A Tangle of Hideous Angles

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August 5, 2012 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

Fear and Trembling by Maximum Verbosity (phillip andrew bennett low)


Lots of swoonworthy stuff here – phillip’s language in his formal pieces is lush and poetic, and the title of this review is just one phrase taken from one piece I particularly love listening to.  I am still pondering this tale, which fuses Alice in Wonderland with Unicorn mythology and at least one more fairy tale trope about three daughters and their different failures of nerve. I have heard several of these stories before, in different iterations. But one of the joys of Fringe is watching someone you know assemble a show out of pieces that have evolved over the years.  The Minneapolis framework does seem a little arbitrary (could we maybe get a different statue of a different Mary to bleed?), even with a broader, “urban versus rural” context to carry the stories that take place in Rochester and Mankato. What I did find interesting was the standpoint of the performer toward his own material, and how that added to or detracted from my involvement and absorption into that material.  I was glad for some comic relief now and then to counteract the intensity of the horror, and phillip can be very funny and engaging with a whiskey in one hand and a microphone in the other. You would think a story about his own awkwardness with women would not really fit in here, but the way  he mocked his own intensity – well, it was just the right ironic touch.  But the tone needed to be different with the historic material around the Dakota Conflict. By no means was it intentionally disrespectful; I think what was intended was quite the opposite.  But collective guilt and shame is a heavy horror, and the whiskey-and-mike talk show host persona phillip uses to comment on his own stories just can’t carry that. That the town in which the largest mass hanging in the United States took place is also the home of Maud Hart Lovelace and the Betsy-Tacy books is itself a tangle of hideous angles. I remain grateful that someone with a keen eye for horror has that eye turned inward, and outward, in ways that demand we acknowledge it.

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