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Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

Brothers of Winter

In Theatre on September 29, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Been way too long already since I got out to see a show…sorry, Community Theatre, I keep missing hooking up with you!  Soon, I promise.   It’s not that Kanata is even that far AWAY or anything…I’ll fix it, all right?  I’ll fix it.

But for now, you’ll have to settle for me taking a familiar trip downtown…well, sort of familiar…I mean, sure, I’ve been in the Market a million times before, but this was actually something a bit new for me.  Because this was my first time ever seeing a show at La Nouvelle Scene on King Edward, and I was pretty excited about that.  And when I got inside…?   Holy hell, how come nobody ever TOLD me what a gorgeous little theatre space they have tucked away in there?  It’s frickin’ beautiful, you guys!   I fell in love as I walked in the doors, ready to check out tonite’s performance of Michel Ouellette’s FRERES D’HIVER, from the good jolies et gentilhommes at Theatre La Catapulte.

'gentilhommes'...did I just make that word up??

Now, as a mostly Anglo who has forgotten more of his high school French than he retains, I don’t get out to Franco-Theatre as much as I should (but I always, always enjoy it when I do).  But when I heard that this one was directed by my old LAVENDER RAILROAD mate, and overall genius, Joel Beddows, I knew I had to check it out.  I admit I was also intrigued to check it out tonite of all nights, because Thursdays were designated as ‘subtitled’ nights.  And even though my French is passable enough to get me through most plays (if they speak slowly enough, bless them), I was still curious and all because HOW THE FUCK DO SUBTITLES WORK AT A PLAY, exactly?  What the Heck, any reason to get out to see a show, am I right?

The story, as much poetry as regular storytelling, tells of  handsome Pierre (Pierre Simpson, whom I recall from STRAWBERRIES IN JANUARY, here given some meatier fare to flex his acting chops on) returning to identify the body of his troubled, loner sibling Paul (Alain Doom, haunting the stage in a wonderful performance).  Paul left behind some strange clues as to his failed life, from an early obsession with writing to later attempts to literally ‘become’ poetry.  In contrast, worldly Pierre holds his dead brother’s hand only because he remembers seeing it in a movie once.  And bridging the gap between the two brothers is Wendy (Lina Blais, walking a careful line between determination and despair), a co-worker of Pauls who finds herself drawn to seek out Pierre, due to some unfinished business.  It’s not all clearly laid out, and it doesn’t need to be.   The poetry of Ouellete’s script lets it be known that this is a show to be felt, more than to be learned.

Everything clicks together in this short’n sweet production (just over 1 hour), with Guillaume Houet on lights and Jean-Michel Ouimet on sound doing positively extraordinary work (seriously, the lighting in this show is absolutely jaw-dropping gorgeous, folks), strong acting with beautiful onstage choreography (aided by Daniel Mroz, so I’m told), and a poignant storyline that affects and draws you in.  And yeah, the subtitles DID work…tho I’m happy to report I need them less and less these days.  The old French schooling is coming back to me, mes amis.  Which is a good thing…because I intend to be back at LNS for the rest of their season, if they’ll have me.  Man, I LOVE that I’m still so new to theatre I’m still discovering new people and places!  I’ve decided I hope that never stops.
Anyways, FRERES has a couple more shows, and you should seriously check it out, good French or no.  It’ll do your heart good.  Paix, amour et ame,

Le Visiteur (avec Winston)

the Ottawa Improv Scene (yes, we DO have one!)

In Improv on September 22, 2011 at 10:51 am

A Week ago or so, I hit the Elmdale tavern for an extra-special CRUSH IMPROV show.  It was packed, and it was maybe the funniest improv show I’ve EVER seen, and that may be fitting, as it was Cari Leslie’s last show in town before winging it to be a superstar in Amsterdam.  She, Brad MacNeil, Al Connors and Jordan Moffat positively killed it that night, with the most excellent finishing move of dunking themselves in a bucket of water, repeatedly.  You had to be there.

But that’s history now, and the Ottawa Improv scene has a Cari Leslie-sized hole in it.  For a while now, she’s been the secret comedy weapon in both CRUSH and ‘Bout Time champions THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, and her shoes won’t be easy to fill.  Crush Improv has already announced that she’s being replace in the troupe by the dynamic duo of Jordan Moffatt and Tim Anderson, of which I wholeheartedly approve.  But there’s plenty more besides just Crush goin’ on in ottawa Improv, and I thought I’d take a few moments to blather about it now, if I may.

For instance, just last night I took in the inaugural GRIMPROV show at the Imperial Tavern on Bank, and the lads (Jordan, Mike Kosowan, Drew McFadyen and Joel Garrow) absolutely packed the joint.  Using their own patent-pending ‘Cul-de-Sac’ long form schtick, they kicked off what they hope will be a regular timeslot at the Imperial…although from the opening night crowd, they might already need more room!

Not far away, you can also take in some INSENSITIVITY TRAINING at Yuk Yuk’s on Elgin, every odd numbered Sunday of the month (next show on the 25th), for a mere 5 dollars.  And back on Bank, the Atomic Rooster hosts Jody Haucke, Thea Nikolic and the CRYSTAL BASEMENT kids, the last tuesday of every month…which is coming up fast as well, so clear your calendar.

And this Saturday night (the 24th), over at the Legion Hall on Kent, you can catch an extra-special CRUSH show (starring Brad, Tim and Jordan), which is totally gonna be an excellent time.  Legion halls=Fun, and that’s the truth.  And of course, they’ll be back hosting ‘Bout Time at the Elmdale, first Monday of every month.

I’m sure there’s plenty more going on (or at least a LITTLE bit more), and if anyone has any hot leads, feel free to drop ’em off in a comment.  After all, with Miss Cari gone away, improv in this old government town needs all the help it can get.  Happily, they seem to be off to a good start.  Now go out and have some laffs already.

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Obviously, a Fantastic Debut

In Theatre on September 18, 2011 at 8:16 pm

So, I’ve been back in town for over a week now.  I’ve seen shows at the NAC, GCTC and the Gladstone, three of our premiere theatrical installations, or whatever you call them.  Majordomos?  Whatever.  I’ve been hitting the big timey joints, is the point, and it was time to get back to the nitty gritty.  A little student-show action was what THIS Visitor needed (because, as we all know, that’s where the interesting shit starts getting stirred).  I’m not at all sure what to read into the fact that it was PosterLoop that pointed my way.

It was during the intermission of AMELIA that I spotted the ad, on the hypnotic little screen that I can’t god-damn well resist staring at whenever I see one, for a new show I hadn’t heard about…a production of Moliere’s classic THE PRETENTIOUS YOUNG LADIES by a new mob, Obviously, A Theatre Company.  The show was at that classic Fringe venue Alumni Auditorium over Ottawa U way, so there was really no way I could resist.  And when I discovered that my May Can boys Cory and Tony were in it?  Well, hell.  I was in like Flynn.

I hit the Alumni on Saturday nite, the last evening of the show’s three-day run.A goodly crowd and I made our way inside, where a few of the actors were already on the multicoloured stage (and ya know I like it when they start off on stage), doing synchronized excercizes or just milling about in the background.  They interacted just a bit with the audience as we made our way in, a sign of things to come.

The show began, and Moliere’s satirical jab at the elite got underway, with a very nice few twists indeed.  The basis story involves a pair of gents, here played by the wonderfully adversarial Cory Thibert and Cody Zulinski, who have been rebuffed by the young ladies in question.  The gals, Carol Sinclair and Annie Cloutier as Magdelon and Cathos, are a pair of effete would-be queens of the Paris scene, dolled-up and pushed around on rolling carts by their ever-suffering maid Marotte (Jackie Brabazon, who just might win my scene-stealing award for the year with this hysterical performance).  Magdelon’s frustrated Father (Tom Way) is sick of the both of them, and doubtless not too upset when the lads’ plan for revenge hatches itself, in the form of their two costumed lackeys putting the moves on the gals with ever-more outrageous attempts at high-society foppery.

It’s honestly hard to point to just one or two things that struck gold with this show…from the opening moments of Cody and Cory viciously ball-stomping the fourth wall (as Cody refuses to say his first line until Cory says ‘LaGrange’ correctly), to the ridiculously dandified ‘young ladies’ of the title, Carol and Annie, taking turns out-preening one another on their carts.  And Sean Sonier as the first lackey, aka the Marquis, performing ludicrously funny song and dance numbers based on his insipid poetry, is nicely matched when Tony Adams as the Viscount (lackey numero deux) struts on stage, pigtailed wig and all.

Much, much more damage is done to the wall betwixt audience and stage…Director Dillon Orr made the choice to attack the pretentions of college theatre students as well as Paris intellectuals, to great comedic effect.  Personally, I was damn near dying laughing the whole time, and I weren’t alone.  This was exactly the kind of inventive and fun show that I, myself, think more people NEED to see.  I’m hoping the gang from OBVIOUSLY… will get together for more hijinks soon (remount, perchance..?).   This was absolutely rock-solid, fun as Hell Theatre, and I wants more.

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

39 Steppin’ Out

In Theatre on September 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Can I just start this one off by saying OH MY GOD THE GLADSTONE ISN’T CONDOS!!!

*phew* Sorry about that.  But, man, I was SURE the Gladstone would be fucking condos by now.  You know?  After those dreadful, lingering months of idleness, just sitting, just WAITING…And have I ever actually made official mention here just how grateful I am that the double-whammy flim-flammery of Seven Thirty Productions and Plosive Productions managed to jolt the venerable Gladstone Theatre back to life, Frankenstein-stylee?  Because grateful I am, kids, and if you’re a theatre buff in O-town, you should be too.  As it turns out, pretty much everything upcoming on the Gladstone schedule I’m excited about, and none more so than the debut show of the new season.  Fitting that veteran troupe 730 got the nod to start things off, and in honest-to-gosh Hitchcockian fashion to boot.

Al Connors and Kate Smith, Hitchcocking things up a notch.

A Patrick Barlow adaptation of John Buchan’s classic novel (and, of course, subject of one of Al Hitchcock’s most famous movies), THE 39 STEPS is a classic old-school spy drama about regular guy Richard Hannay (CRUSH IMPROV’s Al Connors, throwing himself into his pencil moustache with relish) as he gets drawn reluctantly into a twisting maze of hidden identity, stolen secrets, and a good old fashioned murder to start things off.  Or rather, it WOULD be a classic spy drama, except the gang at 730  have gone and given it a silly and delightful twist, with founder and director John P.Kelly channelling the Zucker Brothers to turn Buchan’s sordid potboiler into a zany romp, and now that I’ve seen it, I’m very glad they did.

Rounding out the enormous cast are three other people…superstar Kate Smith, who hops splendidly between three roles, every bit as convincing and marvellous a femme fatale as kept Scottish housewife or fiery, unwitting accomplice (she and Al together are ALWAYS great on stage, no matter which role she’s in).  And then there’s the unstoppable tag-team of Richard Gelinas and Zach Counsil, playing…well, might be easier to list what they DON’T play.  They emerge as clowning jacks-of-all-roles, zipping from costume to costume, prop to prop, appearing as oddball mentalists, bumbling policemen, dotty housewives and sinister spies, but mostly and surely most importantly, never missing an opportunity to mock the Scottish (sorry, Scotland…but you’re used to it by now, right..?).  It’s comic wonderment to behold, and they wring every laugh to be had out of the script, as well as mad wizard John Doucet’s versatile, piecemeal set.  Joy.

I think this is the show I was waiting to see…a great, draw-you-in piece of theatrical gold, with all local talent, that just whets your appetite for more.  And to both 730 Productions AND the Gladstone, I can say mission accomplished.  I’m ready for more.

Next, please.

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Flying in your Mind’s Eye

In GCTC on September 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Okay, so this time, I am NOT going to let post-Fringe ennui get me down.  Actually, I seem to have been on a weird sort-of post-Fringe HIGH, which I’m not used to…maybe that just backs up my theory that a minimum of TWO Fringe Festivals per year are necessary for positive well-being.  I’ve certainly heard worse theories…

Anyways, the point is that I can’t let myself fall off the regular theatre-blogging wagon this time around (I’ve already spazzed out on reviewing AN ISRAELI LOVE STORY at the NAC Studio last week…sorry about that, gang!).  To that end, I’m gonna knuckle myself down this afternoon, before heading out for an evening of drinks and gossip with the Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill, and get some hometown chudding happening here.  and yay, it’s right back at my second home/volunteer refuge at the Oiving Greenboig Theatre, home of our very own Great Canadian Theatre Company.  And it’s new season time, kids!

So, after a silly day of drudgery, which my lazy vacation body is STILL having trouble adjusting to, I headed on out to the GCTC for the very first preview performance of the very first show of the 2011/2012 season, AMELIA: THE GIRL WHO WANTS TO FLY.  Brought to us by the fine folks at the Festival Players of Prince Edward County, and written by John ‘Billy Bishop Goes to War’ Gray, AMELIA tells the story of the life and times of one Amelia Earhart, America’s preeminent female flyer of the 1930’s, feminist icon, and subject of one of the most enduing unsolved mysteries of all time (even if it’s totally been solved, but hey, why spoil a good thing?).

Although the 'travelled to another dimension' theory IS pretty cool sounding...

This version of the Earhart saga is a straight-up musical, courtesy of Gray and musical director Micheal Barber (also the onstage pianist for the show), told from three concurrent, and often coflicting, points of view.  Amelia herself, natch (A splendidly plucky Eliza-Jane Scott), her long-suffering sister Midge (Karin Randoja, stealing much scenery indeed in her performance), and G.P., Amelia’s dollar-hungry publicist and show husband (Steven Gallagher, not afraid to go a few feet over the top as needs be).  From Amelia’s rural beginnings, doting over an alcoholic father, to her high-soaring public life as the most popular woman in America, we see every aspect of her obsession with flying that would come to define and, ultimately end, her life.  The songs themselves are pretty good…I wouldn’t say amazing, but they certainly do the job, and I’ve still got a refrain or two humming about my noodle.  And there’s a nice symmetry with the tunes tht shows up by the end.

The story itself, long since the stuff of legend, gets brought nicely down to Earth (pardon the pun) in Gray’s script and the direction of Sarah Phillips.   Bickering with sibling (and utter opposite) Midge over money and family, maintaining her marriage with doting GP, but in the end, everything is subsumed to her need to fly…and the reasons behind that need gets dissected as the show goes on.  There are some slow points in the production, and as with all musicals some numbers will work better for you that others.  The characters of GP and Midge do also have the tendency to slip into caricature from time to time.  But, as in reality no doubt, it’s the scenes where Amelia finally flies that the play roars to joyous life.  In the end, AMELIA is a very satisfying musical bio of a real, flawed human who’s transcended into more myth than human in the last 80 years.

I won’t say any more, as I DID see the preview show, and I think some technical issues were still being tweaked out when I saw it (I’ll know more when I return for my volunteer shift on the 24th).  Only to say that I’m glad as Hell that the new season of theatre has started up (and to say a sad lament for the now lost 11th THIRD WALL Season…may they rise again, ala the Gladstone!) here in Ottawa…I’m off the THE 39 STEPS tomorrow nite, and can’t wait.  Feels great.  Feels like I’m home.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Epilogue

In Fringe Fest on September 11, 2011 at 2:15 am

The cool header I forgot to upload for this trip. Fuck.

I’m dragging this out.  There’s no question  really, the Fringe was over, like, a week ago now.  Even I don’t write THIS slow.  Yeah, I’m dragging it out.  What of it?  Thanks to a $700 plane ticket and a 2-week vacation, I’ve managed to artificially extend my beloved Fringe experience into September, but this is where it ends.  No more extensions, no more shows, no more frantic jogs between venues until next summer…Fringe, folks, is OVER.

…Unless you’re in Vancouver or San Francisco, then you may choke on my bitter, bitter envy, you fiends.

But yes, I made my first ever Fringe road-trip this year, out to beautiful, sleepy Victoria BC, and she was well worth the voyage.  Spent 13 lovelynights in just the most beautiful Hostel I could have hoped for…

Home Sweet Hovel

Took in 45 performances (counting one non-Fringe show), made lotsa squinky new friends (Facebook and otherwise), walked about 3 and 1/2 marathons, drank 20 or 30 pots of coffee (it’s all there is to drink in Victoria), incurred 1 angry wasp sting, and bought one shiny new netbook for multipurpose bloggery.  But it wasn’t all fun and games, Fringers, OH no.  There be a dark side to the Victoria Fringe.  And let’s get that out of the way first, shall we?

    REGRETS, I HAD A FEW…

Now by this I certainly do not mean to bash the Victoria Fringe itself (certainly not after they treated me so nice, and after I drank a gallon or two of the grain alcohol they had posing as Vodka at the afterparty). Although…let’s take a moment to talk about the venue selection, hey?  Now, I appreciate that I’ve been a little spoiled here in Ottawa, where the bulk of the venues are all within a 10-15 minute walking radius of one another (that little spoiler Luna Allison this year notwithstanding), AND the bulk of those venues are actual theatres to some degree.  But, Holy Christmas, Victoria.  You’re really gonna make me walk literally a half an hour for a converted gymnasium or church with terrible acoustics and wooden folding chairs?  Besides the fact that it makes scheduling this thing like plotting an escape route from an Escher print, the consensus on the grapevine seemed to be that the remoteness of the venues was genuinely hurting a lot of the performers.  If it wasn’t a ‘sure thing’ a lot of people just were not making the trip.  And that sucks.  I’m not sure what’s to be done about it, of course, but…well, here’s hoping something CAN be done.  Because the quality of shows at this Fringe was BRILLIANT.  I hate that people weren’t getting out to a lot of them, for something as  silly as commute time.

…And here endeth any and all bitching about the VicFringe gang…Ian and Janet, the Victoria Fringe Overlords, are lovely folk indeed, and took this humble blogger in with open arms.  But aside from venue-lag, I had a few other downsides to my Victoria Fringe experience, out of anyone’s control but myself.  And I’m not talking about my daily, near-suicidal sluggish strolls through downtown, lonesome and despondent, wondering why God hated me so…nah, that’s just the day-to-day life of a blogger, friends.  Once the shows started up, all was well with the world again.  But I couldn’t see everything, sad but true.  And there are a  few shows that I especially regret not catching.

Ladies and Gennelmen, the Fabulous Miz Rosie Bitts

I was SERIOUSLY supposed to go and see THE FABULOUS MISS ROSIE BITTS.  I’d met Rosie herself on a few occasions during the Fringe, and she was absolutely delightful in all respects.  I suck for not getting to her show, and you Nanaimo Fringe cats had better treat her right!  I also totally meant to get to THE TIRADES OF LOVE out at Point Ellice house, because site-specific theatre is usually pretty cool theatre.  And if GOD IS A SCOTTISH DRAG QUEEN hadn’t sold out a thousand years in advance every time, I for sure would have been there.  At least I caught Mike Delamont at the Fringe club doing his schtick, so I don’t feel TOO left out.  I heard great things about THE SMELL OF THE KILL, and was also bummed that LIZARDBOY never even made it into Victoria at all (although its replacement show, RED, was dynamite).  The HUMAN BODY PROJECT I heard raves about at every turn, but I chickened out.  I’m plenty vulnerable enough day to day, thanks, I couldn’t handle a stronger dose just yet.  And of course, there’s that one show I was told not to miss…but I did see the next best thing.  No more need be said (winks, nudges).

Enough negativity!  Let’s get to the good stuff, and there was a lot of it.   Let’s start with something simple enough:

FAV’RIT ENSEMBLES

A few dynamite duos and more graced the stages, gyms and barnyards of the Vic Fringe this year…supahstars PETER’N CHRIS (aka Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson) were back introducing their third mad comedy-adventure show, while my own new discovery CHARLES, aka Charlie Stockman and Chuck Armstrong outta Seattle, left me beggin’ for more at Fairfield Hall.  I sure have to mention Carol Lee Sirugo and Jon Kaplan of THE HYSTERIC, who put on a fantastic multi-character dark period comedy, as well as Tara Travis and Chris Bange of HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE.

The mostly local crews from shows like LOVE LETTERS FOR GEORGIA, STRUWWELPETER and SONNETS FOR AN OLD CENTURY did nothing but impress.  And Improv gangs like HIP.BANG! and SHLONG FORM IMPROV also put on great shows, as well as doing a lot of double duty at the Fringe club late-nite.  Kudos.  And Andrew Pheonix and Kate Braidwood from GRIM AND FISCHER?   Forgetaboutit.

FAV’RIT SOLO PERFORMERS

Plenty of solo shows here at the Vic Fringe…including some 17 one-woman shows.  Oddly enough, I didn’t hear word one of the kind of kvetching I heard all around the Ottawa campfire this year, namely that there were ‘too many’ one woman shows at our Fringe.  For the record, this year  in Ottawa..?  There were 6 one-woman shows.

Which leads me to the sad question…are people in Ottawa retarded, or do we just hate women?

But I’ll take care of THAT query another day.  Today, I’ll just regale ye with a list of the performers who wowed me with the way they kept me rivetted on stage, all on their lonesome, the reason I fell in love with acting, theatre, and Fringe.  There were plenty of performers I’d caught before in one show or another…Katie Hood (THE ANIMAL SHOW), Jeff Culbert (the DONNELLY SIDESHOW), Cameryn Moore (PHONE WHORE), Gemma Wilcox (SHADOWS IN BLOOM), Jem Rolls (…IS PISSED OFF), Brent Hirose (the SUCKERPUNCH) and Rob Gee (SMART ARSE), for instance.  I didn’t see Cam and Brent again this time around (and I’m regretting it a little, believe me), but the others certainly all delivered the goods.  And Jayson MacDonald, who I’d caught in BOAT LOAD years ago, and finally reunited with for GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT, lived up to all my expectations.  But then, as with every Fringe, there were the new crop!  And by new, I mean NEW!  Like, BIRDMANN new.

Tea, anyone?

The Birdmann (who has a real name, but I like to pretend he doesn’t) is a revelation of a performer, a man like no man indeed.  Proof positive that mad genius grows in Australia, as if Shane Adamczak (ZACK ADAMS: LOVE SONGS FOR FUTURE GIRL) wasn’t proof enough.   Then there’s genial Bob Brader of the red-hot one-manner SPITTING IN THE FACE OF THE DEVIL, lighting the stage up with unassuming brilliance.

And the ladies..!  I’m on record (and will do so again here) as saying that one-woman shows are my personal fav’rit form of entertainment, and there were great examples in Victoria, and lots of exciting names to look for in the future.  Names like Chelsee Damen of the sleeper gem DIANNE & ME, or Kirsten van Ritzen in ALL MY DAY JOBS.  Stephanie Henderson tearing it up in THE TROUBLES, Celeste Sansregret tour-de-forcing things in WONDERBAR!, or Alison Wearing simply GIVING INTO LIGHT.  They were all fantastic  In fact, this leads quite nicely into that old classic category…

FRINGE CRUSHES (VICTORIA 2011 EDITION)

Now, we’re going by Thornhill rules for crushes here, which means that you had to have developed the crush DURING the Fringe itself.  Which means I will NOT be mentioning a certain performer who I may or may not have bought a silly present for, in a poorly thought out (but still endearing!) hopeless romantic gesture.  Yes?  Yes.  Ahem.  On with the business at hand..?

Well, I haven’t been able to resist a Tara since season 4 of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, so why start now?  From Tara Firm (aka Christina Patterson of TARA FIRM AND THE LUNAR WAR CHRONICLES), perky Lunar adventurer extraordinaire, to darlin’ Tara Travis of Monster Theatre’s HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE (she’s funny, talented, and about 9 feet tall…how could I resist?) , this Fringe had my Tara-fetish covered.   Then there’s my fav’rit venue manager of them all, who I actually got to dance some with at Paparazzi on closing nite, the lovely and uber-perky Heather from Langham Court.  Sigh.  We need venue managers in Ottawa, so I can crush on THEM, too.

And the Visitor don’t reserve his love for the young’uns, no sir.  The lady Miss Danda Humphreys, shining star of LOVE LETTERS FOR GEORGIA, done stole my heart right quick.  But then, the wunnerful Yana Kesala of THE UKRAINIAN DENTISTS DAUGHTER makes a good case for the younger generation.

I wouldn't have kept her waiting at the altar, is all I'm saying...

And then, of course, there’s MY FIRST TIME costar Ben Wert.  Because we gotta have some bromance represented on the crush list, even if we kept it platonic.  And even if he’s no Bremner Duthie, who looked smashing in a towel for the first half of WHISKEY BARS.  Rrowr.

But that’s enough for the fanfiction crowd…it’s getting near the end, I’ve been writing for way too long, and I’ve gotten WAY too reacquainted with my bottle of Jameson’s already.  So let’s wrap this one up with a bright shiny bow, and give it a snappy title to boot. Something sharp, like…

FAV’RIT SHOWS

…yeah, that’ll do.  And remember, that title is accurate.  These are MY Fav’rit shows, not ‘the best’.  Anyone who says they know which shows are ‘THE’ best is either deceiving themselves or trying to deceive you.  So what WERE the ones I came away pining to see again, and hoping will make the long trek to Ottawa Fringe?  (Note: I’m not including in this list shows I’ve already seen in Ottawa, like ANIMAL SHOW, SHADOWS IN BLOOM, PHONE WHORE or SUCKERPUNCH.  So there.) Well…

CANTERBURY COCKTAILS
Julian Cervello’s daringly retro one-manner, told entirely in Chaucer’s original middle English, yet still managing to be wholly engrossing, funny, and charming for a modern audience.  He’s a helluva storyteller, and I hope more people get to see this wonderful show.

PETER ‘N CHRIS AND THE MYSTERY OF THE HUNGRY HEART MOTEL

Okay, after the first 2 times, P+C aren’t exactly new to me, but they still manage to yank as many laughs out of their audience as they damn well please in this, the murder-mystery installment of the series.  Ridiculous, nonsensical brilliance.

ZACK ADAMS: LOVE SONGS FOR FUTURE GIRL

I’m a little biased, on account of Weeping Spoon Productions made the first Fringe show I ever saw, but Shane (aka Zack) delivers with his one-man musical lament to all the girls that got away.  The music is wonderful, the emotion is real and heartfelt, and Zack Adams is the Spider-Man of bittersweet comedy-romance plays.  You heard me.

CHARLES PRESENTS: A TRIP THROUGH THE MULTIVERSE
Or whatEVER the name of their show was.  Charlie and Chuck were the freshest new comedy duo I’ve hoped to see for years, and if there’s any way they can see fit to bring their game of correspondence jenga to Ottawa, I’ll thank them for it.

SPITTING IN THE FACE OF THE DEVIL

Bob Brader, with the direction of the amazing Suzanne Bachner, tells the most calmly terrifying true tale you’ll ever hear.  Punch-to-the-gut acting and no-nonsense writing combine to deliver one of the strongest experiences you’ll ever have at the Fringe.  Also, Bob and Suzanne are TOTALLY cool.

GRIM AND FISCHER

It got raves up and down the Fringe circuit, and I’ll happily parrot that line here.  G&F is full-mask theatre with a tongue-in-cheek quirk, and a tragic honesty that may not catch you until it’s too late.  Skilled actors in an unforgettable play.

And the final two, who combine to show that, while size may in fact matter, it’s all relative…

GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT

I’d been longing to see this show since BOAT LOAD in ’08, and it was worth every bit of wait and travel.   Jay Mac tells the improbable tale of a tragically shy little boy and his only friend, a literal Giant Invisible Robot, as he grows into adulthood.  Along the way we meet a variety of characters trying to understand or destroy the GIR, with hilarious results, but the strange heart beating at the center of this play never gets too far out of sight.  Utter joy.

LITTLE ORANGE MAN

Starring wunderkind Ingrid Hansen of Snafu Dance Theatre, and directed by Kathleen Greenfield, LOM is everything that’s good and lovely about theatre.  Inventive, exciting, funny, heartbreaking, interactive, smart, unpredictable, and even a little bit educational.  This is the kind of play you’d punch through stone walls to see, if you knew what was good for you.  Beautiful, wonderful, and I’ll never stop wanting to see it again.  Love.

…And, that’s it.  That’s the whole story, except for a few random moments in my Fringe Victoria experience.  Which is where I’m leaving this one.  With my love to all of you who made this what it was, and with this one, final list…

MY FAV’RIT MOMENTS

Bee…Bee…Bee…WASP!  Music won the day.  Late nite Chinese with Jem, Bob, Katie, Suzanne and Cam. Volunteering for Houdini.  Jaffacakes.  Do you wanna Fuck, or do you wanna Fight? I finally met Jayson MacDonald.  Sunglasses.  Mortality!  Walking to Fairfield Hall.  San Juan Benny at the Flying Otter.  The offer’s on the table.  Shock Headed Peter.  Gemma Wilcox knows my name!  Late nite West Coast Waffles.  Spapp!  Netbook.  That’s a stupid way to do it!  Pumfrey’s rule.  The first time you contemplated suicide…and changed your mind.  And OHMIGOD LETS GO RIDE BIKES!!!

Peace, love, and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Pretty Little Fringe 2011 Nightcap

In Theatre on September 7, 2011 at 8:58 pm

So there I was, pretty grim and disshevelled the morning after the Victoria Fringe festival ended.  I was hurting fromthe drink like I hadn’t hurt in a decade, most of my new and old friends had already fled town for Vancouver or beyond, and it was goddamn labour day so most everything was closed.  What was a Visitor to do?

Thankfully, one of my fav’rit shows of the Fringe, LITTLE ORANGE MAN, provided me with the answer.  Star Ingrid Hansen had  hepped us to the existence of a special one-off performance of Snafu Dance Theatre‘s piece, PRETTY LITTLE INSTINCTS, that she and the troupe performed at the Summerworks festival this year.  It sounded like a tailor-made way to cap off the Victoria Fringe, so I headed out for the 8pm performance.  After some trouble finding the place (I probably should have looked at, you know, a MAP first), I made it to the Victoria landmark that is Point Ellice house on the waterfront for the special outdoors performance.  Met a few of my new Victoria mates there, especially director Kathleen Greenfield, and volunteer/superfan Janis, enjoyed some live music aforehand, then got led out back for the show.

A group of elegant, black-clad ladies with powdered white faces awaited us, dancing slowly in a circle before politely noticing our presence.  They flitted among the crowd, tucking people in and just generally being helpful, when the bell rang, the show began in earnest, and they took their own seats in a semi-circle on the grass.  Strange silent rituals began then…an elegant tea ceremony, constantly interrupted by music and repeated, again and again.   More rituals began, and ended strangely, events twisted, behaviours took dark, violent turns.  The group turned on their own, shouts and primal screams echoes here and there, until…

Photo credit - Gordon Lee

…Look, there’s just no real lucid way to DESCRIBE this wondrous piece of dance theatre from SNAFU without unintentionally ruining the whole damn beautiful thing.  It’s lyrical, playful, elegant and evocative, mythological and allegorical, and lots and lots of other big words that don’t do it justice.  I can only imagine they ate it up at Summerworks, and hopefully my peeps in Ottawa get a chance to see it someday, too.  Snafu put on a haunting and unforgettable show, and I couldn’t be more pleased that I stuck around in Victoria that extra day to catch it.  Much obliged, gang…and I hope to see some of you again soon.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day ELEVEN

In Fringe Fest on September 7, 2011 at 8:06 pm

…Okay, okay, this is WAY late, I admit it.  In my defense, the 2011 Victoria Fringe IS quite over now, so a day or two tardy isn’t going to matter much as far as these writeups are concerned.  Also in my defense, I was so hungover on vodka the day after Fringe I couldn’t even have written my own name, much less a post.  The next day was lost to travelling, and here I am, back at the Ottawa head office of the Visitorium, getting ready to tie a nice, wordy ribbon around my Westy-Fringing experience (almost)

Flashing back to that last Sunday in town…had an early breakfast and bloggery, then made it out to Langham Court one last time for SONNETS FOR AN OLD CENTURY by Jose Rivera.  Director/actor Holly Jonson was kind enough to extend a personal invite to yours truly, so getting there was the least I could do.  Sorry I couldn’t make it earlier, actually, because this was a goddamn powerful show.  Starring Jonson along with Aleisha Kalina, Mily Mumford, Bill Nance, Austin Obiajunwa, Alan Penty and Shaan Rahman (also, if I’m not mistaken, in PINK SHOELACES this year), the play is mostly a series of monologues.  Occasionally interconnected, they are the final words of what I’m taking to be the recently departed, from all walks of life, conveying perhaps what they failed to get across in life.  Ranging from mad ramblings to desperate apologies, earnest longings to simple words of wisdom, SONNETS is a solid hour+ of emotion, well performed and haunting.    I don’t know if this show is touring, but I can tell you that there was some serious talent up on the stage (Mumford, Jonson and Obiajunwa particularly impressed, but everyone was spot-on).  One of the monologues seemed to maybe drag on a LITTLE too long, but that’s about my only nitpick.  A great show, that left me reeling in the good way.

Off then to the Wood Hall, this time for FORTUNATE SON.  Again, least I could do after actor Drew Stanilard gave me a ride back to town earlier that week.  Peter Boychuk’s slice of Canadian history-play is directed here by fran Gebhard, and stars Drew (as Justin  Trudeau) and Michael Armstrong as Cal, Pierre Elliot’s advisor and friend.  We join them on the heels of the elder Trudeau’s funeral, where Justin’s speech has all of Canada abuzz, and Cal is overcome with visions of a succession along family lines.

The marvellous back and forth that ensues is something to see, especially with two slam-bang actors like Drew and Michael at the helm.  Drew’s reticent, angsty Justin contrasts just so with Armstrong’s boisterous and bullheaded Cal, desperately trying to keep the Trudeau legacy alive.  There’s a lot roiling beneath the surface of this script, and it’s sweet meat for the lads to dig into.  Well staged, nicely paced, a solid telling of a shockingly interesting piece of Canuck lore.  Who knew?
Down, down then to the Even Centre for a comedy double-bill to counteract the Death-themed plays I’d just enjoyed, but gotten slightly bummed out by.  Up first was sketch comic Andrew Barber and ONE MAN’S TRASH, a collection of his outrageous character performance work, interspersed with some pre-taped sketch cips…like this one!

Along with wackier pieces like that, Barber trotted out a host of misfit characters (some of the names I’m forgetting..well, most of them…sorry!): A miserably failing stand-up comic, a snooty, clueless ‘actor’,  and my personal fav’rit, Steven Grundlebauer, angrily belting out his #1 dance hit ‘Do you wanna Fuck, or do you wanna Fight?’  Barber’s a funny, charming cat, although he does tread rather dangerously long in the ‘awkward pause’ section of comedy, and it starts to drag the tone down a bit.  There’s a lot of talent on display at TRASH, though it might not quite be a solid show yet…with talent and imagination like he has, though, it won’t be long.

Stuck around the centre for SHLONG FORM IMPROV, a troupe from parts unknown who make their mark combining the element of both short and long-form improv (get it?) into their performances.  And while it’s always hard to review an improv show, I’ll give it a try…they’re real good!

There, that wasn’t so hard.

One final show of the day, AND the Fringe left, so I decided to treat myself…it was time to experience LITTLE ORANGE MAN again, it was, and damn but  that was one of the best ideas I’ve had all week.  Ingrid Hansen moved me even more this time than last, everything flowed perfectly (even a tickle in her throat was woven wonderfully into the show itself), and I’m more convinced than ever that my hyperbole from my previous review wa, if anything, an understatement.  In fact, since I can’t really add too much to what I’ve already said, let me just sum up my thoughts upon second viewing this way:  AC..?  Go FUCK yourself (Edited, because the dude I’m dissing keeps finding the site by ego-surfing himself on google, and I just can’t have that…Kathleen, YOU know who I’m talking about, though ;)).

And that was all she wrote, and this time, me too…it was off to the Fringe Club for the final par-tay of the festival, with awards handed out, drinks being drunk, and dances being hipped and hopped all over.  I had a swingin’ time (what I remember), saying far too many goodbyes, and finally meeting Steph Henderson of THE TROUBLES, Jayson MacDonald of GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT, and cheery venue manager Heather from Langham Court!  Things moved from the club to somewhere else with a smoke machine, then off to another location with what I hazily recall as being a fridge full of vodka, and…

…well, I’m sober again NOW, thanks very much.  I have more to say on this Fringe experience, which will be in my upcoming Roundup post.   Many thanks to give, joys, regrets, memories, fav’rits…and yes, crushes too.  It’s a Fringe post, after all.

So I’ll see you all again soon (figuratively), once I compose my dark and terrible thoughts.  AND I’m behind on a PRETTY LITTLE INSTINCTS post too…it never ends!  But it turns out, that’s a good thing.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston, again)

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day TEN

In Fringe Fest on September 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Last  weekend has arrived.  Before long, I’ll be back in Ottawa, moping around the downtown streets in a lonely haze (instead of doing that in Victoria…totally different).  I want this Fringe road-trip to end on a good note..I want it to end STRONG.   And how do you get strong?  I can’t really AFFORD steroids, so…

Well, Hell.  I guess I’ll just have to hit the gym.  4 shows in a row oughtta do it…

Yeah, yeah, I was off today for a hearty quadruple-bill at the wasteland of a venue that is the gymnasium at university Canada West.  The sun was shining, the wasps were buzzing, and due to some time mismanagement on my part, my tummy was grumbling rather fiercely for the first show of my day, WONDERBAR.  One I had missed years ago in Ottawa, I was happy for the chance to correct my mistake, and a mistake it certainly was to miss this show.  Written by and stqarring the frankly amazing Celeste Sansregret, and directed by Fringe superheroine Laura Harris, WB is the all-too true story of Katrina, a German immigrant to Canada who, in the late ’80s, fell on hard times.  Broken family, lost income, no future.  Until she met Rudy, the man of her dreams.  Then it got a LOT worse.

Sansregret is completely mesmerizing as strong, but often self-deluded Katrina, from her dizzying highs scarfing champagne in Italian Villas, to the deepest darkest lows in the bowels of a French prison.  It’s a story of love, deception and survival that should be packing houses everywhere it goes.  If you’re turned off by the 90 minute running time, don’t be.  It’s worth every second.

I WAS still hungry after that show tho, so I made a mad dash for some Jamaican patties before boomeranging back for show #2, Andrew Bailey’s LIMBO.  I’ve seen messr.Bailey around the Fringe Club stage many times this past week, so knew he had some powerful comedy chops to bring to the table.  But LIMBO isn’t entirely a comedy, far from it.  The (one assumes) true life story of Andrew himself and his grapplings with dark thoughts, OCD, the occasional possession…it’s a smart story, well told with a hearty interspersing of humour to keep things light.  But never so light we forget the point which, for me, is how insidiously mental illness can creep into our lives…even a so-called ‘mild’ case, as in Andrew’s case, can still push someone to the brink.  Bailey’s a confident performer, and while confessional monologues aren’t everyone’s cuppa, I’d give this one a strong rec.

Another turnaround viewing, one i’d put off in this Fringe for far too long already…from the long lineup, so had a few others.  Must, then, be time at last for my annual dose of loud, raucous introspective poetry courtesy of JEM ROLLS IS PISSED OFF.

If you’ve ever caught Jem in action, you know what to expect, and you get a cracking good faceful of it in this show, featuring such Jem gems as the ibody and BrainBerry, EgoTourism, the Ten Demandments,and the struggle to find that perfect zen state of Pissed-Offedness in the face of what he warmly calls his ‘awful and innapropriate sense of happiness’.  Which made me especially smile, because I know that if I’M ever happy again, that is doubtless how I will view the intrusion.

And if you’ve NEVER Seen Jem Rolls..?  then get on that Vancouver ferry, gang, ’cause that’s where he’s headed next.  And you need to see him in action.

After my much-needed dose of JemRollianism, it was back again for one more show, the buzzed-about RAMBO: THE MISSING YEARS.  Brainchild of ex-GI Howard Petrick, R:TMY retells the incredible true story of his reluctant induction into the Army during the Vietnam war, and how he turned that misfortune into the first ever attempt to start an anti-war movement inside an Army base.  Playing as himself (where, incongruously, Petrick seems least comfortable onstage) and dozens of other characters that he brings marvelously to life, Petrick’s story is an important one, especially considering the vilification of returning soldiers from ‘Nam.  Turns out most of them are just as anti-war as the rest of the populace…they just aren’t allowed to say so.  At least, they didn’t THINK they were…Howard tried to change all that, with harrowing and sometimes hilarious results.  A VERY good show that’s flying under a lot of radars…get out and pack his last show today!    Or plan on catching it in Vancouver, ’cause it’s worth the trip.

A break then, because apparently I think I deserve food  sometimes (I don’t, but don’t tell me that…it’s a secret).  Had a mighty Bibimbop at King Sejong that filled me but good, then wandered a spell, narrowly escaping some of the grimmer thugs on a dark streetcorner I never should have gone anywhere near (seriously, Victoria, you got some shady-ass characters lurking about after sundown).  Finally, my last show of the evening approached, over at the Wood Hall…Bremner Duthie’s WHISKEY BARS.

I’d caught Bremner once before, with his PIG OF HAPPINESS show in Ottawa…had high hopes for this one, and was not let down.  Playing to his strengths…his brilliant cabaret voice, passion for the Weimar works of Weill, Brecht and others, and (as I now know) how good he looks wearing only a towel, Bremner weaves a story about a down-and-out singer making one last attempt at regaining his former glory.  We get to eavesdrop as he prepares for his comeback show, struggling with fears and insecurities, all while belting out the most beautiful and powerful songs you can imagine.  Watching Bremer Duthie in action is always a treat, and he hits every note right in this show.  This was his last show of the Fringe (I forget if he’s touring it onward), and he had the audience eating out of his hand.  A deserved triumph.

A spot of melancholy Fringe-clubbing then (tho some PeternChris shenanigans gave me some smiles) before I wandered back to my hovel/hostel, already glumly looking forwad to my final day of Fringing.  Suppose I had best make it a good one.  You lot, feel free to join me…see something you hadn’t expected to see (sure things are SUCH a cliche), hit a weird venue, thank a performer or volunteer, and have fun, eh?  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor

 

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day NINE

In Fringe Fest on September 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Ow.  I think maybe I should not have had QUITE so many apricot beers at the Mint after Fringe Club the other nite…I’m still tryingto shake it off.  Still, we must soldier on, and on, and…and, hey, did I ever see some good god damn shows his friday!  Let’s start with the start.

Or, rather, thee starte, to be all cutesy and stoopid about it, because the first show of ye daye was CANTERBURY COCKTAILS by the man himself, Geoffrey Chaucer.  Delivered entirely in its original middle English by performer Julian Cervello, he and director David Burke have indeed set themselves a daunting task: how to sell a Fringe show with a surfeit of dialogue that, for the most part, you’re almost certain your audience will NOT understand.

Ha! Chaucer scoffs at your lack of comprehension!

It turns out to not be such a problem, happily, as Cervello is a pretty feckin’ skilled storyteller, and his great presence and animated antics while delivering his complex dialogue (all quite spot-on, as far as I could tell) drive the gist of it home even when your ears doth fail ye.  Very funny in places, and always entertaining.  An excellent start to my night’o Fringing.

Up next was next door at Metro Studio, and one of the most buzzed-about shows on the Fringe circuit this year…and from the sold-out house, I suppose i wasn’t the only one to hear the buzzing.  How nice that dialogue free shows in full face mask still sell out in this day and age.  Yep, it was finally time for the Wonderheads’ GRIM AND FISCHER, by Andrew Phoenix, Kate Braidwood and Nathaniel Justiniano.  Starring Phoenix as the titular grim, apparently Death himself come-a-calling, calling for one elderly Mrs.Fischer in particular, played by Braidwood.  Together, they play an alternatingly cute, creepy and downright goofy cat-and-mouse game, as our Mrs.Fischer tries to outwit (or outfight)  death.

Raging against the dying of the light has never been so endearing.

G&F pretty much earns its hype, at least for me…Phoenix and Braidwood sell their silent characters, whose positively gorgeous masks seem like actors unto themselves onstage.  There’s a bit of silliness with a third character (landlord?  Something?  I could never quite figger it out) that doesn’t hit home so much, but the bulk of the play is sheer delight.  My heart was seriously in my throat for the entire final act.  A necessary reminder that theatre can be so goofy, so personal, and so goddamned beautiful that you’ll never forget it.  Gold.

Stayed around in that venue on an emotional high for a piece that has a personal resonance for me…it was one of the shows from that first Fringe of mine, Ottawa ’08, that instilled in me the sheer maniacal love for all of this that, well, here I am in fucking Victoria!  And the lady responsible for this amazing bit of theatre actually knows my NAME now!  Too, too cool.  I was overjoyed to see the lady miss Gemma Wilcox in action again, with that same show, SHADOWS IN BLOOM, and to a very deservedly packed house.

SHADOWS, a sequel of sorts to one of Gemma’s earlier pieces THE HONEYMOON PERIOD IS OFFICIALLY OVER, is about Sondra, a divorcee about to turn 30 who’s just moved to London to be nearher on-again off-again boyfriend Pete.  Aiding and abetting Sondra’s occasionally frantic journey are zen neighbour Flora, grumpy little Louise, crazy Kate, a sultry singer, snooty waiters, a flamboyant chef, doomed lobsters, and clashing houseplants…all played perfectly by Gemma herself, stepping fluidly from one to the other so smoothly that by the end of the show you’d swear there had been at least a dozen people on stage.  Still the masterpiece of storytelling and acting that I remember.  This is how it’s done, folks.

I only had the energy for one more show that night (with HUGE apologies to Miss Rosie Bitts, whose show I was very much planning on seeing late-nite), and there wasn’t much new around, so I treated myself to a second helping of GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT.  As expected, it went down just as awesome the second time, and this time I started noticing some of JayMac’s clever layering throughout the show.  And Robot’s monologue still breaks my wee dark heart.  Fringing doesn’t get any better than this.

Yes, it IS worth a look.

Stumbled off to the hilariously overcrowded Fringe Club afterwards, where the Atomic Vaudeville gang were entertaining with some local aid…at least I get to see a FEW minutes of Mike Davenport’s ‘God’ on stage,so I don’t feel so bad about missing his show.  This somehow led to me eating waffles with scrambled eggs and salsa with Ben, Al, Shane, Rose, Chelsee and Suckerpunch, but that’s another mad, mad story.  And I need some breakfast, gang.  So I’ll see you all out on this, the final weekend of Victoria Fringe…don’t miss anything you’ll regret, yeah?  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor