Posted on August 9, 2013 in Art & Culture, Reviews
Ok, ok. I realize this post is WAY late. However, if you’ve seen my Twitter lately you’ll know that I’ve been busy trying to organize my life and work areas. Doesn’t mean that I care about important Twin Cities art goings-on any less!
The Minnesota Fringe is more than half over at this point, with whispers as to which shows will be selected for this Sunday’s special encore performance slot. Last week on Sunday, however, the excitement in the Rarig was of a different sort—buzzing with the energy of Fringe goers just beginning their experience.
One of those attendees was my boyfriend—a Fringe virgin. Let me tell you a little something about my boyfriend: we are probably, in terms of interests, the most opposite people you will ever meet. For instance, while I enjoy immersing myself in random arts and cultural activities, my boyfriend finds things like this thrilling:
So he and I have this unspoken sort-of deal. I promise not to plug my ears and go “lalala” when he geeks out over science and math, and he agrees to do one “art thing” with me a month—give or take—and try not to grumble too much about it. When I told him about the Fringe Festival he was characteristically not excited—until I told him that shows were 60 minutes at most. He perked right up.
The problem then came deciding what to see. After much of the, “I don’t care” “Well, I don’t care, either” chorus, we decided on a strategy. I picked four choices that looked interesting (and had been, thus far, positively reviewed) and let him make the final decision, which is how we came to our selection: Wanderlust.
To be honest, I was a bit skeptical walking into this show. My first theatre love has always been musicals, so I usually respond better to performances with a bit more pizzazz: bigger casts, songs, dances, and what have you. How could a 60 minute show featuring just one person be captivating enough for me, let alone my “I-just-barely-tolerate-this-because-I-love-you” boyfriend?
Boy was I off-base. From the moment the lights went down at the Rarig, I was absolutely mesmerized by Martin Dockery’s storytelling. Wanderlust proved to be a funny and engaging story of one man’s search for an epiphany—with more than a hint of humor. The first thing I noticed were his hands. His long, spindly fingers reminded me of a wizard casting a spell. He even managed to captivate my boyfriend, who every time I looked over at him, he was smiling. I even heard him laugh a couple times!
In addition to his gesticulations, out-of-town performer, Dockery is probably one of the most overall physical storytellers I have ever witnessed. The epitome of his physicality manifested in his recount of falling “ill” on a train. Crawling on the floor, squatting, sliding and regaling his misfortunes in very “colorful” imagery he had the entire audience rolling in the aisles!
Every time though, after he had taken us on that journey, he managed to bring us back and serve us a nugget of wisdom. I once heard an expression something along the lines of, “First, get ‘em laughing. Then, while their mouths are open, stick the truth in.” I truly think this is something that Dockery has mastered the art of. Even my boyfriend said that he appreciated Martin’s ability to turn life’s non-meaning into a meaning in itself. Who knew my boyfriend was such an existentialist?
Anyway, the Fringe is winding down, but if you have a chance, definitely check out Martin Dockery in Wanderlust.
#MNFringeReviews: Buckets and Tap Shoes
Posted on August 5, 2013 in Art & Culture, Reviews
I have a confession to make: I am somewhat of a Minnesota Fringe poseur.
Two years ago, I volunteered for the fringe and I got to see, I think, like 6 shows or so. Every other year I see maybe 3 or 4 if I’m lucky. I’m always touting the importance of supporting the arts through volunteerism and patronage. And yet, when I find myself in the throngs of die-hard Fringers, sporting their Ultra passes, on their 3rd, 4th, or 5th show of the DAY, I can’t help but feel like I’m one of those kids who is like, “Yeah, I’m TOTALLY into Macklemore/Mumford and Sons/insert pseudo indie #upandcoming popular artist” who can only hum the lines to one song.
So, it was with that mindset of feeling somewhat out of place that I set out on Saturday for my first show of the 2013 Fringe season: Buckets and Tap Shoes. Luckily, the show itself served to melt my insecurities almost immediately with it’s quirky, refreshing, and totally unpretentious performances.
Buckets and Tap Shoes, in my estimation, is a Fringe mainstay. I know that the performances that get to be part of the Fringe is decided by random drawing, but B&TS is a name that always seems to be in the mix. What’s more, their really unique blend of showmanship, dance, music, and audience participation always seems to turn out solid showings at the Fringe. Excerpts from DREAMS was not an exception.
The show began with what I saw one reviewer refer to as a “Cirque du Soleil-esque” talk-music. Since I had read the review beforehand, I was expecting this. What I wasn’t expecting was the stark contrast this would create with the raw simplicity of two dancers on stage and an occasional saxophone cameo— so much so that the contrast was almost comical! Perhaps this aspect would be somewhat lost in a full-scale production, however, in the context of the Fringe, I thought it was a fun and quirky detail.
The dancing itself started off comparatively demure—I suppose as demure as tap dancing can be— but the numbers picked up as the show went on. Something that always amazes me about tap dancers is how their top halves and faces seem to be so calm while their feet are moving a mile a minute, making little rhythm craters in the floor. Come to think of it, I actually wished dancers, Andy and Rick Ausland had made a bigger deal and hammed up some of their moves because I think sometimes the difficulty of the steps they were executing was lost on the audience. If you weren’t astute enough to notice their dampening shirts and glistening foreheads (probably my one criticism of the show was that damn, someone get these guys a sweatband, hat or a barrette, or something) it could have ALMOST looked easy. The stronger tapper by a slim margin seemed to be Andy, whose fast footwork and perfectly centered quadruple (or pentuple? is that even a thing?) pirouettes were stellar. I did enjoy Rick’s subtle nods to Tap 101, by dotting his more contemporary steps with the more traditional time-steps and buffalos. I also enjoyed how the dancing would, at times, create a little conversational vignette with the saxophonist: Willie Moore.
What Rick may have (only slightly) lagged in tap, he MORE than made up for in his spirited bucket performance. Like, for real? They were both phenomenal— but he was ROCKING OUT—like Garth on Wayne’s World status. Their complimentary talents became all the more clear to me after seeing this gem of a picture, created by Twin Cities cartoonist Timmah Pacello:
The climax of the drum piece occurred when the duo entered the audience and began drumming on the seats, guardrails, floor, walls, and even handing off a pair of drumsticks to an unsuspecting audience member!
The theme of audience participation—an apparent given with any B&TS production—came to a head with the end of the performance, when they invited a trio of youngsters to hula hoop on stage. One little girl, I’m pretty sure, is probably like the hula hoop champion of Minnesota because in the maybe 5-8 minute stint, she did not stop hula hooping for even one second. She even managed to grab a t-shirt while doing it—the girl has a gift.
Anyway, if you’re maybe a Fringe newbie who’s totally overwhelmed by the 176 choices of a performance or just in the mood for a super solid good-time, be sure to catch Buckets and Tap Shoes at the Fringe!