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Archive for June, 2014|Monthly archive page

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – STRIPS

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 27, 2014 at 5:35 pm

One final show for me on a sweetly chilly Thursday night, and maybe my last review of the 2014 Ottawa Fringe festival. I’m still seeing shows, don’t get me wrong, but I’d kind of like to relax and enjoy the final weekend as just another audience member, so I’ll be putting my blogger hat on the rack for the duration. Well, okay, unless inspiration strikes, but that just goes without saying, doesn’t it?

But that’s for later, In the meantime up, up and away to Academic Hall for Slattery Theatre’s STRIPS, a comic book adventure first experimented with back at the now legendary Stage Manager Battle at the Gladstone Theatre. Written by Mark MacDonald, the show features a good sized cast of up’n’coming young Ottawa actors having a bit of superpowered fun onstage. Set in a typical comic metropolis (I want to say New City, is that right? It was very late…), our story follows big shot hero Jack the Jump (Kyle Cunningham) as he tries to make time with fetching librarian Jane (Katie Volkert), not to mention stopping the machinations of evil Doctor Doe (Will LaFrance). Lately, the doc has hooked up with a wicked shapeshifter (Hilary Peck) and launched a new take-over-the-world plot…he might get the jump on Jack, if not for the appearance of a mysterious lady psychic (Chrissie Baxter) who just might help Jack save the day, if she can only get through his thick skull in time.

strips

I’ll be up front with you, gang…this isn’t the best show around, it’s not the greatest theatre…but it DOES have the most superheroes in it, and that’s saying something in my books. A clever framing sequence, funky dyi set and colourful costumes are aided by enthusiastic and properly scenery chewing performances. LaFrance digs gleefully into the cackling Dr Doe, there are a few very cleverly staged super-speed fight scenes, improper telepathic sexual innuendoes are broadcast…it’s a silly fun time with some good folks in tight pants, and that was all I really needed at 11pm on a Thursday. Thanks for the fun, Slattery, and here’s to the next big stage comic book adventure. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – DERANGED DATING

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 27, 2014 at 8:25 am

The next time I feel sorry for myself for how far I have to travel (a whopping 40 minutes by bus) to get home from the Ottawa Fringe Festival, I’ll just remind myself of artists like Shirley Kirchmann. Shirley came all the bloody way from South Africa just to be a part of our merry little festival, and having met her a couple of times in the beer tent, I was already glad she’d made the effort even before seeing her show. Yesterday I finally made the trek out to the Avant-Garde bar, mentally prepared myself for the 1-drink minimum (pro tip: don’t order a draft, they have no idea how to pour over there and it will take forEVER), and managed to score a decent seat at the bar for the show.

The show is DERANGED DATING, a hybrid of standup comedy and one-woman theatre that points a skewering glare at Shirley’s history with the dating scene and the perils of the online setup. Featuring some fun character work, most especially when Shirley’s ‘relationship expert’ shows up to ostensibly give our gal a helping hand looking for love, with laughable results. Which is a good thing for us, but many will be feeling Shirley’s pain before the show is over as date after date with self-absorbed singles, and some not-so-singles goes disastrously wrong.

Shirley Kirchmann in DERANGED DATING

Shirley Kirchmann in DERANGED DATING

Shirley Kirchmann is a great comic and solid performer, and this show is a great showcase for her, especially highlighting her sharp, truthful writing style and easy charm. The no-tech venue doesn’t do her a lot of favours (though she still manages some great music-based moments, especially a wince-inducing date prep montage), and I sure hope I get the chance to see her perform again someday in a proper theatre, but for now I’ll happily settle for this and wouldn’t have missed it. Funny, insightful and pretty universal, you definitely want to hear what Shirley Kirchmann has to say. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – DICKY DICKY

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 27, 2014 at 8:00 am

Second Thursday already? Thank goodness I’m addled from exhaustion, or I’d start fretting that the end of the 2014 Ottawa Fringe Festival was looming near! As it is, I was pretty lucky to make it to my venue without walking into any walls. And I needed this show to complete my collection of courtroom shows. Although I can’t imagine this show in particular was what the architects had in mind when they built the place.

From longtime Fringe veteran company Garkin Productions comes the two-man sketch comedy assault that is DICKY DICKY, featuring Ray Besharah and David Benedict Brown, and directed by the splendiferous Melanie Karin Brown. Featuring a wide array of comedy sketches, penned by the stellar international lineup of Tom X Chao, John Grady, Jayson MacDonald, Matthew Domville, Megan Findlay, Sterling Lynch and Brent Hirose, this is a sketch show with no fear of the juvenile…in fact, on several occasions Dave and Ray wildly embrace juvenile and make it their own, from the balloon-fueled opening number through epic space battles, cat food commercials, and of course, art house partial nudity.

Oh yes...there will be diapers.  Ray Besharah and Dave Benedict Brown in DICKY DICKY.

Oh yes…there will be diapers. Ray Besharah and Dave Benedict Brown in DICKY DICKY.

Ray and Dave are two of the funniest and most talented kids around and watching them let’er rip with the great array of material in this show is a giddily fun privilege. Their high-speed performance review sketch is one of the wonders of the modern world, and Dave Brown in a mullet wig pretty much can’t be topped for comic value. Hell, I even laughed during the transitions, which Ray Besharah seemed to be having WAY too much fun with. Is this show occasionally gross and childish? Hell yes…who ever heard of a highbrow sketch comedy show, though? If laughing at two overgrown kids with serious comedy chops is your thing (and from the packed houses, it’s a lot of people’s thing), then you need to get a little more Dicky in your life before it’s too late. Just make sure to protect your database. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – ROYAL JELLY

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 26, 2014 at 5:18 pm

One last show for me on this Wednesday at Ottawa Fringe…making it a slow, slackerly three-show night, because even I need a break sometimes. Or, okay, I just need even more time at the beer tent, but that’s sort of a break. Of course, somehow today is the day I’m running dangerously late in getting my writeups done, because I roll like that. Ironically. I roll ironically.

Irony or no, I still had one more show to dig into that night, ROYAL JELLY from Book of Why, at good old Arts Court theatre. Written by Kara Crabb (whose THE STILLBIRTH appeared at club Saw few months back as part of Red.Collective’s OFF THE CUFF series), the show stars Crabb herself, Noa Nussbaum and Norah Paton as a trio of harem widows in a post-apocalyptic bunker, squabbling over the usual things…who gets the bigger share of their late husband’s heart for dinner, who gets to marry little Jacob jr. when he grows up, which one of them will be eaten next…you know, the usual.

Promo image for ROYAL JELLY (pic by Kara Lis Coverdale)

Promo image for ROYAL JELLY (pic by Kara Lis Coverdale)

Looking and sounding at first appearance like a scene out of an old Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who (that is SUCH a compliment from me, you guys, trust me), and featuring live onstage musical accompaniment from Kara-Lis Coverdale, this is a show that’s delightfully weird to describe. A life or death sci-fi premise is played out in full-on camp mode by three very talented actors…Crabb as the imperious head wife Gal-Pal chews scenery and slinks about like nobody’s business. Nussbaum is a hoot as wide-eyed Pap-X, earnest and devoted to a fault. And Paton as pragmatic Suffagir, ever scheming, arguing, and occasionally seducing, is likewise great to watch in action. This is a slickly made show with great costumes, set and sound that makes a point of making fun of itself, and that makes for a damn fun viewing. Congrats to Book of Why on a memorable debut…and yeah, that baby was kinda creepy. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Side note: the show does run a bit shorter than its stated 60 minute run time, so you might be able to schedule an earlier after-show in if you plan wisely!

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – WUNDERJAMMER

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 26, 2014 at 8:48 am

Still trucking along at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and managing to keep up. I’m somewhere in the 20’s as far as show viewings go, which is respectable I feel. But there’s always room for one more, and having just come from a pretty dark drama, it was time to lighten things up with some laffs. And I had a pretty good idea where the best place was to go an find me some of those.

Off to Academic Hall, then, for Punchbag Playhouse’s WUNDERJAMMER, a brand new sketch comedy show written by Richard Hemphill, who also penned last years ultra-mega-boffo hit DIE ZOMBIE DIE. Dragging that show’s director Stewart Matthews kicking and screaming along, they’ve assembled the ace comedy squad of Richard Gelinas, Victoria Luloff, Jordan Hancey and Allison Harris to knock about the stage as 60 characters in 20 odd back-to-back sketches. Featuring bits ranging from the very silly (ask Mr.Science!) to the very, very silly (Flatulent Cat Farm!), this is clearly a show with something for everyone. Well, everyone who thinks farting cats are funny. That’s everyone, right?

wj2

Matthews eye for physical theatre is put to excellent effect here, and this whole wacky show runs like a well-lubed machine, from the imaginative opening glow-in-the-dark sequence through every goofy moment to follow. The cast is brilliant, and have multiple standout moments. From Jordan Hancey’s first skit as an increasingly flustered shopkeep, he gets effortless laughs with just some perfectly timed glares. Richard Gelinas as a grumpy flower pretty much made my year. Alli Harris is a clowning comic goldmine, delightfully hamming it up as a dubious scientist, oddball duchess, and once operating in seamless tandem with Victoria Luloff as little girls unwisely interrupting a Monster at work. Luloff scores huge as a brilliantly dim supermodel (of the world!), working to eradicate children’s literability, in a sketch that highlights Hemphill’s clever comedic wordsmithery, something at work throughout. This is smartly silly and very hilarious show, and I was grinning like a little kid on his first trip to Bunny Town the whole time. See it and make with the laughing, already. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – IMMOLATION

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 26, 2014 at 8:44 am

Over the hump and onto the second half of the Ottawa Fringe festival 2014, but still so many shows to try and see! I’m somehow keeping up on my reviewing schedule, although I think my body is going to have a few strong words with me about my methods in the days to come. Stupid mortal body, so unreliable!

Not that I’d be any happier living forever, if Caitlin Corbett’s IMMOLATION from Here Be Dragons is any indication. A dark but fantastical two-hander playing in Arts Court Theatre, the show stars Corbett and William Beddoe as Kes and Kit, a pair of eternally at-odds lovers who are doomed to be reborn and reborn into different bodies and lives, and can’t seem to stop themselves from finding one another and making a bloody mess of one another. Theirs is a long story indeed…10,000 + years of emotional baggage have messed Kes and Kit up but good when it comes to their relationship. Except that one of them may have figured out a rather drastic way out of their undying dilemma.

Caitlin Corbett in IMMOLATION (pic by Andrew Alexander)

Caitlin Corbett in IMMOLATION (pic by Andrew Alexander)

Directed by Nick Alain, this is a mightily goddamn intense piece of theatre, and surely has the most intense opening scene I’ve witnessed in a good long while. Caitlin Corbett is a solid writer and has created a pretty crafty bit of fantasy-drama here, with a clever premise that allows it to be cast with virtually any combination of actors. I found the play itself had a tendency towards the overdramatic, and felt a bit too over the top at times. But the story itself was fascinating (even if I did miss a salient point or two about just how our hapless heroes came to be in this predicament, but I might have just not been paying enough attention), and I loved the everyman quality that Beddoe brought to the table as long-suffering Kit. A worthy show to see for your dark fantasy fix…and watch out, things WILL get bloody. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – AGAINST GRAVITY

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 25, 2014 at 5:33 pm

The rains had died down, beers were being had, and one more show to go for Tuesday night at Ottawa Fringe. Hanging out with West Coast celebs Ingrid Hansen and Kathleen Greenfield, we trucked over to Academic Hall for a show the both of them couldn’t push on me enough, and they’re two folks whose judgment I trust when it comes to things theatrical. Besides, I’d seen the two ladies from the upcoming show doing their cool and clever pitch in the courtyard and elsewhere, and in a Fringe year oddly jammed with shadow puppets, they looked like theirs were the shadowiest puppets of them all! Or something like that.

From Jessica Gabriel and Chloe Ziner, aka Mind of Snail puppet company, AGAINST GRAVITY is the joyously unique story of a man following his heart (and a slippery snail) wherever it leads him, from high cliffs to the bottom of the sea, and ultimately into a heated battle with that most fundamental of forces, gravity. All of this is done with no sets or even actors to speak of in the traditional sense…everything is projected onto a large screen with colourful images and shadows being deftly manipulated to create the visuals of the story, while live music and beatboxing, along with a few bits of text, flesh things out. And the audience is strongly encouraged to help out in the sound effect department for the duration of the adventure.  And what an adventure it will be.

Jessica and Chloe of Mind of a Snail, and AGAINST GRAVITY.

Jessica and Chloe of Mind of a Snail, and AGAINST GRAVITY.

Seemingly simple in concept and yet almost unbelievable in execution…AGAINST GRAVITY is sheer unbridled fun and giddy Fringe magic. Filled with the kind of childlike wonder that must come in a bottle where the fabulously talented Chloe and Jessica come from, this is an unbearably adorable show with catchy music you’ll be humming long after you leave and filled with infectious wonder that legally qualifies as therapy. I am genuinely disturbed at the thought of a human being who can leave this show withOUT a smile on their face. My whole audience was humming, schlorping and singing along with gusto the whole while, and how often fo you get authority to DO that in public? I saw, I loved, I bought the tee-shirt. Imagination minus gravity=a show not to be missed. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm

The rain just kept on pouring down on a gray and cold Tuesday, but happily that didn’t seem to be dampening anyone’s Fringing spirit. A whole soggy mob of us made the dash out, and subsequent climb up to Studio 311 for what I believe is the latest premiere of the 2014 Ottawa Fringe. It was a show I had sort of seen before, but not exactly. Kind of a recurring theme at this year’s Fringe (along with shadow puppets, but more on that in the NEXT post).

A solo work by the wonderful Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET premiered in shorter form at last year’s Fresh Meat Festival (the same festival where TALES SHE TELLS and WAKE saw their inception). Now reworked and expanded, with new direction by Brad Long, the show stars Mado as Joy, a hospital worker working on a strange experiment indeed…it involves hurling vicious insults at a jar of rice (STUPID RICE!!), and it’s actually really kind of important. It all has to do with her estranged sister Sarah, her oddball nephew, and Joy’s whole somewhat difficult task of empathizing with…well, anyone, really.

Madeleine Boyes-Manseau in TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (pic by Cory Thibert)

Madeleine Boyes-Manseau in TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (pic by Cory Thibert)

A performance you absolutely cannot ignore or take your eyes off of, Mado proves again why she’s an actor people should be taking serious note of. The bold choice to star in a one-woman show as a woman who is, essentially, not a very good person is terribly refreshing and she pulls it off spectacularly. Joy may be the most brilliantly flawed character I’ve seen on a stage in a long time. Staged almost excruciatingly intimately by Long, we’re quite literally bedside as Joy recalls the events that have led her to this bizarre place in Mado’s fantastic script. Featuring the best apology letter of all time, and one of THE standout performances at the Fringe, this is more than worth the long climb up the stairs to studio 311. It’s worth an extra ten stories. Get going. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – BY ANY OTHER NAME

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 25, 2014 at 8:17 am

Well it had to happen, a rainy day at the Ottawa Fringe…wouldn’t have seemed right without at least ONE downpour, and somehow apt that it fell on the midway point in the festival. But a proper Fringer is immune to weather, and I made the modest sprint through the raindrops to a BYOV I hadn’t been back to in a while, the cozy Café Alt on Ottawa U campus (they have couches!) for some theatre to warm my chilled bones

My show there was BY ANY OTHER NAME, a new work written and directed by Owen Walker. A clever twist on Shakespearean identity-swapping romps, the story follows Ashley and Connor, two 20-somethings who accidentally ‘meet’ via a misfired e-mail one day, which leads to a long and increasingly intense correspondence. Finally deciding to meet, but without ever actually having exchanged pictures or even last names (a bit of a stretch in the age of social media, but just roll with it), Ashley starts to get nervous and hatches a plot and enlists kindly Patti to pretend to be her, and see if Connor passes muster. A salient plan…except Connor hatches almost the identical plot with HIS pal Robert. And the romantic comedy hijinks, they are thus commenced.

Downstage-Productions-Web1

The show stars Madeleine hall and David Rowan as Ashley and Connor, and Bruce Spinney and Ellen Manchee as Robert and Patti (aka the fake Connor and Ashley), with Tiffani Kenny popping in from time to time as the waitress. There’s some smart dialogue and well realized characters at play here, even if the script never quite lives up to the potential of its own plot. The whole show felt like it needed to be moving about 25% faster, as a few of the exchanges started to drag unnecessarily. First time Director Walker stages the scene simply, and has a good crew of actors to help bring the action to life. Hall and Spinney are especially memorable as overly analytical Ashley and laid-back Robert, respectively. A few solid laughs, zingers, a likeable cast and an unexpected resolution make for a sweet and enjoyable show that should at least put a good smile on your face. Bonus Tip: the lovely paintings adorning the set walls are by Walker himself and Michele Beauregard, and are indeed for sale! Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – WHO KILLED GERTRUDE CRUMP?

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 25, 2014 at 2:28 am

A few years ago I was on a road trip to the Victoria Fringe Festival, where I saw (among many other shows) HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE from Monster Theatre. Featuring the wonderful Chris Bange as Houdini, it also starred Tara Travis as his wife Bess, and she was just faboo in that show. So I was pretty stoked to hear that she would be hitting up this year’s Ottawa Fringe with a brand new show, written by Ryan Gladstone (who also penned HOUDINI). It was very high on my list of things to see, and today I finally got to check it off that list.

The latest is a murder mystery with a serious (well, okay, not so serious) twist, WHO KILLED GERTRUDE CRUMP? Set up as an early, unpublished work of an acclaimed mystery novelist, Travis herself appears as said writer and plays the story out before our eyes, with the aid of nine or ten charismatic puppets, romping about a sprawling puppet-rific set. Taking place in a secluded island hotel during a terrible storm (whoops, there goes the boat for the mainland guess we’re all stuck here!), a disparate cast of misfits arrive by invitation, only to discover that celebrity authoress Gertrude Crump has been done in at her desk. Was it the caretaker? Was it the resentful Mister Fox? Or bitter Scotch governess Miss Hardcastle? Can YOU find the clues to solve the mystery..?

The cast (besides Tara Travis) of WHO KILLED GERTRUDE CRUMP? (pic by Jim Travis)

The cast (besides Tara Travis) of WHO KILLED GERTRUDE CRUMP? (pic by Jim Travis)

Well, you’ll have good fun trying, as Tara Travis is a smashing and quick-witted host AND performer, deftly handling her puppet cast while simultaneously lending voices to the bickering lot of them. Somewhere amidst all the hubbub she manages several set changes, a few boat rides, and several bodies later a smashing resolution with a marvelous twist. Aided by a cool soundtrack and sound/light effects, the talented Miss Travis is an eminently enchanting scamp of a host, carrying us all willingly along through the funniest murder in a good long while. And how she manages to keep her byzantine puppet cast in check is beyond me. Just another mystery, I suppose…do yourself a favour and try and solve it yourself at her next performance. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid