Posts Tagged ‘ray besharah’


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

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.


…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)

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.



– 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?
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!

Fringe-Coma 2012 – Day TWO

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 16, 2012 at 3:45 am


Aaaand, I’m through the second day, ten shows down and still spirits high!  But why the fuck would my spirits not be high, I ask you?  Fringe is the bestest time of the year, and here I am, seein’ shows, drinking like the hardcore functional alcoholic I am (I put the FUN in functional!), and sporting my brand-spanking-new Visitorium bizness cards!

That shit pops like it’s HOT, yo.

Anyhow, it was another 5 show day today, including a triple-bill at Arts Court Theatre, a particularly epic pizza baguette from the Bohemian Kitchen, and some stellar shows that I am very merry indeed to have seen.  Had a nice time at the courtyard afterwards…chatted with Tess, caught  a Capogreco sighting, practiced my ‘Mama Prostitute ‘ character with the Glassiano mob, and finally realized that I met Chris Bange last year in Victoria!  Houdini’s Last Escape for the WIN!! I even got a ride home (thanks again, Jan, I owe you a drink or a show or something)!  And unlike yesterday, tonight I’m staying up and writing my shows up like a proper goddamn Fringe-coma should.  We’ll see how long I last…I’ve got plenty of Jameson’s and Red Bull..!  Some might get done tomorrow morning, tho I start Fringing at 12:30, so there’s not much wiggle room.  So let’s get going!


–  GAMETES AND GONADS by Jeff Leard.  Now HERE’S a show I knew absolutely nothing about, which is often a very fun thing.  And tonight, was it ever.  The creation of Victoria’s Jeff Leard, GAMETES is almost a masterpiece of juvenilia, and that’s saying something.  A nerd’s wet dream, it’s essentially a biology lesson via pop culture, STAR WARS being the chief inspiration.  Our story follows a squadron of sperm on their impending assault on the Egg, an imagined ‘star of death’ to the militaristic sperm society, run by the iron-jawed Colonel Gamete. Over in the Ovum, however, a very different picture is painted, as sweet Emily Egg frets along with her Ovarian sisters about the impending sacrifice of one of their own.

Along the way we meet Captain Spunk, Seminal Sam, Pete Popoff, and several other cheap jokes.  Every one of them is played by Leard, who is a beautifully talented physical performer.  It’s his skill that keeps the story alive, and keeps the audience very entertained throughout.  He actually used somersaults as character transitions more than once, and I loved every moment of it.  There’s some great mimework going on here too (at times it almost seems like he’s just showing off…but then again, why the fuck not, if you can..?), and to say this show is worth a look is an understatement.  Get over the ‘Gonads’ in the title, Ottawa (we’re a little repressed down here)…this is a seriously fun show, and you should go see it.  So there.

–  HETEROLLECTUAL: LOVE, AND OTHER DUMB IDEAS from Pollux Dance.  I’ve been jonesing to see a dance show ever since the Rideau awards, and especially since I keep getting invited to all these sweet-sounding dance shows at Montreal Fringe!  So I was quite pleased to check out Pollux Dance‘s Ottawa Fringe show HETEROLLECTUAL.  After I saw it…?  Holy SHIT, was I pleased.  Featuring dancers Ana Groppler, Austin Fagan, Falciony Cruz, Joanie Audet, Olivia Citter and Tyler Gledhill, this show (a world premiere at the Ottawa Fringe, and Pollux’s first ever full length original show) looks at multiple aspects of the madness called love, mostly via dance with the aid of some voice clips, and a happenin’ musical score.  Every dancer is simply amazing…my main problem during the show was deciding which one to look at when they all shared the stage.  It was hard to keep your gaze off any of them for long…

This doesn’t LOOK like they’re dancing, but they totally are, I swear.

I’m sort of a budding dance fan, but even if you’re completely indifferent I think this is a show that might win you over.  Choreographer Leslie-Ann Glen’s moves are slick, super-entertaining and easy to follow, the sections of the show make sense, and…I’m just gonna say it…Holy Shit, but this is a sexy show.  If I had a girlfriend (I don’t), and if I’d brought her to this show (I didn’t, because she doesn’t exist), I wouldn’t have seen any more shows this day, if you catch my drift (do you..?).  There’re some funny bits, for sure, and some sad, poignant bits, definitely, but…yeah, mostly sexy.  Pretty damn awesome.

  LONELY BEAR by Ray Besharah, and Garkin Productions.  Garkin have put on some pretty amazing shows at Ottawa Fringe (including SATANIC PANIC, and last year’s PICK YOUR PATH featuring Team Visitorium’s own Amanda Klaman as Princess Superman), so a new show from them is always worth checking out.  This one, directed by Stewart Matthews and starring Garkin top-man himself Ray Besharah (who also wrote) as well as Zach Council and Jordan Hancey, had the kind of pedigree that NO Ottawa theatre fan can afford to ignore.  So it was that I took in this dark, comic tale of a man and his bear.

The story follows a controversial young Doctor, ‘Siggy’ (Besharah) as he tries to flog his new and currently unpopular psychological theories on a world, all while under the thumb of a secretive, dictatorial government that his militaristic brother (Hancey) longs to be a member of. Int he midst of all this, a plane crash lands our doctor in the wilderness with a young bear.   Reading what I’ve just wrote, I realize this is a hard show to describe.  There’s some goofy, comical slapstick bits, and some really charming moments.  Then, there’s also the torture. It’s a twisted, surreal show that makes for a highly entertaining and intriguing view, with Zach Counsil doing his usually wonderful work as a multitude of supporting characters, most notably a sadistic government strongman.  It’s not always clear what sort of world this show takes place in , historical or fictional (there are some pretty plain nazi overtones to the govt’ stooges), but it mostly doesn’t matter.  Matthews’ physical direction is beautiful, and the more mad elements of the script jar in an almost poetic way with the harshness of the story.  A change from Garkin, but a pretty fuckin’ cool one.

–  2020 by JP Chartier.  No light and fluffy fare here…Artbeat’s 2020 is a brainy, tech-heavy, densely packed show directed by Sarah Hearn, and starring some VERY good Ottawa talent.  Set in a near future where doctor-assisted suicide has been legalized, imperious Doctor Ben Duncan (John Collins) has a pretty slick setup going, along with his assisstant Joanne (Jen Vallance)…thanks to a complicated computer program (something about algorithms, just go with it), they’ve discovered a method of gleaning people’s deepest, darkest secrets at the moment of death.   Meanwhile, potentially ill Pat (JP Chartier) is having marital woes with his wife Alison (Thea Nikolic), leading his eyes to wander to a random beauty in the subway (Alexa Higgins).  There’s a lot going on in this one, folks.

The suicide theme (one of several shows at this year’s Fringe with that particularly dark theme…something in the air?) leads to some interesting and nicely stylized conversations onstage, including some well-done back and forths between Chartier and Nikolic, and an especially powerful bit where John Collins mimics the final leap for us, to stunning effect.  Some of the audio-visual pieces work better than others, and there may some overreach in that department.  And I’m not sure that all the threads in this play come together like they should…some of the secrets that are revealed are a bit of a letdown,  in the end.  Still, it sets you up with a lot to think about, and there’s lots of great work onstage to keep the story going.  Also, nudity.  Which is something everyone can enjoy!


A REPORT TO THE ACADEMY by Franz Kafka.  Once again, ending the night off with the high-rise walk up to Studio 311, this time for one of two Glassiano Productions at this year’s Fringe.  This one, like The Open Couple before it, was well worth the climb.  A one-manner starring Sean Sonier (also in Open Couple, by the by) as Red Peter, an ape who has apparently reformed his simian ways and embraced humanity, and must make a report to the titular academy, documenting his progress.  I feel it’s safe to call this one ‘Kafkaesque’, given the source material.  Based on one of his short stories from 1917, the story is absurd on the face of it, but raises great questions on the nature of identity, freedom, and all that jazz.

Driving the show is the performance of Sean Sonier as Red Peter, and it’s just bloody wonderful.  Adorned with evocative greasepaint from head to toes, Sonier skulks, prowls and beats his way around the sparse studio set, all the while relating his tale of capture, imprisonment, and gradual decision to abandon his apelike ways and learn to love rum.  It’s all pretty amazing to behold, and director Martin Glassford (also behind this year’s biblical mafia farce FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL) has done good.  Don’t be scared of the cardio workout, folks…you’ll remember this show much longer than the stairs.

That’s it for day two…I’m off to see what TEAM VISITORIUM is up to, and maybe catch six or seven new shows today at the Fest.  I dare you to see more!!  See you around the courtyard, Fringers. Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Summer Sins

In Theatre on February 15, 2011 at 12:34 am

Starting to slack off a bit…I’ve seen two shows over the weekend, and I have yet to get a post up about either one!  I may be suffering from a touch of  performance anxiety…the last post I made, about Evolution Theatre‘s epic LITTLE MARTYRS show has been insanely well-received (but then, with such rich fodder, how could I fail?), even prompting Ottawa’s squinkiest actress to make an entire post about it.  That, combined with the news of my involvement in the still super-secret Fringe project, makes this past week just about my proudest week in Ottawa Theatre yet.

But one mustn’t rest on one’s laurels, lest one’s laurels lose their robust shape and flavour!  So let’s get back to business…the business of sweet, sweet theatre fun!  Which in this case involves the two shows I saw over the past weekend, both on the last days of each play’s run, another reason why I perhaps haven’t been rushing to the review.  Once there’s a mathematical certainty I can’t convince anyone else to see a show, the fire kind of dims, you know what I mean?  But plays are plays, and they still deserve a few of my meagre words, and plenty more.

The first show, over at good ole Algonquin College, was David French’s THAT SUMMER, directed by one Cath Kenny and starring a gaggle of their theatre arts students.  My blogmate Smooth Tim Oberholzer was stage managing this one, so I for sure wanted to check it out…I often enjoy the student prods, and I can certainly relate to that up-and-comer eagerness.  There was a simple but good-lookin’ set, very sweetly including a rope swing and some rockin’ chairs.  i got a little nervous when a young couple showed up at the eleventh hour with their toddler in tow…seriously, folks, I respect parenting and know finding a babysitter can be hard.  But babies aren’t going to get that, once the lights go down and strangers start saying bizarre things all around them, that they’re supposed to remain silent, you dig?  They’re just not refined in that direction.  It’s all cool, but it isn’t their game yet.

So, anyways, yeah, screaming baby.  It happens.  The play went about its business, and managed nicely.  Laurie Payton, previously seen in the Gladstone’s fun farce A FLEA IN HER EAR, lent a nice touch of class as the narrator, telling us the story of a magical summer from her youth.  She (Margaret) and her flighty sister Daisy end up at a lake in Canada, where each embarks upon a journey that will change her life…the romantic kind, you dig?

The second half of THAT SUMMER felt like more fun to me than the first, and the Algonquin gang gave it a great effort.  Brianna Radnor and John Marochko make a nice bit of chemistry as young Margaret and her true love Paul, tho it’s Monique Floyd’s drama queen Daisy who steals the show, doing things with the theatrical pout that would give Kate Smith a run for her money.  Great fun, and a good night out.

Next day I was back at school again…this time the OSSD, for the New Ottawa Repertory Theatre’s production of Israel Horovitz’s SINS OF THE MOTHER.  Directed by OSSD playwrighting coach Paul Dervis, and housed in my familiar classroom in the Natalie Stern Studio, we entered the room to one of my fav’rit sights…the actors already in character.  Or rather, actor, as it was only Ray Besharah (seen last week at the Elmdale with CRUSH IMPROV…you were there, right?) onstage just yet, quietly reading a book as we waited for showtime.  I SERIOUSLY love when shit like that happens in theatre (OLD GROWTH, LAST GODDAMNED PERFORMANCE PIECE…even MY PREGNANT BROTHER come to mind).

When the show began, with the entry onstage of the mighty Jerome Bourgault (another FLEA veteran…they’re everywhere!) as well-seasoned old fisherman Bobby, the slow burn that is SINS got underway.  The staging was pretty brilliant…I’d thought it odd and rather risky that the show started with the big window open to the outside…until, a few minutes in Sean Tucker and Adam Skanks came loudly knocking on said window, shouting for Bobby to let them in.  Killer.  And with each character taking his turn grilling Ray’s newcomer Douggie about his past, his connection to their embittered Massachussets town, and eventually finding the dark secret that would slowly but surely twist its angry fingers around all of their throats…I can say I jumped in my seat a few times, hells yes.  Over three short acts each actor impressed mightily…Sean Tucker’s brash pride shone in two separate roles, and Adam Skanks as the kind but hapless Dubbah broke my heart halfway through act 2.
The music was picked by director Dervis to evoke Maritime villages, and connect them to Horovitz’ more American milieu…personally, I was getting odd flashbacks to my childhood trips up to Kenora, especially during the all-too-real wake in act 2.  It was a positively dynamite show, and well done indeed to the lads on stage.

After the show was over, we had a special treat, as the playwright himself, Israel Horovitz, was in attendance and took to the stage to field some questions.  He was polite and charming, and told a great story about the genesis of the play over the years, and basically made me feel terribly ignorant of the playwrighting world. It was totally cool.

And after THAT, when I was waiting for the bus to go home, who do I run into but Ray Besharah himself!   We ended up having a pleasant chat indeed…I thanked him for the show, as well as his role in my old Fringe fav’rit SATANIC PANIC a couple years back.  He reminded me about the upcoming Ottawa Theatre Challenge, and generally made a lovely gent of himself.  It was a great capper to a great weekend of theatre.

Plenty of good stuff lined up for this week, you bet…aside from a certain something I plan on watching and reviewing later this evening, I’m hoping to catch Plosive’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST on tuesday (although this is mighty tempting, too…), OLT’s THE LONG WEEKEND on thursday, and then back for more nightmares with LITTLE MARTYRS closing night on Saturday.  I swear, I’d better see some of you beggars out there for all this awesomeness, because…because…

Because it’s Valentine’s Day, that’s why.  And I know you love me like I love you.  Don’t try and fight it.  Just enjoy the peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)