The New York Times
on Le Gourmand, or GLUTTONY! at the 2011 New York Fringe Festival By Andy Webster
The peeling ceiling of the Connelly Theater adds decadent texture to “Le Gourmand, or Gluttony!,” a fanciful operetta about the 18th- and 19th-century food critic Grimod de la Reynière, from the troupe 3 Sticks. A monochromatic feast of powdered wigs, breeches, satiny dresses and aristocratic excess, the production, served in 10 “courses,” outlines de la Reynière’s story, stirring in fantastical elements to absurd extremes: comic encounters with Napoleon and Josephine, for example, and a banquet demonstration of the hot new technology the guillotine (“It will revolutionize capital punishment!”).
With the antic pace of a picaresque Henry Fielding novel, the production follows de la Reynière (Katie Melby, in a fat suit) from his days as a Paris theater critic to his family banishment for wanton appetites to his flourishing career in Lyon as a professional gastronome, and on to his courtship of the actress Adelle (Katie Hartman). As the starving masses afflicted by the Reign of Terror wail and moan, the hero leers and blusters, and the cast, resplendent in Stephanie Alexander’s costumes, stays in choreographed motion, singing Andrew Lynch’s clever, festively sinister numbers.
The show, directed by Jason Bohon, doesn’t want for ambition. But how unfortunate that a production so rich in musical abundance must suffer so acutely from the inferior acoustics of the Connelly. This wallow in overindulgence, so pleasing to the palate, deserves a bigger table. That said, you may prefer to eat before the show than after.
Time Out New York *Critics' Pick*
on Paper Plane at the 2012 New York City Fringe Festival by Scott Wooledge
Paper Plane is a one-hour musical set in the American Midwest during the Great Depression. Twelve-year-old Joseph hits the rails in a quest to learn the mysterious truth behind his mother’s death; the journey takes him through rail yards, hobo camps, barnstorming exhibitions and carny shows. Through imaginative, energetic direction and clever use of simple props, directors Katie Melby and Eric Holm turn the austerity of the production into an asset, nicely echoing the Dust Bowl setting. Andrew Lynch's music is a lovely collection of catchy bluegrass-pop tunes, and the uniformly talented cast does them justice. (Somehow, a group of just five performers seems like a much larger ensemble.) Paper Plane is as lightweight as its namesake—slim on sets, lighting and plot—but it also isn’t weighed down by the artifacts of overworking. Slickly produced Broadway spectacles can be polished to perfection, yet still seem soulless and unaffecting; this is the opposite case. Through not much to look at, the show has an infectious, confident enthusiasm that makes this Plane soar.
The Happiest medium
on The Traveling Musicians at the 2012 Frigid Fest by Katelyn Manfre
Are you ready to rock? No, seriously, are you? Because Traveling Musicians, the glam-rock quartet straight out of the barnyard, are ready to help you find your inner animal.
This merry band of misfits is comprised of four multi-instrumentalist critters–a cat, a dog, a donkey and a rooster. Based on the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, The Town Musicians of Bremen, the theatrical rock concert is brought to life by the Minneapolis-import theater company, 3 Sticks.
Billed as the reunion show for the aptly named “Rooster Donkey Cat Dog” (later changed to the much edgier moniker, “Cock Ass Pussy Bitch” or “CAPB”), this hour-long show is a silly, satirical romp through the lighter side of rock clichés. CAPB battles drug addiction (Donkey becomes hooked on sugar cubes), relentless groupies (Rooster’s harem of chicks), attempts to branch out as a bigger brand (Cat pursues a career in fashion), or rising above the rest (Dog, a born howler, is offered a solo gig), making for a tumultuous retrospective on their battles with fame and fortune.
This may sound like the most ridiculous concept ever–and it is, but this cast of talented musicians injects life, humor, and so much energy into what could be a plodding series of animal puns. Katie Hartman (Dog) stands out with her powerhouse voice and badass sense of humor (her solo “Bitch” brings the house down). Katie Melby (Cat) is wonderfully weird, with limbs akimbo, as she contorts and shapes herself into the lanky, luxurious feline. Jonas Earl (Donkey) is slow but never plodding, adding a stoner sense of hilarity to his performance (see his duet with Rooster “Inter-Species Love”). Composer (and Rooster) Andrew Lynch has incorporated music of many styles–from the beginnings as a folk quartet to their harder, faster, sexier pop, rock and even metal sounds as they ascend to stardom. The feat is impressive, and the music stays exciting and fresh with each number.
Traveling Musicians is a hysterical gem that is a testament to its strong, talented ensemble, and their wicked, witty sensibilities. They aren’t afraid to be dirty, bad, and racy, even when decked out as the simplest of Old MacDonald’s brood. It’s a children’s concept done up for adults, but remains smart in its frivolity. A hootin’, howlin’, grand old time.
on Paper Plane at the 2012 New York Fringe Festival by Rebecca Bernard
Billed as a “Story of adventure!” Paper Plane, the new collaborative music-play produced by the company 3 Sticks, takes us on a ride that is at once poetical, surprising and of vast proportions. The story follows an innocent young boy of 11 1/2 against the backdrop of the Great Depression. He lives alone with his down-trodden father due to the untimely death of his mother, whom he knows little about. After discovering a letter in his father’s possession that links his mother to a visiting barnstormer, the boy departs on a magical journey through train cars, forests and broken-down carnivals, following a paper plane as it floats across the sky.
Channelling a bit of realism, dream sequence and a large use of physicality, the writing for this show is comprised of many layers. Original music and lyrics written by cast member Andrew Lynch are integral to the performance, shifting from melodically ambient underscoring to numbers that stand in the forefront and are sung by the cast. The rolling theme he has written is quite memorable in addition to a few of the character pieces that pop. Co-directors Eric Powell Holm and Katie Melby delicately weave all of these separate elements together.
Much of the magic of this piece lies in its inventive manipulation of props. Using only a ladder, a rolling scaffolding and a few umbrellas, the strong cast of 5 inventively paints story book scenes of the dust bowl, while also switching in and out of multiple roles. The boy, Joshua Windom, played by Katie Melby, is a likable protagonist, filled with an open-hearted earnestness that endears himself so much to the audience that when Melby appears later in a bittersweet scene as Joshua’s mother, she is almost unrecognizable, proving her versatility and elegance of movement in addition to boyish charm.
Elizabeth Stahlmann delivers a fiery Leslie, filled with adventure and bravado while maintaining a strong articulation in her transformations from character to character. Lynch, in addition to his musicianship, proves to be a versatile character actor, standing out as the Barker in his strong use of vocality. Daniel Moser adeptly delivers performances on both sides of the spectrum, playing Joshua’s heartbroken father and a chilling antagonist filled with foreboding in his cleverly construed walk. John Egan also imparts strong supporting roles, especially as the Baron, as he delivers a charismatic, swindling song towards the end of the show.
There is poetry in prevailing hardship, when something delicate can be seen persevering against the odds. Through adventure and poetry, Paper Plane shows us what can happen when a paper plane hits the right gust of the wind and goes to places you’ve never imagined. There are two more Paper Planes at Fringe NYC, make sure not to miss them!
The City Pages
on The Gypsy and the General at the 2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival by Ed Huyck
Here's the way to send off the Theatre de la Jeune Lune space in style. The five performers in 3 Sticks present a musical fable about driving so hard that the original mission is lost. Always in motion, four of the performers play out the tale of an exiled general who is—or maybe isn't—trying to get back home. The "Gypsy" never interacts, but instead provides songs to illustrate the tale. Along the way are some terrific set pieces, such as a jungle fight and a mountain climb, that remind me of the late host theater at its very best.
The Edmonton Journal
on The Gypsy and the General at the 2008 Edmonton Fringe Festival by Elizabeth Withey
On the surface, The Gypsy and the General is a whimsical adventure in physical theatre. The characters are captivating, the staging eccentric, the sock puppets wicked fun. But this is just camouflage. Underneath the vibrant interpretive dance, the music and the wit lies a powerful comment on blind faith in leadership, and the slow, methodical destruction of the American spirit.
We begin with a speech by the deluded General (Katie Melby), who’s obsessed with winning the war against an unidentified enemy. “The success of the mission is inevitable,” she repeats to her troops as she takes them into battle. No obstacle, she says, is too great. The deluded General’s army includes the sarcastic (and sissy) Doctor (Jason Bohon), the ditzy Girl (Tamara Ober), who is more often a liability than an asset, and the Lieutenant (Eric Avery), a contemplative strongman. Sometimes, they are united in their goal to conquer (what?), other times, the infighting threatens to destroy them. The Gypsy (Andrew Lynch) is our musical narrator, who drifts along with the army on their troubled, and quite possibly futile, journey. “What exactly are we doing out here?” the Lieutenant wonders. “Don’t go towards the light!” the General commands. You will laugh at the silliness of this show, from the hostile monkeys to the jungle boogie and the war dance, with its rhythm of percussion and grunts. And you’ll enjoy the clever use of light and simple white props -- a barrel, a rope, a segmented pipe and fabric -- that create a host of environments, from desert to hot air balloon.
But Minneapolis ensemble 3 Sticks offer a sobering message, too. The time, according to the program, is any. The place, it says, is many. In other words, the themes are universal. But we feel this show reflects the divisiveness, the lost, paranoid follower mentality in 3 Sticks’s homeland. Not only is The Gypsy and the General beautiful and funny, it’s actually a very sad plea for mercy. “Please be kind to me, I’m what I’m supposed to be, I only dreamed that I was free,” the General tells us. 3 Sticks claims its mission is to create vibrant theatre that is innovative, topical and moving. Mission complete.