The 2022 Minnesota Fringe Festival kicked off Thursday at 11 venues in the Twin Cities, including Rarig Center at the University of Minnesota, Mixed Blood Theatre and Theatre in the Round and outdoors at the Xcel Plaza in downtown Minneapolis.
Running through Aug. 14, the festival has 113 shows that range from dance, drama and comedy to spoken word, musicals and puppetry, some of which are reviewed below. Casts range from solo shows to one with 63 performers.
There's a $5 festival fee and tickets for shows are $15-$18 and $7 for children. Five- and 10-show passes also are available. Info: 612-872-1212, ext. 3, or minnesotafringe.org.
'Erotica for Houseplants'
You can bet good money that Florence Pugh, 26, and Zach Braff, 47, never imagined that their relationship would inspire a bit of plant porn in Tom Reed's entry. Best known for deadpan comedy at the Brave New Workshop, Reed shares a witty vignette about an inexplicable romance between a spry marigold and a wrinkly barked bonsai, loosely based on the couple. More a solo storytelling hour than a play, "Erotica" is an R-rated work laced with literary riffs and the occasional song sendup (like the suggestive new lyrics Reed has added to the score of John Legend's "All of Me," all from the perspective of horny, pollen-laden trees). OK, Reed gets carried away here and there, including with his overly suggestive enunciation of the word pher-o-MONE. Still, "Erotica" is a droll, informative and risqué Fringe winner. (8:30 p.m. Sat., 10 p.m. Wed. & Aug. 12, 5:30 p.m. Aug. 11, 2:30 p.m. Aug. 13, Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St., Mpls.)
'3 Guys on Stage Who Get Hit With Hot Dogs, Snow Cones, etc.'
It was when Danylo Loutchko hurled slices of bologna at Jake Mierva's belly, trying to make them stick, that I remembered what's great about the Fringe. The two, plus Joseph McIntyre Godwin, play the "3 Guys." The first few minutes are simply Loutchko setting up tarps and coolers (he makes it fun), while smiling devilishly. The smile takes on new meaning as all three participate in some sort of torture experiment. Guided by a robotic voice and wearing shock collars, they pelt one another with food and lead you to wonder who's making them do this, right before you wonder who's making any of us do anything. "3 Guys" is hilarious, inventive and unsettling. (4 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Tue., 5:30 p.m. Aug. 12, 8:30 p.m. Aug. 13, 1 p.m. Aug. 14, Center for the Performing Arts, 3754 Pleasant Av. S., Mpls.)
'Desi Heart Crust'
In the middle of social unrest that follows the police killing of a young teenager, a locally sourced Indian pizza restaurant gets vandalized. Shattered that his long-held dream lies in ruins, owner Joy (Chaitanya Bhandare), who is Indian, exclaims to lover Leila (Stella), who is Black, "I'm the victim here." The show, written by Lakshmi Rajaram and Varghese Alexander, and directed by Madhu Bangalore for South Asian Arts & Theater House, takes us into an understanding of the nuances and complexities of love across cultures in a time of crisis. "Desi" has ambition as big as its cast, with more than 60 people moving onstage (not all at the same time) in dance routines drawn from Bollywood and Africa (shout-out to choreographers Anjali Gopal and Korma Aguh). The crucibles in the show are old, but the juxtapositions and message offer heartwarming new light. (1 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Tue. & Aug. 12, 10 p.m. Aug. 13, Rarig Center Thrust, 330 21st Av. S., Mpls.)
Adam Szudrich's "Sunshine" is a one-woman show. One woman and a lot of voices. Lisa Marie Fulton (Ellen) is terrific in a piece that requires her to interact with a variety of pre-recorded voices (shout-out to sound and lights crew Ash Beneke, Court Symons and Alex). Facing her 40th birthday, Ellen zips through dating and work vignettes. It's a bit like "Sex and the City" in its frank sex talk and its shift from bawdy comedy to drama. The play ends anti-climactically but Fulton brings tenderness and wit to a woman whose therapist — well, her cat's veterinarian — says she suffers from "an absence of joy." (4 p.m. Sun., 5:30 p.m. Mon., 5:30 and 10 p.m. Wed., 8:30 p.m. Aug. 12 and 1 p.m. Aug. 13, CFPA, 3754 Pleasant Av. S., Mpls.)
'Action Will Be Taken'
You may find yourself reaching for a (nonexistent) volume knob for this show. The absurdist comedy is performed by a very emphatic cast of six, who seem to have rehearsed in a space much more cavernous than the one in which they perform. "Action" takes the form of an un-motivational speech given by employment-phobic James (Rob Ward), who addresses work and how to not do it. Various co-workers and bosses filter in, doing puzzling dance routines. They're a committed, well rehearsed company but "Action" feels like an inside joke we're on the outside of. (8:30 p.m. Mon. and Thu., 7 p.m. Aug. 12, 10 p.m. Aug. 13 and 8:30 p.m. Aug. 14, CFPA, 3754 Pleasant Av. S., Mpls.)
'People R Ready — The Musical'
What if there's no diamond, just roughage? "People R Ready" is an earnest attempt at a musical with seven songs loosely attached to a story of kids returning to school and seeking friendship after a period of difficult isolation. Its feel-good vibes also extend to its casting, with differently abled actors in principal roles. But the show lacks an understanding of musical storytelling — of how songs arise because mere talking is not enough, and how the music pushes the narrative forward. Inertia binds its feet and this show never really takes off. (4 p.m. Sat., 10 p.m. Sun., 8:30 p.m. Wed., 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13, Rarig Center Thrust, 330 21st Av. S., Mpls.)