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Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

A Prescott Night’s Dream – SLSF 2012 Part 2 of 2

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Hey, this took me longer than I thought it would…sorry, still getting the hang of this laptop ‘pooter of mine.  But the little beast seems to be working well enough,and even though I’m currently knee-deep in hilariously stupid potential legal woes, I can hold out no longer.  I have to talk about show number two at the St.Lawrence Shakespeare Festival afore I burst!

As mentioned in Part 1 of this post (in which I chatted up the awesome OTHELLO), I was out in Prescott for a day of sun and theatre by the St.Lawrence.  My travel mates Allan and David and I had some in-between show nosh at local pub O’Heaphy’s before it was time to head on back and get ready for the second half of our day of Shakespearing, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.  Featuring the same entire cast as Othello, and directed by Ottawa’s Fringe Goddess Catriona Leger, DREAM promised to end the evening on a very positive note (Othello is smashing, but let’s face it, a bit of a downer).  As with the earlier show, DREAM began each act with a spirited musical number from the cast.   Music director Melissa Morris also took center stage in this production as Puck, most famous fairie this side of Tinker Bell, and besides playing a mean harp, she made a memorable impression as the irrepressible elfin aide to Oberon (Quincy Armorer, also doing double duty as human lord Theseus).  Oberon is having a feud with his main lady, Queen Titania (a vivacious Alix Sideris, also doubling as Theseus’ fiance Hippolyta), and devises a plan involving a floral love-drug that’s TOTALLY okay because when Shakespeare wrote this, GHB wasn’t even a thing yet.  Meanwhile, over in the human camp Hermia (Lana Sugarman) is being forced to marry Demetrius (Brad Long), but she really loves Lysander (Warren Bain) and her best pal Helena (Kate Smith) is just loopy for Demetrius.

They all run off into the enchanted woods, around the same time as a woefully undertalented troupe of actors are preparing a terrible play to perform at Theseus’ wedding.  Loudmouthed thespian Bottom (Ron Klappholz, in a performance that leaves the scenery in tatters) impresses Puck so much with his witlessness that she transforms him into a donkey, then makes Titania fall in love with him.  THEN she makes Demetrius AND Lysander fall for the sadly self-conscious Helena, who isn’t buying this shit for one second.

As you might imagine, much merry mayhem ensues, before a flat-out hysterical happy ending.  Cat Leger uses every part of the theatrical beast to weave her magic…characters flit in and through the audience without a moment’s hesitation, the laughs come freely and frequently, and even Lady Gaga makes a cameo.  Every performer is bang-on, and the minimal set is simply perfect.  The final act, featuring the play-within-a-play PYRAMUS AND THISBE is an epic comic disaster that brings down the house and quite frankly MUST be seen, goddammit.  The whole production is a joy to behold, and I couldn’t imagine a more magical setting for it that Prescott’s beautiful by-the-sea outdoor amphitheatre.  An absolutely wonderful way to spend and evening, and if you can make it out for this show (OR Othello) during the festival run, fucking do it.  Come on, what the hell else do you have to do with your summer?  Nothing this good, that’s what I thought.  Now get going!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Othello by the Sea – SLSF 2012 part 1 of 2

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2012 at 8:24 am

It was a pretty god damn gorgeous day for a roadtrip this Wednesday, it must be said, so I’m rather glad that a roadtrip is exactly what I did.  Along with Allan Mackey of Production Ottawa and his photog pal David (who did the driving on this particular trip…thanks again, David!), we set out in the early afternoon, loaded with Timbits, for the jolly land of Prescott.  It’s St.Lawrence Shakespeare Festival time again, and this year I was finally going to get in on the action.  This year marks the tenth anniversary of the sweetest little Shakespeare jam in the Ottawa region, and they’d lined up two of the bard’s biggies for the occasion.  We got into the picturesque town (no exaggeration, it was freakin’ beautiful out there) in perfect time for the first of the day’s double-bill.

Getting the early start was OTHELLO, directed by Festival artistic director Ian Farthing.  Each show boasted a large cast (the 15 company members each performed in both shows this year, a neat trick), and Farthing chose to cloak his production in the garb of the War of 1812, partly to coincide with the anniversary currently underway.  It’s a fun conceit that lends a nice atmosphere to the proceedings.  Not that ‘fun’ is really a word you usually associate with Othello.  The classic, and tragic story is of the moor Othello, who takes lovely Desdemona as his bride, only to become unravelled in a jealous plot hatched by his trusted aide, and one of the great villains of stage history, Iago.  And large cast or no, this play boils down in the end to its three crucial leads.  Othello himself, played with gut-wrenching ferocity by Quincy Armorer, leads the way, pulling the audience along on the tragic fall from war hero to jealous husband, to much, much worse.  Lana Sugarman as his devoted wife Desdemona is positively heartbreaking, protesting her innocence even as the accusations against her become ever more hateful and terrifying.  And Shane Carty as the master manipulator Iago, while a little slow to start, quickly turns into the villain you love to hate (several folks in front of me couldn’t resist from raining him with a chorus of ‘Boo”s when he was hatching his schemes.  Carty plays Iago like a renaissance JR Ewing, perfectly delighted with his own amoral, murderous ways.  Tho at least people KNEW what a bastard JR was…nobody sees Iago coming until it’s far too late.

The rest of the cast is, happily, as solid as is needed to turn this production from good to great.  Props to Warren Bain as Iago’s rival Cassio, Alix Sideris as the villain’s unknowing but kindhearted wife Emilia, and Kate Smith’s scene-stealing turn as Cassio’s would-be paramour Bianca.  The musical score by Melissa Morris is quite nice…sometimes a little jarring, tho I suspect it works a little better in the evening.

This Othello is a slow burn of a play, drawing you in more and more as the emotional stakes ramp up, and up…by the bitter conclusion, it’s almost impossible not to be deeply affected.  This is a smashing OTHELLO, with a great cast that does it justice.  And certainly, a very happy introduction for me to the St.Lawrence fest.  Even happier, there was more to come.  And there is!  Stay tuned, folks.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

 

Kisses Sweeter Than Wine

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Holy blue freakin’ Hannah, I finally have regular computer access again!  After a trip out to one of them there big-style computer places, I’m the proud owner of a spanking new laptop, whom I have named Magnus (after the famous Robot Fighter, natcherly).  Now at this point, I’m well behind in reviewing stuff that I’ve seen, and some of it may indeed fall by the wayside.  It’s completely too late to write about Obviously A Theatre Company’s excellent A WALK WITH MR.MCGEE, which I caught on the second-last day of its extended run at the Bytown Museum.  Suffice it to say all of Ottawa should be watching to see what they do next.

What it is NOT too late to write about, is the latest offering from sort-of newbies Bear and Company, their touring production of Wm. Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT.  I say ‘sort of’ new, because the company is comprised of a host of seasoned actors, headed by Eleanor Crowder who recently evolved their way out of Salamander Shakespeare and struck out on their own.  I caught their action last week, my appetite having been solidly whetted with their Fringe production ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE, which sold out its entire run.  And my apologies to the Bear gang for being so tardy with my review, but I promise it isn’t out of a lack of enthusiasm.  Seriously, there’s tons to enjoy in this Will Somers-directed bit of Shakespeariana.

Telling the tale of a pair of would-be lovers, individually exiled from their homelands, and updated stylistically to 50’s-era America (which lends itself to some pretty funky costumes), AYLI stars Zach Raynor as Orlando, the youngest son of a great lord, now put-upon by his domineering older brother Oliver (Leslie Cserepy).  After a spirited match with court wrestler Charles (Nicholas Amott, mugging it up but good), Orlando catches the eye of beautiful Rosalind (Anna Lewis, who also doubled as costume designer), who is about to be cast into exile by a vengeful duke (Eleanor Crowder herself, who digs into her villainy with glee).  With her sister (Dyna Ibrahim), and the court fool (Somers), Rosalind flees into the woods, disguising herself as a beatnik Fonzie to ease their passage (it makes sense when she explains it, trust me).  Things get complicated when Orlando shows up, and Rosalind decides to continue her pretense of masculinity.  Things get even MORE complicated when Orlando finds Rosalind’s Mother in the woods (Crowder again, playing the good mirror to her evil alter-ego the Duke).  Things then get their complicated-est when flighty farmgirl Phoebe (Danielle Savoie) falls head over heels for Rosalind (in her male disguise of Ganymede).  Never let it be said that Shakespeare didn’t like juggling a lot of balls at once.

The Bear & co. gang do a bag-up job of presenting this, one of the bard’s funner romps.  Anna Lewis is a positively shining Rosalind, giddy in her love and wholeheartedly engaging every time she graces the stage.  Likewise, Raynor’s Orlando is a stalwart and human hero, and especially shines in his scenes with his elderly servant Adam (a wonderful comic turn by Victor Pokinko).  Music fills thee air in this production, with a host of classic tunes performed by the cast (smooth Tim Oberholzer lives up to the legend his karaoke-mates have raved to me about, belting out several songs in a variety of roles). Mention must also be made of the wonderful Robin Guy as a roving member of Rosalind’s mothers band, and Danielle Savoie’s very hilarious scenes as the scene-stealing Phoebe.  Everyone in the cast is solid from beginning to end, and Somers’ direction serves the material extremely well.  This was a funny, lustrous AS YOU LIKE IT, and I expect most anyone who checks it out will like it just fine.  It still has a few days of park shows left, then ends up its run at Arts Court Theatre.  That’s it for me for now…still getting the hang of Magnus here.  But if you’re reading this, then I guess we’re off to a good start.  Peace, love and soul ,Ottawa,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Her Majesty King Henry the Fifth

In Company of Fools, Theatre on July 18, 2012 at 2:12 am

July in Ottawa throws me off, it really does.  Fringe is over, and all the regular theatre seasons are ALSO being over, and it seems like it’s just the park shows left (it’s totally not, but it just SEEMS like that for a while).  So my instinct is to kind of stretch them out a little, make them last…or at least, that’s my excuse for always being so damned late in reviewing the park shows.  I’m ALL about the excuses.

But when Queen Margo Mac herself calls you out and asks you when you’re coming to see her show, it’s time to put the excuses on the shelf,  check the schedule, and get your butt to the park for some torchlight Shakespeare!  Those merry pranksters A Company of Fools are back touring parks in the Ottawa area, and this year they’ve set their sights upon HENRY V, under the direction of good guy Geoff McBride.  Along with Margo MacDonald, the cast includes Virginia West, Kelly Rigole, Simon Bradshaw and Katie Ryerson.  And if that sounds like an awful lot of girl names for a Shakespeare play, you’re right…the Fools have turned the tables and have the gals playing nearly all the roles in this adaptation.  And If you know anything about anything, you were as excited as I was to hear that Margo MacDonald was going to be playing Henry the Fifth.

 

The other players all tackle multiple roles throughout this, easily one of the most entertaining times at the theatre (outside or not) you’ll have this year.  I’d never caught Virginia West onstage before, but she made great hay of roles like loyal Fluellen, and decrepit old Erpingham.   Kelly Rigole, always a treat, leapt and scowled with gusto as ultraviolent Pistol, and crusty miner MacMorris.  Katie Ryerson is painfully funny as the treacherous Dauphin, boasting of her horse and armour with almost superhuman preening.  And Simon Bradshaw serves as our chorus/narrator, as well a very memorable French herald and , even more memorably, the princess Katherine.  The ‘seduction’ scene towards the end of Henry V is one of my fav’rit Shakespeare scenes, mostly because it’s SO awkward, halting, and human.  And trust me, folks…you have NOT seen this scene until you’ve seen it between Margo Mac and Simon Bradshaw in drag.

The story itself is one of war, and valour, and all that jazz…King Henry is out to nab himself some France, and that’s all there is to it.  There’re some great speeches in HV, and Margo does them bloody proud (they’re also the only places I was worried that the Fools might start losing the little ones in the audience, but even they seemed rapt with attention…then again, who can resist the St.Crispin’s day speech??).  Director McBride and the gang makes use of every trick in the book to bring their tale to vigorously engaging life, including but not limited to a seemingly magic trunk (courtesy of John Doucet), puppets, a few action figures, and all the tennis balls you could ever hope for in live theatre.  It was a pretty damn wonderful time out in the park, and the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m pretty much gonna have to go again.  And the next time, I’m bringing my nieces.  No matter who you have to bring, you should check it out too.  It plays at parks all over well into August, so put your excuses on the shelf with mine, okay?   Get your Fool on already.  Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,

The Visitor

Monday Foofarah! – July 16 2012

In Foofarah, Theatre on July 16, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Well, now, THAT’S been a while!  First there was Fringe, then there was post-Fringe ennui, THAN there was MORE Fringe, Toronto-stylee…I tell you, sometimes it’s hard to find time to Foofarah!  But here I am, ready, willing and moderately able to do…whatever…what the Hell do I usually do in these things again?

Oh, that’s right.  First things first…

IN THEATRES THIS WEEK!

HENRY V by William Shakespeare and a Company of Fools.  Not strictly ‘in theatre’, but close enough…the Fools are on their usual touring of the parks, this time with one of Billy Shakes’ rip-roaring adventure classics.  Check their website for the next swell outdoorsy spot near you (and look for my very own writeup of the show tomorrow morning!)!

AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare and Bear and Company. Aaand, same story as above, this time with cool new kids Bear & Co. sharing the city’s parkspace with the Fools, in one of the Bard’s more whimsical bits.  I’m trying to bring my niecelets out this Wednesday.

A WALK WITH MISTER MCGEE by Talish Zafar and Obviously, a Theatre Company.  I should have missed this one by all rights, but OATC is so cool they’ve extended their run for two extra shows on the 20th and 21st.  I swear I’ll make it this time!

OTHELLO and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM by William Shakespeare (him again!) and the St.Lawrence Shakespeare Festival.  What is it about summer that brings Zombie Bill shambling out of the shadows?  Starting over Prescott way, MIDSUMMERS opened on the 14th and OTHELLO joins it on the 18th.  Our own Cat Leger directed one of them!  I’m not telling you which, so you’ll just have to see them both.

BLACK COFFEE by Agatha Christie and Ottawa Little Theatre.  Kicking off on the 17th, a touch of the mystery, Christie-stylee, from the spry gang at OLT.

BOEING, BOEING by Marc Camoletti and Theatre de L’ile.  Over in Gatineau, un petit peu de la comedie, French-stylee for y’all, and now that I’ve figgered out how to get to their theatre, I’ll be there sooner rather than later.

That’s it as far as I’ve been able to follow…here’s a song I just found!

REFLECTIONS ON FRINGE:  I know I’ve already waxed plenty about my Ottawa Fringe this year, but I had a couple more words I wanted to rattle off about my recent 3-day vacation at Toronto’s own Festival.  I’ve done my reviews, sure, but what else went on?  I got into town late on Sunday evening, and made a beeline to the Beer Tent, or the Beer Alley as it happens to be in TO, a narrow but colourful passageway right thru the heart of Honest Ed’s.    Immediately started looking for people I knew, and found much of my Victoria Fringe crew from last summer awaiting…Al and Vic from Bloody Underrated, Yana Kesala from THE UKRAINIAN DENTIST’S DAUGHTER (about to start a run at the Winnipeg Fringe, Go Yana!), and Shane Adamczak, ZACK ADAMS himself!  It was a fine scene and only got finer, when my hostess for the trip, the eminently lovable Katie Hood arrived in a flurry of hugs and laughter (note: Katie’s laugh is maybe my fav’rit sound in the world, so there).  We even got a sneak-attack hug from Ingrid Hansen!!  It was too cool for school, folks, and I couldn’t have been merrier.  Katie brought me back to her place on the TTC where I met her dogs’n’cats, with whom I got along famously.  No mass hysteria here, folks, just happy animals and a happier Visitor.

The next morning, after walking the dogs, I headed out on my own and promptly got lost.  Never fear, I found myself after a tasty breakfast at the Sunrise Grill (Bacon, brie and avacado omelette for victory!) and made it to my first show, MY DRUNK PLAY.  And may I say how surprised I was that the famous Tarragon Theatre is in , like, this weird industrial section of the city, surrounded by nothing?  I had not expected that.  Still, a nice joint, and I’d be back several times over the trip.  After that show I hit the Fringe office, also in the Alleyway, where I bought me a ten-show pass (no media accreditation on THIS trip, which does take the pressure off a bit, I’ll admit), then hit my next batch of shows for the day…MUM AND THE BIG C, TONY HO’S SAD PEOPLE, BREAKING VELOCITY and TEMPLE OF KHAOS (I ran into Paddy McCullaigh of R U SMARTER THAN AN IRISHMAN in the lineup…I’d been hoping to catch him on this trip).  I tried to get into the ‘beer tent’ afterwards, but there was a freaking lineup, can you believe it?  I decided long, long ago that there was no good goddamn reason to line up for a drink outside of cold-war-era Russia, so I battle off down Bloor to Pauper’s Pub for a quick pint.  There I was served by none other than Jane Van Rooyen, writer and co-star of MY DRUNK PLAY that I’d see earlier that day.  It took me a while to work up the nerve to say hi to her…if only because it would have sounded like such a cheesy pick-up line if I had been wrong about who she was.  ‘Hey, are you an ACTRESS..?’ Sigh. Sometimes I overthink things, folks, I really do…Anyhow, she was very nice, and we chatted before I split for Katie’s Hood.

Day two in the big city started with more dogwalking (this time I got my own dog!), a trip to a cafe who’s name I forget for some Eggs Charlottine (mmm!) then off to a new show, THE BLIND SEAL (AN RON DALL), which ended up affecting me in a really fucking lovely way.  Then the also amazing MAHMOUD, and my long awaited introduction to Toronto clowning with OF MICE AND MORRO AND JASP.  They lived up to the hype.  A lonely dinner then at some burger joint of Bloor, before closing out the night with a COMPLETE HISTORY OF ZACK ADAMS.  Shane and I had a quick drink at the alley afterwards…and I mean quick, because last call was at midnight!  Oh, Toronto, you’re adorable!  Come to Ottawa Fringe sometime, we’ll show you how to party properly.

Last Day!  Now, this was a Wednesday, so of course after dogwalking (already a habit) I had to hit the Silver Snail Toronto, as the new HARBINGER and BLOODSHOT comix were in, and I’m a Valiant man.  That trip put me in a bit of a late-kinda-way however, construction on Queen not helping matters, so I was running to grab some nosh before my first show.  Manage a tasty bite at the Tik Talk Cafe before BAD CONNECTIONS, followed by a failed attempt to see the sold-out CAMP SCHECKY.  But that was cool as it meant I got to see THE FIRST CANADIAN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES and JEM ROLLS: TEN STARTS AND AN END back to back.  Dinner at the always-cool Green Room before meeting Katie for my last show of the Fringe, IN/SIDE THE BOX by Sinead Cormack, who I’d met briefly at the Alley a day before.  She convinced me to see her show, and I’m glad she did (another note: flyering TOTALLY works on me, keep doing it, Fringe performers).  Katie headed home afore me, and I closed out the fest at the Alley with Shane, Jem Rolls and a few others.  It was a sweet ending to a fun, jam-packed tour.

Now that that’s over, I can only sit in envy as people gear up for the epic Winnipeg Fringe.  Lotsa great shows I wanna see at that one, and lots more that I’ve seen and am rooting for.  Much love to DONKEY DERBY, VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE, ZACK ADAMS, UKRAINIAN DENTIST’S DAUGHTER, LITTLE ORANGE MAN, and many more!!  Wish I was there (and I may be next year…among other places.  Stay tuned!).  In the meantime, I’ll be getting back to my regular schedule of working the local theatre scene, because there’s always plenty there to keep a schmoe like me busy, and giddy as a fuckrat to boot.  Peace, love and soul, everyone,

The Visitor

Toronto Fringe 2012 – Part Two of Two

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on July 13, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Right!  I slept, I went back to work, and now I’m home and ready to put a cap on my recap of my mini-adventure voyage to the TORONTO FRINGE FESTIVAL.  And while I’m sad it’s over (not to mention the fact this was my first ever trip to TO that didn’t involve me hitting up one of my fav’rit places ever, Sneaky Dee’s, sigh), I’m glad I got to see and hang out with so many swell and wunnerful folks.  Thanks for making it a fun trip, y’all…not lemme get on with getting on, and yammering excitedly about the rest of the shows I saw!

OF MICE AND MORRO AND JASP by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee (and John Steinbeck, a little) at Tarragon Main.  The clown duo of Morro and Jasp are quickly becoming bonafide Canadian starlets, what with winning Dora awards and what not, so I thought I’d best see what the fuss was all about.  I started to figure it out as soon as I saw the rabbits.  This particular adventure has our heroines putting on Steinbeck’s legendarily unfunny masterpiece in a desperate attempt to earn themselves some moolah.  What follows, from the opening suitcase gag (which I was happily seated right in front of) through to the perfect, hysterical and somehow incredibly moving finale, is the answer to M&J’s popularity in 60 minutes.  Heather and Amy have created a comic team that is just about impossible to dislike…they’re so at ease in their clown personas it’s kind of hard to remind yourself ( or convince yourself) that they even ARE personas.  I’d pay good money to see them on a stage with Ottawa’s own clown team supreme, Pommes and ‘Restes.  Maybe next year..?  Ottawa would love you, Morro and Jasp, I know I do.

ZACK ADAMS: A COMPLETE HISTORY OF ZACK ADAMS by Shane Adamczak, at Tarragon Solo Room.  Speaking of personas, I find it’s getting harder and harder for me to think of good Aussie lad Shane Adamczak as Shane, and NOT as his  onstage alter-ego Zack Adams, who I’ve seen and mightily enjoyed in two Fringe shows now.  This one follows our hard-luck but always hopeful hero Zack from an awkward childhood dreaming of being a star, to an even more awkward adulthood, still dreaming away.  A few songs, a few bees, and a whole lot of charm and energy power this gem of a show with ease, and will have you smiling even if you never have before.  Worth admission for ‘the song of outrageous lies’ all by itself.

BAD CONNECTIONS by Michael Levesque, at St.Vlad’s.  Starring the fantastically talented Paul Cosentino, CONNECTIONS tells a winding story through the lives of multiple New Yorkers, most of whom are engaged in one deception or another…though which end of the lie they’re on is part of the puzzle.  A very human tale about some extremely memorable characters, and Cosentino is clearly in his element, making quick and mostly seamless transitions from frustrated Jewish wife to Yoga guru, despised Italian great-grandfather to pregnant young black woman, and many more.  It’s a treat to watch him perform, and the story hits home in all sorts of ways (and doubtless, in different ways to different people).  I’m getting pretty giddy with how many great performers I’m being introduced to at this Fringe.

THE FIRST CANADIAN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES by Jem Rolls, at St.Vlad’s Theatre.  Yes, a play by THAT Jem Rolls (more on him in a minute), starring Priscilla Yakielashek as Kimberly White-White, graduate of both Preston Manning AND Sarah Palin colleges, and President of the US in the year 2084.  For an Englishman, Jem clearly has a better grasp on Canuck and Yankee politics than mos of US do, and he’s crafter a  wicked satire on the collapse of the economy, civil rights and privacy.  His script is more than matched by Yakeilashek’s unerring performance as the striking but dim pres, who often has to slowly sound out the bigger words in the speech she’s been given.  It’s a crafty gem (get it?) of a show that should get even the mildest politicos thinking…and any fans of good acting grinning.

 

JEM ROLLS: TEN STARTS AND AN END by Jem Rolls, at the George Ignatieff Theatre.   If you’ve seen a Jem Rolls show before (one of his solo shows, that is), you’ll have a basic idea of what to expect.  If not, brace yourself, because you’re about to get punched in the face by WORDS!  Jem’s unique brand of performance poetry careens full tilt straight at you (and occasionally sideways when you’re not looking) with only the occasional blackout for respite.  Don’t worry, though, Jem’s a friendly sort despite all the bluster, and this show features a few of his kinder odes, to both Toronto and a village in Scotland (plus a hilarious rant on drunken louts titled ‘Here comes the Hammer Gang’).  A nice assortment of Jem gold in this show, and it will certainly please any of his fans, and should make him a few new ones to boot.

 

IN/SIDE THE BOX by Sinead Cormack, at the Helen Gardiner Playhouse. Ostensibly a play about the ways in which we try and make ourselves conform, I find it’s best (from my dull-witted perspective, at least) to try and ‘feel’ a physical/dance piece like this one rather than think it, because quite frankly, thinking is not my strong suit.  But this one-woman ensemble dance piece (trust me) is an utter delight to behold, as the dangerously talented Cormack creates her own set before your eyes, dances with partners who aren’t there, occasionally defies gravity and even makes a snack break entertaining.  The fact that she manages this beauty of a physical performance with a smile on her face is icing on the cake.  I was hoping to get at least one cool as fuck dance piece in on this Fringe your, and now I’ve got it.  I also may have found my Toronto Fringe-Crush, which is also swell.

That was all I managed to squeak in on my whirlwind three-day Toronto tour, and my apologies to all for getting these reviews up so late in the game!  Although plenty of these shows are continuing on tour across the Canadian Fringe circuit…if you see some of them in Winnipeg, Edmonton, or realms beyond, give’em a try!  And tell them the Visitor sent ya.  Thanks for the funs, TO…and thanks too for the copy of 1st issue special from 1975, featuring Jack Kirby’s DINGBATS OF DANGER STREET, which I found at the Silver Snail on Queen.  That was a nice touch.

Somebody should really make a Fringe show out of this. For serious.

Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor

Toronto Fringe 2012 – Part One of Two

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on July 13, 2012 at 2:03 am

…did you miss me?

Seriously though, I know I’ve been neglecting this poor blog something AWFUL since Ottawa Fringe ended.  I’ve been just abominable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my blog decided to break up with me.  I would if I were my blog.  So I decided I needed to make some sort of grand gesture, some magnificent overture if you will, to get back in my blog’s (and by extension, your) good graces.  How better to do that than with MORE FUCKING FRINGE!!!

Yes, I managed to sneak away from my 9 to 5 drudgery for an extra day this week, and escape up to the big smoke for a few days of the TORONTO FRINGE FESTIVAL.  I was there for three glorious days, rooming with the beautiful and brilliant Katie Hood (and her pals Sandy, Marvin, Caviar, Tiger Prawn, Miss Hopey, and special guest Bathroom Cat) and just checking out some shows, 13 in all.  I wasn’t there on any media status (Toronto don’t be knowin’ who the FUCK I am), I was just there.  I wanted to see a few pals along the way, as well as get some Fringe on.  I’d seen a few of the shows at this Fringe already, like R U SMARTER THAN AN IRISHMAN, AERIAL ALLUSIONS, FISHBOWL, PETER ‘N CHRIS AND THE MYSTERY OF THE HUNGRY HEART MOTEL, FAKE NEWS FANGIRL (back when it was called AN INCONVENIENT TRUTHINESS) and LITTLE LADY. Most of my thoughts on those are either on my Ottawa Fringe coverage from this year, or my Victoria road-trip from last year.  There’s one other show I’d also already seen, and it occurs to me I never actually reviewed it on this site, and my apologies.  I’ll start with that show (that I saw as part of 411 Dramaturgy’s double bill with Peter n’ Chris here in Ottawa a few weeks back), and then get on to the stuffs I saw in Toronto!

TINFOIL DINOSAUR by Sam Mullins, at Tarragon Theatre’s Solo Room.  One of the purest and sweetest examples of storytelling I ever done seen, and certainly featuring the absolute funniest Theatre-disaster story I could ever imagine (too insane to NOT be true), Sam’s simple, human style draws his audience in early and holds onto them with his earnest story of ambition, social dysfunctionality and, yes, tinfoil dinosaurs.  Only the most bizarrely perfect specimens of humanity won’t find something to relate to in Sam’s foible-filled story, that even after numerous retellings onstage is clearly still an emotional one for him to fully share with us.  It’s an honour to share it with him.

MY DRUNK PLAY by Jane van Rooyen, at the Tarragon Mainspace.  A fun two man, two woman enactment of the perils, pitfalls and plusses of getting hammered in the big city. Bar life is ripe material for sketchwork, as this play turns into essentially a series of scenarios involving predatory lotharios, career drunks, the curse of ‘just one more drink’, and plenty of well-intentioned gals getting ‘white girl wasted’.  Sometimes there’s not enough imagination behind the pieces (such ripe fodder also means a lot of it is common knowledge), but some of them work very well, and there’s good laughs to be had.  A fun show with some pretty good performances (Janet Davidson had a particularly memorable monologue illustrating the do’s and don’ts of drunken sex)…worth a look.

MUM AND THE BIG C by Lynne Kamm, at the Randolph Theatre.  A funky lesbian romantic comedy starring Elvira Kurt, a shiftless young woman who has to come home to the suburbs to watch over her sharp-mouthed Mother, recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  An unexpected fling with Mom’s Oncologist livens things up.  Janet-Laine Green as Mum steals a lot of the show here, and there are other good performances as well.  The central romance didn’t sell me as much as I’d hoped, however, but a few of the neat gimmicks the play had up its sleeve kept me interested.

TONY HO’S SAD PEOPLE by sketch comedy troupe Tony Ho, at the Robert Gill Theatre.  This piece of inspired, surreal madness was where Toronto Fringe 2012 came alive for me.  Featuring a central cast plus guest-stars from the Fringe (differing depending on the night), SAD PEOPLE is a hysterically nightmarish collection of stories, scenes and sketches (and a few songs) starring a clearly talented gaggle of comedians.  Inventive, imaginative and most amusingly disturbing…if David Lynch had gone into stand-up, this is what it would look like.

BREAKING VELOCITY by Megan Phillips, at the Tarragon Solo Room.   A one woman autobiographical musical (and there’s a sentence I’ve never written before) following Megan’s dream of being a musical theatre/dance star, and through the traffic accident that changed everything.  It sounds trite, but I suppose all the good stories do when you boil them down.  A clearly heartfelt story with a solid performance and some perfectly lovely character work from star Megan, as well as several good to memorable song and dance bits…her inspirational visitation by a sequined gospel singer is an easy highlight of the show.  A pretty impressive outing from the obviously talented Phillips…glad she’s still dancing.

TEMPLE OF KHAOS by Daniel Nimmo, at the Tarragon Extra Space.  I saw the force of nature that is Daniel Nimmo a couple years back in Ottawa, and couldn’t wait to see him in action again.  This time, he brought friends, in a combination play/improv/madhouse romp that must be seen to be believed.  Based loosely around a story about a magickal hero being summoned to destroy a terrible monster, it’s mostly an excuse to let terribly talented performers misbehave in epic ways onstage, and it’s bloody fucking marvellous to behold.  I’m not entirely sure who the lineup was in Toronto, or if they’ll be travelling with him on tour, but I suspect the Nimmo will be able to find like-minded lunatics wherever he goes.  Theatre of the absurd at its absurd-est.

THE BLIND SEAL (AN RON DALL) by Fibin, at St.Vladimir’s Auditorium.  I walked into this show, by four gentlemanly Irish lads, with zero expectations, and it may me for me the most memorable show of my Toronto Fringe experience.  One musician, two storytellers (one in English, one in Gaelic, or as they call it, Irish), and one painter in the spotlight, this is a unique performance that quite honestly had me in tears of joy and sorrow from the opening moments until the (quite literally) picture-perfect ending.  Heartbreakingly human, simple and beautiful, this is easily the show that moved me the most in the big city.  Painting as theatre…and holy shit but it WORKS.  A complete privilege.  Thank you.

MAHMOUD by Tara Grammy and Arthur Davis, at Tarragon Theatre Extra Space.  Another one-woman show (my fav’rit kind of show!), this one starring the insanely talented Tara Grammy as an aging Taxi Driver, flamboyant Spanish gay man, and spirited pre-teen girl rebelling against her heritage, in this personal, densely woven tale about Iran and its impact on three disparate individuals in the west.  Hilarious, moving, challenging, and a fantastic showcase for the perfectly entrancing Tara, who has the audience right where she wants them from the opening moments.  A smart and wonderful show, and one of many I saw in Toronto that I hope make its way to Ottawa Fringe someday.

To be continued…!

Hot Sex and Good Conversation

In Theatre on July 5, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Holy Hell, how long has it been since I posted a god-damned review on this here review blog?  Sheesh.  Sorry, everyone who thought I was passed out or dead somewhere…I think the post-Fringe ennui was getting to me for a bit there.  Why I’ve even SEEN a few shows that I haven’t even written about…shame.  Shame I say!  And I’m terribly behind on seeing some of the new shows to grace our town, and I apologize for all of that.  I just really needed something to snap me out of this funk.

This funk-snapper came in the form of Al from Bloody Underrated over Montreal way, who hepped me to a touring show that was about to grace our city for one-night only.  A former Fringe show (like the last three shows I done seen and haven’t written about…I know, SHAME!  I feel it, I swear), this one a top pick of the 2011 Atlantic Fringe, SHORT SKIRT BUTCH from Halifax writer Lee Anne Poole.  A one-woman show is always my cuppa tea, and a one-woman show taking place in our very own sex-shop extraordinaire Venus Envy..?  Sold.

SSB tells the story of Jean (or rather, Jean tells US her story), a self-professed pervert played by Stephanie MacDonald, who recently impressed the Hell out of NAC audiences in Danny MacIvor’s COMMUNION. Jean, an instantly engaging narrator, is both forthright and awkward, adopting labels as quickly as she discards them, sharing everything and apologizing for (almost) nothing.  She’s there to set things right, she tells us, and clear the air about a particularly bad breakup she recently had, with not one but two women, at the same time.  From her early sexual experiences (including a memorable anecdote involving a teddy bear) to her eventual meeting with a gorgeous lesbian power couple that would lead to romance, heartbreak and the most hilariously lewd bit of larceny I’ve heard of in a good long while, SSB manages an impressive mix of genuine emotion and brutal honesty with one of the funniest fucking scripts I’ve ever heard. Poole’s dialogue is natural and insightful, and MacDonald is more than capable of turning it into a wonderful and memorable event.  The show is fearlessly frank about sexuality of all stripes, and we could use plenty more of that.

Being a straight dude, I’m aware that some of the finer jabs at queer culture and roles might have passed me by, but I wouldn’t call this show exclusive by any means.  If you have a heart and a sense of humour, this one’s for you.  Though you’ve missed it in Ottawa if you weren’t in the audience tonight (Here’s hoping they bring it to Fringe in the future…it would be VERY welcome), but their tour continues in Sudbury on the 7th, Toronto on the 8th, and then Halifax for the Queer Acts Theatre Festival.  Deets on their Facebook Event Page…if they’re in your neck of the woods, do yourself a favour and check this show out.  You’ll laugh, you may cry, and you’ll almost certainly learn a thing or two.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Coming Up in July 2012

In Theatre on July 1, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Well, Fringe is over, and post-Fringe depression is making us ALL question our reasons to go on, but there IS light growing on the horizon.   This of course can only mean more theatre is on the way, even if it isn’t of the five-shows-a-night variety.

ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL by Nancy Kenny.  If you really and truly need another hit of Fringe, look no further, as Ottawa fav’rit Famous Actress returns for a one-night remount of her Rideau Award winning show on July 2nd at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama before she takes it on the road.  Space is limited, and tickets are going fast, so strap on your skates and get going!  (Above photo credit: Richard Gilmore!)

HENRY V by William Shakespeare and A Company of Fools.  Kicking off Ottawa’s Theatre in the Park season, the Fools are back with a girl-centric retelling of Billy Shakes’ epic tale of love and war, starring Margo MacDonald herself as Henry. Absolutely unmissable, folks.  Starts on the 2nd at Strathcona park and travels from there…check their website for a location near you!

AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare and Bear & Co. Joining in the Park fun, the crew responsible for the completely sold-out Fringe run of ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE are back with one of Billy’s lighter romps, directed by good guy Will Somers.  Kicking off on the 4th at Billings Estate and wandering from there…again, check the website for deets.

THE GAME OF LOVE AND CHANCE by Pierre de Marivaux and Odyssey Theatre.  The grandaddy of Ottawa theatre under the stars, Odyssey’s latest kicks off at their home in Strathcona Park on July 26th.  Directed by Andy Massingham, so you know it’s gonna be amazing.

ST.LAWRENCE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL presents OTHELLO and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.  If you’re up for a wee road Trip, Prescott is ready for ya with this double-bill of goodness.  I’m still working out the logistics of a visit myself…if you’re planning a drive out, I may just want to chip in for gas and join you.

A WALK WITH Mr.MCGEE by Talish Zafar and Obviously, a Theatre Company.  A very cool new bit of Canadiana, hosted in the supercool new theatre venue of the Bytown Museum, down by the locks.  I can’t wait.

BOEING, BOEING by/par Marc Camoletti and/et Theatre de L’Ile.  Starting on July 4th over Gatineau way, I’m determined to make my first trip to L’Ile for this fun-sounding production, weak French skills be damned.

SHORT SKIRT BUTCH by Lee-Ann Poole.  One night only on July 5th at Venus Envy, this show comes highly recommended from Al at Blunderrated, among may others. I hope to see you there!

BLACK COFFEE by Agatha Christie and Ottawa Little Theatre.  July 17th to the 28th, OLT presents this Hercule Poirot whodunnit for your summerly entertainments, and this is a good thing.

STITCHES IN TIME by John Hardie and Theatre Wakefield.  Starting July 25th in Ottawa-Gatineau’s ‘Piggyback’ home of Wakefield, at the Maison Fairbairn House Museum, and playing Wednesdays thru Sundays for two straight weeks.  A local production with roots almost literally at the venue where it’s being staged (out of doors, so bring a chair if you please).  2 shows a day, at 2 and 4 pm!

I could have sworn there was some cool dance happenings (and after HETEROLLECTUAL and MACSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM I am now obsessed with awesome dance happenings) , but I’ll have to track that info down again, if it existed at all.  Oh, and there’s also This Thing, which you probably already have a ticket for.  Fuckin’ Broadway.

Also, on July 7th at SAW Gallery, Red. Collective is having their season launch fundraiser, and everything about is sounds fucking amazing.  I’m very excited to hear what this mob of rabble-rousing theatre gangsters has planned next…so I’ll see you there, ya?

And hey Toronto!  I’m going to move Heaven and Earth to make a short but sweet pilgrimmage to the TORONTO FRINGE FESTIVAL sometime during your run, so be ready for that!  Jem Rolls, Zack Adams, Kirsten Rasmussen and Morro & Jasp are ALL on my must-see list!

So that’ s what I’m doing this month.  What about you?
Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)