In the short time I’ve been voicing my opinions on professional theater in the Twin Cities, I’ve found I’ve never outright hated a show.
I’ve discovered it’s difficult for me not to be able to find something about a show I enjoyed. This could be attributed to my time seeing a lot of varieties of theater and always needing a compliment at the end of a show. (Parents, or theater majors, you know what I mean.) Also, when dealing with professional productions there is always something that is impressive even if it isn’t always the acting, such as the costumes, lighting or even the blocking. (Can you tell I’ve stretched to find things before?)
The true test of a show, however, is when you strip away all those elements and rely simply on the words of a script and the actor saying them.
And “Fruit Fly” passes this test with flying colors.
“Fruit Fly” began as a musical in the Minnesota Fringe Festival in 2012. It is written and performed by two native Minnesotans, Sheena Janson and Max Wojtanowicz. It tells the story of their long-time friendship with one very important plot point: Wojtanowicz is gay.
For those that aren’t familiar, “fruit fly” is a way to describe a straight woman who is, or has been, in love with a gay man.
The story begins when the two first met in community theater and moves through high school, when Janson falls for Wojtanowicz, through Wojtanowicz’s coming out, up to Janson’s first major relationship and, ultimately, the pair’s first major conflict.
The stage is small, the lighting is simple and the set is sparse. Just three pieces make up the entire set.
The whole show is comfortable and intimate, almost as if you are listening to two of your own friends discuss the ups and downs of their relationship.
I had seen Janson and Wojtanowicz interact when I met with them last December to interview them about their Musical Mondays project, so I had seen their chemistry first hand. But it’s hard to know if that ease would translate from a comfortable environment where they were behind the scenes to one where their personal story was in the spotlight.
It could be because, as actors, both Janson and Wojtanowicz know how to deal with having their deepest insecurities portrayed for all to see. Or it could be because they both are very talented performers.
But I think the real reason is because Janson and Wojtanowicz’s friendship is so genuine, and their admiration for each other so real, that it was hardly an act for them.
While some of the fights may not have happened exactly as portrayed, as Wojtanowicz alludes to during the climax of the show, the feelings behind them were real. Both Janson and Wojtanowicz lived and felt all of these emotions.
And even if you’ve never fallen in love with your best friend who then turned out to be gay, it’s still a story that everyone can relate to.
Most everyone has experienced a conflict with a friend that has left them feeling lost and alone. And, whether we want to admit it or not, most everyone has experienced the feeling of being left behind when a friend gets a new friend/significant other/new job and has less time for them. A feeling perfectly embodied by Wojtanowicz’s big song “Drinking Alone On A Tuesday.”
On top of their magnetic chemistry, Janson and Wojtanowicz are extremely talented writers. The script is sharp and full of witty one-liners (“Why don’t you sashay away now.”) enhanced with personal touches like pictures from years past and actual journal entries.
“Fruity Fly: The Musical” is extremely funny and heartfelt. So, whether or not you have a Will to your Grace, it is the perfect friend date