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Fringe-Coma 2013 – AROUND MISS JULIE and HAPPINESStm

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 28, 2013 at 2:13 pm

So it was back to the acting last night, as my show THE TRAGICALL HISTORIE OF NICK WADE (AND OTHER FUCK UPS) returned after a 4 day hiatus.  It was a great crowd and show, and this time I stuck around after wrapping to check out the other two shows in our venue, the lovely T.A.N.Coffee in Sandy Hill (about a 5 minute walk down Wilbrod from Academic Hall).  I grabbed a beer from the by-donation bar setup, a sandwich from Mandy at the café counter, and settled in for the night.

amjhp

First up after us was AROUND MISS JULIE from Montreal’s Hopegrown Productions and playwright Harry Standjofski.  Set around a local adaptation/production of August Strindberg’s classic Miss Julie, we meet a trio of young actors Donna (Lindsey Huebner), Lyle (Graham Berlin) and Ilona (Samantha Megarry) trying out for the show.  Things start to go pear-shaped straightaway when they meet their director Julie (Miriam Cummings), whose only qualification FOR being director is that she loves theatre and couldn’t act, so why not?

Tensions quickly rise on the set (which they don’t actually have) as romantic eyes begin wandering, Donna is sick of being typecast as ‘the loud one’, and the director doesn’t even know what a stage manager IS.  Add in a disturbingly amusing dead bird and you’ve got a pretty fantastic and fast paced show.  Director Norah Paton does great work with a very talented cast, who deliver some hilarious and occasionally bittersweet performances.  It’s a must-see for anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes insanity of the theatre…which I’m guessing is a lot of people at the Fringe.  Charming and clever from beginning to end.  One of the later shows to start here at Ottawa Fringe, but SO worth the wait.

Tony Adams and Cory Thibert in HAPPINESS (tm) .  Photo by Dsmitry Klathkou.

Tony Adams and Cory Thibert in HAPPINESS ™ . Photo by Dsmitry Klathkou.

A short switcheroo of the seating arrangement (lot of that at the TAN) later, and it was time for the latest from local heroes May Can Theatre.  Featuring my Nick Wade co-stars Cory Thibert and Tony Adams, and director Mado Manseau, their new show HAPPINESStm stars the lads as Peer Barrel (Cory) and James Lemon (Tony), a pair of sales reps for HPL, a power company that sells, well…Happiness.  Set up as a sort of sales convention, seasoned pro Peter Barrel leads the shpiel, coaching newbie Lemon in the buzzwords and scenarios necessary, he feels, to successfully lead the consumer towards a better future.  A short video spot introduces us to HPL founder and CEO Mr.Carpenter (special guest Ray Besharah), who began the company after battling sadness on a desert isle years earlier.  To this end, Barrel and Lemon trot out insane products like the happy hook-up, and a spray bottle that promises better moods in minutes, among others.

The rather hilarious skewering of corporate sales pitches takes a splendidly dark turn when Carpenter shows up in the flesh, and turns Lemon and Barrel against one another.  The result is an escalating battle of one-upmanship, a dance-off, and disturbingly dark secrets brought to light.  The cultlike structure of pyramid scheme-style businesses becomes rich fodder for May Can to play with, and they spare nothing.  Still full of the whimsy of their previous work, but there’s a new maturity on display with this one that’s great to see.  Unmissable for May Can fans, and for anyone who wants a great show at this year’s Fringe.

Tan Coffee is two for two as far as I’m concerned (see Nick Wade yourself and avoid my own obviously biased opinion) with MISS JULIE and HAPPINESS, and the crowds seem to agree with me.  Three more chances for all of’em!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Fringe-Coma 2013 – DIE ZOMBIE DIE

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

This is the fourth year in a row of Zombie shows at the Fringe, by my count, after previous years’ NIGHT OF THE LIVING IMPAIRED, PLAYING DEAD and LEFTOVERS.  This time around, Fringe legend Punchbag Playhouse takes a swing at the undead with their hilarious return to the Fringe, DIE ZOMBIE DIE.

Written by Richard Hemphill, the ambitious show takes a fast and funny look at an alternate reality of sorts, where humans and zombies live together in a tenuously peaceful coexistence.  The undead in this tale won some civil rights after eating more nazis than allies in WWII, and now exist as a sort of politely tolerated cheap labour force.

This doesn’t sit well with some, like hard-boiled Zane Slade (Ray Besharah), who loathes zombies with open disdain (understandable, after what they do to his office).  Likewise legendary zombie slayer Zelda (Diana Franz), who is forced to take out-of-country jaunts to get her undead murderlust filled.  But when a killer starts taking out zombies in similar fashion to Zelda’s old adventures, her daughter Zoey (Allison Harris) comes to Slade to help clear her Mother’s name.

diezombiedie

…and that’s the plot, which is pretty cool but kind of secondary to the hourlong assault of one-liners, clever wordplay, terrible puns and wonderfully hammy acting from the gang (and especially Dave Benedict Brown, filling a variety of roles).  Assisting ably on stage is a veritable army of the living dead, shuffling about and becoming the walls, countertops, tables, and somehow wringing huge laughs out of selling popcorn.  Director Stewart Matthews makes a merry romp of this show, juggling over a dozen performers at a time into a smoothly-moving unit of kitchsy comedy goodness.  Several zombie-themed advertisements play out in front of us, a very funny touch and making for a nice scene changing gimmick.  And the Who’s-on-first-inspired bit between Ray and Dave has to be seen to be believed.  It’s a terrifically entertaining show, and I can understand why it’s getting the buzz it has.  Catch it while you can…zombies don’t come much funnier.  And yes, there is a dachsund.  You’ll love it.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/die-zombie-die/

Fringe-Coma 2013 – QUEEN MAEVE and MATCHSTICK

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Trying to get off my reviewing rear-end and get a few more writeups done before it’s too late…apologies again for how far off of previous years’ pace I am this time around.  But honest and true, it really does feel kinda weird reviewing Fringe when I’m in a show.  You get that, right?  Right!  Moving on!

Gonna make this post a two-fer, and a bit of a Saskatoon double-bill at that.  It was on the day before Fringe officially opened that I first met two of the lovely souls from Theatre Howl and Bzzt! Trap Door Theatre out of SK, while we were postering in Academic Hall (their venue for both shows).  They seemed perfectly goddamned delightful, and I’m happy to say I made it to both shows (even if they WERE both over the standard 1-hour Fringe runtime).

First up was THE FRENZY OF QUEEN MAEVE by Anthony MacMahon, a three-hander set in Ireland during ‘the troubles’, a quaint term for the wave of violence that nearly consumed the emerald isle in the 70’s.  Centering on streetwise Aisling (Jackie Block, just great), a young woman looking for a way out before things get even worse.  But she’s being tugged in two different directions, by two very different men…uppercrust Brit William (Chris Hapke), who just might be able to bring her to greener pastures safely, and passionate IRA member Fionn (Nathan Howe), who clearly lights Aisling’s fire just a little bit brighter.

Josh Ramsden directs this tricky show smoothly, with solid performances and a script that doesn’t give clear answers to any side.  Even Aisling herself is a decidedly less than morally upright heroine for us to root for, playing her two beaus off of one another behind their backs.  I’ll leave it up to ears more knowledgeable than mine to decide how authentic their respective accents ended up being, but they sounded just fine to me.  There were hilarious moments in this show, offset by the drama unfolding and occasional burst of genuine calamity.  A nice change of pace for the Fringe (ie: a more traditional piece of theatre), and a really good and nuanced show that packs a punch.

After that I caught Theatre Howl’s MATCHSTICK, written by and co-starring Nathan Howe (yes, the same one from MAEVE up above).  Billed as a not-very-fairytale folk musical, the show begins with co-star Lauren Holfeuer, singing a lament about her life in an undesirable country.  A tale told with terrific music from front to back, our heroine Matchstick tells of her rough early life as an orphan, and moving in with a grumpy uncle.  A variety of suitors follow, until she meets the one who sweeps her off her feet…a mysterious and charming American who will change her life in ways she most definitely does not imagine.

Lauren Holfeuer and Nathan Howe in MATCHSTICK. Pic by Emily Kohlert.

Lauren Holfeuer and Nathan Howe in MATCHSTICK. Pic by Emily Kohlert.

I won’t spoil what I hope it still a surprise for some of you out there, but the show turns out to be something entirely other than what I’d thought, and it’s just bloody amazing.  The music is integrated perfectly into the show, with both Howe and Holfeuer nailing every moment both heartwrenching and hilarious.  You WILL be singing some of these songs on your way out of the theatre.  Innovative and exciting direction by Kristen Holfeuer takes a great show and makes it something truly special that I highly recommend.  There’re still a few opportunities left to catch these great shows, and give Saskatoon a little love back for all their travels, so get on out.  And MATCHSTICK even has cd’s for sale, so maybe bring a little extra cash.  You’ll be glad you id. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/the-frenzy-of-queen-maeve/

http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/matchstick/

Fringe-Coma 2013 – NHAR MOVES

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 27, 2013 at 2:28 am

Just saw Chris Kauffman’s NHAR MOVES today at the Fringe, and I thought it was clownerific and fantastical.  Here with a slightly more in-depth take on it is Visitorium special Fringe correspondent 2013, miss Natalie Joy Quesnel!

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I have fond memories of my first time seeing Chris Kauffman on stage.  It involved chucking ping pong balls at him.   It was awe at first throw.   I knew Ottawa audiences would be in for treat, and I wasn’t disappointed.

 

Kauffman is thoroughly endearing as Nhar, Paolo, and Fish (though I’ll address the latter later.)  The story itself is straight-forward.  A lonely and sad man meets a fish.  They form a friendship that encounters its fair share of challenges which they must overcome.  I’m making it sound much more dramatic than it is.   Judging by today’s audience (ranging in age from 2 to 60+), there are plenty of laughs to be had here.   While there’s nothing groundbreaking in the narrative, the means of storytelling are whimsical and engaging.  The props and set are minimal, and they are used well.  I was particularly enamored by the slide projector (perfect for sight gags and effective backdrops), as well as the segment with Kauffman enveloped in a large duffel bag.   Intrigued?  So was the audience!

 

 

Chris Kauffman (in the basket), here with his CABARET TERRARIUM partner Rich Harrington.  Pic by Josh Carter.

Chris Kauffman (in the basket), here with his CABARET TERRARIUM partner Rich Harrington. Pic by Josh Carter.

The show was created by real-life married couple Kauffman and Emily Windover.  I can’t help but wonder if their three lovely daughters had any collaborative contributions to the process.  Was that a Backyardigans song I heard?   While the show rolled smoothly from beginning to end, I did feel that there were certain scenes that could use tightening up rhythmically.  Some of the travel bits were a bit at the mercy of the slide projector’s tempo, when they could have benefitted from a more rapid pace.  And while Kauffman’s Fish character complete with flamboyant wig was entertaining to watch, the under-water sequence could stand to be trimmed slightly.   It quickly became a case of too much of a good thing.

 

Nhar Moves is exactly what I was hoping for; an hour of laughter and slight tugging at the heartstrings.  If you need more reason to see the show, here are two short reviews from my daughters:

 

A-J (age 5): He is silly.  I liked all the moustaches.

Bea (age 4):  I liked when he threw the fish across the room.

 

What more could you ask for?

Natalie Joy Quesnel

http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/nhar-moves-super-bad-moves/

(Kev’s Note: NHAR MOVES only has one show left, Sunday at 3pm, so don’t miss it!  And Chris Kauffman has another show, CABARET TERRARIUM with Richard Harrington, starting on Friday for a 4-show late run!  Details on the Fringe website HERE!)

5 Fringe Questions with HOPEGROWN PRODUCTIONS

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 26, 2013 at 5:11 pm

I admit that I never really heard of Montreal’s HOPEGROWN PRODUCTIONS until I found out they would be sharing a venue with me at my inaugural acting Fringe.  Their original show, AROUND MISS JULIE, just made its debut in Ottawa after tearing it up at Montreal Fringe.  Consisting of Graham Berlin, Miriam Cummings, Lindsey Huebner, Samantha Megarry & Norah Paton, Hopegrown is a lady-centric company that’s already got plenty of good buzz around our Courtyard as they carry on their major Fringe tour in our wee town.  Also, Jonah totally went to High School with some of them, so they must be cool.  Each of the gang took a question, because they’re troopers like that!

 

Wow, I use this picture a lot.  But it's so GOOD..!

Wow, I use this picture a lot. But it’s so GOOD..!

-Who are HOPEGROWN, and how did you all come together?

(Miriam) Hopegrown Productions is the result of consistent work since Fall 2012. Sam, Lindsey and I talked seriously about performing in the Montreal Fringe as a way to capitalize on our close bond as performers after four years of training together at Concordia. Soon, our project grew as we added more cities to our summer tour and we brought on Norah Paton, our wonderful director and fellow Concordia grad.

-How big a problem do you feel the lack of good roles for women in theatre is today?

(Norah) It’s a problem because the amount of roles translates (often) into the amount of jobs. But I don’t want to sit around and whine about a lack of opportunities, because that’s what drove us to create this project. So I guess it’s not a big problem, as long as you’re willing to go out there and create those roles yourself.

-How did you hook up with playwright Henry Standjofski?

(Samantha) Harry Standjofski is a Montreal-based actor, director, playwright and musician (not necessarily in that order). He is also a professor in the theatre department at Concordia University. The members of Hopegrown have worked with Harry as a teacher and director. He is a great mentor of ours, and has been fantastic to collaborate with on this project!

amjhp
-What kind of show is AROUND MISS JULIE?

(Graham) Around Miss Julie is a funny and sexy romp through the anxiety filled audition process, fumbling rehearsals and unexpected opening nights. Three aspiring performers are thrown into producing a contemporary adaptation of Stindbergs classic, Miss Julie. These performers discover the less than reassuring experience of their director, confront their “inner demons”, and question their choice to pursue theatre as a career. Around Miss Julie is a comedic show for anyone who has questioned their career, their character or been thrown into a situation that quickly loses promise and structure.

-Why did you choose Ottawa as part of your multi-city tour (though we’re glad you did)?

(Lindsey) Ottawa was an obvious choice for Hopegrown’s multi-city tour! After 4 years of training in Montreal, the nature of our tour has us performing in the hometowns of our founding members. Both Lindsey Huebner and Norah Paton grew up in Ottawa and have also performed at the Ottawa Fringe in years past. Can’t wait to be a part of it again this summer!

 

AROUND MISS JULIE plays as part of the Ottawa Fringe Festival, at T.A.N.Coffee (317 Wilbrod at Friel).  Remaining showtimes are:

Wednesday, June 26 – 7:00pm
Thursday, June 27 – 7:30pm
Friday, June 28 – 7:30pm
Saturday, June 29 – 6:00pm
Sunday, June 30 – 9:00pm

Advance tickets available HERE at the Fringe website.  $10 at the door with a Fringe pin!

 

Fringe-Coma 2013 – THE SHOW MUST GO ON

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Last year I caught a one-man show outta nowhere, Random Samples Collective’s GAMETES AND GONADS starring Leff Leard.  And for a show about spermatozoa, it impressed the Hell out of me, so I was pretty jazzed that Jeff was back in this year’s Ottawa Fringe Festival with a brand new show. Once again going solo, his latest is THE SHOW MUST GO ON, a wonderfully dramatic/comic retelling of his year travelling the country with a Children’s Theatre Troupe out of Victoria BC.

Jeff Leard in THE SHOW MUST GO ON.  Pic by Dahlia Katz.

Jeff Leard in THE SHOW MUST GO ON. Pic by Dahlia Katz.

Chronicling dozens of stops atop winding mountain roads in the middle of nowhere, pushy principals, weak-bladdered schoolchildren and a seemingly neverending run of Rumplestiltskin driving them on.  Well, that and their run-down van.  And all the while, a menacing figure named Bill looms on the horizon…

Jeff Leard manages another incredibly entertaining and engaging show with this look at the darker (and occasionally uplifting) side of children’s theatre.  Peppered with Leard’s bang-on physical storytelling, plenty of memorable characters, and some well-aimed Game of Thrones and LOTR in-jokes for the geeks (which is everyone these days, let’s face it), THE SHOW MUST GO ON is great fun, and a dynamic look behind the curtain.  And Jeff is now in competition with Christine Lesiak of ASK AGGIE for most smashing outfit of Arts Court Library.  Seriously worth a visit, I think you’ll be happy you did .  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/the-show-must-go-on/

Fringe-Coma 2013 – Halftime (P)Review

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 25, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I’m taking a rare couple of waking hours to myself in order to get a bit of writing done this Fringe, here at just about the halfway point.  Everybody check yourself and the person next to you…are you breathing all right?  Not too overheated from your stay in Studio Leonard-Beaulne? Devastated after being turned away from SAPPHO?  Are you still emotionally dazed, wondering why the Red Bastard said those terrible things to you??

If so, fear not…there’s still more to come!  We’ve got lots more Fringe yet to go, and according to the numbers it’s been a record setting opening weekend, so pat yourselves on the back, staff, volunteers and artists!  Ya done good.  From a personal perspective, I’ve now actually acted in three performances of my debut production THE TRAGICALL HISTORIE OF NICK WADE (more on that later) and my deepest thanks to our beautiful, enthusiastic audiences…tell your friends!  I’ve also racked up a viewing count of 16 shows, well off my usual pace I know (and only a handful reviewed..!  For shame, Visitor, for shame…), but I’ve seen some sweet pieces of theatre that’ll stay with me for a long time.  The list so far:

The Day We Grew Wings
Red Bastard
Superhero Showdown
Dolores
the Vanity Project
Emissions
le Voix Humaine
Keeper
Innocent When You Dream
Ask Aggie: the Advice Diva
Under the Mango Tree
the Bike Trip
Sappho…in 9 Fragments
Die Zombie Die
We Glow
the Show Must Go On

Not bad for someone performing in a show as well, I hope…and more advance apologies here, I just have no idea how many more remotely-timely reviews I’ll be able to get out during this Fringe.  Trying my best, but killing myself ala my usual reviewing tactic of staying up too late and never getting any sleep seems unfortunately unacceptable while I’m part of a cast, and especially when I’m the newbie of the group.  Shit, acting is HARD, guys.

The glasses do most of the work for me, really.  Pic by Karl Claude.

The glasses do most of the work for me, really. Pic by Karl Claude.

As for some of the shows above that I hadn’t gotten to writing about yet, here’s some quickie word of mouth for all y’all…SUPERHERO SHOWDOWN was good family-friendly puppet fare with smart, sassy puppeteer hosts courtesy of Rock the Arts.  Definitely your show if you want to bring the little ones out for some theatre.  EMISSIONS, billed as ‘the climate comedy’ was a pretty slick and deftly produced show, with some great work onstage from Jen Vallance and Drew Moore as a skewed environmental Adam and Eve, and a great supporting ensemble to boot.  The whole show left me a little bit distant, however, as issue plays traditionally do in my case. Lot of fun, tho.  UNDER THE MANGO TREE was a sweetly done one-woman show from Veenesh Dubois, the tale of her life growing up in India while her beloved papa tried to make his fortune in Canada.  It’s a heartfelt tale, though I’m sorry to say it never drew me in as much as I wanted it to.  And Martin Dockery’s BIKE TRIP was storytelling at it’s most manic and mesmerizing, hilarious and touching, wise and absurd.  Pure joy.  SAPPHO lives up to the hype.  Amazing production with an incredible lead in Victoria Grove.  Fucking unforgettable.  DIE ZOMBIE DIE may be the pinnacle of Fringe Zombie humour…they had me at the popcorn vendors.  WE GLOW was such a perfect spotlight for Emily Pearlman and Brad Long, and such a great use of th Senate Chamber space, that I still have to pinch myself.  Just great.  And THE SHOW MUST GO ON is more high-energy greatness from Jeff Leard, with hilarious retellings of adventures on the children’s theatre circuit.  Phew!

The lads of BE A MAN.  They'll be back!  Pic by Myka Jakoubek.

The lads of BE A MAN. They’ll be back! Pic by Myka Jakoubek.

BE A MAN.  As most Fringe fans have heard by now, Anthony Hall of RibbitRepublic got schmucked by a car after their show’s opening night, and now they’ve had to cancel their run.  It’s a rotten shame, as I know I wasn’t the only one dying to see their show.  But happily, their misfortune has been suitably challenged by our other Fringe artists, who after holding a fundraiser in one of the Be a Man timeslots, have now set up fundraising Story Slams in the others.  The shows will take place in Arts Court Theatre, with all funds going to help the lads get back home and recoup as much of their costs as possible.

Tue 11pm: Cameryn Moore’s Smut Slam: Tales from the Sexual Bucket List
Saturday 4pm: Jeff Leard’s Catastrophe Canyon: Tales of Sudden Calamity
Sunday 2:30pm: Chase Padgett’s Altered States: Stories of Intoxication

These promise to be dynamite events, folks, and for the best cause of all, helping out good guys who need your help.

Hopegrown Productions, being all starlike!

Hopegrown Productions, being all starlike!

TAN TRIPLE HEADERS: Are you ready for it?  After a few days break, the TRAGICALL HISTORIE OF NICK WADE gang, as well as HAPPINESStm are ready to mount our final assault on Fringe starting this Thursday night through Sunday…but we won’t be going it alone!  The mad talented ladies of Montreal’s Hopegrown Productions have just hit Ottawa, after a great run in Montreal that landed them a Spirit of the Fringe award (can’t wait to rock the courtyard with them), with their show AROUND MISS JULIE.  They’ll have a couple of nights with our shared venue T.A.N.Coffee to themselves on Tuesday and Wednesday, but starting Thursday you’ll be able to catch all three shows, back to back to back, every night!  If you’ve been having a hard time talking yourself into making the trek out to our outskirts venue (really not as far as you think, guys), here’s some incentive to make a night of it.  Enjoy some fine brewed coffee and snacks, beer by donation (bar starting up again Thursday…don’t forget to tip your bartender!), and enjoy an evening of kick-ass theatre by some devil-may-care up and comers!  And by golly yes, I’m counting myself in that group now too.

photo: Karl Claude

photo: Karl Claude

And if you’re not convinced, we’re even getting some press!  Here’s the New Ottawa Critics review of Nick Wade:
http://newottawacritics.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/the-tragicall-historie-of-nick-wade-so-you-want-to-be-a-rockstar/

Plus the Apt 613 writeup:
http://apt613.ca/the-tragicall-historie-of-nick-wade-and-other-fuck-ups/

And of course, the Saint himself:
http://thesaint41.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/the-saint-on-the-tragicall-historie-of-nick-wade/

Plus, a lovely lady named Ruth left an awesome comment on the Fringe NICK WADE page (which you can too!)…Tony, get that chalk back out!
http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/the-tragicall-historie-of-nick-wade-and-other-fuck-ups/

All right, that’s enough promotion…I suck at this stuff anyhow.  Come see my show or I’ll be sad, and who wants that?  And if not, then for Fringe’s sake, go see someone ELSE’S show.  Fringe comes, after all, but once a year, and now I’m off to a show.  See you there!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Fringe-Coma 2013 – ASK AGGIE – THE ADVICE DIVA

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 25, 2013 at 8:40 am

Lord know that if anyone at the Fringe needs relationship advice, it’s me.  So naturally, when a show boasting of its abilities to personally answer all of your tricky questions on life, love and whatever else may be ailing you, I signed right up. Off then once again t the Arts Court Library, improved sightlines and all, where after buying a ticket you’re asked to fill out a small card…on it, you enter your name, age, and the question you want (or need) answered.  And once inside, you ssimply drop your question into the provided box, and wait for the fun to begin.  And the fun is ASK AGGIE – THE ADVICE DIVA from Small Matters Productions.

Christine Lesiak in ASK AGGIE - THE ADVICE DIVA.  Pic by Marc Julien Objois.

Christine Lesiak in ASK AGGIE – THE ADVICE DIVA. Pic by Marc Julien Objois.

Starring Christine Lesiak as our all-knowing, five-times widowed purveyor of wisdom, she dances out on stage with a wicked smile and a fantastic outfit, singing her own theme song (is it wrong that I’m a little miffed that mine is no longer the only character at Fringe with one of those?).  Billed as Bouffon in style (but not, you know, RED BASTARD Bouffon, so just relax), Aggie spends much of the show delightedly pulling our questions out of her box and firing her answers, often short and to a very sharpened point, right out into the waiting audience.  She has some other, broader questions to address as well, which come usually with a reminiscence about one of her 5 unfortunate former husbands. They’re usually quite witty, insightful, and pretty damn funny.

Lesiak’s Aggie herself is an inarguably charming, beautiful and enigmatic host for your hour…she seductively consoles you at the same time as she’s crushing your dreams, and even leaves you with what sounds to me like honest-to-God good advice from time to time.  Several song and dance routines are peppered throughout the show, though one or two of them do start to feel like filler after a bit.  It’s when Aggie is delving into her pile of questions though, some heartbreakingly sincere, that this show finds its real heart.  Whether that heart then gets stomped on a little bit, well…that’s Aggie’s prerogative.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/ask-aggie-the-advice-diva/

http://www.smallmatters.ca

Fringe-Coma 2013 – INNOCENT WHEN YOU DREAM

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 25, 2013 at 8:07 am

This show had me super excited…I ended up getting off work at the drudgery mighty early on Sunday (thank you ribfest for stealing all our business!) And made it out in time for a 3pm show at the Fringe.  The one that fit perfectly into that timeslot was a production called INNOCENT WHEN YOU DREAM from Elephant and Peanut out of Austin.  What had me excited the most about this show..?  I knew next to nothing about it.  And boyoboy, the sky’s the limit when you go in blind, am I right?  Of course I’m right…on with the show!

DREAM stars Zeb L.West as a man with a problem…he’s stuck inside the belly of a whale, a recurring problem at the Ottawa Fringe festival, it would seem (note: Mi Casa in-joke!).   He’s been stuck in there for a long, long time, and to pass his boredom he’s been reading and re-reading the two classic books on hand…Don Quixote, and Moby Dick. What results is a strange and almost disarmingly delightful mashup of the two using puppetry, songs, and some appropriately goofy but often ingenious props.  Zeb himself does some very fun character work, always returning to his own defeated everyman persona when he’s not making merry as Ahab or Quixote.  I say defeated, because it turns out there’s a reason our hero has been swallowed up into this deep dark pit, and it’s not a happy one.  Although the play itself certainly manages to keep smiles on everyone’s faces throughout.

Zeb L.West and friend...Pic by Jeff Moreaux.

Zeb L.West and friend…Pic by Jeff Moreaux.

I really quite loved the use of the iconic stories on display here as love stories, and even metaphors for whichever whale we ourselves find ourselves suddenly lost within.  The central story of our narrator was all-too common, and was interesting to look at through this fantastical lens.  It was a lower-key performance than I might have been expecting, and could maybe have used a little more energy, but then again maybe not.  Check it out and decide for yourself, but it definitely is worth checking out.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/innocent-when-you-dream/

http://elephantandpeanut.com/

Fringe-Coma 2013 – KEEPER

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 24, 2013 at 8:31 am

Have I mentioned recently how bummed I am that I missed SIX: AT HOME back at the 2012 Ottawa Fringe?  Because I AM.  It was like, practically the ONLY show I missed that year, and it went on to win every single Prix Rideau Award ever that year (note: this may be an exaggeration).  Who were these creative fiends at Zopyra Theatre, and why wasn’t I allowed to see how cool they were???

Well, of course, lots of the folks from that show are still around and creating like mad…and lucky me, the artistic director of Zopyra, Emma Zabloski, is back in town this summer after relocating to Victoria with a brand new show, this time flying solo on stage.  And no, not literal flying, though if you’ll pardon the cheese your heart may just soar for a good long while during this production.  Emma’s one-woman show KEEPER tells the tale of the inside of her own head, as we’re given a peek behind the mental curtains to visit with the keeper of Emma’s memories, who bears a striking resemblance to Emma herself (as she would, right?).  Emma’s Keeper is a flighty sort, prone to playing goofily with items from the piles of memories cluttering her workspace.  And once she notices the audience, she’s all aflutter to show off her memory skills, and she has plenty of uses for us along the way.

Emma Zabloski in KEEPER.  Pic by Kimara Brilling.

Emma Zabloski in KEEPER. Pic by Kimara Brilling.

Amidst the show’s very playful audience interaction, the Keeper is forced on occasion to leap into a sudden memory that gets called up (Emma is at a family reunion, you see, so they start coming fast and furious at one point), bringing us deeper into Emma’s life, and lowly revealing just why it is we’re all there.  Kathleen Greenfield, director of LITTLE ORANGE MAN is credited with some dramaturgy on this one and it shows, and happily Emma Zabloski is more than talented and enchanting enough to make the magic of this production real for everyone in the room.  This is definitely one of my fav’rits so far at the Fringe this year: simple and mesmerizing, heartwarming and imaginative, and if you’re lucky there just might be pierogies too. The show takes place in the nosebleed section of the Ottawa Fringe, studio 311, along with OCCUPY ME.  The companies have joined up to create the Yogi Pierogi lounge down the hall, should you care to double-bill your tower climb!  And trust me…this show is wort the climb.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/keeper/