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)