Some Fringe shows really don’t need reviewing, because they are pretty well guaranteed to sell out the entire run no matter what. The unusual thing about this show, however, is that it isn’t a big, flashy musical or a comedy by one of the known Twin Cities names.
No, The Zebra Shirt of Lonely Children is a one-man show by an out-of-towner (though he was born and raised in Minnesota): not exactly your typical recipe for a Fringe hit, particularly when you consider that the play is about actor Matthew Trumbull‘s relationship with his father, slowly dying at only 55 of lung damage brought on by chemotherapy. Natural and articulate, Trumbull tells his story with the intensity that comes from a deeply personal connection to his work and his subject matter. But if he is burning to tell this story, that doesn’t prevent him from pausing over the little details that give it meaning – the particular objects, words, and sounds that shape individual lives and relationships. Trumbull’s deadpan humor always comes at just the right moment, providing some distance in what is otherwise an emotionally intense 60 minutes. Quite a bit of time has passed since his father’s death, which I can imagine has helped Trumbull to craft what is both a beautiful eulogy and an honest reflection on life, death, and dying. This is not a gratuitous tear-jerker, but be forewarned: it may affect you more than you expect, leaving you (as it did me) not in the mood to rush off to another show in the next time slot. Better to savor this one.
Sophie, Liz, and Melanie will be posting their thoughts throughout Fringe (August 1-11). Be sure to check back as we update with more shows!