Final Fringe weekend is upon us! If you haven’t been to a show yet – shame on you. But don’t worry – MPLS.TV has you covered with the down-lo on what’s worth the price of admission.
Writer/performer Seth Lepore crafts a multi-character exploration of the self-help industry with Superhappymelancholy-expialidocious and the result, as the title suggests, is a cornucopia of emotions battling each other for a chance in the spotlight and a very clever, darkly funny show. The quest for happiness is what’s at stake & Lepore inhabits characters like televangelists & self-help gurus who believe in the notion of the quick-fix when it comes to debilitating diseases like depression.
Lepore stretches the limits of character acting by switching effortlessly between facial expressions & expert voice work to bring these people to life on the turn of a dime. The use of hilarious audio cues – particularly one that sounded like an even mumblier Michael McDonald solo piece – allow the performer to believably travel from persona to persona. And there are some touching moments here too; Lepore invites us all into his personal history with depression like you would with a group of close friends. As the title suggests, there is no ‘spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down’ when it comes to this disease. While the material may be a bit dark for some, it is presented with a wit & honesty that makes this my favorite one-man show I’ve seen in quite some time.
Walking into the show, I didn’t know what to expect – I had heard that it was a hip-hop/poetry experiment. As a huge fan of anything with a beat behind it, I was practically hand-picked as their target market, at least more than the several retirees I noticed in the audience of my performance. Walking Into Yes tackles issues of addiction, chronic disease, troubled relationships as well as a plethora of other ideas, with the use of spoken word, rap & familiar tunes you may have heard before remixed into instrumentals, but it’s lack of focus keeps the show from delivering a convincing journey from shame to redemption.
The actors play the hell out of the material – Corey Walton & Laura Mahler share a chemistry that makes their interactions look so effortless that it’s almost like you’re watching old friends having a conversation & not a scripted scene. The showstopper is a video snippet of an AA meeting with several colorful characters rapping over each other, all played by Mahler & Walton – my one wish is that the live action scenes played at as quick a pace & with as much clarity as the video snippet. Often I caught myself trying to piece together a story rather than just letting it sink in. Maybe that’s asking for too much – the material is heavy & rapping anything for over 40 minutes (almost) straight is hard enough as it is. Check this out if you’re a fan of introspective hip hop – I suspect there are a lot of you out there in Minneapolis.
We’ve all been to a terrible office party – and if you haven’t, I envy you. Going Down on the Queen of Minneapolis presents the employees of the fledgling Nokomis Construction getting together for said occasion, but to make things even more stressful – they’re on a boat! And that means no leaving early, which is also true for the audience members. Going Down is filled with characters that don’t like each other, and while comedy can be found in those circumstances, the result is a flat, one-dimensional, joyless boat ride that no one seems to be enjoying anyway.
My issues with the story & character arcs aside, there is some witty, snappy dialogue here, and a few of the performers execute with great skill. But it appears that nothing is really at stake; the company is going under & only one of the characters seems to care. That made it very difficult for me to care about the outcome – and while the story is tied up quite nicely at the end, the comedy doesn’t go dark enough to make the voyage worth it.