of the temperamental fan and the occasional passing and pausing big ass." R.S.

Memorable Performers

"The cast of 6 Steps: Part Deux. They delivered high-energy characterizations and managed to lead the audience through a plot not only convoluted but politically relevant in 60 minutes, complete with special effects, bad wigs, and big laughs. A treat. Please sequel again next year, superheroes- I'm a beggin' you."

"Buckets and Tap shoes. These kids are going somewhere. Hopefully they're enjoying the trip- they seem to. A little heavy on the soul brother, soul sister, Sly and the Family Stone-isms, but hey, after four years of President Chimpy and his stinky circus, a little youthful positive energy is a breath of fresh air. Did I mention they dance like freakin' maniacs? More power to 'em."


Elle says: I really wanted to see "Buckets and Tap Shoes". Rox got to Brave New Workshop early and got in, but the show sold out before David and I got to the front of the line.

"I wanted to see "Garanimals," "Knock" (also up for Best of Fringe verses Buckets and Tap Shoes), and John and Jen Parts 1 and 2, but I ran out of steam. Shame on me for not supporting the spoken word folk." I also wanted to see more dance, but after Splotches…I couldn't take on another hour, especially knowing that "Spilled Drinks" was a commitment. I also regret that I ran out of steam, however, due largely to shows like "Close Up," which promise to be good, but are so bad you want to cry." RS.

My other regret is that The Music Box Theatre has not been a venue for the past few years, though happily, The Women's Club was once again one of the venues.

Overall latke rating

Elle says: 4 latkes.


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