UNDERCURRENTS 2012 – Highway 5400: the Fort WeeTube Story

It’s late, and I’m fading fast as I sit down to pound out this, my final Undercurrents 2012 post.  I have my Jamesons and some tater chips to fuel me as I go, so here’s hoping I stay awake for the entire post.  If not, don’t worry, I’m fairly certain it won’t impair the quality in any way.

Anyhoo, tonite was my final night of UnderCurrenting for the year and, sad occasion tho that is, I’m happy to say I went out on a high note.  There was a good crowd around for the evening shows, including my acting coach Barry Karp, glamorous Kate Smith, the amazing Tania Levy, even FALLING OPEN’s Luna Allison herself!  Oh, and my de-lovely date for the evening, Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill.

Reunited! Sorry, universe, I win AGAIN.

Me and the other, much more beautiful people headed on in for the first show of the eve, Architect Theatre’s HIGHWAY 63: THE FORT MAC SHOW.   A show that, as far as I can tell, is part verbatim/part original (unless they were positive fucking WIZARDS at getting interviews), and centered around the oil/tar/whatever sands project going on in Alberta.  Interspersed with actual commentary from residents is an ongoing storyline about the relationship between Newfie labourer Chad (Brendan McMurtry-Howlett), Engineer Steve (Jonathan Seinen), and Sands tour guide Mary (Georgina Beaty).  The show addresses the conflict brewing between environmentalists and industry brewing over in them that sands, as well as the enormous impact the project is having on the local populace, for good or ill.

The Architect gang is tight as a hangman’s noose in their transitions and performances, and from the opening, high-octane moments the show is sheer joy to watch.  Their original storyline is scripted with so much natural ease that it took me a LONG time to figure out it wasn’t one of the verbatim parts (unless it was..?), and once again, the performances are extraordinary.  Brendan’s bombastic Chad is dynamite onstage, and a perfect counterpoint to Jon Seinen’s awkward Steve (he also excels as a hyperactive theatre student in a great verbatim moment).  And Georgina Beaty shines as Mary, and in a variety of other roles (her 70+ Grandmother, doing a slow shuffle down the steps as she told us the tale of her life, was just wonderful).  FORT MAC is a beautiful and brilliant show that I’m sorely tempted to come back and try to see again before it’s gone.

A brief break followed, and then it was back for what was actually a repeat performance for me, of the giddily insane WEETUBE 5400 from Theatre Replacement (aka Maiko Bae Yamamoto and James Long).  I caught it last night in volunteer mode, but figgered I’d wait til now to give it the full review. And why not?  Depending on the whim of the crowd, it’s a diff’rent show every time!

Here’s the angle: James and Maiko offer us a variety of spaced-out YouTube clips to watch, everything from a primer on how to massage your cat to the primal musical truths of ‘Big Booty Bitches‘.  Then, with the aid of Ipod technology, the talented pair perform aloud the first few minutes of the comment threads ensuing from each vid…and it turns out, the comment thread on YouTube is a bizarre fantasy-land in which the normal human rules of decorum and sanity do not apply, and in which the concept of a non-sequitur has yet to be invented.

The Replacements go out of their way to make this show as fun as humanly possible for the audience…patrons are encouraged to feel free to duck out and replenish their drinks at the bar, even as James and Maiko themselves ingest impressive quantities of booze themselves during the course of the show.  Cookies and popcorn are not uncommon, as they switch from one dramatic setting to another to try and humanize the utter batshit madness that flies out of people’s keyboards when commenting on, say a video of a baby Panda bear sneezing.  Somehow, even THAT manages to get nasty.  It’s a silly, goofy, LOL time at the theatre, and may even push the word ‘Theatre’ to it’s breaking point, but god damn, do they have a blast doing it.  I can’t pimp this show enough…and you’re fucking right I’d see it again.

What’d I tell ya?  High note.  UNDERCURRENTS, you’re two for two, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival.  Let’s make it longer next time, eh?  Maybe 8 shows.  Just a thought.  Just a thought.  Peace, love and soul, Underlings (my new name for Undercurrent attendees),

The Visitor (and Winston)


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