— 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.
– 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.
– 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!
– 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!
– 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.
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.
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)