— 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!
– 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.
– 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.
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.
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.
– 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)