MPLS.TV x Fringe: Orphans, Aliens, Merblades & Tributes

With the festival in full-effect & over 165 shows to choose from, the Minnesota Fringe can be a little overwhelming. MPLS.TV wants you to know what you can’t miss, what to skip and what to ‘wait for video.’


Fringe Orphans

There are a lot of cooky concepts out there in the Fringe. Sometimes they work (with hilarious results) and sometimes they don’t (with hilarious results). Orphans has done the dirty work for us, taking several Fringe high-concept shows & condensing each of them to about 5 minutes. The outcome is a series of scenes showcasing parodies like The Goddaughter: a pre-teenie-bopper version of Don Corleone, a Wonder Woman/Hippolyta hybrid as done as, ironically, a one-man show, and a newbie comedy improv duo on a stage to nowhere.

All the concepts are clever & often played hilariously but with a length of about 45 minutes I would have liked to have seen more. It also feels a bit like a ‘grab-bag’ of a show, with these scenes not connected in any way, aside from a very funny ongoing, seemingly pointless, action sequence set to The Matrix soundtrack. But if you know what the creators are going for & don’t mind the shorter running length, you’ll enjoy it.

Joe Dowling’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet on the Moon featuring Kate Mulgrew as Lady Capulet

In JD’s WS’s R&J on the Moon featuring KM as LC, we are treated to a Shakespeare adaption that has comically gone too far. It packs on the laughs with more layers than an obese onion, delving back & forth from the ridiculous portrayal of Romeo as a moon colonist and Juliet as a moon native, to the reactions of 5 audience-member characters that critique the adaptation as it plays out in real time. The audience agents actually steal the show, particularly Dawn Brodey’s portrayal of a feminist theater professor who fishes for subtext while actors in ludicrous costumes recite the Bard.

I loved how the show critiques the practice of updating Shakespeare to the point where it becomes unnecessary – for me, the fun was when the audience agents aired their grievances about how something was wrong in the case of The Fangirl, or how they could have done it better in the case of The Understudy. This is a play about the theatre community, and so it was acceptable for me that the adaptation didn’t have the same comedic chops as the reception of it– in fact, that’s the point.

Merblades: Memoirs of a James Cameron

‘There’s an ocean of discovery down there!’ a dopily innocent James Cameron exclaims after making his ‘King of the World’ Oscar speech. Merblades – no, not Mermaids, MerBLADES – is an adventure-comedy for the fish in all of us that takes place during the 12 years of Cameron’s narrative feature film hiatus between Titanic & Avatar. If you are in a mood for the ridiculously goofy, this is the show for you. Heather Meyer’s script is chock full of witty one liners – heck, even the exposition is hilarious – and everything is presented with a matter-of-fact ‘this is the way it is, deal with it’ attitude.

Some of the performances were a little shaky but it didn’t throw me off or keep me from giggling the entire time. The story itself (much to the dismay of Cameron, who wants to go documentary filmmaker) unfolds into it’s own version of a Cameron action film, complete with fight sequences, seemingly made-up rules & larger than life characters.


The Hungry Games: Mocking the Mockingjay

Tom Reed is back in a brand new one-man show about, you guessed it, The Hunger Games. Reed weaves parody, physical pratfalls & lightening-fast character switches together into a comical review of the popular book series as well as a satire on the obsession with violence in America. While I’ve never read any of the books, I know the basic storyline & that was all that was needed to enjoy the show.

While there were less musical numbers than in previous Reed productions, almost the entire show is underscored by the talented Brian Allen on piano. Allen tickles the ivories swiftly as Reed runs about the Theatre in the Round portraying multiple Tributes on the turn of the dime. If you’re familiar with the source material, I suspect you’d find it even more enjoyable.