On the Townsend

Minnesota Fringe Festival Closing Weekend
Through Aug. 15
Various Twin Cities Locations
(866) 811-4111

Here’s more Fringe fare worth catching.

Duluth’s acclaimed Colder by the Lake troupe satirizes religious tracts in The Jack Chick Plays. Featured sins include homosexuality and belief in evolution.

Those terrific Blue Umbrella singers remind us that just because a show isn’t very good, it still can have some great tunes. In Flops!, selections range from the infamously failed Carrie to the classic flop How Now, Dow Jones.

Justin Leaf was enthralling in gays-in-the-military-themed Cohesion at the Southern recently. He does an about-face at the Fringe as the elegant titular character in Mistress Ginger.

Poetry slam master Allison Broeron’s Pants on Fire uses spoken word to explore queer concerns, as well as the line between truth and lies.

Amy Salloway, Lavender’s 2003 Best Solo Actor, presents her newest, Being Entwined.

Andrew Fafoutakis reflects on growing up gay and biracial in Prince & a Pauper.

Playwright T.J. Larson, who does the swinger scene in The Lifestyle, says his characters “really feel like they have it all figured out—jealousy, insecurity, etc.—and kind of look down on the ‘Vanilla’ world, with all its hang-ups.”

The Mara Project

Aug. 18-19
Open Eye Figure Theatre
506 E. 24th St., Mpls.
(612) 874-6338

Marcella Goheen’s acclaimed Brooklyn Academy of Music solo show lands here for a limited run. She draws from family secrets shrouded in the fate of her grandparents. As with most all of us, she was faced with only fragments of family history. By creating her piece, she came to form a bigger picture. She hones in on how knowledge of a murder in a family’s past creates unspeakable shame. What you’re unaware of, or cannot speak of, can end up ruling you. Staged by Larry Moss, original director of The Syringa Tree, this is a cool opportunity to see a show by a noted director and actress before it makes its October 2010 Off-Broadway premiere.

Bye Bye Liver: The Twin Cities Drinking Play
Through Aug. 28
Hennepin Stages
824 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(800) 982-2787

Some of snappiest comics in the Twin Cities are being naughty with this seductive sketch comedy about imbibing alcohol. They play scenes about hanging out at bars, and interact with the audience. Servers will take your order—or you can to go the bar just off stage right, grab a bucket of cold ones, and not miss any of this madcap show. Even though I do not drink when I review, I still had fun.

Bye Bye Liver’s ensemble is seamlessly fluid (no pun intended). To be frank, it’s the ideal acting troupe—so comfortable with one another, and playing off each other so naturally, it seems like the action really is taking place, rather than acted. As crass as it is, Bye Bye Liver has a raw power capturing blunt interactions that occur on the bar scene.

Adam Squalls is marvelously mischievous as a man who dons women’s apparel in order to smoke out why women spend so much time in the restroom. It’s priceless when he comes onto some athletic, straight-identified young man in the audience, clearly ill at ease with genderbending. But then, this show is all about blurring reality.

So, if you imbibe, sober up and grab a meal without alcohol nearby, and/or take a cab or surrender to your designated driver.

The Polish Pugilist
Aug. 19-28
Private, Hidden Locations at Seven Corners, Mpls.
[email protected]

One of the most aggressively innovative theater artists in the Twin Cities is 28-year-old Jeremey Catterton. Whether he’s throwing the rules out when directing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Bedlam, or exploring the dark side in The Black Arts at the Guthrie’s Singled Out series, he makes us think. What I admire about his work is that he challenges form, but still makes certain he has something to say.

Catterton’s mysterious new work, The Polish Pugilist, will be staged on three different floors of an undisclosed Minneapolis West Bank location. You have to e-mail for reservations.

Drawing from two disparate sources, Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle and the Rocky films, Catterton rejects traditional storytelling for a nontraditional theatrical experience that still conveys a definite viewpoint.

As Catterton shares, “The meatpacking plant where Sinclair’s Chicago immigrants were exploited also haunts Rocky, as he idiosyncratically trains for his big match by punching slabs of meat—especially in Rocky II, where he strives to get a job at the slaughterhouse, only to be underpaid, struggling for hours, and ultimately laid off.”

Catterton’s own background is Polish-immigrant. Hence, the changing of Sinclair’s Lithuanian references to Polish.

As a schoolteacher, Catterton observed how sports don’t necessarily build character and self-esteem.

Catterton explains, “The culture of professional athletics in America is a slaughterhouse. For the impoverished and uneducated, sports are viewed as the only hope for success, notoriety, and the American Dream—much how Chicago’s Eastern European immigrants only had the meatpacking plants to turn to for employment, stability, and the American Dream. Both the meatpacking and the sports industry reduce workers/players into meat themselves, grinding them to perform superhuman feats of strength, shallowly rewarding those feats, only to discard the players/workers once they are no longer able to produce/perform at such levels. After being ground through both industries, the individual is left for dead, reduced to meat, and forgotten—no more significant than when they started.”

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