Fringe-Coma 2013 – AROUND MISS JULIE and HAPPINESStm

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.


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)

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