Well, you know it’s almost Fringe time again when its bratty little sibling YOUTH INFRINGEMENT starts causing trouble around town, ad as always I wouldn’t miss it. This year is the 15th anniversary of the little festival that could, and this year’s producer Christine Hecker (with help from two assistant producers Lily Sutherland and Robin Thomas) has expanded the showdates and count for the occasion. Featuring ten shows over two weeks, all by local theatre hoodlums 25 and under. I’ve seen some lovely talent emerge at this festival in years past…Jenny David, Tess McManus, and a little theatre company by the name of May Can, among others. Time to see what this year’s got to offer! Here’s what I caught on opening night…
A BATTLE OF DEMONS
-from Writer Euan Wheaton (of recent Sock’n’Buskin glory) and director Ryan Nadon. DEMONS tells the merrily intense tale of a small-town Ontario clash of wills, as a hipsterific new librarian (Garret Brink) is transferred over, and immediately begins inflicting his big-city style lust for the sex books and the violence movies upon the populace, putting him into direct head-butting range with well-coiffed town elder MacArthur (Louis Alexandre Boulet), who makes John Lithgow’s character in FOOTLOOSE look like the president of the local Libertarian party. And once Macarthur’s never-named son (Kainer Mazhar) begins to fall under that dirty hippie’s spell of video games and THE HANDMAID’S TALE, things escalate dramatically. QUITE dramatically. The only voice of reason is Mrs MacArthur (Kassandra Pick), who is hard-pressed to get a word in edgewise as husband and librarian begin a tug-of-war for parental rights between themselves. The cast throws themselves headlong into the material which, okay, goes over the top pretty damn quick, but it makes for a very fun ride. Will MacArthur burn that filthy library down, Geisha books and all? Will poor ‘boy’ ever get to just chill out and read himself some HARRY POTTER? Come and see!
– from Writer Maddie Stephens, and Director Alis Goddard. One that hit a touch close to home for me, MOUNTAINS tells three separate tales of mental illness in a nicely staged and well done production…it even starts with a pretty sweet musical number by a lovely lady whose name I do not know yet to credit (little help here..?), and there’s even a lighting effect going on! Over the course of the show we see Tessa (Leah Careless), struggling with an increasingly crippling OCD and a well-intentioned boyfriend Simon (Adrian Manicom); Chronic depressive single Dad Xavier (Arun Smith), unintentionally letting his daughter Eliza down despite himself; and Nora (Shannon Collins), a lawyer with some damaging body issues that are driving a wedge between her and wife Miriam (Robin Thomas). It’s tough subject matter all around, occasionally a touch too on the nose (but how would you even avoid that?) but still powerful stuff, and not all the tales end happily. Some performers to watch out for in this one.
-from Writer Tony Adams, and Director Matt Hertendy. One of two plays in YI this year from the May Can lads, Tony’s play brings us the tale of Matt (Chris Jaworski), a twenty-something city boy with a particularly tricky problem to navigate. Without spoiling too much, it involves two women (Kate Boone and Maddie Vezina), some potentially useless advice from brother Ryan (Mark MacDonald), and the inappropriate use of a telephone help line. Along with some classic Canuck teevee lore woven in throughout. NEBRASKA does a good job looking at the perpetual boyhood of the modern male, and the havoc that can cause if left unattended. Big laughs are balanced with some emotional gutpunches as the story progresses, and the cast carries it all off very well. Special shoutout to Kate Boone, who does some hilarious double duty in the show, and Mark MacDonald for probably the best onstage entrance of the festival.
– from Writer Matt Hertendy and Director Emma Clarke. A whimsical piece indeed, set up as a mock Nature Show, with a curiously bitter host (Matthew Godin) as our narrator as he brings us in for a clinical survey of a pair of Newlyweds getting hopelessly lost in the desert. Young and pretty dimwit (or is she..?) Kandi (Julia Allen) and her new husband, creaky retired professor Nigel (YI mainstay Jeremy Jones) seem very poorly suited indeed to ‘roughing it’, and when our somewhat sinister narrator introduces his specially bred pet (the titular Bearsnake, a scene-stealing Robin Thomas) into the mix, things go from bad to just flat-out ridiculous. Plenty of laughs in this one, especially a knife fight that must be seen to be believed. And I continue to be impressed with Julia Allen (dammit, Janet!), who plays dumb very smartly indeed. A silly romp, and just what I needed to cap off a four-show night.
That’s it for now…I’m back at the Festival for more goodness tonight, including three more shows and a very cool sounding panel discussion with the likes of Pat Gauthier, Eric Coates and Kristina Watt! Be there or be at another theatre seeing a show (WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT and TRIANGLE FACTORY FIRE PROJECT are literally playing in the same building right now, so Arts Courts is THE theatrical place to be this weekend). Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)