FRINGE SHORTS: “The Gypsy and the General” by 3 Sticks

Theater maven Christy DeSmith offers a short review of the richly textured musical theater production by 3 Sticks, "The Gypsy and the General"


So far, more than any another show I’ve seen at the Fringe, this richly textured and imagistic production reminds me of the good, old days at Theatre de la Jeune Lune—and not just because The Gypsy and the General is being performed in that beautiful, old endangered venue. It’s also thanks to the theatrical lighting, which casts a ghostly blue glow upon the artfully decaying brick walls of the theater, thereby bathing the room in moony light. What’s more, this inventive production puts several simple, utilitarian objects to use as prop and set pieces: PVC pipes become swords, a long rope becomes a deadly snake. But the thing that really brings me back is the giant sheet of silk, which 3 Sticks employs to create the smooth but rippled effect of the desert floor; then, later in the show, and even more beautifully—they use the fabric to pitch a tent which was lit from within. Inside, the audience can see the general consulting with her lieutenant, in silhouette.

In addition to these lovely flourishes, there is also an imaginative (and, halleluiah, discernible) narrative. The general is, notably, played by a woman, Katie Melby (she’s also the director behind this excellent show). The eponymous gypsy is, also notably, played by a fellow, Andrew Lynch (a talented singer-songwriter). As the quixotic general and her crew travel to fantastical new lands, the gypsy’s songs warn her of dangers and, in times of need, bolster her confidence.

Throughout the show, the cast (including Eric Avery, 3 Sticks artistic director Jason Bohon, and Zenon Dance Company member Tamara Ober) use their bodies in inventive ways. In particular, they effectively use tumbling and dance movement to portray disaster. In a morbid, but funny scene that takes inspiration from action sequence conventions in television and movies, Jason Bohon (who plays the general’s doctor) falls to his death from a hot air balloon. To portray this, Bohon simply sprints toward the audience. Everyone gets the joke immediately—the effect looks exactly like a stuntman tumbling at the camera in one of those big-budget action flicks.

Even so, the thing that really sets this production apart is its gypsy. Equipped with an acoustic guitar and mandolin, Lynch sets an ambient, but sincere, tone with his folksy renderings. He has the buttery emo voice of Greg Laswell—minus all the cloying ploys for sympathy, of course. In fact, the gypsy’s lyrics are outwardly focused, concerned with guiding the well-intentioned, but ever fumbling, general.

What’s more, Lynch’s gypsy remains cloistered at the corner of the stage, away from all the other performers. In this way, he and his music seem to exist almost on another plane, as if he weren’t just a gypsy, but a voice inside the general’s head—or even the voice of God, perhaps. The effect is simply mesmerizing. The general is graced by this gypsy’s ethereal presence, and so is the audience.

Other Fringe shows I’m dying to see:
The Mistress Cycle by Maddak Productions, Bryant-Lake Bowl
Mortem Capiendum by Four Humors, U of M Rarig Center Thrust
small aïda by Penelope Freeh, Theatre de la Jeune Lune

About the writer: Christy DeSmith is a former editor at The Rake. She is also a freelance theater critic and was recently named an affiliated writer for 2007-08 by the Theatre Communications Group and American Theatre magazine.
What: The Gypsy and the General by 3 Sticks
Where: Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Minneapolis, MN
When: August 2, 3, 6, 8 & 9 (click here for specific performance times)
Admission: $12 (plus a $3 Fringe button)

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