This Saturday evening, my spouse and I decided to leave our Fringe experience to chance, and chose the closest venue to where we were at at the time (which happened to be Intermedia Arts) and saw the next two shows to be performed at that venue, without even looking up the titles (never mind a description) beforehand. I feel this is part of the Fringe experience, especially with new shows you can’t look up from the previous festival on the Fringe circuit, or new/out-of-town performers whose reputations do not precede them. Anyway, here’s how it turned out!
First, we saw Power Point Karaoke, an improv-based concept show created by Bill Stiteler and Melissa Kaercher. The concept? Four comedians each
give a brief, improvised presentation based on Power Point slides they’ve never seen before — and the slides are random and unrelated within each presentation (a nun shooting x-rays out of her brain? A chart showing an unspecified relationship between bacon and the Vikings? A man making out with a horse? Sure!). The presentations are judged on a pre-set list of criteria, including audience reaction, and at the end, a winner is selected. The comedians are different for every show, so I can’t promise you the same two hilarious, one mostly-funny, one kind-of-awkward presentations I saw, nor the mixed-quality group presentation at the end. The judges’ commentary between each presentation was a little confusing; one judge was playing along and being silly, but the other seemed to seriously critique the performance, which made it fall a little flat. But overall the concept is interesting, and entertaining at the very least for the random, bizarre-o slides that pop up on the giant screen behind the performers. And those two hilarious speakers were totally worth it, in my books!
After a brief break in the lobby of Intermedia (note: it’s a very interesting space, but has minimal
seating), we returned to the theatre to see Me, My Selfie, and Eye by POWductions, created and performed by Pauline Johnson. This one-woman show is focused on the existential crisis of a 23-year-old under-employed theatre graduate who spends her days smoking weed, working at a low-paying tutoring job, and obsessing about her ex-boyfriend. She has a wild imagination that gets the better of her sometimes, and seems to be filled with a certain self-loathing (as voiced by her evil “ego”), until one day her “third eye” opens and she starts walking a path of self-confidence and “letting things go”. This is a very visually interesting show; we get to see what she sees with her vivid imagination, including her imaginary friends, and the world going dark as her smartphone’s battery dies. This is sometimes entertaining, sometimes fascinating, and sometimes confusing. Johnson has a strong stage presence and a good range of expression, as demonstrated by her portrayal of a handful of supporting characters. If she flubbed a few lines, I can forgive her because of her ability to go with the flow and recover quickly. If I have any complaint or concern about this show, it’s just that it’s a little confusing. It’s listed as a comedy, but, if the Fringe had such a label, I would call it 1/3 comedy, 1/3 drama, 1/3 “something different”. It’s never boring, it’s sometimes uneven, and it’s an interesting concept. And, you know, there’s Bud, the hand sock stand-in for a marijuana high.
For tickets and show times, see www.fringefestival.org . The Minnesota Fringe Festival runs July 31-August 10 at various venues in Minneapolis.