These six seriocomic pieces have the best kind of audience participation: the kind where there are candy bars. The treats are passed out during a brief segment in which we’re asked True/False questions about death and dying. The rest of the ably performed segments are dedicated to the not especially fresh premise that everyone grieves in a different way and all of those ways are A-OK. Standouts are actor Victoria Pyan, possessor of a maniacal laugh that’s just begging for a Disney villain role, and playwright Sam L. Landman, who has crafted the most personal and specific of the pieces: a tender tribute to his late friend J’Mel Davidson.
(2:30 p.m. Sat., 8:30 p.m. Wed., 10 p.m. Fri. and 7 p.m. Sat., Aug. 10, Crane Theater, 2303 NE. Kennedy St., Mpls.)
Edith Gets High
Emerging writer and composer Keith Hovis, best known for his fringe-to-Park Square musical “Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant,” has returned with a joyful, sci-fi fantasia. In “Edith Gets High,” an avid gamer is sucked into a video game console to do battle not just with avatars and historic monsters, but with patriarchy, incels and a whole bunch of dark, real-world forces hiding behind keyboards and assumed identities. The musical is clever, inventive and witty, and has thrilling turns by Debra Berger as the title character who uses weed to unleash her superpowers. OK, maybe that’s not so future-looking. Still, directed by Allison Witham and featuring a cast that includes Colleen Somerville Leeman, Lizzie Gardner and Ryan Lear, it’s a fun, imaginative romp.
(4 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Tue., 10 p.m. Fri., 2:30 p.m. Sun. Aug. 11, Rarig Center Arena, 330 21st Av. S., Mpls.)
Post-it, Baby! A Postpartum Journey into Anxiety and Depression
Singer/actor Lauren Drasler is a singular performer and, after a stint in Los Angeles, it is excellent to have her back in Minnesota. It’s also good to learn, via this show, that she has made it through a debilitating mental health battle that, as “Post-it Baby” tells it, resulted in her calling a friend for help when she realized she was holding a knife perilously close to her wrists. It’s a solo piece (unless you count Barbies), in which Drasler veers from amusing anecdotes to a truly scary moment when, her baby snuggled against her chest, she begins speaking hoarsely and slowly, as if she’s somewhere right next door to the Sunken Place in “Get Out.” At the Fringe, it feels like we’re seeing a show still in its infancy (sorry, not sorry), with Drasler shifting from suicidal ideation to wellness much too quickly, but it’s a show that could become great.
(4 p.m. Sat., 10 p.m. Mon., 5:30 p.m. Thu. and 2:30 p.m. Sun., Aug. 11, Strike Theater, 824 18th Av. NE., Mpls.)
There’s no shortage of ambition in W.A.R. Theater’s fragmentary collage about a murder that occurred among the Beat poets in 1944, long before anyone knew who Allen Ginsberg or Jack Kerouac were (the same events were depicted in the Daniel Radcliffe movie “Kill Your Darlings”). Dance, drama and a live band blend in the moody play and it’s not a competition but, if it were, the agile band would win. The four musicians accompany the sometimes overheated action (to be fair, the Beats were a bit much, too), supplying underscoring and songs that comment on the action, including a lovely version of the National’s “I Need My Girl.” “Beat.” doesn’t cohere but director Michael Johnson concludes it with a powerfully arresting image that indicates not all of the real culprits were brought to justice.
(8:30 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Wed., 10 p.m. Thu., 8:30 p.m., Sun., Aug. 11, Crane Theater, 2303 NE. Kennedy St., Mpls.)
Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart II – The Wrath of Fandom
Playwright Brandon Taitt has written a sequel to his earlier Fringe show about the world of sci-fi fandom. This version takes place 30 years later as a backpack-wearing, middle-aged Daniel Jimmies (Travis Bedard), who was 16 the first time around, tries to re-create the same scenario with the “Star Trek” star (George Michael Calger). “Stuck” is studded with up-to-the-minute terms like incel and nonbinary. Playwright Taitt tries to be fair and balanced about Jimmies while also exposing toxic masculinity. But it comes off as clunky. “Stuck” would become unstuck by taking a stronger stance on the menace that a figure like Jimmies poses.
(10 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Thu., 8:30 p.m. Fri., 1 p.m. Sat., Aug. 10, Rarig Center Arena, 330 21st Av. S., Mpls.)
Mad as Nell, or How to Lose a Bly in Ten Days
Nell would be Nellie Bly, the pioneering “woman reporter” who did a sensational exposé of a New York mental institution from the inside. Christina Ricci played her in a recent Lifetime film “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story.” And she’s been the subject of other plays and books. This latest show, written by the crackerjack team of director Josh Carson and actors Kelsey Cramer, Shanan Custer and Allison Witham, ups the humor quotient as Nell tries to escape the madhouse. Cramer plays Nell as a wise, witty time traveler to the 21st century. Standouts in this able cast include Carson as Joseph Pulitzer, Addie Phelps as inmate Tillie and Sue Scott as hellacious headwoman Ms Grady. The play makes sharp observations about the sexism and ignorance of an era when women were institutionalized for any and every reason.
(2:30 p.m. Sun.,10 p.m. Mon, 7 p.m. Fri., 1 p.m. Aug. 10, Rarig Center Thrust, 330 21st Av. S., Mpls.)
Nerd Rage! The Great Debates
The affable “Wonder Dave” hosts a podcast in which four teams of two leave their parents’ basements long enough to debate topics such as “Which is better: ‘Stranger Things’ or ‘Goonies?’ ” and something to do with Dungeons and Dragons that I never did figure out. It’s improv with a very narrow focus and I suspect the show’s success depends a lot on whether you care about the audience-suggested topics and how nimble that show’s performers are. I was fortunate enough to see the quick-witted team of Levi Weinhagen and Heather Meyer, both of whom will appear again during the Fringe, albeit not together (rotating cast members are posted on the Fringe site).
(7 p.m. Sun., 8:30 p.m. Mon., 5:30 p.m. Fri. and 2:30 p.m. Sat., Aug. 10, Crane Theater, 2303 NE. Kennedy St., Mpls.)
As three black young men sit on a stoop and share their stories,there’s blithe brilliance, raw emotionality and a touch of theatrical larceny. This is a coming-of-age choreopoem by the rhythmic trio of Domino D’Lorion, Michael McKitt and Ian McCarthy. Chicago native D’Lorion and Alabama-bred McKitt are both graduates of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA program; New Orleanian McCarthy leads the justice-themed band Dr. Goon and the Daily Tribune. “Stoopidity” has sophistication and polish even as it’s grounded in hip-hop age authenticity. The trio, mentored by noted director Talvin Wilks and produced by theater angel Elaine Rubin Cohen, evinces influences as diverse as Shakespeare, Tupac and RuPaul as they drop deft rhymes about church, education and the messes that young people get into as they find their way in a world full of traps and snares. Of course, they are young, black and male, and have survived thus far, so you feel their exultation and wonder as they chorally exclaim: “I’m alive.”
(10 p.m. Sun., 8:30 p.m. Tue., 2:30 Sat., Aug. 10, 8:30 Sun., Aug. 11, Rarig Center Xperimental, 330 21st Av. S., Mpls.)