14 years this year, the Youth Infringement Festival (begun back in the day, I’m told, by a wee Emily Pearlman, among others) marks a pre-Fringe opportunity for under-25 Theatre enthusiasts in O-Town to strut their stuff, writing and producing their own plays. Myself, this marks my third visit to the YI frontlines, and as I always have a good time, I expected no less this time around. Last year’s fest producer, the amazing Mado Boyes-Manseau, stepped down to make way for new Producer Chris Jaworski and his 2nd in command (and next year’s head honcho, by the cool rules of the festival) Christine Hecker, and they’ve assembled a pretty sweet lineup of shows for the latest incarnation.
I’ve hit up two days of the festival so far; solo last night, and tonight alongside former YI producer. terribly cool person and amazing dancer Laura Lee Bell. And I’ve now seen six of the seven shows in the run. I’ll be updating this post tomorrow with the final show, but didn’t want to wait any longer before getting some review-style love out there. I do dig me some student productions, and I was familiar enough with some of the names involved this year to be rarin’ to go…happily, they gave me lots to be excited about.
PLEASE SAVE THE QUEEN by Maggie Matian. The first show seen in the festival, and sweet baby Jesus is it ever hardcore…! Starring the terribly impressive Justine Parker as Eliza, a young girl in…well, I don’t even want to tell you what circumstances, but let’s just say you’ve got it WAY better than poor Eliza. Trapped in terrible circumstances beyond her control, her only friends a pair of raggedy puppets of her own devising, Eliza slowly spills her dire story and circumstance, even as she tries to connive a way to save the Queen, who she is convinced is trapped next door to her. Featuring some really crafty direction from Keir MacDonald, and all-too real makeup FX from Sam Kellerman, QUEEN is a show to be reckoned with…DEATH AND THE MAIDEN only WISHES it were this intense. I came out of it exhilarated, distraught, and hoping that somebody gives Maggie Matian a hug, stat. A great start to the festival…although I’ll admit, I was glad the next show up was a comedy.
THE BLIND DATE by Matt Hertendy. Two people are trying to meet up for a blind date, and their respective best friends are on hand to spy/help/hinder as circumstances dictate. One of the datees is recently blind, and that’s not even the BIG twist in this wacky comedy (did I just use the phrase ‘wacky comedy’? Man, no wonder nobody pays me for this shit…) starring Sam McCarthy, Cody Zulinski, Lisa Johnston, Jonathon ‘Bubba’ Vien, and my l’il GCTC pal Jacki Brabazon, yay! Jacki is amazing, obviously (seriously, some of her line deliveries positively KILLED), and Vien is on my short list now for scene-stealer of the year. While the script meandered a tad here and there, the broad comedy underlying the whole thing never let up, and most the gags were plenty smart, as well as funny, and director Lily Sutherland keeps things moving at a swift pace. And yes, they DO poke fun at a blind woman in this play…get over it. She gives as good as she gets.
HYDRANGEA by Kyle Cunningham. No, but…are you serious? Two one-woman shows? In Youth Infringement? I must be dreaming! But it’s true…it’s true, and it’s AWESOME. Kyle Cunningham, with his first of two plays in the festival, impresses with this story of a suburban housewife, waiting for her husband to return home. In the meantime, she tells us all about him, and herself, and something pretty amazing happens along the way. Director Chris Jaworski keeps things simple but very effective, and Cunningham’s script is seriously sharp. But Hannah Martin is my own revelation here…how the Hell has she not been on my radar before this? I caught this two nights in a row, and…and, just, WOW. She was pitch-perfect both nights…and when the moment comes where she has to crank it up to eleven? She fucking NAILS it. God-damned wonderful, and honestly one of the best female performances I’ve caught this year. Be proud, Miss Martin.
JUDGEMENT DAY by John Ryan. A morality play set in a sort of afterlife waiting room, as Richard Pratt (Nick Fournier), recently arrived, starts getting grilled by his ‘Placement Officer’, played by Hannah Evans. She seems particularly curious about one night in his life, but has to get through Richard’s distrust AND a constantly interrupting God to unearth the truth. It’s a fairly clever piece, with a particularly good few revelatory scenes from Fournier as he recalls the tragedy that led him to his current predicament. VERY nice work on display there. The whole ‘afterlife as bureaucracy’ bit felt a little been there, done that, and I wish Hannah Evans had gotten a little more to do. But it was still pretty damn cool.
THE RESTAURANT by Lucas Armstrong. A writer set in his ways is hassled by a disgruntled aspect of his own subconscious who can’t stand to see him go on in his current rut. Taking shape and calling himself Nick, the ‘aspect’ proceeds to show writer Ryan (Jeremy Piamonte) a series of romantic vignettes from his past to try and wake him up to the problem he faces. Nick, played as an almost godlike Trickster figure by Jeremy Jones (also the director, and good on him!) seems to taunt poor Ryan with humiliation after humiliation, including the time his true love (Mahalia Golnosh Tahririha) skips out on his younger self (Colin Giles) to make time with his best bud (Matt Sandell). A fun show about the baggage we saddle ourselves with, and some very funny work from the always solid Jones (and more great scene stealing, this time from Matt Sandell). The script got a bit repetitive at times, but it still had some smart things to say, via a neat and tweaked kind of funny.
LONG DIVISION by Kyle Cunningham. An absurdist two-hander starring Dillon Rogers and Kate Boone as a married couple making their way through an infinite loop of divorce-bickering, with frankly hysterical results. From director Mike Doiron (of Dead Unicorn Ink) , another smart and funny script from Kyle Cunningham takes us through the absurdity of relationships, distrust and when the Hell you should drop your bag. Boone and Rogers were both just great , easily vacillating between serious and silly at the drop of a hat. Occasionally brilliant, sometimes serious, always fun. Great show.
BEST LEFT UNSAID by Colin Giles…I’ll get to this one tomorrow, okay? I’m not lazy (okay, LAZIER than usual), the show just hasn’t even premiered yet. Tomorrow night, Promise!
…AAAaand, it’s tomorrow night! This is the ‘update’ part of the post, which I am sneakily inserting so that no one will ever notice it wasn’t there in the first place. You’ll let me know if I fuck it up, right? Now where was I..?
BEST LEFT UNSAID by Colin Giles. A funny, goofy script from Colin G gets pushed to the comedy breaking point by director Martin Glassford, in a show it may literally be impossible not to laugh at. Starring James Graziano as a Southern Gentleman of a Mayor having a late night with his two fav’rit assistants (Kyle Cunningham and David Coleman). As the Mint Juleps and Scotch flow, Mayor Rob brings in an unexpected guest…’Madam of the evening’ Daisy (a stunning Jen Capogreco, vamping it up with gusto), and all Hell proceeds to break loose, set to a Bruce Springsteen soundtrack. A brilliantly juvenile romp with scenery-chewing aplenty…Graziano as the randy mayor was comic gold, and when he claps his hands, all bets are off. Laugh out loud funny, and who could ask for more than that? Also features some timeless wisdom about tractors that I won’t forget for a LONG time.
I stuck around for one more repeat after that show, then ended up chatting with a few stellar folks before heading out…I’m actually still kicking myself for leaving while in the company of Ms.Capogreco AND Rebecca Laviolette…what the Hell was I THINKING?? Winston can feed himself ONCE in a while, can’t he..?
But it was a great night, and a great festival…it still runs for two more nights, and I strongly recommend you check out what you can, because these kids got some chops. And actually, before I go, I wanted to shout out to a few people I’ve neglected in this post…the Stage Managers. Cheers to Veronique Nolin, Rachel Worton, Robin Thomas, Ryan Acheson, Katherine Dermott, Andrea Connell and Matt Hertendy, for making it all run like clockwork. Props also to Tech wizard Fraser Mackinnon, and Ashley at the box office for getting me in 🙂 . You’re all the goods. See you next year, Youth Infringement (or maybe Saturday night, if I’m feeling lonely)! Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)