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