— GAMETES AND GONADS — HETEROLLECTUAL — LONELY BEAR — 2020 — A REPORT TO THE ACADEMY —
Aaaand, I’m through the second day, ten shows down and still spirits high! But why the fuck would my spirits not be high, I ask you? Fringe is the bestest time of the year, and here I am, seein’ shows, drinking like the hardcore functional alcoholic I am (I put the FUN in functional!), and sporting my brand-spanking-new Visitorium bizness cards!
Anyhow, it was another 5 show day today, including a triple-bill at Arts Court Theatre, a particularly epic pizza baguette from the Bohemian Kitchen, and some stellar shows that I am very merry indeed to have seen. Had a nice time at the courtyard afterwards…chatted with Tess, caught a Capogreco sighting, practiced my ‘Mama Prostitute ‘ character with the Glassiano mob, and finally realized that I met Chris Bange last year in Victoria! Houdini’s Last Escape for the WIN!! I even got a ride home (thanks again, Jan, I owe you a drink or a show or something)! And unlike yesterday, tonight I’m staying up and writing my shows up like a proper goddamn Fringe-coma should. We’ll see how long I last…I’ve got plenty of Jameson’s and Red Bull..! Some might get done tomorrow morning, tho I start Fringing at 12:30, so there’s not much wiggle room. So let’s get going!
– GAMETES AND GONADS by Jeff Leard. Now HERE’S a show I knew absolutely nothing about, which is often a very fun thing. And tonight, was it ever. The creation of Victoria’s Jeff Leard, GAMETES is almost a masterpiece of juvenilia, and that’s saying something. A nerd’s wet dream, it’s essentially a biology lesson via pop culture, STAR WARS being the chief inspiration. Our story follows a squadron of sperm on their impending assault on the Egg, an imagined ‘star of death’ to the militaristic sperm society, run by the iron-jawed Colonel Gamete. Over in the Ovum, however, a very different picture is painted, as sweet Emily Egg frets along with her Ovarian sisters about the impending sacrifice of one of their own.
Along the way we meet Captain Spunk, Seminal Sam, Pete Popoff, and several other cheap jokes. Every one of them is played by Leard, who is a beautifully talented physical performer. It’s his skill that keeps the story alive, and keeps the audience very entertained throughout. He actually used somersaults as character transitions more than once, and I loved every moment of it. There’s some great mimework going on here too (at times it almost seems like he’s just showing off…but then again, why the fuck not, if you can..?), and to say this show is worth a look is an understatement. Get over the ‘Gonads’ in the title, Ottawa (we’re a little repressed down here)…this is a seriously fun show, and you should go see it. So there.
– HETEROLLECTUAL: LOVE, AND OTHER DUMB IDEAS from Pollux Dance. I’ve been jonesing to see a dance show ever since the Rideau awards, and especially since I keep getting invited to all these sweet-sounding dance shows at Montreal Fringe! So I was quite pleased to check out Pollux Dance‘s Ottawa Fringe show HETEROLLECTUAL. After I saw it…? Holy SHIT, was I pleased. Featuring dancers Ana Groppler, Austin Fagan, Falciony Cruz, Joanie Audet, Olivia Citter and Tyler Gledhill, this show (a world premiere at the Ottawa Fringe, and Pollux’s first ever full length original show) looks at multiple aspects of the madness called love, mostly via dance with the aid of some voice clips, and a happenin’ musical score. Every dancer is simply amazing…my main problem during the show was deciding which one to look at when they all shared the stage. It was hard to keep your gaze off any of them for long…
I’m sort of a budding dance fan, but even if you’re completely indifferent I think this is a show that might win you over. Choreographer Leslie-Ann Glen’s moves are slick, super-entertaining and easy to follow, the sections of the show make sense, and…I’m just gonna say it…Holy Shit, but this is a sexy show. If I had a girlfriend (I don’t), and if I’d brought her to this show (I didn’t, because she doesn’t exist), I wouldn’t have seen any more shows this day, if you catch my drift (do you..?). There’re some funny bits, for sure, and some sad, poignant bits, definitely, but…yeah, mostly sexy. Pretty damn awesome.
– LONELY BEAR by Ray Besharah, and Garkin Productions. Garkin have put on some pretty amazing shows at Ottawa Fringe (including SATANIC PANIC, and last year’s PICK YOUR PATH featuring Team Visitorium’s own Amanda Klaman as Princess Superman), so a new show from them is always worth checking out. This one, directed by Stewart Matthews and starring Garkin top-man himself Ray Besharah (who also wrote) as well as Zach Council and Jordan Hancey, had the kind of pedigree that NO Ottawa theatre fan can afford to ignore. So it was that I took in this dark, comic tale of a man and his bear.
The story follows a controversial young Doctor, ‘Siggy’ (Besharah) as he tries to flog his new and currently unpopular psychological theories on a world, all while under the thumb of a secretive, dictatorial government that his militaristic brother (Hancey) longs to be a member of. Int he midst of all this, a plane crash lands our doctor in the wilderness with a young bear. Reading what I’ve just wrote, I realize this is a hard show to describe. There’s some goofy, comical slapstick bits, and some really charming moments. Then, there’s also the torture. It’s a twisted, surreal show that makes for a highly entertaining and intriguing view, with Zach Counsil doing his usually wonderful work as a multitude of supporting characters, most notably a sadistic government strongman. It’s not always clear what sort of world this show takes place in , historical or fictional (there are some pretty plain nazi overtones to the govt’ stooges), but it mostly doesn’t matter. Matthews’ physical direction is beautiful, and the more mad elements of the script jar in an almost poetic way with the harshness of the story. A change from Garkin, but a pretty fuckin’ cool one.
– 2020 by JP Chartier. No light and fluffy fare here…Artbeat’s 2020 is a brainy, tech-heavy, densely packed show directed by Sarah Hearn, and starring some VERY good Ottawa talent. Set in a near future where doctor-assisted suicide has been legalized, imperious Doctor Ben Duncan (John Collins) has a pretty slick setup going, along with his assisstant Joanne (Jen Vallance)…thanks to a complicated computer program (something about algorithms, just go with it), they’ve discovered a method of gleaning people’s deepest, darkest secrets at the moment of death. Meanwhile, potentially ill Pat (JP Chartier) is having marital woes with his wife Alison (Thea Nikolic), leading his eyes to wander to a random beauty in the subway (Alexa Higgins). There’s a lot going on in this one, folks.
The suicide theme (one of several shows at this year’s Fringe with that particularly dark theme…something in the air?) leads to some interesting and nicely stylized conversations onstage, including some well-done back and forths between Chartier and Nikolic, and an especially powerful bit where John Collins mimics the final leap for us, to stunning effect. Some of the audio-visual pieces work better than others, and there may some overreach in that department. And I’m not sure that all the threads in this play come together like they should…some of the secrets that are revealed are a bit of a letdown, in the end. Still, it sets you up with a lot to think about, and there’s lots of great work onstage to keep the story going. Also, nudity. Which is something everyone can enjoy!
– A REPORT TO THE ACADEMY by Franz Kafka. Once again, ending the night off with the high-rise walk up to Studio 311, this time for one of two Glassiano Productions at this year’s Fringe. This one, like The Open Couple before it, was well worth the climb. A one-manner starring Sean Sonier (also in Open Couple, by the by) as Red Peter, an ape who has apparently reformed his simian ways and embraced humanity, and must make a report to the titular academy, documenting his progress. I feel it’s safe to call this one ‘Kafkaesque’, given the source material. Based on one of his short stories from 1917, the story is absurd on the face of it, but raises great questions on the nature of identity, freedom, and all that jazz.
Driving the show is the performance of Sean Sonier as Red Peter, and it’s just bloody wonderful. Adorned with evocative greasepaint from head to toes, Sonier skulks, prowls and beats his way around the sparse studio set, all the while relating his tale of capture, imprisonment, and gradual decision to abandon his apelike ways and learn to love rum. It’s all pretty amazing to behold, and director Martin Glassford (also behind this year’s biblical mafia farce FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL) has done good. Don’t be scared of the cardio workout, folks…you’ll remember this show much longer than the stairs.
That’s it for day two…I’m off to see what TEAM VISITORIUM is up to, and maybe catch six or seven new shows today at the Fest. I dare you to see more!! See you around the courtyard, Fringers. Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)