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Posts Tagged ‘david benedict brown’

Fresh Meat 2014 – Week One Preview!

In Theatre on October 13, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Okay, so I’m not really getting out to see or review, well, anything these days.  Which sucks, because I’m missing some cool shows, which is kind of unlike me.  But even with my suddenly loopy rehearsal schedule, even I will be getting out this Thursday to catch the opening night of the coolest theatre party in town, the third FRESH MEAT FESTIVAL.  From humble roots at the Pressed Cafe on Gladstone to last year’s shenanigans upstairs at the Lunenburg, the DIY Fest and brainchild of Jonah Allingham is back, this time in an honest to gosh theatre!  Or, okay, Arts Court Library, but they have risers now and everything!  And the Courtroom next door is being converted into a bar/lounge for in between and after shows, so I’m calling it an improvement.  Like last year, the event is split into two weeks, now with five different companies presenting their original, twenty-minute works each weekend from Thursday thru Saturday.  Ain’t no funner theatre bash in town, and here’s what you can look forward to having your collective worlds rocked by in the first weekend:

Backpack 2MY CARDBOARD LIFE from Backpack Theatre.  Written by and starring Fresh Meat Founder Jonah Allingham his own bad self, and directed by the awesome Katie Swift (who Ottawa last saw in the amazing HROSES from Evolution Theatre).   It don’t get much more do it yourself than cardboard box props, and that’s where Backpack is starting their latest theatrical adventure.  Back for the third time at Fresh Meat, following the wicked cool SUMMER OF ’34 and THE B TEAM.

Forstner and Fillister 1FORSTNER AND FILLISTER PRESENT: FORSTNER AND FILLISTER IN: FORSTNER AND FILLISTER from, you guessed it, Forstner and Fillister.  A two-man comedy about the wild world of woodworking, starring Will Somers and Dave Benedict Brown, and directed by Melanie Karin Brown.  That’s an impressive list of talent, and a whole lot of funny for just twenty minutes to try and contain.  Will they be able to build something sturdy enough to do the job??  Come and see.

Thunk! 1smash.bam.kapow. from Thunk! Theatre.   Superheroic misadventures from the wonderful Karen Balcome and Geoff McBride, the dynamic duo that brought us BREAD and FAR & NEAR & HERE, as well as being the current holders of the coveted Rubber Chicken Award.  Always innovative and inspirational, their presence is reason enough by itself to get your ticket.

ME AND MY MONSTER from Cart Before the Horse.  Starring the unstoppable Megan Carty (soon to be seen again at the Avalon Studio in a reprise of SHAPE OF A GIRL starting on the 31st) in a one-woman show about the monsters under all our beds.  Directed by Paul Griffin, and sure to be powerful medicine indeed.

Traced_Theatre_2THE BIG WEED from Traced Theatre.  Some killer comedy to round out the first weekend, in this offering from the awesome Alli Harris, Lindsay van der Grinten, and director Gabbie Lazarovitz. After a solid debut at this year’s Ottawa Theatre Challenge, I can’t wait to see what Traced comes up with now.

That’s it for opening weekend…tho I should mention that smash.bam.kapow will only be playing the first two nights, and a SUPER SECRET SHOW will be offered in its stead on Saturday!  Remember, the bar will be open the whole time, and you can get your advance tickets at the Fresh Meat Website!  See you there, and again same time next week for a peek at Week Two (About which I’m oddly overexcited, for some reason…)!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid (and Winston)

 

Take Your Wife to School

In Theatre on September 16, 2014 at 10:16 am

Tried to do some blogging for the first time in a month, and WordPress decides that’s the moment it gets hungry and needs to eat a post, so this one is a little later than I’d planned (which was plenty late already). In their defense, I HAVE been starving the old Visitorium of posts lately, it must be admitted. What can I say, Clown Camp eats up some time and energy (and yes, there may be a post coming about that, one of these days…still getting my typing legs under me, so bear with me).

But, I’m back in Ottawa and eager to remind myself why Theatre is the bestest thing ever, so off I went on a jam-packed opening night to the first show of the Gladstone Theatre’s ever-expanding new season. Kicking it off was THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES, a raunchy comedy from that scamp Moliere in a new rhyming translation from David Whiteley, who did similar service for CYRANO with Plosive productions a ways back. This time Plosive and Seven Thirty teamed up to bring us the tale, with John P.Kelly solidly at the helm. A good pedigree already, and the cast gave me even more to look forward to.

The story follows wealthy schmuck Arnolphe (Andy Massingham), a man obsessed with never being made a fool of by any woman. To that end, he has been secretly hiding away and raising the beautiful Agnes (Tess McManus), grooming her to be his ideal, ignorant child-bride when the time is right. With the help, such as it is, of his grumbling servants (David Benedict Brown and Catriona Leger, stealing scenes one after the other), Arnolphe is all set to put his less-than-feminist plan into action, ignoring the words of warning from his friend Chrysalde (David Whiteley). Enter the dashing Horace (Drew Moore), a lusty young fellow with long wavy locks, who somehow manages to slip by Arnolphe’s defenses and fall head over heels with Agnes. A battle of wits ensues, though that may be giving Arnolphe more credit than he’s due, as he goes to increasingly greater lengths to protect his dimwitted prize at all cost. Of course, he never seems to reckon on his ‘ignorant’ Agnes having a few opinions of her own on the subject.

Tess McManus and Andy Massingham in THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES.

Tess McManus and Andy Massingham in THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES.

Armed with a rockin’ good cast and Whiteley’s fast-paced and fun translation, John P.Kelly flexes his farce muscles big time for this production and turns out probably the funnest and funniest show the Gladstone could have hoped for to open up the season. Andy Massingham is in his element as the omnipresent Arnolphe (or ‘Monsieur la Douche’ as he wonderfully renames himself), playing with words, actors and audience alike…and not backing down from the inevitable darker turn in the latter half of the play, making some of previously goofy scenes with co-star McManus downright offputting. Tess’ Agnes is terrific as well, balancing dim and loopy with proud and strong , and making it look easy. Drew Moore as the earnest Horace is great fun to watch, especially his banter with Arnolphe (who does an impression of Horace in the play that is just brilliant). And of course, Dave Brown and Catriona Leger are too much damn fun as the randy servant pair…it’s worth the ticket for their hijinks alone.

So, yeah…that was a lot of fun! Whiteley done good with his updated but faithful translation, and it serves the Gladstone gang well in a crowd-pleasing jamboree of a show that gets the season started right, with a wink and a nod. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid (and Winston)

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

Detroit Rock Bottom

In Theatre on January 21, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Pardon the late writeup, but, well, excuses!  Would have had this one posted yesterday, but I was waylaid by a well earned but nonetheless blinding headache most of the day.  Why didn’t anyone ever tell me there were theoretical downsides to excessive drinking?

I blame society.

I blame society.

But to business!  A couple days past I got to head down to the Gladstone Theatre in the awesome company of my classmate (note: I will never stop calling you, or the others, that) Kathryn to check out the latest from Plosive Productions, Lisa D’Amour’s DETROIT.  Directed by Chris Ralph, the Gladstone gang kicked off 2014 with the Canadian Premiere of this deadly funny take on American suburban life and I’m pretty glad they did.  The play follows two families living backyard to backyard in the very beleaguered indeed titular city.  Mildly affluent Mary and Ben (Teri Loretto-Valentik and David Ross Whiteley) enjoy a good backyard BBQ and the quiet life, but are hoping their luck will turn around since Ben got laid off at the Bank.  Newcomers to the area Sharon and Kenny (Stephanie Izsak and David Benedict Brown) have long since tossed the notion of luck out the window, existing from day to day without a stitch of furniture to their name.  A random invitation from Mary to the new kids starts off their unlikely friendship, which will involve a lot of laughs, drinks, a little fire, and at least one trip to the hospital.  Oh yes…there will be blood.

But BBQ first.

But BBQ first.

DETROIT is as good a way to kick off this theatre year as you could reasonably ask for, or be unreasonable if you like, you’ll still leave smiling.  Chris Ralph knows him some stagework, and seems well suited indeed to helming this viciously funny look at the dog eat dog life in the decaying American dreamscape. He certainly corralled himself a solid cast…Teri Loretto as Mary is always teetering on the verge of a breakdown, balancing being the breadwinner of the family all of a sudden with just wanting to enjoy her damn life for five minutes.  David Whiteley as maybe-British Ben is a great straight man, until the strains of the situation start to bend him into all sorts of fun new shapes.  Watching the two of them spiral into Sharon and Kenny’s manic lives is a great ride.

Dave Benedict Brown and Stephanie Izsak in DETROIT.

Dave Benedict Brown and Stephanie Izsak in DETROIT.

I’ve only seen Stephanie Izsak once before with Odyssey a couple years back, and holy Hell she impresses as Sharon, almost unbearably vibrant and playful, giving her hard luck character some true childlike wonder despite all the hardships, and those do surface along the way.  And what did I tell you people about Dave Benedict Brown, what did I JUST tell you?  Him=Funny, and he proves me right in this show…although his Kenny also has a very cool underscore of danger that surfaces from time to time, and I like it.

The cast is rounded out by OLT vet Geoff Gruson, and I won’t give too much away about his appearance because it would spoil the surprise.  Suffice it to say this is a just plain fun show with an amazing cast, and laughs from beginning to end…even if those laughs are essentially about the economic uncertainty facing, well, most if not all of us these days.  Props to Attilla Clemman’s naturalistic set, much more dangerous than your eye might first lead you to believe.  Cheers to the first killer comedy of the season…keep’em coming.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the visitor (and Winston)

The Comedy of Bears

In Theatre on July 9, 2013 at 4:01 pm

July means two things in Ottawa…intermittent rain, and Shakespeare in the Park!  Okay, and Bluesfest, but what am I, a dirty hippie?  Nay, I am in dire need of some proper cultural refinement this summer, and my first bit of theatre in the great outdoors was just the ticket.  I had a plan for my post-drudgery evening, but an emergency trip back to my place across town necessitated a change of scheduling.  So instead of catching the Company of Fools show in the Glebe (soon guys, soon!), it was off to Iona Park in Westboro to check out what relative newcomers Bear and Company had cooked up for their out-of-doors extravaganza.

The Bear gang has picked THE COMEDY OF ERRORS for the summertime fun, featuring many faces familiar to their fans, and directed by company member Anna Lewis.  Transplanting Zombie Bill’s farcical classic quite successfully into an old west setting, the action is set in the round, and we lucked out with great weather for the show.  We begin as the town Mayor (Will Somers) is bringing in a defeated looking old fella named Egeon (Tim Oberholzer, in one of several splendid characters guises) who has been sentenced to death for debt, or being a foreigner or something.  At any rate, he unfolds his tale of woe to the Mayor, explaining how he and his wife had just become parents to identical twins 33 years ago, and then immediately adopted ANOTHER pair of identical twins (don’t ask), only to lose track of one another in a shipwreck.  Egeon and his split set of twins, Antipholus (Michelle LeBlanc) and Dromio (David Benedict Brown) are now scouring the west looking for their other relations.  Unbeknownst to them, Shakespeare stacked the coincidence deck by having the other Antipholus (Michelle LeBlanc again) and other Dromio (David Whiteley) living comfortably in the very town they now all found themselves in.

Naturally, some identity-confused merriment ensues, as the visiting Antipholus runs afoul of the other Dromio, and gets unexpectedly wooed by his brother’s wife (Alexis Scott), even if he only has eyes for her sister (Rachel Eugster).  Along the way there’s some very hummable singing courtesy of Bear and Co’s ace musical director Rachel Eugster, lots of rope swinging and knock-down brawling, and even a proper Shakespearean farting contest (I mentioned the cultural refinement, right?). This is a terribly fun piece of theatre in the great outdoors, with as good an ensemble cast as you would ever need.  David Benedict Brown and David Whiteley as the twin Dromios are comic gold, ever beaten down and bemoaning their fates.  Alexis Scott got some spontaneous applause from the audience on my night while delivering one of Adriana’s more impassioned speeches towards the visiting Antipholus, and for my money she earned it…Rachel Eugster likewise made a vivacious Luciana. Will Somers, Anna Lewis and Leslie Cserepy (trading off the odd show with Brie Barker) round out the killer cast, pitching in as various nitwit sheriffs, washing women and uppity nuns.  But the bulk of the show rests on Michelle LeBlanc’s capable shoulders, and she delivers like nobody’s business, managing to convincingly play two versions of Antipholus (complete with ever-so-slightly different country accents and swagger) and deliver the requisite mountain of dialogue, baffling amount of exits and re-entrances, plus the occasional rope trick, and lookin’ good doing it.  Once again, Miz LeBlanc reminds us why she’s one of the best in Ottawa.

Just don't get her mad.

Just don’t get her mad.

As a big CALAMITY JANE fan, I was all looking forward to this western spin on Billy Shakes, and the gang did not disappoint. Bear and Company’s take on the Shakespeare in the Park gig is proving to be a very fun one, and I’d advise you to check their website for when their show moseys your way…personally, I have every intention of returning with my nieces when they hit Kanata and I’d love to see ya there.  Peace, love and soul, y’all,

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/

5 Fringe Questions with RICHARD HEMPHILL

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Richard Hemphill is one of the funniest writers in the Ottawa scene, not only scoring a direct hit with his Fringe hit ENTER SCREAMING a few years back, but also being one of the twisted minds behind the long-running REMOTE PLANET radio sketch comedy show on CKCU.  He’s also one of the few people in town I can honestly say is just as, if not more nuts about watching theatre than I am.  He’s back this year with the hot-ticket DIE ZOMBIE DIE! at the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

 

diezombiedie

– How great is it to be back in Fringe after a few years away?
It’s more than great. It should have its own category of greatness. It should be great+ or great++. Or just grea+. Yeah, it’s grea+.
It’s as if the show had its own guardian zombie angel. Everything is going right for the play. After years on the waiting list, Punchbag Playhouse’s name was the first one pulled out of the hat (bowl) at the Fringe lottery. I already had a nearly finished script in my hand, so I didn’t have to write a new play from scratch. Extremely talented people agreed to work on the show. The schedule of performances is candy. The poster is a thing of beauty. And, we’re already selling advance tickets with no marketing whatsoever. It doesn’t get better than this.

– Talk a bit about your amazing cast.
What a leading question. Well, it would be if they weren’t, in fact, amazing. We’ve got Ray Besharah, David Benedict Brown, Diana Franz, and Allison Harris as the lead characters. David plays four roles. Candice Lidstone and Sebastian Samur are talking zombies – they do some really funny zombie shtick. And we’ve got Jordan Hancey doing some voiceover work.
And, if that weren’t amazing enough, a dozen zombies will form the set. That’s right: Die, Zombie. Die! has a living set of the living dead. You and the rest of your pitchfork-wielding villagers don’t stand a chance.

Was it in your plan all along to have Stewart Matthews direct?
Who?
Ray suggested Stewart direct – the two of them had worked on Lonely Bear at the 2012 Fringe. I had no idea who we would approach to direct the show. Stewart came to the play with a fully-realized idea of how it would unfold from beginning to end. He’s responsible for the living set of the living dead. He’s responsible for all the crazy action at the end of the show. The writer never thought of all that.

What’s the ratio of fart jokes to zombie kills in this show?
There are no fart jokes in the show. I know this will come as a huge shock, but there are no fart jokes in the show. Not a single silent-but-undeadly pun. Nary a queef. This show is squeaky clean.
The ratio of poop jokes to zombie kills, however, is one to one. And there are a lot of poop jokes.

This is the 4th year in a row the Fringe has had a zombie show.  What sets yours apart?

We might not have zombie puppets with exploding brains or zombie clowns with exploding brains, but we do have a living set of the living dead.

This isn’t your standard zombie show. Humans aren’t on the run from zombies in this play; the zombies are on the run from humans. The show is set some time after the end of World War II, and the zombies are a protected but lower class with civil rights, including the right not to get rounded up and annihilated. Into that, we’ve thrown a murder mystery a ton of ridiculous tomfoolery, and the most bizarre use of a Dachshund you have ever witnessed.

DIE, ZOMBIE. DIE! from Punchbag Playhouse plays this year at the Ottawa Fringe Festival at Academic Hall.  Showtimes are:

Thursday June 20th 10:30pm
Friday June 21st 9:30pm
Saturday June 22nd 6:00pm
Monday June 24th 6:30pm
Friday June 28th 8:30pm
Saturday June 29th 9:30pm

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

UnderCurrents 2013: HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS

In GCTC, Theatre, Undercurrents on February 7, 2013 at 9:21 pm

It was a bit of a long wait in between shows on night number two of this year’s Undercurrents festival.  BREAD wasn’t playing this night, and I was running out of ideas.  I tried my hand at a bit of small talk with some of the cool kids, ran out material at about the five minute mark, then shambled awkwardly down the stairs to sit alone at a table and wait the hour out until the next show began.  I shoulda done like Langston, brought the laptop, and started writing up the first show then and there…crafty bugger took the cloakroom over and everything!  But that’s why he gets the big bucks, and I’m wearing the same outfit for, like, the third day in a row.  Sheesh.

After about an hour, the hour passed (funny how that works out) and it was time for the second, and last, show of night number two.  It was my first repeat viewing of the festival, since this is one of the two shows that were poached from last year’s Ottawa Fringe Festival, and rightly so.  Tonight, it was 411 Dramaturgy‘s HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS, created by and starring Melanie Karin and David Benedict Brown.  One of those rare shows that’s almost exactly what the title sounds like it will be, HHSLMV is a cavalcade of one-after-the-other song parodies (or ‘Filksongs’ as we used to call them, back in my fanfiction days…but I digress), taking popular songs of the hippity-hoppity variety, and fusing them with some of Billy Shakes’ greatest hits.  The result is a pretty damn crowd-pleasing affair.

hiphopshakespeare1

photo of Mel’n’Dave by THE Andrew Alexander, yo.

Now, Mel and Dave may be white as mayonnaise (which explains their expansive Shakespeare knowledge, obviously), but they’ve clearly spent many an hour in the hip-hop world, and they can rattle off a rhyme with the best of them.  The duo prove quite quickly in their show that the wordplay of Shakespeare jibes just fine with that of several modern day rap masters.  Kanye, Tupac, Eminem, Notorious B.I.G and many more are represented in the show, and even though my own hip-hop knowledge is woefully inadequate, I liked the show even more the second time around.  The opener, their version of MacBeth set to…someone’s song (I’m sorry, I’m really quite clueless and dumb about a great deal of the world sometimes) is a goddamn marvel, and sets the bar high for the rest of the show.  The highlights to follow are many, from David’s crouching, preening Shylock from Merchant of Venice chanting ‘Gimme the Loot’, to Melanie’s proud Othello trying to decide if Desdemona is one of his 99 problems or not.  There’s some great stagework going on to match the vocals, and Mel and Dave work amazingly together (which may be one of the reasons they got married since the last time Ottawa saw this show).  Though I swear they cut out one of my fav’rit bits from the Titus Andronicus sequence from last year, which burns me a little, but I guess I’ll let it slide.  THIS time.  The rest was pretty damn cool, after all.

HHSLMV is great fun indeed…it may even give some of the audience a better understanding of some of the great works of Shakespeare, if you pay attention.   And for those who caught it at Fringe, there IS a new song in there, to tempt you back for another viewing.  The sound was noticeably better, I found, than at Fringe, the show is tighter, and the utter goofy thrill of it all is undeniable.  Weird Al would be proud, and Melanie and David should be too.  And now, I have to take a break before heading back for day three of Undercurrents…in which I have my first and only volunteer shift of the festival, and review the last remaining shows.  Next up: LITTLE ILIAD!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Fringe-Coma 2012 – Day SIX

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm

— WHITE NOISE — HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS — FISHBOWL — HARD TIMES  — LOVEBUG LOUIE IN A BLESSING FROM THE CURSED —

Yesterday was my crash moment, folks…thankfully, likely as bad as it will get for me this Fringe, but I was fighting to stay awake during the last half of the evening.  No comment whatsoever on the mighty fine shows I was watching, , it was just that 3 hours of sleep the previous day that was nagging at me.  I ended up missing the supah-secret cabaret, but what the Hell…I DO have some cool news.  Even though I missed a whole day of Fringing, I am actually now AHEAD of my 2011 Fringe schedule.  Fuck me, but I’m going at it hardcore this year, aren’t I?  Hit 26 last night, and with a good night’s sleep under me, I’m feeling strong for the second half of the festival!
How about you guys?  Are you Fringing safely and effectively?  Do you need a refresher course in Fringing from one of the all-time greats?  Remember, we’re getting some epic heat over the next few days, so stay frosty out there.  Don’t be a hero…leave that to the mock-professionals.

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WHITE NOISE by Christina Bryson and Margaret Evraire (Twisted by Design Theatre)

I won’t say I was reluctant to see this show, but I sure as heck didn’t have a clue what to expect.  Described as a collaborative  piece, and  based on the recent (and highly publicized) suicide of Carleton Student Nadia Kajouji, prodded to her death by a particularly tweaked villain hiding on the internet.  Heady material, and with all the ripe potential for heavy-handed moralism or pretentious puffery.  But the Twisted by Design gals (Christina Bryson, Margaret Evraire, Aisha Bentham, Elizabeth Tanner, Brittany Cope)  are way too smart for that, and turned this tragic tale into one of the slickest, and most powerful pieces yet at this year’s Fringe.

Anchored by two central figures (Kajouji herself, and another young woman in the throes of depression following the whole story on a Suicide website) and surrounded by a swirling chorus who are at times downright bloody sinister, but always amazing, WN uses movement, lighting, sound and some innovative theatrical trickery to suck the audience in from the get go.  Sometimes harrowing, occasionally surprisingly funny (their reproduction of internet pop-up ads was fucking PERFECT), and leading up to the punch to the gut that still hurts even IF you know it’s coming.   Some of the dialogue from the ‘narrator’ character (the 2nd girl…I’m not sure who played her) was a shade too on the nose, and bordered on talking down to the audience.  And I only point it out because the rest of the show was sheer beauty to behold.  All the performances were marvelous, the direction gorgeous, the imagery unforgettable.  If this one wasn’t on your radar before, Fringers, put it on there. Now, please.

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FISHBOWL by Mark Shyzer

Some people are a little shy about hitting up the one-man shows…but not me.  They always get me stoked, and while I knew little about this one by Mark Shyzer, other than it debuted at the legendary Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto, I was still ready for a good time.  And got it, thanks very much…Marks’ put together a very funny, original, and rather clever piece, starring four disparate characters whose threads may or may not weave together, in a unified field of Fringe awesomeness.

Starting off with Esther the science nerd, excitedly talking up her latest project with her beloved fish Frank, we soon move on to the three other characters…a gloomy teenager, a smart-mouthed octagenarian, and a jaded multiple ex-wife, all of whom Shyzer breathes joyous life into.  The writing is killer witty, with lots of clever verbal gags that you never see coming (and a great joke about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, for you Quantum geeks out there).  There slowly unfolds an overarching connection (which I’ll humbly admit that, in my then-exhausted state, I  blanked on some of the finer points of…someone else see it and explain it to me proper, much appreciated!), a few great human moments…but mostly, some broad comic characters expertly played.  And the costume bit is sheer genius…I can’t believe I’ve never seen anyone try that before!

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HARD TIMES by Bremner Duthie (Skinny Leg Productions)

This is my fourth Bremner Duthie joint (after THE PIG OF HAPPINESS, WHISKEY BARS and 33- A KABARET), and I gotta say, the dude and his crooning will likely never get old for me.  A breathy, booming singer well versed in a multitude of styles, genres and instruments, he may be literally incapable of not entertaining audiences.  His latest show HARD TIMES is set in the dying days of Vaudeville, and one theatre in particular, where the last actor standing is trying desperately to stave off the inevitable…being replaced by the movies.

Theatre being overshadowed by movies is not exactly an irrelevant theme these days, and Duthie gets some good material out of it.  I found the story and performance just a touch too similar to that of ’33, although that may be just me.  It was certainly more than worth the price of admission to watch Bremner Duthie being violently harangued by a rubber chicken (in fact, he may want to consider changing the name of the show to that….just a suggestion)  .  And of course, in the end it’s all about the songs, and he delivers as always.  A few familiar classics, a few I’d never head of, and happily his trusty concertina also puts in an appearance.    A beautiful duet with a long-lost lover was a touching highlight….you’ll leave with toes taping and a song in your heart.  What more do ya want?
Bremner is also co-starring (with Melanie Gall) in the Mercury Lounge Fringe show NE ME QUITTE PAS, PIAF AND BREL: THE IMPOSSIBLE CONCERT, and buzz is it’s a bloody good time.  Don’t say you can’t find any good singin’ at this year’s Fringe!

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LOVEBUG LOUIE IN A BLESSING FROM THE CURSED by David Craig (with Dylan George and Jodi Sprung-Boyd) (Theatre Sasa)

Yay, my last trip to that damned studio!  Seriously this made three times this Fringe I’ve ended the night with an eleven o’clock trek up the ten thousand stairs (note: this is an exaggeration) to Studio 311, but at least now I’ve got’em all!  And what a show to end with…Theatre Sasa’s infamous LOVEBUG LOUIE, the show that opened the Fringe by (*Gasp!*) cursing in front of our beloved mayor himself! I was intrigued to say the least…this was not a show typical of the Ottawa scene, to be sure.  And I can assure you that it is well worth the cardio workout afforded by the climb.  This is a show that must be seen to be…well, it just must be seen.

Dylan George as LoveBug Louie

Inhabiting a brilliant and sprawling set that’s almost as much a character in the show as he is, Dylan George as Louie swings, hobbles, slides and careens around the place like the madman he is, sharing his wit and wisdom with audiences bold enough to listen.   Some is wise indeed, some is particularly filthy, and the belly laughs can be instantly replaced by uncomfortable silence at the drop of a hat.   It’s kind of hard to describe this show… politically incorrect, insightful, grotesque and hilarious, and worth the visit if only to meet perhaps the most unique Ottawa Fringe character you’ll ever see.  Dylan George’s performance is one for the books, and Jodi is rapidly becoming one of my fav’rit directors.  This is, despite all the cursing, sexual overtones and fecal references (oh yea, Louie goes there), an absolutely beautiful show.  Check it out to see what I mean.

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And, although it’s already been wonderfully covered by Team Visitorium’s Grace Gordon, a quick shoutout to 411 Dramaturgy for HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS at Arts Court Theatre!  Melanie Karin and David Benedict Brown put on a viciously slick and highly entertaining show, giving Fringe and Shakespeare a healthy dose of Yankovic for a series of hip-hop retellings of the Bard’s finest.  Timing like an atomic clock, that pair.  My fav’rit was Eminem’s TITUS ANDRONICUS…what was yours?

Right, I’m out…stay cool Ottawa, she’s warm outside.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Team Visitorium 2012 – Grace’s Reviews!

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 17, 2012 at 12:04 am
Grace Gordon is a recent graduate of the Dawson College Professional Theatre program in Montreal, where she has played such roles as Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Masha in Three Sisters, and Jackie in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever. Last summer she appeared in Ottawa parks playing Desdemona in Salamander Shakespeare Co.’s Othello. As a self-proclaimed ‘Art Snob’ she is excited to share her large opinions with Fringe goers and blog perusers alike!
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WHAT HAPPENS NOW? by Andrew Chapman (1.21 Productions)

If you aren’t looking for a deeply profound classical theatre piece, What Happens Now is just the piece for you. The (stand-up) show is comprised of one man, no set, and many, many hilarious and sometimes thought-provoking observations about Ottawa cab drivers, all-day breakfast, and kittens (to name only a few).

Andrew Chapman is delightful to spend the hour with. He exudes a laid-back persona while remaining completely compelling to listen to. Although the size of audience was abysmal the afternoon I went to see it, Chapman really does deserve full houses. Trust me, you will not regret spending your hard earned Fringe cash on this one.

VENUE 2

Friday, June 22nd @ 7pm

Saturday, June 23rd @ 6pm

Sunday, June 24th @ 7:30pm

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HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS! by 411 DramaturgyWhat I lack in knowledge about Hip-Hop, I more than make up for in love for Shakespeare which is why I was equal parts nervous and excited about seeing the two come together in this Fringe show. 411 dramaturgy co.’s Hip-Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos is exactly what it sounds like – a song cycle of urban beats cleverly remixed with new lyrics inspired by the Bard’s works. Although sometimes the quality of the wireless mics makes it hard to hear, it’s nothing that can’t be overlooked – my only disappointment was that I didn’t want to miss a single reference to whichever play they were rapping about – my personal favorite being the Hamlet/ Kanye West mash-up.Melanie Karin and David Benedict Brown’s show may not be high art but I would definitely recommend checking out this show for a good time where the two worlds of hip-hop and English literature combine.

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THE BOY, THE GIRL AND THE SECRETS THEY SHARED by Alex Kirkpatrick (Elephant Collective)

The Boy, and the Girl, and the Secrets They Shared tells the story of a brother and sister who were separated ten years ago when they were entered into foster care. They reconnect to finally dive into and release all the melancholic moments they shared together and apart.

Simplistic in its execution (the set is a lone park bench – just the way a Fringe show should be) and props to the entire artistic team for tackling such dramatic and sensitive subject matter, however for  the most part this emotional roller coaster is rather flat. The text can be at times stiff and the performers even stiffer (save for a few naturalistic moments from the Brother, played by Lewis Caunter, which came as a breath of fresh air). Regrettably, I was left wondering why I should care about this sibling duo.

Venue 2

Saturday, June 16 @ 9pm

Sunday, June 17 @ 3pm

Wednesday, June 20 @ 8:30pm

Thursday, June 21 @ 7pm

Saturday, June 23 @ 4:30pm

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–  CRUX by Kathleen Frost (Hightide Theatre)

Crux tells the story of one girl, Grace, who finds herself trapped in a screening process for a secret realm/society underneath the streets of downtown Ottawa but ends up finding herself instead.

Jane Hosek (as Janet), Samuel Morgan (as Parker), and Mahalia Golnosh Tahririha (as Grace)

Though a musical work-in-progress, this piece has a nice ensemble. The story is fragmented and can be hard to follow but the musical numbers however are just lovely. Everyone in the cast can more than carry a tune at the same time as executing their intricate choreography. The song: “Rideau and Sussex,” could certainly be a theme song for the city.

Venue 1

Saturday, June 16 @ 11pm

Sunday, June 17 @ 6:30pm

Wednesday, June 20 @ 9:30pm

Friday, June 22 @ 5pm

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