There’s still, like, more than four whole stoopid months until FRINGE, did you know that? Depressing, right? It just all seems so hopelessly far away…even that new Spider-Man trailer is no help. The Lizard isn’t even wearing his god-damned lab coat! That’s what makes him THE Lizard, instead of just A Lizard! Oh, woe! *sigh* Well, there’s nothing for it, I suppose. I’ll just run a nice warm bath, start sharpening that blade Grandma left me in her will, put on a little Smiths…
But wait! What’s this? A bright light in the midst of the winter blahs, in the form of Ottawa’s own February mini-Fringe, the UNDERCURRENTS festival at the GCTC! All is saved! Untie that noose, theatre fan, I think we’ve found ourselves a reason to carry on! (Note: this is a bit of hyperbole on my part…as I may have mentioned in another post, there are in fact one or two other shows on the go these days here in the Capital these days)
The festival, now entering it’s second year, launched a couple of days ago. All I managed on that occasion was to crash the post-show party…which was SO worth it because I got to fulfill a longstanding theatre fanboy dream when I actually MET Brigette dePape! SHE RULES WITH IRON STIX Brigette dePape!! Seriously , I was sitting a couch, TALKING with Brigette dePape AND Emily Pearlman, and I’m gonna get all overexcited if I keep talking about it, but OHMIGOD IT WAS SO COOL YOU GUYS!!!
Ahem. Back to the festival, and to tonite, when I finally got my chance to catch my first two of the six shows being spotlighted in this years lineup. Arrived early to have a bite to eat, catch up on some comix, and chat a spell with the purtiest box office staffers in the whole wide world (yes, I’m sucking up to my volunteer bosses, and proudly). Then it was upstairs to the studio for my first show of the night Carmen Aguirre’s BLUE BOX. I wasn’t too familiar with Carmen myself, but apparently she won some kind of reading award recently? That sounded kinda cool, so I headed on in, and was greeted by my kinda set…a stool. Cool, so no frills on this production, ya know I can get into that. Although even I was taken aback when Carmen finally took the stage…no waiting for blackout, she just strode wright on up, ignoring said stool and standing intimidatingly close to the audience. Seriously, she was practically sitting in the front row (where I happened to be, comPLETEly out of character for me)..and that actually set a lot of the tone for her show. From her first words, telling us the true, secret name of the show, Carmen laid every aspect of her story bare before us, for the audience to either accept and embrace, or simply get the fuck out of the way, because this is NOT a woman to be ignored.
Her story was actually several, from her past as a revolutionary in Chile, to a more recent encounter with her literal dream man, often splicing between one timeline and the other with little warning. You had to think fast to keep up, but Carmen’s melodic, poetic wordplay made it a treat to do just that. Director Brian Quirt kept the theatrics to a minimum, and with a secret weapon like Carmen Aguirre on stage, you really don’t need many tricks. And yes, folks, there’s even some salsa dancing in this sexy, smart show about life, love, loss, and the difficulty of getting laid in Canada, so wear your dancing shoes. Only two more times to catch this raw performance at the festival!
A quick break followed, did some star-spotting in the lobby (Koensgen, Rainville, Duckworth…some powerhouses in the audience tonight!), and then it was right back inside for part two of the Undercurrent evening, this one directed by Festival organizer and Fringe ninja Pat Gauthier himself. The latest from MiCasa theatre, big local fav’rits around town, I can tell ya, LIVE FROM THE BELLY OF A WHALE ran during the last Fringe as a ‘workshop show’, which is theatre-speak for ‘we aren’t quite done yet’. It didn’t matter, because Emily Pearlman and Nick DiGaetano, the Dynamic Duo of MiCasa, would be enthralling even if you were just watching them enjoy a spirited evening of Parcheesi. But Parcheesi just doesn’t cut it for Nick and Emily, so they went back to the drawing board and came up with this, the final incarnation of WHALE, and a whale of a tale it is (…sorry about that).
Joined onstage by musical accompanist Ann Walton, the play tells the story of a Brother and Sister (plus a mystical third ‘sibling’), staged around a creaking, multipurpose armoire that is so beautifully magickal it almost deserves a listing in the credits (I’ll settle for it’s designer, joltin’ John Doucet). Starting in their early years, bonding through games of Taxonomy and pirates, until the Brother falls under the spell of the Moon, while Sister prefers to remain earthbound, naming the species of whale and telling tall tales. Told with song, dance, mime, imaginative lighting from Guillaume Houet, and whatever other tricks the gang could pull out of their tickle-trunk of a set, it was a warm, outlandish mythic story as told by brilliant children. Emily, I gotta say, was positively radiant on stage, and Nick stalked, howled and jumped in perfect clowning form. My only quibble was sonic, as Walton’s accompaniment was occasionally so loud as to drown out song lyrics or other goings on…an easily correctable trouble. Grand theatre magic, and a perfect counterpoint to the stripped-down realism of BLUE BOX.
A great start to my 2012 Undercurrenting, I conclude. And I’ll be back in two days time for more (and maybe I’ll have time to see something else in between). Peace, love and soul, Undercurrenters,
The Visitor (and Winston)