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Fringe File #11: Mini-Reviews #1

A promotional image for Edith Gets High, one of several shows to open last night with the start of the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

The main Minnesota Fringe Festival opened last night. Over the next week and a half, roughly 50,000 tickets will be sold as audiences flock to the largest theatre festival in the region. Here are some of our staff’s thoughts on shows that opened yesterday.

A Confederate Widow in Hell

A promotional image for Confederate Widow in Hell, presented by Breaker/Fixer Productions.

The preview for this engrossing show hinted at a horror focus. There are certainly horror elements in this exquisitely crafted, intricately executed show that sees the ghost of a Confederate widow reflecting on her family and their legacy. The show has comedy, depth, a dynamic use of live music, and will hold your attention from start to finish – and spawn much conversation fodder over drinks.

Edith Gets High

A promotional image for Edith Gets High, presented by Devious Mechanics.

This new musical by Keith Hovis (of recent Jefferson Township fame) came within a handful of seats of selling out on opening night. Audience lines wrapped around the Rarig Center well before doors opened, and the show did not disappoint. Edith Gets High is an intensely funny and original musical with lines of social commentary thrown in like cocaine. Bonus points for anyone who’s ever played videogames or participated in internet trash-talking. A girl gamer gets sucked into the musical world of a fantasy quest videogame and hilarity ensues.

Mad as Nell, or How to Lose a Bly in Ten Days

A promotional image for Rinky Dink Productions’ Mad as Nell.

This fable of a twist on journalist Nellie Bly’s career-making exposé of mental institutions is filled with rapid-fire verbal and visual slapstick. There are no slow moments in this show, whether the talented cast of local comedy actors is diving through musical theatre parodies, any of the innumerable asides and throwaway jokes in playwright Josh Carson’s witty script, and a few pieces of Fringe metahumor for the superfans and industry folks.

Nerd Rage! The Great Debates

A promotional image for Komedio Comedy’s Nerd Rage!

Komedio Comedy’s show is one of several Fringe offerings that promise a radically different show each evening. Like NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, the fun is not in measured debate, but in watching the improvised comedy responses to various prompts. Dynamic and rip-roaringly funny.

Renaissance of the Dead

A promotional image for Hot-Chocolate Media’s Renaissance of the Dead.

The foundation of the modern zombie flicks is that humans are worse than the undead. Renaissance of the Dead takes this idea with the zombie apocalypse to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. There are some good ideas here, but on opening night this show suffered from interminable pacing and gags that went too long on the same note.

Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart II: The Wrath of Fandom

A promotional image from The Theatre Cosmic’s Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart II.

The Star Trek franchise is arguably at its most engrossing these days in parody, with unexciting sequels and unimpressive retreads cluttering up its properties. This exploration of fandom is unexpectedly heartwarming at times and surprising in some of its other directions. Good, but narrowly targeted for fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Twin Cities Arts Reader