Shining stars of the Fringe Festival

ROB CALLAHAN | Updated 8/6/2013

Applying the "Hands Clapping" scale to top talents at Minnesota Fringe

Andy Ausland (buckets), Joey Chismar (drum set), and Rick Ausland (tap shoes) of "Buckets and Tap Shoes"

After an opening weekend full of ups, downs and ho-hums, I fell into a near solid block of quality programming filled with song, dance, improv, comedy and spoken word. There was one other show, to which the word quality is difficult to apply, that I'm still trying to figure out. I'm not sure what to say about that one, but the others are all below.

I rate Fringe shows on a scale of 1 to 5 Hands Clapping, but that would be pointless to expound upon in this review because these were all top notch shows. I'm even going so far as to say that each of these shows is the best in its category. So, if you're just reading my reviews for the first time, know that not all shows earn this high a rating. That should tell you something.

'Buckets and Tap Shoes: excerpts from 'DREAMS''

Brothers Rick and Andy Ausland assemble a one-hour tap and percussion revue with the feel of a rock concert, wild party or rough ride through the looking glass. The Auslands use their feet in ways that seem to defy the laws of physics in a show saturated with acrobatic tap dancing and peppered with magic, comedy and clowning. The audience are both observers and a part of the experience, literally at times, as the Auslands treat everything as a potential makeshift drum. I thought I had seen everything, but until I saw a percussion cover of the William Tell Overture done entirely with tap shoes, I was mistaken. One of those rare Fringe shows that blows the whole audience away.  5 out of 5 Hands Clapping

(“Buckets and Tap Shoes” continues at 5:30 p.m. Thu., and 2:30 p.m. Sat. Music Box Theater)

'Dear Madde'

An improv/cabaret show that is part stand up comedy, part Mr. Rogers for neurotic adults. Madde Gibba lampoons advice columnists and lifestyle gurus while encouraging the audience to write in questions, then answers them in song, improvising lyrics while her accompanists play something appropriate to the problem. The local arts community's relationship with Gibba is like one with a significant other who is way out of our league. We secretly hope she never realizes just how much better she can do, but we know that time will have to come some day and, when it does, it will be for the best. In the meantime, though, we'll prolong the inevitable with gifts and praise, and five hand reviews. A big talent playing in a small space. You may want to buy tickets in advance.  5 out of 5 Hands Clapping

(“Dear Madde” continues at 7 p.m. Wed., 1 p.m. Sat., and 5:30 p.m. Sun. Red Eye Theater)

'Between Floors'

Putting on a comedy about social anxiety is a big risk. One wrong line, bad delivery or unsympathetic character is all it takes to turn your story into an insensitive scripted bullying session. Fortunately, playwright Rebecca Sandell has created a strong script flush with humanity, and actor Joshua Boertje's subtle portrayal of the afflicted lead underlines that humanity. Boertje's presence steals every scene, even when paired with the boisterous delivery of co-star Beck DeRobertis or the adorable Tessa Vigoren, and makes “Between Floors” the best comedy in the 2013 Fringe. 5 out of 5 Hands Clapping

(“Between Floors” continues at 7 p.m. Wed., and 2:30 p.m. Sat. Mixed Blood Theatre)

'How to Swear Like a Minnesotan'

Joseph Scrimshaw turns his keen wit toward telling tales of growing up Minnesotan, Northwoods lore, family dysfunction and fun facts about our state in a sharp, satirical spoken word show. "How to Swear Like a Minnesotan" packs most every device and technique in Scrimshaw's extensive repertoire into a fresh fifty-minute solo show with an intimate feel, and says goodbye for twenty minutes at the end. 5 out of 5 Hands Clapping

(“How to Swear Like a Minnesotan” continues at 8:30 p.m. Wed., 5:30 p.m. Fri., and 4 p.m. Sun. Rarig Center Xperimental)

[Photo Courtesy of Buckets and Tap Shoes]