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Fringe-Coma 2012 – Postscript

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Another year, another Fringe…over?  Say it ain’t so!  But alas, the final set has been struck, the courtyard is just a yard again, and those pins on your shirt just make you look silly now.  But hang on…Fringe isn’t over ’til I SAY it’s over!  And as long as I’ve still got one more post to mine out of the 2012 festival, the show goes on.  So come on along and let’s look back at the tale of the 16th Ottawa Fringe Festival:

RANDOM THOUGHTS:  Loved the courtyard food from BOHEMIAN KITCHEN this year.  Nice variety, very affordable, and always served with a smile.  I hope this gang will be back in the future.  What I hope will NOT be back…?  Arts Court Library.  Not now that Tess Mc Manus (and she deserves a medal for this) introduced the easily superior Courthouse, right next door, as a venue this year.  Okay, there’s fewer seats, but you can actually SEE from all of them!  Let’s say goodbye to the worst sightlines in the fest (not to mention noise pollution from the courtyard), okay?  I see no down side here.  Although on the subject of venues, I hope we’ll be able to reacquire a fifth ‘main’ venue for next year…52 shows was great, but I could stand a little more, know what I’m saying?  Be it SAW Gallery, Alumni Auditorium, or maybe make one of the regular BYOV’s like Cafe Alt an official venue.  Five is a nice round number.  All I’m saying.

On another note, it was pretty grand seeing so many familiar faces from my road trip to the Victoria Fringe Festival last year, visiting our wee capital.  Chris Bange (from HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE) brought us THE FAT GUY SHOW, Howard Petrick was here with the great BREAKING RANK! (formerly titled RAMBO: THE MISSING YEARS), Katherine Glover of BURNING BROTHELS was here with DEAD WRONG, Melanie Gall had her latest MORE POWER TO YOUR KNITTING, NELL! and Ingrid Hansen took her LITTLE ORANGE MAN on the road.  It was great seeing them all again, and made me feel all cosmopolitan and shit.

THANKS!!!  Before I get going with the post proper, I want to thank a few folks who, well, I desperately need to drown with praise and gratitude.  I’ll start off with a HUGE shoutout to the Team Supreme, my flock of Angels at TEAM VISITORIUM – Fiona Currie, Amanda Klaman, Danielle Savoie, Grace Gordon, Kiersten Hanly and Nadine Thornhill.  Together, we got each and every show at the Fringe reviewed on this site with three days to spare…honestly, I wasn’t sure we were gonna make it, but the gals brought some serious reviewing game with them, and made the Visitorium look pretty damn good in the process.  I owe you all, ladies (Still working out the logistics of a dinner party, gals, stay tuned!)

Speaking of the blog, thank you to all the folks who stayed tuned in to see what we were up to.  Traffic on the blog easily hit an all time high during the festival, averaging more than 500 hits a DAY. I also have to say a big thanks to my boy
Jason Vaughan, who designed and printed up my super-sweet bizness cards that I occasionally littered the courtyard with.  More people making me look good!  I kinda love it.

And a special shoutout to volunteer, superfan and photog Jan, who gave me multiple rides home during the festival and saving me plenty of cab cash.  While I’m at it, thanks to the millionth power to ALL of the volunteers and staff who made things run smooth.  All love to Natalie Joy Quesnel, our beloved Fringe overlord…she works HARD to make Fringe this good.  Worship her accordingly.

You are not worthy!

MISSING IN ACTION:  Even with my final total of 45 show viewings, I still missed some shows…9, to be precise, and I apologize to all of ya.  I’m especially sad I missed Troupe de la Lune’s version of Lawrence Aronovitch’s EX CATHEDRA, and I heard cool things about TRASHMAN’S DILEMMA, too. And aside from not managing even one trip to the regular LATE NIGHT CABARET (shameful, I know), I even missed out on the SUPER-SECRET CABARET this year!  Gakk!  I’m still living that one down.  And of course, there were some Fringe superstars who you always hope will hit up your little town, but didn’t make it in this year…Jem Rolls, Jonno Katz, Amy Salloway, Jayson MacDonald…another time, sigh.  But the one thing I really missed at this year’s Fringe..?   Miss Nancy Kenny, now lost to the wilds of Toronto…this is my first Ottawa Fringe without her being around!  More on her later, tho (foreshadowing!).

But now, it’s time to get to what we came to get to…Fav’rits!

Jeff Leard in GAMETES AND GONADS

FAV’RIT SOLO PERFORMERS:  A tough call, because there were SO many, and so many were AWESOME.  Wee Tess Mc Manus was endearingly Irish in the wonderful DONKEY DERBY, and John Grady wove a beautiful spell with his storytelling in FEAR FACTOR: CANINE EDITION.  On the high-octane end of the spectrum, Martin Dockery’s hilarious and demonstrative WANDERLUST  kept me rivetted, and Jeff Leard gave one of the best physical comedy performances I’ve ever seen in GAMETES AND GONADS (*note: this show wins the award for most-commonly mispronounced title.  It’s ‘Gam-Eats’, folks, not ‘Gameeties’, or ‘Gamitties’.  Runner up: Wolves>Boys, aka ‘Wolves are Greater than Boys’, which I most commonly heard referred to as ‘Wolves versus Boys’, or ‘the Wolf-Boy Show’)

Katherine Glover was pitch-perfect in the unflinching drama DEAD WRONG, and Sean Sonier was just flat-out impressive as the ape Red Peter in A REPORT TO AN ACADEMY.  Mark Shyzer knocked multiple roles out of the park in FISHBOWL, and Kathi Langston was incredible in MABEL’S LAST PERFORMANCE.  And what to say about Dylan George in LOVEBUG LOUIE, Ken Godmere in VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE, Ingrid Hansen in LITTLE ORANGE MAN…Sorry, I’m going on and on a bit here, but SO MANY GOOD SOLO PERFORMANCES!!  It makes me a happy Visitor.  Final shoutout to Jonah Allingham for his dynamite piece IN WAVES…ya done good, lad.

Caithream Dance’s A MACSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

FAV’RIT ENSEMBLES:   Big kudos to the two major dance ensembles, Caithream Celtic Dance Fusion for the delightful A MACSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM, and Pollux Dance for the sexy and fun HETEROLLECTUAL.  The comedy trio that is Lady Business rocked it with I’M NOT CRYING IN THE BATHROOM, I’M CRYING IN THE SUPPLY CLOSET, and the Glassiano mob gave their all in the mad comedy FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL.  Cory and Tony of May Can Theatre were solid in WOLVES>BOYS, and Bear & Co. made a seriously fun debut with the incestuous classic ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE.  Much love also to the cast of the charming, sleeper hit 100 FIRST KISSES, and Mado Manseau and Sean Sonier in THE OPEN COUPLE.

 

FAV’RIT SHOWS: Holy shit, are we here already?  I’ve been kinda dreading this bit, as it’s gonna be really hard to choose and sort.  A lot of quality shows that measure up really well one against the other this year.  Take the ordering/numbering of this list with a grain of salt, folks, it’s all good stuff.  And just to get it out of the way, here’s a show that I’m taking out of the official running, only because I already named it my fav’rit show of the Victoria Fringe LAST year, and it seems weird to put the exact same show in again…but otherwise, it totally would have been right at the top again:

Ingrid Hansen in LITTLE ORANGE MAN

LITTLE ORANGE MAN from Snafu Dance Theatre.  Ingrid Hansen’s Kitt is an impossible character to forget, and the quaint theatre space in the basement of St.Paul’s is just as perfect a venue for her manic, brilliant tale as I imagined it would be.  The classic hero’s quest told through the eyes of a hyperactive child seeking to contact a loved one via dreams, Little Orange Man is theatre that will resonate, affect, and change you forever.  Endlessly inventive, perfectly endearing, magical as all get out.  Pure joy.

RUNNERS-UP :

WHITE NOISE from Twisted by Design Theatre.  From out of nowhere, this expressive and powerful meditation on the controversial suicide of Nadia Kajouji rocked everyone who saw it, and rightfully so.

THE OPEN COUPLE from Theatre Sasa.  Mado Manseau in one of the best performances of the Fringe, and amazing direction from Jodi Sprung-Boyd made for one helluva show, based on the script Dario Fo never wanted you to see.

A MACSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM by Caithream Celtic Dance Fusion.  Tremendous fun from a talented team of dancers, this all-girl celtic retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was entertaining as Hell, and I’m glad I was there to see it.

100 FIRST KISSES from Slattery Theatre.  Mark MacDonald’s ode to first love was sugary sweet Fringe fun, simple and perfectly staged, and pretty impossible to dislike.  Would have liked to see this one again.

LOVEBUG LOUIE IN A BLESSING FROM THE CURSED by Theatre Sasa.  Dylan George and Jodi Sprung-Boyd created maybe the most memorable of all Fringe characters with the height-challenged Louie, not to mention a set that boggled the mind.

SPACE MYSTERY…FROM OUTERSPACE! From Dead Unicorn Ink.  Stepping up their game from last year’s PLAYING DEAD, DUI rocked the joint with their rollicking film noir/50’s sci-fi mashup.

DEAD WRONG from Katherine Glover.  Tough subject matter, stark staging, one great performance and exactly zero easy ways out made this one of the must-see shows at this year’s Fringe.  The fact that so few did is, quite frankly, a mystery.

WOLVES>BOYS from May Can Theatre.  Another company on the rise, Tony and Cory improved on their fan favourite SOUNDS FROM THE TURTLE SHELL last year with this nifty , layered story about two friends (or are they a wolf pack?) in a graveyard.  PEI is gonna LOVE this shit.

– TOP THREE!

DONKEY DERBY by Tess Mc Manus.  I’m a sucker for a one-woman show, and Tess’ sweet and smart tale of a painfully fearful Irish girl had me from the opening Feck and Shite.  Charming, honest, and with a memorable performer at its heart, this is a beauty of a debut rooted in personal history and culture.

HETEROLLECTUAL: LOVE AND OTHER DUMB IDEAS by Pollux Dance.  An insanely entertaining dance ensemble piece from the wickedly talented Pollux gang, taking us from first flutter to aching breakup with increasingly amazing moves and choreography.  This is the dance show to make you a fan of dance shows. And finally…

VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE by Emanate Productions.  With one magic word, Ken Godmere makes Fringe history with this brilliantly simple story of a doting Grandfather trying to buy the perfect present for his granddaughter, and the incredible trials he goes through to do it.  Set to a painfully orchestrated soundtrack, which I’m immensely proud to be a part of (bias alert), and featuring the kind of to-the-second timing Nasa only WISHES it had, VERNUS is absolute theatrical magic, bringing the best of mime and storytelling to the stage.  He’s touring the country with this show…listen for the sounds of jaws dropping province by province as he goes along.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Okay, now that the preliminaries are out of the way…time to get on to the REAL stuff.  Which means *shudder*…

– FRINGE CRUSHES 2012!!

Keeping in line with the solidly established Thornhill rules of Fringe-Crushing, here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1st mate Patty Stream in SPACE MYSTERY…FROM OUTERSPACE!  Sure, Marissa Caldwell was the femme fatale, but it was Sylvie Recoskie’s P.Stream who kept things running smoothly, with a smile on her face…and quite frankly that’s my kinda gal.

Kathi Langston in MABEL’S LAST PERFORMANCE.  What, a performance like that ISN’T going to get my attention?

Jess Preece. I’ve known Jess for a while now, but she’s never served me beer before.  And by golly, I like that in a woman.

The girls of FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL. Because there ain’t no girl like a Glassiano girl.  Jen, Rebecca, Rana, Sophia,  and Jacki?  You’re the goods. And don’t take any shit from Martin or James, okay?

Pollux Dance.  At first I was just going to hold myself to the girls, but who am I kidding?  Theyr’e ALL hot as fuck, and they know it. Though I DO lean towards Ana, who danced with me one on one at the closing night party. Hope to see this gang again, and soon.

– FAV’RIT MOMENTS:  You don’t Fuck with Titus.  I’m afraid of the boys!  It’ll get you used to the dirt.  Paddy McCullagh bought me a beer. The Yoga sketch.  Put your clothes on, boys!  Ingrid used my quotes, squee!  Incest makeout.  Can we see the dessert menu?  The bear is fucking MOVING.  Dancing to the bagpipes.  Little Lady kissed her toe at me!  Good cunting, Captain.  Hi, George. 1..2..3..1…2…    Odin!  Science, and lasers.  Rideau and Sussex.  He’s Ash.  You are a good donkey.  I was Cat’s Crush.  I think you’ve done enough.  Hamish…sit.  Surprise!

And NOW it’s over…Fringe 2012.  Although I suppose, if you REALLY want more, you could always go to the Sam Mullins/Peter’n’Chris double bill at Academic Hall tomorrow night (TINFOIL DINOSAUR and MYSTERY OF THE HUNGRY HEART MOTEL for a measly 20 bucks).  And if THAT isn’t enough, I SUPPOSE you could go check out Nancy Kenny as she remounts ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL for one night only on Monday the 2nd of July at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama.  Also, she’s totally taking that show on tour next year..?  And if you’re not a jerk, you can help her out with that via her amazing new website at NancyKenny.ca.  Donate, and maybe God will forgive you for that thing you did last year.  Maybe.

That’s it for me tonite…thanks again to my Team Visitorium 2012, you did SUCH a good job I can’t tell ya.  I’ll be back next Fringe…and, well, a lot sooner than that when the next shows start playing around town.  Sometime later this week, really.  Now I’m off, to finally watch those FRINGE MINUTES I’ve been ignoring for weeks, and find out who Octavious Fringe really is.  Until next Fringe, Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Fringe-Coma 2012 – Day ELEVEN

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Yes, the dreaded day 11 post.  You know what that means…The Ottawa Fringe Festival is OVER, folks, and life is horrible once again.  Obviously, show reviews in this festival are kind of a moot point by now, and this post is mostly for completion’s sake, not to mention it helps stave off the Fringeless ennui for a few more hours.  But I DID manage to catch 5 more performances on the final day, and hey, a few of those shows are even touring!  So, what the heck, even though my amazing Team Visitorium has already covered all of these shows in greater detail, here are my brief thoughts on my final 5:

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KUWAITI MOONSHINE by Tim C.Murphy (Better to Burn Out)

I was already a little beat from late Fringing and a busy workshift, so I probably should not have ordered a beer AND sat in the comfy chair at the Mercury Lounge.  Glad Tim Murphy was able to keep me awake with a fun, energetic show about Andy, a Canadian expat living as  teacher/rumrunner in Kuwait.  A few other characters, all voiced by Murphy, take part in this interesting, philosophical comedy-drama unfolds.  Thought-provoking stuff from a likeable lead.

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LITTLE LADY by Sandrine Lafond

One of the most anticipated shows at this years Fringe, and it was almost all due to this short preview piece:

Sandrine Lafond indeed impresses with her incredible physical performance.  Comically expressive and contortionistic, she moves her strange but lovable character through a series of transformations, changing shape as easily as you or I change our socks.  The narrative is a bit open to interpretation, a kind-of interpretative commentary on body image if I had to make a guess, but it matters little.  Lafond’s epic skill with the fine-tuned instrument that is her own body is the key here, and it’s a joy to watch her at work.  This year’s MISS HICCUP.

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LEFTOVERS by Ryan Reed Mills (20 Nothing Productions)

A bit of an apology on behalf of the audience to the LEFTOVERS gang from the day I saw it…an older couple walked out in the first few minutes of the performance.  I overheard them whispering, guys, and it was nothing personal, but as soon as the zombie showed up, they realized that they were indeed NOT at ‘The Open Couple’ after all.

Myself, I had a decent enough time at this slacker update on DAWN OF THE DEAD.  A fairly harmless bit of goofy fun, with a nice performance from the dude playing the zombie, trying to say one last goodbye to his girlfriend before he goes full-on undead.

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MERCUTIO AND OPHELIA by Nicholas Amott (Fireflood Theatre)

I almost didn’t get into this one, as the final show in the Royal Oak Laurier was packed to the gills.  I squeezed in, and was very glad I did.  A smart indeed bit of Shakespearean fanfiction, with ROMEO & JULIET‘s Mercutio having a chance meeting with HAMLET‘s Ophelia at a bar outside Verona.  Brennan Richardson plays Mercutio as Han Solo, and it works a treat, and Daniella Granzotto is both stunning and strong as the most tragic of the tragic heroines.  Excellent wordplay, performances and staging made for a very solid show, and writer-director Amott has much to be proud of.

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VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE! by Ken Godmere (Emanate Productions)

How better to end my 2012 Fringe Festival show run, than with one magic word?  This was my second time catching Ken’s incredible 1-man show, that I expect will go down as one of the all time great Ottawa Fringe shows.  Simple brilliance, an utterly charming performance, enough heart for 3 shows…and manoman, that guy who played bus driver #1 on the audio track…?  Fucking NAILED it.  As an extra bonus, director Tania Levy made it into town, to finally catch a performance of the show she directed.  Sweet.

There’s more to the night, MUCH more.  But I’m getting a little drowsy now, so I’ll save the tale of the after party for my giant-size Fringe 2012 Epilogue post, coming soon!  I’m dragging this out as long as I can, folks, and I’m not ashamed for a second.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Fringe-Coma 2012 – Days NINE and TEN

In Company of Fools, Theatre on June 24, 2012 at 1:28 am

You bet your Momma’s shell collection I took me a night off from blogging!  On purpose, even!  And totally not because I got home silly drunk at nearly 2 am, and had to work at 8.  Though I won’t lie, that WAS A factor.

No, I mostly let myself slide on writing last night because, as of yesterday afternoon, me and the beautiful flock of Angels that is TEAM VISITORIUM had successfully reviewed each and every show in the Festival!  Not quite as fast as Fully Fringed, sure, but who wants to finish fast?  The Visitorium has STAMINA, folks.  You know, except for last night when I just came home and passed out drunk.  Shut up.  So what the Heck have I been up to for two whole days, while you poor folks just had to sit and wonder, with worry in your hearts?  Well, I thought I’d take a wild stab at Fringing.  All these shows have, as stated , already been covered by the lovely Team V, but here’s my own quickie take on the shows from the last couple:

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CRUX by Kathleen Frost (Hightide Theatre)

Starting with the indeed memorable local song RIDEAU AND SUSSEX, Crux the very-Canadian musical quickly falls onto our perky lead Grace, as she’s ushered into a mysterious secret society thru th eRideau Underpass.  Or, it’s all in the subconscious of this dude she dated once.  Or it’s on the island from LOST, or…really, I don’t think anyone has managed to figure out just what happened in this show.  But whatever it was, it had fun, well choreographed tunes, interesting characters and performances, and plenty of kissing.  And if you figure out what it was all about, call me.

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DIRK DARROW: NCSSI by Tim Motley

The third of the illusionist trio in Studio Leonard-Beaulne this year (along with Chris Bange of THE FAT GUY SHOW and Paddy McCullagh of R U SMARTER THAN AN IRISHMAN), Motley’s film-noir spoof Darrow works with the audience to solve a particularly crafty whodunnit.  Lots of intriguing gags (some I’ve never seen before, with a colourful premise and a very engaging lead who’s as quick with a joke or an ad-lib as he is with a bit of sleight of hand.

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WOLVES>BOYS by Tony Adams and Cory Thibert (May Can Theatre)

SO happy to finally see May Can’s new show, and it was worth the wait.  Pulling from their established bag of tricks (boyish charm, easy humour, high energy, and vivid imaginations) and adding in several new-to-them innovations, Cory and Tony have stepped up their game with this show.  Friends Isaac and Lawrence are meeting in a graveyard…or is war brewing between the Alpha and Beta of a pack of Ghost Wolves?  Great interplay between the leads, dialogue that shifts nicely between poignant and hysterical, and some really, really fun flashback scenes. I can’t wait  to see what the lads come up with next.

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DONKEY DERBY by Tess Mc Manus (little Green Hat)

Okay, I treated myself to a repeat of Tess’ delightful show…what can I say, I find one-woman Fringe shows with DERBY in the title a little irresistible.  What, YOU don’t have a fetish?  The tale was just as engaging and charming the second time around, and this time I got to be the donkey.
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WHAT HAPPENS NOW by Andrew Chapman (1.21 Productions)

Seriously, why has there not been more buzz about this show?  Andrew Chapman’s one-man stand-up comedy hour was laugh-out-loud funny from the get-go.  Even with a relatively small audience, Chapman kept the energy and pace of the piece up, riffing on life in both Ottawa and Toronto, shitty apartments and the truth about ‘lost’ cats.  A really funny and smart comedian who deserves better houses than he’s got.  Pack his last show Sunday at 730, folks.

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I’M NOT CRYING IN THE BATHROOM, I’M CRYING IN THE SUPPLY CLOSET by Lady Business

A whip-smart, fast-paced, all-lady sketch comedy show (with more than a few songs thrown in for why the Hell not?), starring three talented comic actors.  A very few of the bits fall flat, but most of them are funny to hilarious.  Everyone will have their fav’rits…I think mine is the period piece with the women waiting for their husbands to return from the sea.  Which doesn’t SOUND like ripe material for comedy, but LadyBusiness knows some tricks, folks.  Funny shit, funny gals.

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LITTLE ORANGE MAN by Ingrid Hansen and Kathleen Greenfield (Snafu Dance Theatre)

You’re God Damn right I was catching LOM again on it’s Ottawa tour, after hitting it up twice last year in Victioria.  And it was just as magical, and even funnier, than I remembered.  It worked SO beautifully in the theatre space down below at St.Paul’s, packed to the rafters on Ingrid’s closing night.  The audience receptivity was amped up to 1000%, and Ingrid played with us like one of her puppets.  I had missed Kitt SO MUCH!  And tonight, I got to be one of the Kinders (Fern, obviously the best one).  Icing on the Fringe cake, folks.  As good as it gets.

That was my last show today, and I tried to be good, tearing myself away from the Courtyard in time to get home write this, and still get SOME sleep.  Last shows tomorrow, some poster-stealing for the collection (sorry!  although if you’re reading this, and have a copy of your show poster, bring it by the the tent and I’ll HAPPILY take it off your hands!)  then what will hopefully be an epic afterparty.  Team V, I hope I see all of you there!  I owe you all so much, you’re the bestest.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Fringe-Coma 2012 – Day EIGHT

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 22, 2012 at 2:20 am

— WANDERLUST — MABEL’S LAST PERFORMANCE — ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE —

A short night tonight at the Fringe…at least, by the numbers.  Only three shows, but one of them WAS nearly two hours, so I hope that cuts me some slack.  And only two of them are mine to review!  That feels so weird..in fact, after tonight (fingers crossed), the Visitorium will have covered every single beautiful show at the 2012 Ottawa Fringe!  And then…well, shit, what the fuck do I blog about for the rest of the week?  I’ll think of something.  It was another hot one today, but me and Winston seem to have manage just fine..and it’s cooling down plenty at the wee hour that I’m writing this.  Rain tomorrow?  We’d be due…it ain’t a Fringe ’til something gets soaked.

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WANDERLUST by Martin Dockery

Lovely Fiona Currie has already covered this one, but having caught it myself today, I have to chime in and offer a quick two cents on storyteller Martin Dockery’s great one-manner.  As hi-energy a performer as they come, Dockery relates the story of his five-month journey through Africa in the midst of a fit of thirtysomething ennui.  The stories are hilarious, scary and human, and Dockery’s style is totally engaging.  He might actually be TOO high octane for some people, but I loved every moment of his tales.  If you’re not sold by the time he drops the beat, you’ll NEVER be sold.

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MABEL’S LAST PERFORMANCE by Megan Piercey Monafu (Abalone)

One of two shows nestling in the stage at St.Pauls Eastern United (along with LITTLE ORANGE MAN), Megan Monafu’s MLP shows us the story of aging former actress Mabel, stuck in a nursing home as her mind slowly fails her due to Alzheimers.  She dreams of an elaborate escape plan, rehearses past stage triumphs (Chekhov’s SEAGULL is a particular fav’rit of hers), and longs for a lover from the past.  Then, she forgets and does it all over again.

Played by Kathi Langston in a must-see performance, Mabel is easily one of the finest, and most crisply rendered Fringe characters I’ve ever met.  Langston presents the treacherous territory of Alzheimers disease with incredible skill and grace, shifting Mabel from canny senior to doting youngster, to impish child without so much as missing a beat.  The interactions with an imperious, never-seen supervising nurse are handled very neatly, and live musical accompaniment by Ian Tamblyn lends a gorgeous audio element to the show.  Mabel’s fading faculties are never pitied, merely presented honestly, as the aging actress finds herself shifting from role to role, with less and less control or memory.  A very smart and beautiful show, and very recommended.

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‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE by John Ford (Bear and Company)

So I finally got out to the epic, two-hour outdoor show!  I almost got the impression the dark storm clouds and distant flashes of lightning that gathered before showtime were directed right at me, a wagging finger from the heavens about my poor timing.  But the skies ended up smiling on us tonight, no rain came, and it was time to watchdirector Eleanor Crowder and Bear & Co. strut their stuff at the Bronfman Ampthitheatre (my first time seeing a show there, can you believe it?

Starring a mighty cast indeed (with no less than two Team Visitorium members on board…hearty shoutout to Danielle Savoie and Grace Gordon!!), Ford’s lusty epic of incest and murder (yay!) centers on brother Giovanni (Victor Pokinko) and sister Annabella (Anna Lewis).  Despite the best advice of their put-upon Friar (Leslie Cserepy), the two are madly in lust with one another. Meanwhile, Anna is being pursued by several disparate gents (Nick Amott, Simon Keeble and Will Somers), her Father (Brie Barker) is trying to arrange a solid marriage via the scheming signora Donada (Caroline Bowden), and…oh, God, I’m getting confused even TRYING to recap this thing.  There’s lot going on, dig?

Just focus on the incest, and you’ll be all right.

In spite of the heavy-sounding subject matter, Crowder and company mine Ford’s script for every ounce of laughs they can get, which turns out to be a helluva lot.  All of the performances are solid, but a few standouts for me were smooth Tim Oberholzer as sly spaniard Vasques, Bowden as the imperious Donada, , and Will Somers and Nick Surges as comic duo Bergetto and Poggio (Somers does double duty later as a religious figure who must be seen to be believed…a Fringe comedy highlight).  And my old coach Brie Barker gives it good as doting, but clueless daddy Florio.  There were practically endless clever touches or moments I could rave about…Grace Gordon’s cymbals, Nick Amott’s bumbling swordsman, the chorus of grumbling thugs near the end…but it all comes down to the doomed couple, and Lewis and Pokinko turn in great work each, holding the center as the wicked talented cast fleshes out the world around them.  Rain or shine, WHORE is a good time.  I advise arriving early, and preparing a dirty joke in advance (don’t ask).

That’s it for me…look for more very soon from TEAM VISITORIUM.  The finish line is in sight!  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Team Visitorium 2012 – Nadine’s Reviews!

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 21, 2012 at 11:30 am

Nadine is a sexual health educator, a playwright, poet, burlesque performer, partner and parent living in Ottawa, Ontario. She enjoys candy, fashion and dreck television. She does not care for pants

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WHAT’S HOT AT OTTAWA FRINGE (cross-posted on Nadine’s own excellent blog, ADORKABLE UNDIES!)
I’ll tell you what’s hot – the weather!
*Snare drum*
My sympathies to those of you who are sweltering in this heat wave. Personally, I live for weather like this! I’m toasty warm and having the time of my life at Fringe.
I always had it in my mind that I would do a blog review or two during the festival. Once I start Fringing it’s hard for me focus on anything else so I figured if I wrote about “sexy” shows, thus combining my mandate as a sex blogger with annual Fringe obsession.
Prior to the festival, I’d pegged one or two shows that seemed to fit the bill. But now that I’m the thick of it, it seems this whole dang festival’s gone straight up sexy.  Even sweet, lovely Vernus has got some fire in the old loins! Here’s a little taste of what’s hot at this year’s Ottawa Fringe.
– 2020
In an earlier post, I confessed that I had a big, fat bias because of my big, fat love for playwright J.P. Chartier.
I LOVE YOU J.P!
2020 is set in eponymous year 2020. Doctor assisted suicide is legal and pair of brilliant scientists have developed a method of extracting a lifetime’s worth of  memories, thoughts and secrets from a patient seconds before they die.
As a person, J.P. is the living embodiment of optimism and joy. His script on the other hand, has a dark undertone. I’m always impressed with people who can tap into other parts of their psyche through their art.
Also? Dude can write some monologues! I can’t have a character speak more than four consecutive sentences before the whole thing falls apart. That’s why my playwriting is all banter all time time. But 2020 has some pretty rad speechifying. I was super impressed.
2020 also has some very intriguing ideas about marriage, infidelity, secrecy, death and the ethics around what is very literally intellectual property. It’s ambitious – perhaps a bit overly ambitious for a script confined to 60 minutes time slot. I hope J.P. continues working on the show. In a non-Fringe forum, he could expand the script and give his concept the room it needs to grow.
But solid performances, some neat AV effects, hot make-out scenes and some good old fashioned nudity make 2020 a worthwhile Fringe endeavour!  Catch the final performance at The Arts Court Theatre this Saturday at 10 p.m!
– Dead Wrong
Oddly enough, I wish this particular piece of theatre had been less…well…theatrical. But that’s only because Katherine Glover excels at both writing and storytelling. Seriously, girlfriend is riveting. The lighting cues, costume changes were all (minor) distractions from the only thing I wanted – to listen to Katherine’s fictional interpretation of gripping and tragic real life stories.
Dead Wrong is the story of Megan Shephard, a woman who survives a brutal physical and sexual assault. After a harrowing trial which results in her rapist’s conviction, Megan is still left with the harrowing task of rebuilding her life. But just as Megan begins to find peace, new information surfaces, indicating she may have accused the wrong person.
There’s nothing erotic or pleasant about this one. It’s a deft script that manages to explore a survivor’s trauma, the psychology of memory, racism and the failings of the legal system. It’s thought-provoking, moving…and pretty disturbing. While my issues with the production elements are minor quibbles, my one major criticism is that there is no trigger warning in the Fringe program or the one I was given at the show. I was given the heads up through word of mouth and Twitter but I think a formal warning in print would be most appreciated.
Dead Wrong has one more performance this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in Academic Hall. It’s definitely worth seeing. Consider your emotional safety if you do.
– Heterollectual
DANCE SHOW!
I LOVE dance!  There are people in this world who can twist and twirl and leap and lunge and not fall ass-over-tea kettle and that is AMAZING to me!  I wish I were a dancer. I probably could have been a dancer if not for that thing where I’m an un-coordinated lunatic.
When I saw the video preview of Heterollectual and realized it was a DANCE SHOW, it went straight to the top of my must-see-list. Dance makes it good. I could even get on board with the Twilight series if it had a dance number!
Heterollectual is a bit like this blog. It’s about sex, love and relationships…but better because it’s a DANCE SHOW! Admittedly, the first ten minutes or so were a little unsettling for me. The movement was more subtle and subdued. Not at all the boogie-fest I was expecting But then…
They fully went for it! The six performers from Pollux Dance went balls to the wall for 45 solid minutes of DANCE SHOW epicness! These people are brilliant and gorgeous and HOLY CRAP, ALL THE WORDS FOR GOOD!
The dance is punctuated by recordings of people musing about their experiences with love, sex and heartbreak. There are funny bits, weird parts and heart tugging moments. Also, mannequins. Towards the end of the show, the dancers themselves have a few lines of dialogue. Some people have told me they found the sudden change in protocol jarring or baffling. I personally didn’t care. These people can do whatever they want because ZOMG, DANCE SHOW!!!
A quick aside  for choreographer, Leslie-Ann Glen. It was a pleasure meeting you in the Courtyard yesterday. I wanted to speak with you but you made a DANCE SHOW  and are therefore eleventy times cooler than me. I let my intimidation get the better of me.
Heterollectual a.k.a DANCE SHOW has one more performance this Sunday at 5:30 in Arts Court Theatre.  Now on to the next review. I need to wrap this up so I can watch the latest episode of So You Think You Can Dance.
– Little Lady
I have to admit clown/physical theatre isn’t my favourite medium. I’ve got a bit of a lazy brain that tends to prefer straight up narrative to interpretive storytelling. So while I didn’t love Little Lady, that isn’t due to any flaw in the show  – just my own personal preferences.
Sandrine Lafond has a body that won’t quit. And I’m not talking about her appearance (although she is cute as all get out). I’m taking about her exceptional physical control. She spends most of the 45 minute performance with in grotesque but impressive contortions. That in and of itself made Little Lady worth my time.
The story (I think) is about a Little Lady who growth into a full grown woman is affect not only by the biological changes in her body but by the influences of external imagery, social expectations and pressure. The results are sometimes painful and at other times delightful. Like I said, I *think* that was the story. The play itself is highly abstract, so I had to go away and think about it for a day before I settled on an interpretation.
Hmm…a show that made me think. That’s probably not a bad thing, is it?
Fringe veteran Brian Carroll asked me if I thought Little Lady was an appropriate show for pre-adolescent girls. I do. The form might be a jarring, especially for youth who haven’t seen a lot of theatre. But Sandrine Lafond is very engaging and the show isn’t long. At the very least Little Lady would be a new, interesting experience for a young person. At best it could provoke some valuable discussion about puberty, femininity and body image.
You still have three opportunities to see little lady at The Arts Court Library, Friday at 8:30, Saturday at 9:00 and Sunday at 4:30. (Pro tip. Come early. Sit up front.)
– Vernus Says Surprise
Still the best thing ever. I now find very old men sexy. Writer/performer Ken Godmere is a genius. Director Tania Levy is a master.
Vernus Says Surprise has three more performance at Studio Leonard Beaulne, Friday at 10:00, Saturday at 5:00 and Sunday at 1:30. Go see it. If you don’t, I will weep for your loss.

Fringe-Coma 2012 – Day SEVEN

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 21, 2012 at 11:18 am

— THIS IS TODAY — R U SMARTER THAN AN IRISHMAN — BREAKING RANK! — FEAR FACTOR: CANINE EDITION

Had a bit of a grumpypants day yesterday, try as I might to fight it off.  Maybe it was the heat?  Fringe Festival burnout?  Could be.  Whatever the cause, the haters were getting to me yesterday.  You know the types…the ones constantly hanging out in the Fringe Courtyard, doing nothing but kvetching about the ‘low quality’ of the shows, moaning, sniping, bitching, and just generally trying to make themselves sound cool by tearing other people down.  It grinds on me at the best of times, and yesterday I was not at my best.

But it’s a brand new day!  I saw cool-ass theatre yesterday, talked to some fine folks, and you know what?  I’m gonna do it again today.  I’ve now seen thirty shows at this year’s Fringe, and I’m glad I saw each and every one of them.  Haters…just get outta my face with that shit, deal?  Deal.   Let’s get to it!

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THIS IS TODAY by the Warrior Food Collective

A collaborative production by a feisty gang of Ottawa Theatre students (Karina Milech, Erin MacDonald, Alyssa Gosselin, Holly Griffith, and director Nick Fournier), I knew going in that this show had a somewhat rocky history, inventing and reinventing itself during the rehearsal process.  Not always a bad thing, and I was excited to see what the gang came up with.  What arrived was essentially a sketch show, each rapid-fire piece riffing on some different aspect of women’s lives…motherhood, self-image, relationships…the usual suspects.  Starting off with a quick musical number (always a good idea), the pieces that follow range from inventive and hilarious to cliched and somewhat flat.   Essentially, the classic sketch show dilemma.

The four gals do some good to great work on stage…I laughed out loud at Alyssa and Holly (I think that’s right…ladies?) in a piece about two women constantly making excuses to put off going to the gym.  And the elevator gag was the most technically clever bit, and also pretty snap-funny.  The show as a whole does still have a work-in-progress feel, and too many of the sketches are all setup, no payoff.  Still, I’m glad the Warrior Food gals pushed through and gave us this show…there’s one shockingly serious piece in the midst of all the funny that lets you know these ladies have plenty to offer, and I look forward to seeing them all again, and soon.

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R U SMARTER THAN AN IRISHMAN by Paddy McCullagh

Let me say this right up front…any show that features shots of Irish Whiskey is a thumbs up in my book.  So Paddy McCullagh got on my good side RIGHT quick as he started up his highly entertaining one-man magic show.  Which is what this is, not a play or anything like that…any narrative in the performance is held together by the loose contest Paddy engages the audience with, to decide if they can outsmart him.  Paddy decides most of the scoring in this contest, so don’t get your hopes up about winning.

This man WILL deceive the shit out of you, and you’ll love him for it.

Paddy’s show ranges from some impressive rope and card tricks, a few rounds on a banjo, and some downright mystifying feats with the shell game.  Some of his classics you’ve likely seen before, but probably not by as engaging and charming a performer as McCullagh.  I think the audience would have been happy even if his tricks HADN’T been good…the fact that they were was the icing on the cake.  Whether or not you’re smarter than an Irishman, it’s safe to say you’ll enjoy being entertained by this one.

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The following two shows have already been written about by my lovely co-stars on TEAM VISITORIUM, so I’m just gonna do what I’ve been doing in that regard, and just do a smaller bit of my own thoughts…because I seem to be physically incapable of seeing a show and NOT running my mouth about it.

BREAKING RANK! by Howard Petrick (Ausable Theatre)

I saw this show in Victoria last year, under its then-title RAMBO: THE MISSING YEARS.  I was excited to catch it again in a more intimate venue, and wasn’t disappointed the second time.  Petrick’s true tale of peaceful, informed war resistance from the barracks of Fort Leonard Wood still resonates, and his work as more than a dozen different and memorable characters makes the inspiring story a lot of fun to watch.  Howard spent some time after the show informing us about the plight of military whistleblower Bradley Manning, a current case of freedom vs.militarism that reminds us that things have NOT changed as much as we like to think.

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FEAR FACTOR: CANINE EDITION by John Grady

An irresistibly engaging tale from master storyteller John Grady, his loving ode to his beloved Burmese Shepherd Abby will either rock you to your core, or leave you in tears.  The simple direction was spot-on perfect, and Grady never lost our rapt attention for a moment.  There’s great laughs throughout, touching and unforgettable moments, and the ending…wow.  Please, please don’t miss this.

That’s it for today, at least from me…look for some exciting new TEAM VISITORIUM updates as well!  As always, try and stay frosty out there.  We’re closing in on our goal of covering the entire Fringe, and the crunch is on…stay tuned!  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Fringe-Coma 2012 – Day SIX

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm

— WHITE NOISE — HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS — FISHBOWL — HARD TIMES  — LOVEBUG LOUIE IN A BLESSING FROM THE CURSED —

Yesterday was my crash moment, folks…thankfully, likely as bad as it will get for me this Fringe, but I was fighting to stay awake during the last half of the evening.  No comment whatsoever on the mighty fine shows I was watching, , it was just that 3 hours of sleep the previous day that was nagging at me.  I ended up missing the supah-secret cabaret, but what the Hell…I DO have some cool news.  Even though I missed a whole day of Fringing, I am actually now AHEAD of my 2011 Fringe schedule.  Fuck me, but I’m going at it hardcore this year, aren’t I?  Hit 26 last night, and with a good night’s sleep under me, I’m feeling strong for the second half of the festival!
How about you guys?  Are you Fringing safely and effectively?  Do you need a refresher course in Fringing from one of the all-time greats?  Remember, we’re getting some epic heat over the next few days, so stay frosty out there.  Don’t be a hero…leave that to the mock-professionals.

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WHITE NOISE by Christina Bryson and Margaret Evraire (Twisted by Design Theatre)

I won’t say I was reluctant to see this show, but I sure as heck didn’t have a clue what to expect.  Described as a collaborative  piece, and  based on the recent (and highly publicized) suicide of Carleton Student Nadia Kajouji, prodded to her death by a particularly tweaked villain hiding on the internet.  Heady material, and with all the ripe potential for heavy-handed moralism or pretentious puffery.  But the Twisted by Design gals (Christina Bryson, Margaret Evraire, Aisha Bentham, Elizabeth Tanner, Brittany Cope)  are way too smart for that, and turned this tragic tale into one of the slickest, and most powerful pieces yet at this year’s Fringe.

Anchored by two central figures (Kajouji herself, and another young woman in the throes of depression following the whole story on a Suicide website) and surrounded by a swirling chorus who are at times downright bloody sinister, but always amazing, WN uses movement, lighting, sound and some innovative theatrical trickery to suck the audience in from the get go.  Sometimes harrowing, occasionally surprisingly funny (their reproduction of internet pop-up ads was fucking PERFECT), and leading up to the punch to the gut that still hurts even IF you know it’s coming.   Some of the dialogue from the ‘narrator’ character (the 2nd girl…I’m not sure who played her) was a shade too on the nose, and bordered on talking down to the audience.  And I only point it out because the rest of the show was sheer beauty to behold.  All the performances were marvelous, the direction gorgeous, the imagery unforgettable.  If this one wasn’t on your radar before, Fringers, put it on there. Now, please.

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FISHBOWL by Mark Shyzer

Some people are a little shy about hitting up the one-man shows…but not me.  They always get me stoked, and while I knew little about this one by Mark Shyzer, other than it debuted at the legendary Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto, I was still ready for a good time.  And got it, thanks very much…Marks’ put together a very funny, original, and rather clever piece, starring four disparate characters whose threads may or may not weave together, in a unified field of Fringe awesomeness.

Starting off with Esther the science nerd, excitedly talking up her latest project with her beloved fish Frank, we soon move on to the three other characters…a gloomy teenager, a smart-mouthed octagenarian, and a jaded multiple ex-wife, all of whom Shyzer breathes joyous life into.  The writing is killer witty, with lots of clever verbal gags that you never see coming (and a great joke about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, for you Quantum geeks out there).  There slowly unfolds an overarching connection (which I’ll humbly admit that, in my then-exhausted state, I  blanked on some of the finer points of…someone else see it and explain it to me proper, much appreciated!), a few great human moments…but mostly, some broad comic characters expertly played.  And the costume bit is sheer genius…I can’t believe I’ve never seen anyone try that before!

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HARD TIMES by Bremner Duthie (Skinny Leg Productions)

This is my fourth Bremner Duthie joint (after THE PIG OF HAPPINESS, WHISKEY BARS and 33- A KABARET), and I gotta say, the dude and his crooning will likely never get old for me.  A breathy, booming singer well versed in a multitude of styles, genres and instruments, he may be literally incapable of not entertaining audiences.  His latest show HARD TIMES is set in the dying days of Vaudeville, and one theatre in particular, where the last actor standing is trying desperately to stave off the inevitable…being replaced by the movies.

Theatre being overshadowed by movies is not exactly an irrelevant theme these days, and Duthie gets some good material out of it.  I found the story and performance just a touch too similar to that of ’33, although that may be just me.  It was certainly more than worth the price of admission to watch Bremner Duthie being violently harangued by a rubber chicken (in fact, he may want to consider changing the name of the show to that….just a suggestion)  .  And of course, in the end it’s all about the songs, and he delivers as always.  A few familiar classics, a few I’d never head of, and happily his trusty concertina also puts in an appearance.    A beautiful duet with a long-lost lover was a touching highlight….you’ll leave with toes taping and a song in your heart.  What more do ya want?
Bremner is also co-starring (with Melanie Gall) in the Mercury Lounge Fringe show NE ME QUITTE PAS, PIAF AND BREL: THE IMPOSSIBLE CONCERT, and buzz is it’s a bloody good time.  Don’t say you can’t find any good singin’ at this year’s Fringe!

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LOVEBUG LOUIE IN A BLESSING FROM THE CURSED by David Craig (with Dylan George and Jodi Sprung-Boyd) (Theatre Sasa)

Yay, my last trip to that damned studio!  Seriously this made three times this Fringe I’ve ended the night with an eleven o’clock trek up the ten thousand stairs (note: this is an exaggeration) to Studio 311, but at least now I’ve got’em all!  And what a show to end with…Theatre Sasa’s infamous LOVEBUG LOUIE, the show that opened the Fringe by (*Gasp!*) cursing in front of our beloved mayor himself! I was intrigued to say the least…this was not a show typical of the Ottawa scene, to be sure.  And I can assure you that it is well worth the cardio workout afforded by the climb.  This is a show that must be seen to be…well, it just must be seen.

Dylan George as LoveBug Louie

Inhabiting a brilliant and sprawling set that’s almost as much a character in the show as he is, Dylan George as Louie swings, hobbles, slides and careens around the place like the madman he is, sharing his wit and wisdom with audiences bold enough to listen.   Some is wise indeed, some is particularly filthy, and the belly laughs can be instantly replaced by uncomfortable silence at the drop of a hat.   It’s kind of hard to describe this show… politically incorrect, insightful, grotesque and hilarious, and worth the visit if only to meet perhaps the most unique Ottawa Fringe character you’ll ever see.  Dylan George’s performance is one for the books, and Jodi is rapidly becoming one of my fav’rit directors.  This is, despite all the cursing, sexual overtones and fecal references (oh yea, Louie goes there), an absolutely beautiful show.  Check it out to see what I mean.

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And, although it’s already been wonderfully covered by Team Visitorium’s Grace Gordon, a quick shoutout to 411 Dramaturgy for HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS at Arts Court Theatre!  Melanie Karin and David Benedict Brown put on a viciously slick and highly entertaining show, giving Fringe and Shakespeare a healthy dose of Yankovic for a series of hip-hop retellings of the Bard’s finest.  Timing like an atomic clock, that pair.  My fav’rit was Eminem’s TITUS ANDRONICUS…what was yours?

Right, I’m out…stay cool Ottawa, she’s warm outside.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Team Visitorium 2012 – Amanda’s Reviews!

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm

AMANDA KLAMAN is thrilled to be a part of Team Visitorium’s review squad (mainly because it gives her a chance to display her unparalleled skills as an insufferable know-it-all). She has acted in 5 previous Ottawa Fringe Festivals, including roles as the Pirate Captain in The Parrot Monologues and as Princess Amanda Superman in 2011’s Pick Your Path. The Fringe Festival is her favourite Ottawa festival next to the combination Hope Volleyball/Dragonboat festival she created in her mind. She can be found drinking watered down sangria and pressing F5 on her twitter feed @Klamanator

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PICKIN ‘N SHTICK by Tony Molesworth

Pickin n’ Shtick is exactly what it sounds like – rapid-fire puns and one-liners against the backdrop of the dulcet tones of a banjo. Tony Molesworth has been at this a while – over 25 years, in fact – and has opened for recognizable names such as Howie Mandel and Weird Al Yankovic. He’s a bit of a jack of all trades and Pickin’ n Schtick highlights this by breaking up his joke-telling and banjo plucking with the occasional juggling or ventriloquism bit. After reading a few reviews of the show, I realized that Molesworth never performs the same show twice, which is quite a feat. It’s plainly evident that his vast experiences have left him with a wealth of material – the problem is, none of it is very good. I went in with my expectations pretty low, willing to be surprised. I wasn’t.

 

Molesworth arrives playing harmonica and banjo; a vision in all-denim. He reminded me of the comedians I’d see in the 90s back when Caroline’s Comedy Hour used to air on A&E. You want to like Molesworth – he has energy and good attitude to spare. His self-deprecating humour was one of the highlights of the show (“Did you all come here in one car?” he asked at the beginning, seeing the small audience) but you eventually get the impression that even he’s not that sold on his material. The jokes are plentiful but corny (examples: “do arsonists have housewarming parties?” “they genetically modified a cross-breed of a zombie and a puppet – Stephen Harper”) and his songs are short and mostly forgettable. His juggling is actually pretty impressive and his magic bit elicited some chuckles but by that point, I think I was just happy for a change in pace.

 

It must have been a difficult show for him – there were only 10 people in the audience (before two people left halfway through) – and a near-hour of standup is a challenge for even the best performers. Kudos to him for continuing on, smiling, after the walk-out and to my fellow audience members who gamely chuckled throughout the show (though maybe a little more sparsely as we headed into the second half hour). Molesworth’s love of one-liners and hammy material brings to mind what would happen if the uncle that “got your nose” at Christmas and keeps sending you joke email forwards got himself a Twitter account. And if you wouldn’t follow him on Twitter, you probably shouldn’t follow him to Arts Court Library.

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KUWAITI MOONSHINE by Tim C.Murphy (Better to Burn Out)

Kuwaiti Moonshine’s Andy states that no good story has only one starting point. I don’t know where the starting points of my life story begin, but I sure hope they don’t end up where Andy’s does- alone, in a Kuwaiti prison, awaiting his fate as an accused rum smuggler. Going backwards from this end point, Tim Murphy’s one-man show looks at the struggles of trying to find one’s place in the world. At 35, Andy is a well-educated, clever, hard-partying teacher in Kuwait, utterly incapable of committing to just about anything in his life – be it his girlfriends, whom he nicknames after the places they’re from, or his career, which is less illustrious than that of his younger brother, the surgeon.  When he finds himself with a terrible, difficult decision to make he is forced to confront the path that brought him there, and what his life has led to thus far.

Murphy is a born storyteller. He weaves the intricate parts of this tale together, going from Andy’s personal fears and questions to a storyline set against the Gulf War, to  an examination of the psychology of happiness, with a lightning-fast, just-short-of-manic energy. The storyline is complicated in parts, so attention needs to be paid, but Murphy makes staying engaged an easy task. The 60 minutes go by at a quick pace – though I think the play could stand to be a bit shorter. I felt the piece featuring the psychologist, while interesting, detracted from the storyline without adding much in return. The Francophone colleague’s monologues were a bit tired as well- Andy is a compelling character all on his own, he doesn’t need the others. As Kuwaiti Moonshine draws to a close you may feel a bit confused – Murphy doesn’t answer all the questions you want him to – and the final lessons learned could be seen as maybe a little too earnest but these are smallish quibbles. I left the Mercury Lounge with a smile on my face and a hankering for a glass of date rum.

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FEAR FACTOR: CANINE EDITION by John Grady

Full confession: I am crazy for dogs. Though I’ve never owned one myself (*shakes fist at overly sensible mother*) I’ll pretty much lose my mind over a cute canine.  I love dogs for their loyalty, their sweet faces, their kindness and their constant ability to make me laugh. I feel like John Grady and I would get along.

Fear Factor: Canine Edition is, at its heart, a story about a man and his dog. But, of course, it is about so much more than that. This is a story about Abby – a talented, intelligent, 13 year old service dog whose owner, the immensely talented Grady, is in the midst of making one of the most difficult decisions possible – whether to put down an old and ailing pet. The stage is divided by light to represent the past and present, juxtaposing Grady’s current struggle (“How can I put her out of her misery when she’s not currently miserable?” he asks) with earlier and (mostly) happier times.

The relationship between a dog and its owner is sometimes a complex one and Grady draws the parallel between his and Abby’s bond and that of a couple who’s been together many years, comfortable with each other and unfailing in their willingness to help each other. He speaks about his personal relationships and how, at the end of the day, they all have to compete with Abby.

Grady is clearly a very polished performer. He kept the audience totally engaged and, while I held it together against all odds, I saw a few people who must’ve been cutting onions in the theatre last night. The show’s not all sniffles and frowns, however – Grady knows pacing and peppers his play with enough laughs to keep you smiling throughout.

It’s not necessary to be a dog or even an animal lover to be moved by this show – some truths are universal – but if you are, I think you’d be forgiven for giving your little buddy an extra scratch behind the ears after this one.

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EX CATHEDRA by Lawrence Aronovitch (Troupe de la Lune)

Ex Cathedra, the second half of the play The Lavender Railroad, is a story about identity, secrecy and the inherent problems in running from one’s past.  Moira, an army commander and Frances, a Sister, meet over drinks in Japan. As their intense conversation unfolds we soon learn that they were lovers many years ago. They live in a world where homosexuality is punishable by death and both have kept this part of their lives secret so as not to raise suspicion. Though many years have passed and many wounds between the women remain open, Moira still trusts Frances and tells her about the Lavender Railroad, an underground movement meant to ferry homosexuals away from danger.

On the night I saw Ex Cathedra it was actually a staged reading, owing to the illness of one of the two actresses. While the substitute actress did an admirable job, it makes reviewing this play a little difficult. Many of the performance’s issues can be obviously attributed to the changed nature of the staging. There’s a buildup to this show, an emotional back-and-forth that never really seems to get off the ground, so when crucial points are revealed and banter gives way to emotional highs, you get the feeling that you’re missing something. There are no lighting changes, no changes in stage positioning (the two women sit across from each other at a table for the full 45 minutes), and no sound cues save for a slightly too-long musical cue in the beginning. I doubt all these elements would remain the same were the show staged as it was intended but it wasn’t particularly compelling as-is.

That being said, there is some good stuff here. The topics explored in the text are interesting and there’s still a level of tension maintained between the two actresses that kept me intrigued throughout. As the play progressed, both actresses seemed to become more comfortable both on stage and with each other which suited the play’s progression. I found Marie Victoria Robertson’s Moira a little too condescending and antagonistic in tone at times making me wonder why Frances would continue to sit there being smirked at. The actress playing Moira had an excellent quality of voice which made her clipped, measured phrasing a good complement to her Sister character.

I’d go see this again if and when Brett Desrosiers rejoins the play. Until then, I’d suggest a notice be placed outside the venue indicating that it will be a staged reading rather than a full play. I found out through Facebook of the casting/staging change but otherwise, I wouldn’t have known about the changes until I was already sitting in the theatre. While I didn’t really have an issue with the change, others might.

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I’M NOT CRYING IN THE BATHROOM, I’M CRYING IN THE SUPPLY CLOSET by Laura Bonang, Alexandra Hurley, Deborah Ring (LadyBusiness)

When you see the words “Second City” in someone’s bio, there’s a certain expectation that comes with it. Second City is synonymous to me with quick, sharp, and funny performances. The trio of dames in Lady Business, all of whom claim Second City Conservatory as their stomping ground, certainly live up to these expectations. “I’m not crying…” is a series of songs and sketches on topics as diverse as Napoleon, Glenn (sorry, Gwen) Beck, and middle school dances. Most of the sketches work well – crowd favourites included a synchronized swimming mime piece, a sketch about horoscopes and an absolutely hilarious scene with three women waiting sadly by the docks for their men to come home from the war (trust me, it plays funnier than it reads). The songs are fun and snappy and don’t slow the pace of the show.

Like any sketch comedy show, not everything works – some of the shorter, 1-2 minute sketches don’t garner as many laughs as they should and a piece on brunch got a little awkward when the audience didn’t know whether to laugh or feel sorry for the character – but with each sketch coming in at under 5 minutes the pacing is good, the laughs frequent and the night altogether enjoyable.

Alexandra Hurley was, for me, the standout performer of the group. Her comedic timing and expressions (even when not the focus of a scene) were fantastic and her singing voice was impressive as well.  I know I wasn’t the only lady in the audience who wasn’t sure whether they wanted to befriend her or become her.

I saw the show with a group of girls but fellas, don’t think this is strictly for the wimmen-folk. There are laughs to be had here for those of you with Y chromosomes, too. These three performers prove that comedy is most definitely Lady Business.

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LITTLE LADY by Sandrine Lafond

I’ll begin this review with a caveat : Typically, I’m not a huge fan of movement pieces. Why then, Amanda, would you even bother to see this show? Well, anonymous, much like the liver and onions and green peppers of my youth, I like to branch out and try things I don’t normally like to see if my opinion’s changed. (liver and onions: yes! Green peppers: still, sadly, no L) If you’re like me and considering branching out beyond your comfort zone, Little Lady is a pretty good place to start. The star of this one-woman show, Sandrine Lafond, comes with an impressive resumé, having performed with Celine Dion and Cirque Du Soleil. Lafond’s talent is plainly evident as you watch her move across the stage. Whether she’s a mess of gnarled limbs grinding toward her food dish or a well-endowed charmer smiling and licking (yes, licking) her way toward an audience member, she’s in charge of every little movement of this finely-tuned machine.

I’d be lying if I said I completely understood the storyline to Little Lady. I gathered that there is a progression – she moves from a bent, hobbled creature to a spry, childlike presence (one of my theatre-going companions asked “Is this Benjamin Button: The Play?”) and showcases this journey with great ability. She goes through her daily ablutions, interacts with her tv, eats food from progressively larger electrified containers, and writes down her wishes each night to undergo a transformation. There’s certainly commentary on the quest for beauty here but the underlying message, if there was one, wasn’t clear to me. Ultimately, I could absolutely appreciate the effort and thought that went into Little Lady but I’m woman enough to admit I didn’t really “get it”. It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that the venue, Arts Court Library, is pretty terrible for a show of this kind. Five minutes into the piece, half the audience, myself included, were on their feet to better see Lafond’s movements, which became almost completely hidden whenever she was on the floor. We remained standing for the duration of the play which I can only imagine was a bit of a nightmare for the tech crew who had to crane their necks to see around the group that had formed there. There was also a bit of confusion with the tech at the end of the show which resulted in some missing audio but I’m sure that will be sorted out as the run continues.

The joy of shows like Little Lady is discussing them afterwards. I suspect that three people seeing this show would come out of it with three different interpretations of what went on – and none of them might necessarily be what Lafond herself intended. Ultimately, Little Lady was not my cup of tea but I’m absolutely sure it will find a home with movement-lovers here in Ottawa and across Canada as Lafond continues her run.

Fringe-Coma 2012 – Day FIVE

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 19, 2012 at 3:44 am

— MORE POWER TO YOUR KNITTING, NELL! — DANTI-DAN — VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE — AERIAL ALLUSIONS — FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL —

After a grimly enforced night off, I got back to the Fringe action tonight, the fifth day of the fest.  And Monday is always the ‘second wave’ day of the Fringe, when performers from out of town (usually folks from Montreal Fringe, this year London) arrive and debut a shitload of shows.  So it was today and so it was with TEAM VISITORIUM too, with latecomers Amanda Klaman and Nadine Thornhill making the scene for the first time.  I somehow managed five shows tonight, ate four mini-burgers, had a few drinks with awesome people, saw Bremner Duthie changing clothes in a washroom, and am now this much closer to having a working version of my new one man show, “How you want your eggs, Shugah?“, ready for the public.  Oh, and I totally won an award.  Stay Tuned.

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MORE POWER TO YOUR KNITTING, NELL! by Melanie Gall (Sisterscene)

I caught Melanie Gall’s show THE SPARROW AND THE MOUSE, about Edith Piaf and her sister,  in Victoria last year, and was seriously impressed by the pipes on this gal.  There was, going in, absolutely no question that she could sing.  The only question was how fun was the show she was going to craft around her stellar voice would be.

Set in WWII, the show stars Gall as Sadie, a would-be singer who lands a radio gig as ‘Knitting Nell’.  Her sole job is to sing songs about knitting (of which there are, apparently, a helluva lot…who knew?) to the gals on the homefront.  In between those tunes, and a few old standards that should be familiar to most), we learn of Sadie’s natural loathing of knitting that she must overcome, as well as her long-distance relationship with an admiring soldier.  The script has a lot of really sharp humour that really hits the mark, and makes the time between songs rather a treat.  And Gall is an opera-trained singer, so there’s a good chance you’re gonna find something to like in her repertory of tunes.  We like Sadie right away…the ‘Knitting Club’ bits were highlights of the show for me.  This show, like SPARROW before it, is still essentially a vehicle for Gall’s amazing voice, but I find it a more effective vehicle then before.  Her theatre, while still a little choppy here and there, seemed more naturalistic here, and I had a really good time at this show.  I expect you will too.

Note: Melanie Gall has another show at the Fringe, a duet-show with Bremner Duthie called NE ME QUITTE PAS, PIAF AND BREL: THE IMPOSSIBLE CONCERT at Mercury Lounge.  If you dig some crooning,that may be the show for you, too.

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DANTI-DAN by Gina Moxley (OSSD Senior Acting Company)

Wasn’t sure what to expect from this show, directed by Third Wall’s James Richardson, and billed as a ‘Shamrock Western’.  Starring a fresh crop of up’n’comers from OSSD, DAN is a tale set in a hick town (from the language, I think in Ireland, tho happily no one attempts an accent…leave that to DONKEY DERBY), and centering around five youths in particular.  Ber (Leyla Sutehrland) is the ‘posh’ girl, seeing tough guy Noel (Patrick Bugby).  Her sister Dolores (Laura Teutsch) keeps on hanging out with troublemaker Cactus (Ainsley Shannon).  And amidst it all is Dan, aka ‘Danti-Dan’ (Adrien Pyke) , a somewhat slow kid who dreams of being a cowboy, and obsessively records all the cars that pass by.  Right off the bat, this show endeared itself to me by having one of the best soundtracks of the Fringe.  Opening with Mungo Jerry?  I’ll say it…Fuck yeah!

It’s a troubling, racy script…way funnier and filthier than I’d been anticipating, which is a good thing.  The kids in the cast step up to the plate nicely, with Pyke and Shannon (who have the meatiest roles) having especially strong physical presences onstage,  and Teutsch delivering great work too as shy Dolores.   The odd slang and language in the script occasionally trips a few of the actors up, but overall I found they done quite good, and kudos on them for tackling a show like this.  Chalk up another good time.

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AERIAL ALLUSIONS by Azana Pilar (Azana Productions)

Having seen a brief preview of this show at the opening night party, I was pretty eager to see this show…ladders never looked so sexy afore!   A two-person dance based show, starring…a guy and a girl, I’m sadly not sure of their names.  Anyhow, ALLUSIONS is a very evocative bit of dance theatre, with our two leads dancing together, and alone, on the stage, following what seemed to be a vague theme about love, breakups, and gender identity.  And yes, there is a ladder involved.

Get ready for some hot rung-on-rung action, folks.

Some bits worked better than others in this show…the solo dance pieces were, in my opinion, pretty amazing to watch, and whenever the ladder got used in the action, it was impossible to look away.  There were some cool costume changes, as each performer adopted new and outrageous personas during the show, tho the scripted dialogue bits that served as transition pieces kinda fell flat.  They had some pretty interesting duet dance moves, which may have been hampered somewhat by the teeny Arts Court Library stage.  And the whole thing was aided nicely by a steamy soundtrack (lots of good music tonight at shows!).  If you like the dance, and are looking for something more intimate than HETEROLLECTUAL, this just may be your show.

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FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL by Amy Zhou (Glassiano Productions)

A year and a bit back, I caught FALLEN for  the first time at the Ottawa Youth Infringement Festival.  It was a solid, if overly earnest piece, giving the fall from grace of Lucifer a bit of a mafia spin.  Martin Glassford and James Graziano (aka Glassiano) decided the show needed a second chance, but this time with a serious dose of farce to breath new life into it.  They collected a rather epic cast, jumped up the joke quotient, and ended up with one of the best laffs at the Ottawa Fringe.

Pumping in the gags like a modern day Zucker Brothers, Glassiano have turned FALLEN’s religious mafioso tale into a madcap show indeed, centered around Samael (Mike Kosowan, in a perfectly wonderful comic performance), an enforcer for ‘Papa’ who decides to leave his mysterious employer and start his own thing after a killing rubs him the wrong way.  Along the way he’s aided and abetted by lead Angel/Enforcer Michael (Graziano), seductive Azrael (Jen Capogreco), and a pair of determined, hapless cops played by Rebecca Laviolette and Chris Jaworski.  I wasn’t kidding about the Zucker reference earlier, either…the jokes are flung at you fast and furious in this show, and I for one LOVED it.  This is a very very funny show populated by a tremendously talented cast, and failure to laugh out loud at least twice is cause for emergency defibrilation.  There’re a couple of song breaks too, that must be seen to be believed…pure goofy magic.  Glassiano knows wacky, folks, and they pull it off spectacularly here.  Don’t forget your pants!

That’s it for tonight…I also caught the premiere in Ottawa of VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE this evening, and special agent Riff Randell (aka Kiersten Hanly) has dibs on that one.  I will say this, because I can’t shut myself up…VERNUS is one of the most beautiful, polished and human Fringe shows I’ve ever seen.  And I’m so proud to have been a part of it I can’t tell you.  See it at ALL COSTS.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Fringe-Coma 2012 – Day FOUR

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 17, 2012 at 10:29 pm

…except that it TOTALLY isn’t.  There was no day four, for me (of if there is, it’ll be tomorrow).  I had to miss Fringing tonight, on the sad account of the death of my awesome Brother-in-law’s Mom Joanne, who passed this week after an epic battle with ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Naturally, missing a day of Fringe is NOT really the issue here…heck, circumstances aside, I could probably use the break.  But I just thought I’d take a moment at the top of this post, as long as my blog is enjoying its highest-volume traffic EVER, to mention why I wasn’t there tonight, step out of character for a moment, and post this link:

http://www.als.ca/en

That leads to the English language page of the ALS Society of Canada, and if you have the time, inclination, and means, Joanne would smile down on ya if you could make a donation of any kind in the interests of kicking ALS’s ass, because it SUCKS.

Thanks for your time.  And now, Back to the matter of mad media bloggery, and the reviews I did NOT get written last night.    Not that I needed to, considering the fucking crack job TEAM VISITORIUM is getting down to…and that’s with our two relief hitters still waiting in the wings!  Fringe Festival, you are going DOWN!  LEt’s get to it:

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ALIEN PREDATOR: THE MUSICAL by Betty Jane Horton and Bryan Cook (Go Fly a Kite Productions).

When I was an honest-to-gosh kid, and not just one at heart (aka: irresponsible old jackass), PREDATOR was kind of an obsession amongst me and my pals.  It, along with DIE HARD and ROBOCOP, were the defining action movies of my childhood.  So I couldn’t resist a modicum of curiousity when the gang behind last year’s OPEN BAR: THE MUSICAL decided to mount this musical homage to one of Arnie’s Holy Trinity (TERMINATOR and CONAN THE BARBARIAN being the other two…discussion on the matter is now CLOSED).   The story is essentially a clone of Predator’s, with just a dash of ALIENS for good measure: A scientist essential to the Cameron Corporation (nice touch) is lost in the Brazilian jungle, and a crack team of commando mercenaries is hired to bring him back alive.  Only something is out there, past them trees…

If he’s got Will LaFrance scared, we’re ALL in trouble!

Running through the modest, two-bush jungle the company could afford, our valiant band does battle with interplanetary evil while singing new songs inspired by the classic macho-flix of old…”It’s Game Over, Man’, and ‘Get to the Chopper’…all fine attempts at new standards.  A very much shame that the musical accompaniment was so loud you could hardly make out a word they were singing (tho it did seem to get better as the show went along…hopefully just a tech bobble that can be tweaked) *UPDATE* Bryan has told me that the sound issue is being addressed even now. Good news!*  And while I always try and be positive on this blog, sometimes I just have no choice but to say something, so I hope to hell this is what you were going for, guys, but…the dialogue was rather hilariously bad.  Though the show DOES admit its campy nature up front, so I may be fretting over nothing.  There were a few good performances…Will Lafrance gave good work as tough Captain Ash in the opener, and later as one part of a hilarious homoerotic duet ‘When a man loves a man’.  And Mike Kosowan of GRIMPROV is pretty damn funny as the bottle-glasses wearing PHD everyone is looking for.  Most of the others were better singers than actors (tho Jonah Lerner made a memorable Predator), and the songs weren’t as memorable as one would have hoped.  Honestly, the show is kind of a mess…quite often literally, as blood splats across Arts Court Theatre with increasing regularity.  And where else ya gonna see that, honestly?  APTM won’t win any awards, but anyone who writes a song called ‘If it bleeds we can kill it’ has at least a lot of my respect and love.  Fringe at its Fringiest, folks.  Go if you dare, and have yourself a silly-ass time.

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100 FIRST KISSES by Mark MacDonald.

I was heading up to Studio 311 the other night for a show, when as I approached the door someone ran up and grabbed my arm.  It was the hardest working man in show business Nick Alain (on a rare night off).  He had just come from a show in Studio Leonard Beaulne.  What he told me, madness in his eyes, was ‘You HAVE to see 100 First Kisses!’

Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t argue when Nick Alain runs up and tells you shit like that.  I rearranged my schedule and saw it the very next day.  And once again, Nick Alain was right on the fucking money.

The smoochy, kissy money.

KISSES is the story of a girl struggling to write an essay on her ‘first time’…something.  Could be anything she wants, and she runs through a few ideas, before she realizes what she WANTS it to be about: her first kiss.  Only trouble?  She hasn’t had it yet.  What follows is some extraordinarily simple, but brilliantly sweet theatre, with maybe the most wondrous gimmick I’ve seen in a while, and it works SO WELL!!  I won’t give it away, but suffice it to say, if you see this show and don’t feel a warm glow in your heart, then you likely don’t have one.  Also, why are you reading my blog, Mister Cheney?

Starring Mary Armstrong, Hilary Peck and Alex Brunjes, KISSES is now my pick for sleeper hit of the 2012 Fringe.  I’m already WAY late on the word of mouth train for this one, and I couldn’t be happier. Also, the counting shoulders thing?  I gotta try that.

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SPACE MYSTERY…FROM OUTERSPACE! by Jeremy Doiron (Dead Unicorn Ink)

This is a little weird for me…I’ve been scooped on my own blog.  Avid readers (that’s all of you, right? RIGHT??) will know that Team Visitorium special agent Sister Street Fighter, aka Danielle Savoie, has already written about DUI’s latest romp, but I feel like I should add my two cents, since I did SEE the show, I’m home bored, and Tom Charlebois TOTALLY stole the role of Doctor Grimm from me, and I must have…my…REVENGE!!!

…sigh.  And I wish I could take that revenge by trashing the show and saying it sucked, but it is not so.  In fact, I’d say this show is a marked improvement over their last show, PLAYING DEAD.  And I liked me some PLAYING DEAD, folks.


SM…FOS! is an homage/sendup/mashup (or ‘homsenmash‘) of two distinct but much-beloved genres: film noir, and 50’s era sci-fi.  Imagine if Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade hitched a ride with Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, and you’ll have the first idea of what this show is all about.  Starring Jake William Smith as the soliloquy-loving gumshoe Rick Derringer, commissioned by dangerous dame Selma Widowmaker (Marissa Caldwell…uh, WOW…) to find the aforementioned Dr Grimm (Charlebois, making glorious hash of the scenery as a good villain should) and his meek assistant Bunsen (Arras Hopkins).  A space jaunt is required, bringing space captain Hammerfist (Mike Doiron, and his no less important co-star ‘codpiece’) and his first mate Patty (Sylvie Recoske…yay, more DUEL alumni!) into the picture.  A few giant lizards and lasers later, and you’re knee deep in one of the funnest shows of the Fringe.

Anchored by live music from Braunson Lalonde, and Adrienne Epprecht (who provides the memorable theme song for the show), and aided by DUI’s penchant for amazing puppetry, this is a show that almost has to be seen to be believed.  While a few setups are almost TOO juvenile or cliched, more often than not they hit the mark admirably.  The car scenes are particularly inspired, and show that the gang is getting as adept with their storytelling as they are with their toys.  A company on the rise, and it’s a goddamn treat to watch them climb.

Calling it a night…back to the Fringe tomorrow night, universe willing.  And a certain Ottawa premiere that I almost can’t WAIT for.  The start of week 2 is gonna be off the chain, folks, and I hope you’ll all come along with us!  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)