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Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Postscript

In Fringe Fest on June 30, 2011 at 2:48 am

So, as the crushing boredom that has enveloped all of your lives can assure you, the 2011 Ottawa Fringe Festival is over.  And I don’t know about you, but I had me a whale of a time (MiCasa pun thoroughly intended).  11 days and nights, 40 new shows seen (plus five repeat views indulged), more beer tickets than I can count, 1 highly unearned media pass (resulting in 1 extra-large guilt trip), and enough good memories of great theatre to last me a good long while yet.  Let’s dig in:

FRINGE CRUSHES:  Okay, well, no.  I mean, sure, I had some of those, everyone does, right?  But to be honest, I’d be a little embarrassed about sharing them here so…no.  Thanks, but no.  What’s next?

SHOWS YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN (BUT PROBABLY DIDN’T):  Some AMAZING pieces of Fringe seemed to just fly right under everyone’s collective radar this year, and hopefully some of you made it out to these gems.  Like Duncan Cameron’s VAGABOND, a show he practically had to rebuild from scratch in record time (plus enduring two last-minute venue changes) and it still made me laugh out loud.  Or Matt Smith’s brilliantly low-key ALL MY CHILDREN, a straight-up lesson in acting, writing, storytelling, the works.  An absolute master at work. Also, a lot of folks seemed not to notice that the DALE BEANER AND THE TURTLE BOY lads, Devon Hyland and Connor Thompson, were back this year with the hilarious SEARCH FOR A REASON FOR A MURDER, and ya done missed out good if you didn’t catch them.

Like this, but with more murders!

For some bizarre reason, Katie Hood’s wonderful one-hander THE ANIMAL SHOW wasn’t drawing the crowds it should have…easily one of my fav’rits from the Fringe this year.  The gorgeous French show LE RIRE DE LA MER wasn’t packing them in neither, despite doing gangbusters in Montreal.  Now, I forgive you if you didn’t make it out to Luna Allison’s FALLING OPEN…a 15 seat capacity DOES put a bit of a damper on attendance.

But she has plans to remount it elsewhere, and you can still help out in that regard by donating here.  Come on, help the arts out when the Govt is doing their best to hurt them…don’t let Salerno be the ONLY one Fucking Stephen Harper.

FRINGE CRUSHES:  …what?  Wait, no.  I already said no.  Moving on.

FAV’RIT ENSEMBLES:  That’s better.  Let’s see, who were the impressive gangs up there this year?  Well, the Sexual Tyranosaurus (aka Sex T-Rex) impressed like gangbusters in their improvised tough-guy action movie CALLAGHAN!  Likewise homegrown heroes Crush Improv with their guest-driven  SPOTLIGHT ON… show.

Jessie, Vince and Fiona from Piece’o Pie Productions and their best of venue EXS AND OHS made me eager to see more  from them in the future.  And my wee gangsters from the Ottawa Theatre School proved themselves as killers once again with David Hersh’s mindbending GLITCH…Diego, Greg, Kaitlin and Kydi are gonna go far (Henry too, and I’m sorry he couldn’t be here for this one…they grow up so fast!)

FRINGE CRUSHES: Would you fuck right off?  I said NO.

FAV’RIT PERFOMERS:  So many joyous and generous ladies and lads doing their thing up there this year, it’s hard to narrow it down, but here are a few of the folks who made me smile with they way they worked their mojo.  Gents like Allan Girod of WHEN HARRY MET HARRY, a man physically incapable of making you dislike him.  Or Jordan Moffat, doing double duty in PLAYING DEAD and SOMETHING WITH VIRGINS AND CHAINSAWS and staying equally likeable onstage.   Pretty much the whole cast of Garkin’s PICK YOUR PATH qualifies, with shoutout to Amanda Klaman as the reluctant protaganist Princess Superman. And Jimmy Hogg, whose CURRICULUM VITAE only got more hilarious the more he veered off-book…and it was funny to start with!


Then there’s still Elizabeth Blue of AM I BLUE, and any doubts about her talent after seeing her show were vanished once I caught her in the secret cabaret show…lady’s got comedy to spare.  And Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson (from, natcherly, PETER N’CHRIS SAVE THE WORLD), solidify their spot as two of the most talented comedians and physical performers around.

FRINGE CRUSHES:  I’m god-damned warning you…

AWESOME MOMENTS:  Ryan Gladstone retelling War and Peace.  Sex T-Rex turning into a helicopter.  The ‘Taxes’ song from QUESTION PERIOD.  A diva is a female version of a hustler.  Ham Sandwich.  Harry sings his song.   Samira and Tania sing their OWN song.  Ray Besharah’s beard.  Penelope dances away from death.  Do you want another?  It could be worse. Truthbomb!  Leave Lexi out of this!  And just how many ways can a zombie puppet DIE?

FRINGE CR…

Oh, all RIGHT!  FINE!!  You’re not going to drop it, are you?  You pervy swine, you LIVE for this sort of business, DON’T you?  You make me SICK.  Well, FINE.  Here it is:

FRINGE CRUSHES: Okay, okay.  Where to start?  Well, I’ve already said public and proud that the wunnerful miss KATIE HOOD stole my heart from the minute she came on stage at SAW Gallery, and there’s no going back on that.  Who’d want to?   Then there’s the luminous miss LUNA ALLISON, who, aside from being likely the only girl this year to invite me into her bedroom (her show venue, for those of you not in the know…sorry to disappoint), is charm, talent and grace combined.  The gorgeous MARIE-FRANCE JACQUES had me in her thrall for the entire length of Rire de la Mer,and I have a feeling she knew it, too.

Oh yeah. She knew.

I have to admit that KIERSTEN HANLY of My Mother’s Daughter got me caught right in her spell, tough as nails onstage and sweet as sweet potato pie off.  And because a strictly heterosexual list would hardly be very Fringe, shoutout to Suckerpunch’s BRENT HIROSE…as if his performance in the show weren’t enough, I then caught him reciting Shakespearean verse in the debates a few days later.  I checked afterwards and, sure enough, my underwear was gone.  Now THAT’S smooth talkin’ (also, he called me ‘mad Fringe blogger’ on his blog, and I like me someone who can call it like it is).  And as for uber-lovely MIKAELA DYKE, well, how can you resist someone who refers to herself as ‘the straightest dyke you’ll ever meet?’  I thought not.

There are a few others that I’m not going to mention, because they don’t strictly qualify…Nadine explained the rules to me, and they only count as Fringe crushes if you didn’t have a crush on them BEFORE fringe started.  If you’re not on the list, just assume that’s why.  Or, count your blessings, whichever makes you happiest!

FAV’RIT SHOWS OF THE FRINGE:  Is anyone even still reading?  Here, let’s get THIS over with (just kidding…ya know I’m dying to tell you!!).  In no particular order for the most part, but what I think is my definite fav’rit is the last one:

SOUNDS FROM THE TURTLE SHELL  Like my Fringe-buddy Rich Hemphill said about this show, the more you think about it, the more you like it.Cory, Tony and Erin make the simple story of a small-time band striving for their big break into something fresh, heartfelt and really special.  Couldn’t be happier for the May Can gang on this one.

FRUITCAKE: TEN COMMANDMENTS FROM THE PSYCHE WARD  Rob Gee stormed the stage with  a friendly smile and let everyone know that the hype was well-earned.  A stunningly talented wordsmith, with a style that’s so engaging it’s almost criminal.  And his amazing  stories get inside you and won’t leave for a long while.

ALL MY CHILDREN No soap opera, but the story of Max Poth and his odd quest to meet the only children of six ex-loves, with a crazy approach and astounding results.  100% original and genuine, Matt Smith is,to repeat myself, a master.

THE ANIMAL SHOW  I keep saying it, and here I go again…Katie Hood’s one-hander about life and love around the high-stress of an animal rescue shelter is a truly wonderful theatrical experience.  She’s a riveting performer and storyteller, never dull, often hilarious, and always sympathetic.

FALLING OPEN  From the venue to the brave script to the amazing and generous performance by Luna Allison, I almost have to resort to the cliched ‘unique’ to describe this show.  Tho I can also use beautiful, fearless, engaging, dreamlike and unforgettable, so I suppose I’ll forgive myself.  I hope this underseen show returns, and soon.  It deserves, maybe even needs, to be seen more widely.

LIVE FROM THE BELLY OF A WHALE

Fuck the hype and the ‘Mi Casa has a new show, it’s gonna be awesome’ blather…Mi Casa had a new show, and it WAS awesome.  Nick and Emily prove that their unique (there I go again) brand of theatre, with its mix of songs, mime, daffy dialogue, childlike whimsy, and endlessly inventive lighting is no one hit wonder.  Straight to the heart, again.

ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL

Having heard some of the updates from the frontlines of the production of this show, I was both eager and anxious to see it, and was like a kid on Christmas when it exceeded all expectations.  Nancy Kenny (with team supreme Tania Levy and Nick Alain getting her back) knocked the story of geeky Amy’s rise to Roller Derby glory out of the park, even stealing a few scenes from her own main character as hardcore sis June (hint: don’t offer to carry her bags for her).  A crowd-pleasing delight, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.  And finally…

DYING HARD

Mikaela Dyke tells the verbatim stories of six Newfoundlanders, direct victims of unsafe Fluorspar mining in the fifties, and creates magic along the way.  Morphing into her subjects like a chameleon, Mikaela embodies their stories and selves without once tripping into a caricature, her own self all but disappearing from the stage.  An absolute joy to witness, heartwrenching and amazing.

…Awright, that’s it!  Fringe is all wrapped up, nothing more to see here.  Now I’ve got some thinking to do, some plans to make, some questions to ask.  Will I do this ‘Fringe-Coma’ thing again next year (probably not)?  Will I go to another Fringe Festival THIS year (Hopefully)?  And Will I ever talk about that thing that I haven’t talked about, that I really, really WANT to talk about, in these pages (We’ll see)?  In the meantime, don’t be strangers.  Share your own lists, fav’rits, crushes, moments and whatever the hell else you got running around in your head.  If people are willing to read ME spewing this nonsense, I promise they’ll want to hear from you, too.  Til’ next year, Fringers.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin and Winston

FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day ELEVEN

In Fringe Fest on June 28, 2011 at 12:32 am

As I write this, it’s the day after, and it’s all over.  Fringe is over.  Life is back to the tedious, awful grind of killing eleven and a half months until the NEXT Fringe, a miserable drudgery of loneliness and misery that you probably really, really deserve because you’re just terrible, and now you have SO MUCH TIME to think about that.  Think HARD.  DO it.

But before all that, I’ve still got some Fringe to get to!  Let’s away, shall we?

A grand thing happened on the final day of Fringe this year…first, the weather was fuckin’ gorgeous at last.  SECOND, my brunch shift was deader than the public funding to the Summerworks festival (please donate, and feel free to egg the home of the next shithead neocon MP you can track down), so I split out extra early and caught a show I’d thought I had missed for good…MY MOTHER’S DAUGHTER by Stephanie Haines.   MMD tells the story of four women…or maybe four aspects of the same woman.  I wasn’t entirely sure either way, and didn’t care to be.  The ladies were all lovely, talented and rivetting onstage: Alexa Higgins as young, lovestruck Vanessa; Heather Archibald as anorexic Dee, building forts to hide in; Kiersten Hanly as fiery Adele, drowning her pain; and Celine Filion vamping it up as vain Katherine.  Linking their disparate stories is Jane Morris as a sort-of EveryMother, bringing key moments to often wrenching life.  JP Chartier also appears, adding some great comic touches to the show as various men in the ladies lives.

Haines’ story is intriguing and her direction is fun to watch, tho the script borders awfully warily on cliche.  But for me, it stayed on the right side of the line, and I had a pretty damn fun time listening to these stories of pain and growth.  High five, gals.

After a spot of sun and suds on the glorious weekend courtyard, I hit the Library for Black Sheep Theatre’s PLAYING FOR ADVANTAGE.  Directed by local legend Dave Dawson, it’s a sort-of instructional tutorial on how to start, commit to, and then battle to save a relationship, via the surprisingly handy metaphor (analogy?) of Tennis.  Starring the smashing duo of Keith Cressy and Ashley Matthews and moving along with smart dialogue and refreshing chemisty, PFA is a great bittersweet comedy indeed  I wish I could have seen it in a better venue, as much of their clever use of the space was lost on the terrible sightlines of Arts Court library.  But they’re off on the road this year, so maybe there’s hope down the road.

More sunshine, another beer, and not inconsiderable pride as I pushed fellow Fringe superfan Bridget in the direction of SOUNDS FROM THE TURTLE SHELL, before I headed off for my third show of the day (and what would be my final original production of this years Fringe), SOMETHING WITH VIRGINS AND CHAINSAWS.  From Ottawa’s own Insenstivity Training, this was my third Improv show of the Fringe, a personal record.  The theme for this show is horror movies, and the gang goes about improving one from scratch with the help of a few early audience suggestions.  They flesh it out with the help of a mighty pile of props, and their own collective comedy shops, which are plenty.  Some of the pauses between scenes get a little on the long side, and there might be a little overreliance on the props, but for the most part, the gang (including PLAYING DEAD’s Jordan Moffat, among many talented others) had the crowd in stitches the whole time.  My night saw a show about the world’s largest antique store, the mystic staff of Googarah, and a demon-ninja baby who was just adorable.  And happily, Chelsea Stirling was only mildly injured in the ensuing hilarity.

Back to the tent then, where the closing day party was already revving up…wrapped shows were congregating and making merry, letting exhaustion drift away into the cool night.  I chilled  a spell with adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill and her COMPLEX NUMBERS gang for a bit, before finally settling on a plan. Namely, following the wise sir Richard Hemphill over to the library once more, for the best in venue bonus performance of Rob Gee‘s FRUITCAKE.  Watching Rob go at it a second time was illuminating…he has such a gregarious, easygoing storytelling manner, like a bloke spinning a good yarn to you at the local pub, that it’s easy to overlook his talent.  With the second viewing, and seeing how EVERY line, EVERY movement was identical to the first show, I like the miraculous Mr.Gee even more.  Good call, Richard!

And then…it was over.  Ths shows, at least…of course, I’d long sicne committed myself to drinking til the bitter god-damned end, and so I did.  I don’t THINK I embarrassed myself to badly, but luckily everyone else was just as knackered so likely I won’t get called on my drunken bullshit, should there have been any.  There probably was, to be honest.

Congratulations to all the award winners that night, especially good folks Charlie and Bridget nabbing Spirit of the Fringe.  There was merry, there was dancing, I met Emma Godmere, had good theatre palaver with Duncan Cameron (and I think we’re gonna have more), and somehow made it home in one piece.  That’s it.  It’s over.

…until my NEXT post, rounding all of this magnificent Fringe shit up!  That oughtta stretch my denial out a couple more days, right?  That’s healthy, right..?

*sigh* Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

Kevin and Winston

FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day TEN

In Fringe Fest on June 26, 2011 at 5:26 am

You know, sometimes for a Fringe I will take a rare day off work on a Saturday or Sunday, escape briefly from the brunch mines and try to get in a full day of shows.  This almost never works, and I always leave these full day efforts feeling oddly depressed, failed, and lonely.  Like, more than usual, I mean.  Happily, today was no different, because who likes change?

Arrived bright and early …well, all right, it was overcast and rainy, and it was noon, split hairs if you must.  But I was there is the point, and for my second Franco-production of the festival.  From la Theatre de 28 Aout, LE RIRE DE LA MER came highly recommended to me by none other personage than Tania Levy, and she tells me she knows what she’s talking about.  And I personally believe she does too, after seeing this gem.  My French is very admittedly weak, so I sometimes stumbled with catching ALL the words to Pierre-Michel Tremblay’s clever script but the gist of it centers around Penelope (played by the insanely sexy Marie -France Jacques), a femme fatale of the very classic variety who is diagnosed with terminal cancer.  A rather mad journey ensues, involving Gods and Angels, Ulysses, Moliere, shameless breaking of the fourth wall and a surprising amount of goofy fun for a play ostensibly about cancer.

photo credit: Barbara Finck-Beccafico

MER is one of the most purely theatrical things I’ve seen at this years Fringe, a real treat, and probably even more so if you know French better than me (although I think I managed for the most part this time).  Plenty of wonderful  touches in director Jean-Pierre Tamine’s show, even a chorus (made up of amusingly annoyed actors).

The play ran a little long when  I saw it, damn near two hours, a first for me at Fringe.  It went SO over, in fact, I skipped my next show and opted for a coffee break…I was already starting to drag.  This coma is really catching up with me, and my body is well aware of how much sleep it isnt’t getting.  But I suppose others have it plenty worse, so after Second-Cupping up, I was back for my 3:30 appointment, and my two-year reunion with good old Alumni Auditorium.  I have fond memories of enjoying DIE ROTEN PUNKTE there at my very first Fringe in ’08, and it was another musical bringing me back.  This time, QUESTION PERIOD: THE MUSICAL, written by Ed Gillis (who also appears).    boasting a huge cast and about a half-dozen musical styles, QP tells the tale of idealist MP Finn Opatowskopoulos (Eric Kendrick) and his misadventures in Ottawa.  It starts out a bit slow, but once we hit Parliament, things get pretty raucous in the caucus in short order (yeah, I went there…trust me, they do too).  The actual Question Period scenes are golden, Kermit the Frog makes a cameo, and there’s even a Brigitte dePape shoutout.  The writing is sharp and funny, the songs range from good to great, and the energy is high throughout.  They packed the joint, no mean feat at Alumni, and had people on their feet more than once.  I’m calling this one a win.

And it had something interesting in common, might I add, with RIRE DE LA MER…namely, it ALSO ran 15 minutes long, which meant I missed my planned 5:00 show.  Sigh.  Thank goodness it’s a nice day, so I can hang out in the courtyard and…oh.  Right.  Rain.   Again.

Sigh.

SO, after killing some time eating some pork and noodle soup over at the Byward Market Wonton house (tasty, I’ll concede), I wandered on back, a little aimless.   The mean reds were creeping up on me, as they do, and I was having trouble deciding what to see at 6:30.  I’d already seen most of it, and I did a lot of mopey foot-shuffling until I spotted enough of the cool kids lining up for PETER N’ CHRIS SAVE THE WORLD that I decided, fuck it, I’m goin’ again.  It turned out to be the right thing to do, as some P&C belly laughs were just what I needed to turn my frown upside down.  Fuckin’ Truthbomb, yo.

Made a beeline from Cafe Alt over to Studio Lenny-Bone, for my actually PLANNED repeat viewing for the day..I bought an advance ticket and everything!  And good thing, too, because ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL sold itself out again tonight, a whole half hour before showtime.  I won’t bother adding more praise to the heap Nancy Kenny is already collecting for this show, only a) she played with the audience hilariously this time, and had a very memorable drunken give’n go with Bev Wolfe in the front row, and b) here’s a cool video for Uncle Leon and the Alibis rockin’ anthem, with the familiar title:

After getting out of that packed and very happy house (two shows left tomorrow, gang!), I hit the tent for some quick Samosa goodness, rapid palaver with Brie Barker and Richard Hemphill, before skulking away again (I was doing an awful lot of skulk this day, I was noticing) to the IT Hall at Tabaret.  Up, up those winding steps I wended, for CALLAGHAN!, the Improv show from Montreal’s Toronto’s SEX T-REX.  I’ve caught the Rex before at the Ottawa Improv Fest, and they’re about as good as it gets.  So when I heard they had a show in the Fringe, it got on my list,and I’m glad I made it out.

The show is centered around the tough-guy action hero Jack Callaghan, with a new story being improvised around him every night.  The one I saw was plenty laugh-out-loud hilarious…the music cues were a big help with making it feel different from your run of the mill improv show.  And you have to see four men imitating a fucking helicopter, and WELL, before you can call your life complete.  They had wicked timing and rapport, never losing the flow for more than a few seconds, and with action sequences that rivalled the best Peter and Chris had to offer.  A highlight, and I’m glad I didn’t miss the T-Rex while they were in town.

Tried after that to hang around the tent, but it just wasn’t clicking.  Even the great shows I’d seen today couldn’t totally fight away the reds, and I skulked away (yes, again) from the tent with my usual pathological conviction that I simply didn’t belong there.  In tonite’s case, that clinical depression served me well, as I could use the extra rest for my early shift tomorrow, and final night of Fringing afterwards.  Still haven’t finalized my last batch of shows, actually…maybe I’m just trying to postpone the inevitable.  But no, we wont think about that, will we?  No, no, I’m just gonna hit the hay, and try and smile, because there’s at least one more day of Fringe ahead of me.  One more day.  That’s all right, that is.

Peace , love and soul, Fringers,

Kevin and Winston

FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day NINE

In Fringe Fest on June 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm

A torrential downpour arrived today, high winds making the raindrops into nearly horizontal weather-bullets for extended periods.  But not to worry, this IS an annual Fringe event.  Ain’t a festival ’til something gets rained out, yo!  And welcome to the soggy day nine of the 2011 Ottawa Fringe Festival.

And hey, a little rain don’t stop US from Fringing!  Hell, even Duncan Cameron managed to stage his outdoor show VAGABOND despite the downpour (and had a good house, I hear tell).  And after getting my soggy self out to the courtyard and watching some muckity-mucks talk serious theatre, I toodled to Academic Hall to catch LIFE.  Written and directed by one Alain Chauvin, this is a pretty serious piece on some serious topics.  Starring Dillon Rogers and Aaron Lajeunesse as brothers Jacob and Curtis, Maggie Matian as Curtis’ wife Jenny, and Mark MacDonald as Jacob’s friend Luke, the story centers on Jacob, traumatized by his Mother’s death, searching for identity and edging towards suicidal depression.  It’s all very heavy subject matter, and more often than not saddled with more cliches than the actors can handle.  Although, props, Rogers gives it his all as tortured Jacob, but despite some valiant multimedia assists, the show ends up a bit of a muddle at best.  But it IS all for a seriously good cause, as the proceeds for the show are going to the righteous To Write Love on Her Arms, a charity devoted to helping people in Jacob’s kind of trouble.  And I applaud the kids from LIFE for putting this show on.   Nice one, gang.

Off then to SAW, for my first repeat viewing of the Fringe (you knew this was coming), one of the first shows I caught this year.  Yes, it was time again for Mikaela Dyke’s DYING HARD.  And instead of telling you how these stories punch you in the gut, or how bafflingly wonderful Mikaela’s performances are, I’ll rather relate the giddy joy of having  people finding my site now via the search engine term ‘Dying Hard Dyke’, which sounds like the most awesome porn version of DIE HARD imaginable.

Now that we’ve set the comedy mood, it’s off to a brand-new venue for me (dashing there in the pouring rain tonite, me and Mike Kosowan huddled under my lost-and-found umbrella for shelter all the while), the 3rd floor IT Hall at Tabaret.  It sounds imposing, and looks even more so.  I would have never found the place if I hadn’t seen one of the stars I was about to try and see, heading up the stairs.  I followed, found the place, and soon enough I was huddled into an actual classroom to catch THE SEARCH FOR A REASON FOR A MURDER.  Now, when I first read about this show, I honestly didn’t realize it starred Devon Hyland and Connor Thompson from last year’s hit DALE BEANER AND THE TURTLE BOY.  Boy, was I glad when I DID find out, and I feel safe in saying this new show is the equal, if not the better, of BEANER.  Following multiple characters (a power-crazy mayor, idealistic cop and singing janitors, among many others), Hyland and Thompson are in flawless form in this exponentially unlikely but always hilarious tale of murder, corruption, snakes and whatever else they can manage to cram in there.

Devon and Connor are easily one of the most talented comedy duos you’re likely to see in a good long while, and it’s a little astonishing they’re not packing more people in…the venue’s not THAT hard to find!  Right across from SLB and Academic Hall, folks, and if you know what’s good for your funny bone or your jocularity appendix, you’ll check it out before it’s too late.

In fine Fringe fashion for me, it was right back to SAW then for repeat number 2 of this year, Katie Hood’s wonderful ANIMAL SHOW. I’ve already talked about Katie’s amazing tale of life, love and animal rescue, so all I’ll say here is she gave me a show poster when she TOTALLY didn’t have to, so she’s the goods.  Also, go see her show already!

Still clinging to consciousness at this stage, I dashed over to my next and last show of the night, passing the courtyard on the way where this years BEST OF VENUES were being announced.  Congratulations to FRUITCAKE, WHEN HARRY MET HARRY, THE WALK, EXS AND OHS, and FUCKING STEPHEN HARPER…well, except that Rob Salerno isn’t actually available for that extra time slot, so double-congratulations to lucky runner-up ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL (yay Nancy!).  Extra 9:30 shows for all of’em on Sunday nite.  No excuses for missing them now!
But like I said, one more show for me…and, as it happens, it was the final Ottawa show for Rob Salerno’s aforementioned FUCKING STEPHEN HARPER: HOW I SEXUALLY ASSAULTED THE 22nd PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA AND SAVED DEMOCRACY.  A mouthful (no pun intended…get yer mind out of the gutter!), the show comes in friendly powerpoint form by messr.Salerno himself, who tells the tale of how, as an eager reporter for Toronto’s Xtra, he was hunting several years ago for an interview with PM Harper, to grill him on his questionable (to put it politely) stances on gay rights.  Ending in a widely publicized one-on-one with Harper that didn’t go EXACTLY as planned, Salerno transformed his sudden celebrity status to a new career, a book, and of course this one man show.

Political junkie Salerno is a truly engaging kinda guy with an easygoing wit and sharp mind, and the show bears that across.  There’s a wonderful segment off the top where he translates Canuck politics into American for any visiting Yankees that gets the works off to a great start.  The show may be a bit uneven here and there and really not all that theatrical for the most part…but it is what it is.  An intimate hour with a smart, funny guy, telling you his story.  And it works.

Whew…NOW I was getting sleepy, so like a genius I stuck around the beer tent for another hour and a half, which is why I’m writing this the next morning instead of my usual night thereof.  Final weekend, people, its time to go HARDCORE on this Fringe!  See what you can, while you can, WHO you can, where you can.  Why you can?  Why not!  This stopped making sense a while ago, so I’m gonna go cram some bacon and eggs down my gullet before starting it up all over again.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

Kevin and Winston

FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day EIGHT

In Fringe Fest on June 24, 2011 at 6:58 am

At last, a fucking day off!  Oh, I know I’ve been taking slightly better care of myself this time around as compared to last year, but still…Fringe is starting to wear me down, and a little extra sleepytime is much appreciated.  Especially appreciated was my long-overdue laundry run…finally, I can show off my BAD FLIRT tee-shirt at the courtyard.  Chicks dig the BF tee, truth.

So, all cleaned and refreshed, I booted on down to the Courtyard, where I checked out my first ever edition of Playtime with HM, the so-called ‘bare-knuckle debate’ edition.  Five teams of two performers/creators, squaring off against each other in mostly lighthearted debate format, topics ranging from the continued value of Bill Shakespeare to Canada’s theatrical identity.  It was a fun, tho rather underattended good time, with hearty sparring from the likes of Nadine Thornhill, Brent Hirose, Al Connors, Ray Besharah, and a memorably solipsistic battle in which Mikaela Dyke took on herself.  Happily, she won.

After some eats, I hit Academic Hall for the first show of my night, and my first French-language Fringe show ever, Philippe Landry’s RETOUR A PRIPYAT.  Performed by Theatre de Dehors and directed by Eric Perron, it’s the story of a Russian town devastated by the Chernobyl disaster, and one man (Antoine Cote Legault as Vassili) who tries to come back afterwards, only to find the radiation-scarred Volodia (played with raspy voiced humour by Maxime Lavoie) living in his abandoned home.  And watching over it all is the haunting Irina, played by Jennifer Turgeon Charest.  She positively flows like water across the stage, keeping a close eye on the two men as they hunt for food, only to wind up peeling one more potato for dinner.

PRIPYAT is a slow paced, but never dull story of survival amidst death and decay in the aftermath of one of the greatest manmade disasters ever.  Always maintaining a romantic, mournful tone, backed up by solid performances across the board.  I was rather happy for the relaxed pace, as it allowed my own poor skills at French the chance to keep up.  There’s at least one lovely twist in the show, beautiful staging, and I can happily say I had a great time at this show.  More people should be seeing it.

Next I was off to Arts Court Theatre for THE WALK, a play by Catherine Cunningham-Huston and directed by Natalie Fraser-Purdy.  A less than heartwarming story about the international sex-traffic trade, WALK centers on a couple of central characters: Bev Wolfe’s fiery sister Catherine Anne, and Dyna Ibrahim’s Celestine, a former sex slave seeking refugee status in Canada.  Around them are several other characters, including numerous other trafficked women and the men who use the,and a playwright and director trying to help Sister Catherine turn Celestine’s story into a play.

It’s an ambitious storyline, with a lot going on in it…perhaps a little too much.  There are a few different styles and techniques on display here, from straight-up theatre to maskwork, with dance making an appearance later on, and things even get meta for a little bit near the end.   It’s all interesting, but for me it distracted more than a little from the important issues at the heart of it all.  Thankfully, Bev Wolfe and Dyna Ibrahim as the two lead characters were shining stars in their roles, and they were well supported.  The show wasn’t competely my cup of tea, which was a surprise…but then again, the show sold right out and got a standing ovation, so once again, what the fuck do I know?    Maybe you should just check it out for yourself.

A trip down the stairs to SAW Gallery then, for one more show, EXS AND OHS from Piece’o Pie Productions (aka Fiona Green, Vince Leblanc-Beaudoin and Jessie Trevenna).  This is one of those Fringe shows I was going to happily avoid, based on having heard nothing at all about it, and not recognizing any of the names involved.  And once again, some merry pestering from the players in the beer tent turned the tides, and convinced me to go.  And as predictably happens in these cases, I was happy I did.

The gang star as Wendy, Joe and Cassandra (am I remembering that right?) in a deliriously playful and very funny show about love and sex.  They play with the audience, race around the room and dart in and out of doorways in true Benny-Hill fashion, deliver important lessons on the nature of couples and boob-touching…basically, they pack in a lot.  And it’s an energetic show…you could keep a small amusement park going with the energy these kids give off.  A clever, sexy, and really fuckin’ funny show.  Recommended, and all that jazz.

Couldn’t persuade myself to do an 11 o’clock show….I really DO seem to be running out of steam.  I better get my last wind quick, because I have a lot of shows planned for the final weekend.  I be going out in STYLE, yo.  Hope to see you all out there (and great seeing my acting coach Brie Barker there tonite!).  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

Kevin and Winston

FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day SEVEN

In Fringe Fest on June 23, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I was all set to skip Luna Allison’s show.  I really was.  I mean, come on…it was WAY off site, somewhere off Main Street….in some girl’s BEDROOM?  Sketchy, folks, sketchy.  Plus which, the sheer travel time would mean I’d have to skip TWO shows to see her one.  And I’m all about the volume, if you hadn’t cottoned to that yet, so I wrote her quirky-sounding show off with nary a lament in my soul.

Then, last week on the opening day of Fringe there was a media thing in the courtyard.  I attended, and among other people milling about, I actually MET Luna Allison herself.  She walked up and introduced herself, sporting her costume from her show, and chatted me up a bit.  Within a few minutes, I was sitting down, making frantic rejiggerings to my laboriously-constructed Fringe schedule to ensure that I could absolutely, positively see her show.  Because Luna Allison is just that charming, people.  I’m talking weapons-grade charming, and I am grateful indeed that I bumped into her that day.  Because if I hadn’t I would have never seen FALLING OPEN last night, and that would have been a really stupid move on my part.

Taking place in Luna’s own home (a bit of a hop from the Fringe courtyard, true, but worth the trip) on the third floor of a cozy looking building, Falling Open stars Allison herself in a show she created, with the help of Director Lib Spry.  And it’s a doozy.  Dressed as an oversized living doll, Luna tells a story of sexual abuse over two lives…beginning with George, the disturbingly sympathetic victimizer and moving on to his idealized child fantasy, wrestling over a lifetime with the fallout of George’s assault.  With the aid of some screen projection and sound bites, but mostly thanks to Luna’s charismatic and fearless presence, FALLING OPEN is one of the most mesmerizing and powerful things you’ll ever see, never making the mistake of lapsing into heavy-handedness.  Luna’s a wondrous performer, and I feel dopey for only having discovered her now.  But then, I never said I was smart.  She’s rumoured to be taking this show on the road soon, and more power to her.  It’s one that deserves to be seen.

Wandered away from Luna’s pad chatting about the show with Miss Emily Pearlman and others, afore finally wending my way back to the Courtyard.   I’d decided to make it an easygoing nite on myself, chilling in the light rain with some friendly palaver and more than a few beers.  And it was pretty fun!  Got to wish my Fringe-Buddy Richard Hemphill a happy birthday (and while I’m at it, a happy graduation to Othello’s smooth Tim Oberholzer to boot!), got a sweet ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL poster from Famous Actress Nancy Kenny (side note: the Visitor LOVES getting Fringe posters and putting them on his wall…help a nerd out, won’t you?), and won a pizza thank to my tweeted review of Katie Hood’s amazing THE ANIMAL SHOW.  A good night.

And the best part was that I got a nice fun buzz on before making the late show of CANUCK CABARET!  Brought together by the considerable talent and charm of Paul Hutcheson and Sharon ‘Prairie Fire’ Nowlan, and featuring a host of diff’rent guest stars every night.  The show was a nice, raucous good time, from Paul’s variously heartwarming and hilariously filthy stories to Prairie Fire knocking out some of the best bits in her considerably amazing burlesque repertory (including that glorious light-dance that gave me chills last year in BURLESQUE UNZIPPED).  tonight’s guest stars were dancer Megan O’Shea,  giving a dynamite dance performance clad in naught but bubble wrap; PICK YOUR PATH’s Ray Besharah working some quick improv magic and making it rain indoors; and Nancy Kenny, performing an extra-sexy version of her Derby Dance from RDSMS.  It was a dandy fun show, Paul and Prairie make a great tag-team, and CC made for a great end to my night.

…or was it?  Could it be that this wasn’t the last Cabaret show of the evening?  Could there be some….oh, fuck the secrecy, already.  Yes, it was SECRET CABARET SHOW night at the Ottawa Fringe, and as i had the day off work come the morning, I figgered I’d come on along and see what was what.  And hey, it turned out to be, as expected, one of the best shows of the whole Fringe.  From Tania Levy and Samira Rose’s opening Ukelele jam, the ball started rolling fast and never stopped (well, y’know, until it was over…you get what I’m saying).  Peter ‘n Chris teamed up with Elizabeth Blue for a five-minute action movie, Cory and Tony belted out a few sweet tunes, Al Connors called a killer game of Improv Foursquare, and Mikaela Dyke, Nancy Kenny and Brent Hirose recapped every Fringe show ever told, 2011 edition.  All this plus Jimmy Hogg, Rob Gee, Katie Hood…and more, but forgive me for omissions, the bar WAS still open during all this and I have a reputation to maintain.  I was still conscious by the end of it, splurged for a late cab home, and loved every minute of that fine Fringe day.

There’s more to talk about…the great news of the surprise resurrection of the GLADSTONE THEATRE (thanks to Plosive and Seven Thirty Productions), my new Fringe pet peeve, and wondering if I should be compiling a Fringe-crush list like everyone else, of if I’d just creep people the fuck out that way.  Some of us should probably just keep it to ourselves, am I right?  Probably.  But in the meantime, I’ll keep blathering about everything ELSE right here, same Fringe-time and all that.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

Kevin and Winston

FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day SIX

In Fringe Fest on June 22, 2011 at 6:50 am

Actually had a good night’s sleep last night.  Okay, all four hours of it, but you take what you can get when you’re Fringing, am I right?  Point is, I felt good and strong today, which is a welcome change from this time last year.  Got thru my workday unscathed, had time to chill at a coffeeshop plotting out some future moves (and moves there will be, oh yes…), before sliding on down the home base at Arts Court for another full night of shows.  There may be no rest for the wicked, but there’s plenty of wicked theatre to see.  Yeah, I went there.

First up tonight was SUBNORMALITY from the ever reliable Troupe de la Lune, and based on the webcomic of the same name by Winston Rowntree.  Set in a bar, the show follows a group of disparate characters through their thoughts (sometimes literally) on love, self-worth, relationships of all stripes and a few more nifty topics.  I didn’t catch a program, so although I can list all the actors from the facebook event (Bret Newton, Shannon Riley, Tess McManus, Marie Robertson, John Newton, Katie Curnow, Alexandra Janvier and Graeme Pente), I can’t exactly place them with their characters.  Except for Tess McManus, who I remember from Youth Infringement shows like L’ASCENSEUR and QUEEN FOR A DAY.  She shines as brightly as I’d expected in her roles here, as do several others (whoever plays the gal by the trash bin, and the two dudes at the bar come to mind).  Some of the performances are pretty rough around the edges, but still fun.  And Rowntree’s verbose stylings made for an interesting choice for a play…pretty natural, actually.  It’s a smart, short and fun show, worth a look.  And all the proceeds for this one are going to Jer’s Vision, as an added incentive.

After a quick-ish stopoff in the Courtyard for some Butter Chicken, it was off to Cafe Alt for what surely must be the most hotly anticipated sequel to hit the Ottawa Fringe this year…PETER N’ CHRIS SAVE THE WORLD.  There was a packed house for opening nite, so I wasn’t the only one eagerly awaiting their return after last year’s killer PETER N’ CHRIS SHOW.  And fuck it, they went and hit it out of the park just like I’d expected them to, but in predictably unpredictable ways.  Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson play with the conventions of theatre and Fringe like a cat plays with a wounded mouse, and it’s even more entertaining to watch if you can believe that.  The lads are still masters of physical comedy, staging, and whatever else they need to be masters of at that moment to be diaper-soakingly hilarious.  There ARE a couple of bits from this show that are lifted quite shamelessly from their LAST show, but fuck it, they’re still funny.   Compost, Inner demons and the fragility of modern libraries…it’s al here.Check it out, and get there early.

Right across the venue-path then, for a double bill at…the SAW Gallery?  Oh fuck.  Sorry, but that place is uncomfortable as all get-out.   Ah, well.  Thank goodness there was something like Katie Hood‘s THE ANIMAL SHOW to negate any ill effects straightaway.  As mentioned previously, one-woman shows are my fav’rit form of entertainment, so I was excited to see Ms.Hood’s show, especially after meeting her in the courtyard (thankfully…I’ve met so few new people this Fringe!  Sad…), and realizing she was a pretty fantastickal person.    Her show is…well, it is many things.  Beautiful,yes.  Heartwarming, easy.  Heart-BREAKING, yeah, that too.  Funny, check.  DOUBLE check.

Katie tells her stories as a worker at an animal rescue shelter with minimal set and all her heart and soul (with help from Director Paul Hutcheson, currently in town for CANUCK CABARET).  Told mostly from her point of view , but occasionally switching seamlessly into other acerbic characters from the tale with the kind of talent that tells you Katie Hood is for REAL.  I fell madly in love with THE ANIMAL SHOW about five minutes in and never looked back.  Also, I vowed to hug Winston REAL good when I finally got home that nite.  It’s an instant fav’rit of mine, and if you don’t go and see it, then you probably club baby seals in your spare time.  I hope you’re happy, douchebag.

Stuck to the SAW for the final show of the night (by now hanging out with such extraordinaries as the adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill and visiting Fringe superstar Kurt Fitzpatrick) , Brent Hirose’s THE SUCKERPUNCH.  A one-manner, SUCKERPUNCH tells a twisted story of regrets and the lengths we’ll go to get rid of them via a sci-fi storyline involving a new time travel technology, and four or five variously related characters whose storylines slowly intertwine. Definitely ambitious.

I don’t wanna give away much more about the story, just to say that Hirose is an obviously talented, TALENTED performer, and he puts on one helluva show.  He owns his stage, rattles off scientific gobbledygook AND slam poetry with equal finesse, and can apparently spin like a god-damned top if required.  It was a really good show, and I’d love to see him get together with a killer director or dramaturge and juice a few parts up a bit, punch up some characterization, and push the whole thing to the next level.  Because this show has a next level waiting, I tells ya, and when it gets there, it’ll be on the front page of every paper in the land.   In the meantime, go see it, because it’s the right thing to do.

That was it for me tonite…too wiped to hang at the beer tent (sorry Kurt, I’ll buy you one tomorrow!)…I’ll be back at the Fringe tomorrow to mostly hang out in the beer tent all night, after a very mightily anticipated show indeed at the coolest venue of this year’s Fringe.  See you there, eh?  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

Kevin and Winston

FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day FIVE

In Fringe Fest on June 21, 2011 at 6:40 am

Righty-O…finished off the last post JUST a touch late, so we’ll try and get this one done in snappy, professional style.  Which is, after all, what I’m known for.  So up and on to day five of the ’11 Ottawa Fringe with a double-premiere bill at the Arts Court Library!

First up is one I was anticipating, as its an example of my fav’rit kind of theatre…namely, the one-woman show (I like it SO much, I just bought advance tickets to see repeat viewings of two of them in this very Fringe…but more on that later).  This one was courtesy of  Elizabeth Blue, out of Noo York, I do believe, called AM I BLUE.   Blue plays herself, or at least a comic-theatrical version thereof, bringing us along through her attempts to make sense of her life and loneliness.  She hits up life coaches, sex therapists, dodgy business courses and more before finally just hitting the bars.  The story, simple enough take on the modern girl’s search for happiness stays fresh and VERY funny throughout thanks to Blue’s clever writing, obvious acting talent,  and the direction of Maia Garrison.  It also does not hurt that Elizabeth Blue is ten pounds of adorable in a five pound bag.

What, you thought I was kidding?

The show is laugh-out-loud funny without sacrificing any warmth, and you never stop rooting for the hapless heroine.  A perfectly goddamned delightful way to start the day.

After catching this beauty in the Library with the awesome Jen Vallance, I stuck around and went right back in with the similarly awesome Michelle LeBlanc (seriously, this MUST be my lucky day) for the second show of my night, Rob Gee’s FRUITCAKE: TEN COMMANDMENTS FROM THE PSYCH WARD.   I’d heard good things from people who’d seen his show elsewhere, and considering how fast this performance sold the fuck out, I guess I wasn’t the only one.  After the Fringe staff tracked down some folding chairs to pack a few more butts into the Library, the show was on.  And brother, wotta show.

Rob Gee is a pro Nurse with years under his belt at some genuine Psyche wards on the continent, and his show is a one-man (my SECOND fav’rit kind of theatre!) retelling of some of the high points, lows, too-crazy-to-be-believed stories (but still true) and assorted nutters, lunatics, and manic depressives that made up his life.  You probably need a wicked sense of humour to make it through some of these experiences and Gee definitely has that in spades.  His delivery is a friendly rapid-fire patter, occasionally shifting into playful poetic verse and always entertaining as Hell.  Rob had his packed house eating out of his hands from the minute he strolled onstage.  The fact that you’ll come out of this hysterical show with a much wiser and more compassionate view of the mentally ill is maybe the most wonderful added bonus you’ll get at the Fringe this year (although DOUBLE YELLOW LINE did give me a fortune cookie…almost forgot about that!).

Two for two on the evening, always a good feeling…I strolled out and nabbed two quick Samosas from the courtyard, practically tossing them down my hungry maw while darting across the intersection to Studio Leonard-Beaulne for ANOTHER one-manner.  Honestly, I can’t get enough of them.  This one was Matt Smith’s ALL MY CHILDREN.  Writer-performer Smith plays Max Poth, an aging rogue who seems t be realizing that he’s let his opportunities for love and family pass him by.  He’s loved 6 women in his life, all of whom left him, quickly married, and had one child apiece.  A strange urge compels him to track these children down, ages ranging from 13 to well in their 30’s.  By an even stranger compulsion that Poth himself seems unable to explain,he then tells them all that HE is their real father.  Which he is most certainly NOT.

The oddball plot slowly reveals itself to be a very clever bit of mojo indeed, and is held together by Smith’s wonderful, wonderful job in the spotlight.  He wears Max Poth like a glove, and renders a seamless and utterly believable character that just engrosses the audience with his bizarre story.  AMC is long for the Fringe at 80 minutes, but it is very worth the extra 20.  I was well impressed with the show, even if I was starting to hit that wall once more.
Yes, it was late night, and I’ve been going hard for 5 days now.  I chugged a warm RedBull to try and stay awake, forcing my weary frame to an 11 o’clocker.    I half worried that I’d start nodding, until I remembered who I was about to go and see, over in the Arts court Theatre:  Jimmy Fucking Hogg!  Perfect!  I needed adrenaline?  Friends, adrenaline was  about to punch me right in the face!

I’d caught Jimmy last Ottawa show LIKE A VIRGIN back in ’09, so had high hopes for his latest, CURRICULUM VITAE.  All hopes were quickly fulfilled as Jimmy shuffled onstage, scruffy beard and unkempt hair setting the scene for his latest comedic tract, this one about the ups, downs, and mostly downs of his working career, the same fertile ground Barry Smith mined in last year’s EVERY JOB IVE EVER HAD.  Jimmy owned the space beautifully, jokes piling over brilliant mimes and raunchy one-liners one after another.  But where Jimmy really shines is when he goes off-book…then you’re just fucking his to play with as he sees fit.  And Jimmy Hogg, he likes to play.

Thee performance was surprisingly not packed, so Ottawa, consider this your Jimmy Hogg wake-up call.   He’s HERE .  He’s in TOWN.  Go SEE him, or you’ll regret it the rest of your miserable lives.  And I think you have enough regrets already…don’t you?

So, four for four.  A perfect day of Fringing, if I do say so.  And I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s 4-pack just as much!!  Now I’m off for some sleepies, so I can try and be awake for it all.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)

FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day FOUR

In Fringe Fest on June 20, 2011 at 6:04 am

NOT having so great a day today.   **Whining Edited to conserve space** What the Hell did I see today, anyhow..?

Ah, yes.  We start off with a world god-damned premiere, folks, which ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at (or, if it is, Gesundheit).  And not just any premiere, but a premiere I came perilously close to being in.  Yes boy, today’s the day that Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill’s COMPLEX NUMBERS made its Fringe debut, and I was there, rarin’ to review.  I can’t give too much away, because there’s cool twists and turns that you need to be there to experience.  But short story, it’s the story of Fiona (Stephanie Halin), a computer programmer whose life is in the process of overcomplicating in some sexy, romantical ways.  Along for the ride are hubby Alex (JP Chartier), co-worker Dan (Tim Anderson) and hypochondriac boss Maggie (Ellen Manchee), all sewn together by the narration of Jenn Keay.

Nadine’s story is an intriguing one, that deals with sexual politics that rarely get seen in a sympathetic light, so kudos to her.  And extra thanks to her, and director Ken Godmere, for casting the fucking wonderful Tim Anderson (a regular feature at CRUSH IMPROV’s Monday night Elmdale House shows) as Alex.  He steals the show on more than one occasion.  And Manchee’s Maggie shines as well, with more than a few memorable non-sequiturs of the hilarious variety.  It’s a clever, sexy show (did I mention the sex?) that’ll get ya thinking.

I wandered a bit after that show, some time to kill.  Got me a sub, enjoyed the nice weather, and just generally moped.  Not for too long, tho, because it was finally time to hit Cafe Alt today, and Cafe Alt today meant Dead Unicorn Ink’s PLAYING DEAD.  By writer Jeremy Doiron and directed by brother Mike, it’s the classic tale of life and love following the neo-plague zombiepocalypse (your Mom probably read it to you when you were just little).  Nail-tough survivor Evan (a wild-eyed Patrice Tremblay) has a chance meeting with awkward civilian Harv (Jordan Moffat, endearing as all get-out).  Together, they find a young couple (Jamie Champagne and Sara Duplancic), oblivious and holed up in a remote shack.  They hardly have time to say hellos before the inevitable first wave of Zombie Puppets arrive.

OH, yeah, the zombies are puppets.  And not just any puppets, folks…EPIC fucking zombie puppets!  The DUI gang spared no expense (they actually probably did, but…) making them Zombets die REAL good, and it’s possibly the best giddy, visceral thrill you’ll get at this year’s Fringe.  Continually clever and inventive, including a few prerecorded segments starring CRYSTAL BASEMENT’s Jodi Haucke, there’s plenty of brains behind this raucous thriller-comedy, which you should for sure go see.  Unless you’ve already been bitten.  Then, of course…it’s far too late.

Ran (from the zombie puppet hordes, obviously) then, back to Studio Leonard-Beaulne for Crush Improv’s SPOTLIGHT ON… show.  Featuring Al Connors, Cari Leslie and Brad MacNeil, the core Crushers are joined onstage each night of this particular show by a guest ‘monologist’, a diff’rent Fringe performer who gives the gang personal stories to then mold into improvised stories and situations.  I picked today because it was Emily Pearlman day, and Emily Pearlman is all kinds of super-duper.  And she sure had a few doozies to lay on the Crush gang, most notably something about a late-night motel in Vanier, and maybe I shouldn’t be telling this story in public if I still wanna be friends with Emily Pearlman.  It was all pretty funny is the point…Brad, Cari and Al got intuitive timing like nobodies business, and it was great to see them take this interesting project on.  Much fun for everyone (and if you’re ever in a motel in Vanier, for fuck’s sake don’t look under the bed).

Right back into the studio for EINSTEIN’S BICYCLE, written by Lorne Williams and directed by his daughter Alison Cousins.  Ali directed lat year’s killer LAST STRAIGHT MAN IN THEATRE, and I’ll be honest with you, she was the main reason I came to this play tonight.  And I’m just plenty glad I did, because it was a cool wacky time.  And, also, I’ll apologize in advance for the vague nature of the review I’m about to offer, but you know when you hit the wall?  When you’ve been to active in too little a time, and you suddenly have problems keeping your eyes open..?  Well, I happened to hit that wall during this performance (KNEW I should have chugged that emergency Red Bull earlier..!).

What I can tell you is that the story is actually stories, tenuously linked tales of science and pop culture brought together with poetical dialogue, fast and furious trivia, familiar sound effects and an enormous amount of imagination.  Acted (in various roles)  by the thoroughly delightful cast of Mathieu Juneau, Sean Sonier, Jodi Sprung-Boyd and Lori Jean Hodge, EB is a wicked fun little ride indeed.  Would you like me to show you my speeding locomotive?
Did I mention the bad puns?  Yeah, I dug those too.  Screw me.  But it was a cool show, and apologies again for nodding a bit.  I cracked that Red Bull as SOON as I could afterwords, you better believe.

Four shows down, two to go…and between you and me, that’s a surprisingly exhausted place to find yourself in.  Hell, I didn’t even know with show TO catch next.  Until I spotted all the cool kids heading into Garkin’s PICK YOUR PATH, and figgered I’d try and blend in.  Fucking glad I did!

Led by cosmic narrator Ray Besharah (smashing beard and all), the audience is introduced to one Princess Superman (actual name), played by the perfectly and awesomely hysterical Amanda Klayman.  And at various junctures in P.Superman’s encounter with an invading alien horde, the audience is asked to make a choice as to her future, on way or the other.  Alternately aided and/or abetted by cast members Laura Hall and Owen Spendlove in a variety of guises, PYP is almost necessarily a diff’rent show every night, and it’s my pleasure to say that tonight was a damn fun one (also, I’m told, the first night without an on-stage death…good omen?).  Mental note: ALWAYS follow the cool kids.

So that made it five shows in one day…a good haul, or so I’m told.  But somehow, after downing a quick beer in the tent, I was not satisfied.  So I did my best wake-up dash back to Studio LB for the 930 of DOUBLE YELLOW LINE by Maritie Lord.  Starring Kat Banning and Jen Vallance, the story is told by Kat’s character, using some nifty vehicular metaphors which often sailed over my own pedestrian head, but its something about how getting hit head-on by mack trucks is something to be avoided both on the road AND on the job…again, metaphorically speaking.  Kat’s character is a low-level office assistant looking to move up in the world, but finds herself stymied in her efforts.  Her unflinching boss, Jen Vallance (among other characters she slips into over the play), is not being very helpful.

The play runs shorter that its already-short stated time of 40 minutes, which was fine for me on a long and tired day’s end, but you should be forewarned.  And the ending seems a little unsatisfying…as a whole, the play could use some more thought and work.  But the actors were both charismatic and strong, and I thought the lighting and staging worked very nicely indeed.  So, a nice enough way to end the day for me.

I wandered back to the tent, foolishly perhaps, to watch my first CHATS WITH CAT of the Fringe, got to see the May Can gang sing to Catriona, and witnessed the magnificently nasty Olga and Bjorn (guests of Prairie Fire’s CANUCK CABARET) thrill the crowd with some pretty wild moves.  Good times.  Said a few hellos, met Jen V’s lovely family, and made a last-minute dash for the bus.   The rest is a bit of a hazy blur, but its all over now.  This post, that is.  And just in time, my next show starts in less than three hours!  Ouch.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)

FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day THREE

In Fringe Fest on June 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm

This was a good day.  GREAT day.  I had such a blast, and it all started when I got to bolt an hour and a half early from work to dart across town, nail-biting all the way, to catch me some more FRINGE.  Or more specifically, to catch one very particular bit of Fringe indeed. Something I damn well NEEDED to cut my work day short for.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned local actress Nancy Kenny in these pages before, but…what’s that?  I have?  Every second post for a year now?  That often?  Okay, well, fuck you, I’m catsitting for her, aren’t I?  And Winston the Cat insisted I cut work short today to catch her long-awaited one-woman show, ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL .  And bless you for insisting, Winston.  It was well worth the wait.

RDSMS tells the story of Amy, a directionless woman just turned 30, still watching BUFFY reruns and living in the shadow of her more successful younger sister.  Until the day she finally catches her sister in a Roller Derby match, and something ignites inside of meek li’l Amy.   And Nancy, along with director Tania Levy, bring us on Amy’s journey with tons of laughs mixed with genuine warmth, and a transformation-to-derby sequence that must be seen to be believed.  Nancy bops between a few diff’rent characters with easy charm, and milks the wacky world of Derby for every laugh it’s worth.  I’ve known Nancy K is one of the premiere comedic actresses in town since last year’s LAST GODDAMNED PERFORMANCE PIECE, and it sure as shit won’t be a secret much longer.  This show is still a bit of a work in progress, and it STILL kills.  Me and Winston the Cat are so proud we could bust.  What Nancy and her gang pulled off with this show is amazing, and if you don’t go see it, you’d better have a note from your doctor or you ain’t no friend of mine.

So yeah, good start to the day.  After reluctantly vacating Studio Leonard Beaulne, I ventured as staggeringly far as next door to catch WHEN HARRY MET HARRY, by Australia’s Allan Girod in Academic Hall.  Girod’s one manner tells the story of Harry, a stationery-obsessed functionary at an unnamed firm who’s anal to a disturbing degree, worshiping his clock  and taking enormous delight in the filling out of forms (properly, mind).  It’s in the second half, when we meet his new-age company teamwork facilitator Rodney that things start to go hilariously wrong for poor Harry.

Girod is clearly a talent not be messed with, shifting between physical extremes at the clap of a hand and even dealing with the ever-deadly ‘audience participation ‘ scenario with the kind of charm you wish you could buy in bottles. Every lanky move is made with exquisite timing, and Allan has a comic rubberface worthy of awards.  Very sweet, VERY funny, and you’re pretty much guaranteed of leaving with a big goofy smile on your face.

Two for two on the day….yeah, this beats working.  Stayed in Academic hall for the next show, Asterisk Rising‘s MOMMA’S BOY by Eleanor Crowder.    A Canadian original and a musical to boot, MOMMA centers on willful Ginny Smart, played with a faceful of attitude and charisma by the always wonderful Bronwyn Steinberg.  Ginny’s come home to her small-town Northern town home to write a thesis and sort her head out, when she meets visiting city boy Jordan (the ever likeable Will Somers).  Jordan falls for both the  Northern clime AND Ginny, which suits Ginny’s lonesome Mother (Rachel Eugster) just fine…any excuse she can find to get her little lost kid to stay this time.

Oh, and it’s a musical.  Complete with live band, so right there, they pretty much had me on their side.   The songs are fun and sweet, although the band REALLY stands out when they do sound effects work.  The story stays away from being too cliched and has moments of  real emotion, and of course the three leads are all mighty strong.  It’s a good solid musical time.

What’s next?  Aha, going for the Academic Hall triple-bill!  And why not?  Myself and my day’s Fringe-buddy Richard Hemphill turned around and came right back inside (following a brief courtyard beer-and-curry break) for one I’ve been eagerly awaiting…May Can Theatre’s latest effort and Fringe debut,  SOUNDS FROM THE TURTLE SHELL.  I’ve dug the May Can boys, Cory Thibert and Tony Adams (or ‘Tory’ as they probably really love to be called…try it if you meet them) for a while know, and had tentative hopes for their big stage entry here at the O-Fringe.  Happily, they exceeded them all.  Along with dynamite local singer and actress Erin Lindsay, Tony and Cory put on one of the most charming, surprising and just genuinely funny shows you’ll catch this year.

The story of a local band trying to find their first gig, and struggling to stay together at the same time, SOUNDS goes from hysterical to heartbreaking and never loses its momentum.  This is my stealthy-pic for this year’s Fringe…it’s the show you need to be seeing, but haven’t heard about yet.  Well, now you have, so stop making excuses.  And yes, it’s another musical!  Well, sort of.  But I was humming a few of the tunes on the way out, and that’s always good news (they might even have CD’s if you’re nice).  Go and check out the Sounds from the Turtle Shell, folks, and tell’em the Visitor sent ya!

Time for one last show on this fine day, and a change of venue to mark the occasion.  Down I hustled to the Royal Oak on Laurier for the anticipated FIVE LIES by one Edith Bramwell.  And okay, I didn’t know too much about the show going in, but I did know that it reteamed director Paul Dervis with Adam Skanks, who entertained me mightily in DIRTY BIRD not long ago.  A lot of us crammed into the cavern beneath the Oak for the show, pretty much popping capacity (a LOT of good houses at the Fringe today…great to see).  My worries about the sight lines down there were sorta justified, but it wasn’t too bad…no worse than the Library or SAW, really.

The show sees most of its action in five acts, between Skank’s suicidally depressed Mark and Kate Charles as Phyllis, a sort of bureaucratic guardian angel who offers Mark a strange gift.  He’ll get away with the next 5 lies he tells, fully and completely.  But not wanting to waste them, Mark has to learn to regularly tell the truth in the meantime.  Which if you thin about it, would indeed be a tricky proposition.  We catch up with Mark and Phyllis as they have checkups year after year to see how things are progressing.  And they’re both very fine, although I gotta say I was wishing for a little more from the show.  Phyllis’ character is a little too one-note for my taste (no knock to the wonderful miss Charles), and the rich comic possibilities of the concept really never come to be.  There’s a strong ending however, and Jessica Anderson as Milly shines in her short appearance.  So, fun idea, maybe not as cool as it could have been for me, but whatever.  I STILL had a good time!  So there.

LIES let out too late for an 11 o’clocker, and I was a little googly-eyed by this time anyhow.  So to the courtyard with me, for some beers and palaver with the talented folks.  It was a good time, and I treated myself to a cab ride home…Nadine Thornhill has positively spoiled me with rides the past two nites.  And thank fuck I don’t have to get up for work the next morning, because I have an even longer day of Fringing ahead of me.

Yay!

Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)