THE MARKETING FOR THE 612 -- that requisite postcard, a beloved staple of the Fringe Festival -- features a hipster standing before the famous stars alongside First Avenue nightclub. He holds a hand-lettered sign that reads: "Won't U Take Me To Funkytown?" Could this be the show, finally, that wakes the slumbering local music-lover within?
No, not exactly. Turns out, this show is more of a cross-disciplinary collaboration, involving mostly visual and theater artists. There are no musicians involved, save for the folksy strummer providing ambiance at the top of the show. On the upside, because the play is performed in a garage at Cult Status Gallery in South Minneapolis, the ensemble was able to outfit its nontraditional venue with a lush visual environment, a rarity among these Fringe shows. The team project of eight Minneapolis mural artists, The 612's centerpiece is a graffiti-inspired rendering of the Minneapolis skyline.
Another great thing about this show, the script is more interesting and nuanced than usual at the festival. Or rather, the scripts (plural) are better than the average Fringe show, because The 612 consists of four separate vignettes, exploring four unique facets of Minneapolis culture and history. Each playlet is the product of an individual team of writers, directors, and performers.
The first, "Powderhorn Triptych," concerns a dude from Northeast Minneapolis (played by Jesse Corder) who finds himself lost in (you guessed it) Powderhorn Park. It's the middle of the night in a reportedly dangerous place. Yet, every person he approaches denies his pleas for help -- a symptom of our Minnesota aloofness perhaps?
The second piece, "One Step Forward," was my favorite of the showcase. It's a deconstructionist discussion between two friends, presumably 20-somethings who met at a local high school. The young man, Paul (Shad Cooper), suddenly entertains thoughts of moving away from Minneapolis; but the young lady, Minni (Ann Rice), has never entertained the thought. "I was born here. I live here. I'll die here," she insists. If you live in Minneapolis, surely you'll recognize this strain.
I was least enthusiastic about the last two vignettes. "Strike" traces our city's union roots to the 1930s. While the topic of union membership is extremely pertinent these days, given the thematic structure of the show, I expected a strong connection to Minneapolis, in particular, and I didn't sense enough of that to make sense of its inclusion here.
The final episode, "Polar Expeditions," found a Minnesota native (Ryan Scott) bringing his California girlfriend (Ashley D. Scott) home for a mid-winter vacation. Needless to say, such wintry material is an assault to the summertime love a Minneapolitan feels during the Fringe, a time of year when her city is filled with creativity and warmth. So, the play gave me an unwanted jumpstart on the sort of thoughts sure to strike five months from now, anyway: Why do I live here, again?
Overall, I thought The 612 was a well written and artfully presented showcase, and a fine representation of Minneapolis artists. Sure, it got me thinking about Minnesota culture: our ridiculous accents, our love-hate relationship with this place. Even so, I was disappointed that the content dwelled on our city's inferiority complex. With a postcard so promising, and a name like The 612, I hoped the show would somehow celebrate our virtues.
Related performance details:
The 612, presented by Rogues Gallery Arts, is on stage in the garage of Cult Status Gallery in Minneapolis. Shows are: Thursday, 8/11 (7:00 p.m.); Friday, 8/12 (7:00 p.m.); Friday, 8/12 (10:00 p.m.); Saturday, 8/13 (2:30 p.m.); Saturday, 8/13 (8:30 p.m.).
Check back regularly throughout the Fringe Festival for more short reviews on mnartists.org, sent in from our intrepid performance critics on the scene.
About the author: Christy DeSmith is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer. Formerly an editor at The Rake and Mpls.St.Paul magazines, DeSmith now writes about art, culture, and interesting personalities for a handful of local and national titles.