So my first show ever at Montreal Fringe was in the bag…time to sprint to my second, as I’d only given myself a 15 minute window to get there! Luckily it was at the Montreal Improv, just a short dash down St.Laurent from the Freestanding Room, and I made my next show with a few minutes to spare. After seeing a relatively heavy dramatic piece, I was looking forward to relaxing with some lighter fare…and this one would fit the bill quite nicely.
The show was HOUSEBUM: A SUPERHERO ON TRIAL from Mask vs.Title, the mad creation of Francois Morin and Jean-Francois Michaud, a duo who met on the pro wrestling circuit if their delightful press release is to be believed (which I certainly hope it is). Set in a world of costumed superheroes, which instantly appeals to a lifelong comic nerd like myself, the story follows the somewhat shiftless and yet paradoxically effective Housebum, who only fights crime during the day because it’s ‘too dangerous at night’. Along with his faithful but underappreciated companion (not sidekick..!) White Night, Housebum makes a name for himself with his signature move of painfully concussing his supervillain adversaries. Enter the shady Platypus Corporation, the mysterious Whisperer, and tough new superheroine Justicette, all coinciding with a dastardly plot to sue Housebum out of existence. Will Dr.Drunk finally have his tipsy revenge? Why does the fiery Reportette look so much like that lady from the evening news? And whatever happened to Falsetto Scientist??
Now, I’ll level with you up front, folks…HOUSEBUM is not great theatre. In fact, I’m fairly certain it’s a first draft. That being said, it’s also some good old fashioned goofy fun, with some nicely silly superhero outfits, cardboard props, and plenty of hamming it up. Apologies that I don’t know any of the actor’s names, but if there was a program I didn’t find one. Housebum himself is appealingly goofy, mixing an apelike demeanor with slacker sensibilities. White Night has some of the better lines of the piece, generally trying to talk the violent Housebum out of whatever inanity he was about to perform. Justicette was a surprisingly strong performer (and has a pretty solid extended battle scene with Reportette), and even Dr.Drunk had some nice moments. There are a few video excerpts that could have moved along more quickly (and maybe the teevee placed where people could more easily see it from the back), but very much enjoyed the soundtrack theme music that played at the end, and there were lots of good little one-liners tucked away here and there. HOUSEBUM is the kind of show that Fringes live for, and probably wouldn’t exist EXCEPT for Fringe…and while it may not be Steinbeck, in the end I’m really glad I went. Now if I could just figure out why a guy only ever seen out of doors is called Housebum (but I guess all superheroes have SOME secrets). Peace, love and soul,