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.
Peace, love and soul, Fringers,
The Visitor (and Winston)