On Sunday I arranged to take a night off from working backstage at God on God, because that was the only way I could see Rent. God on God’s VUE review has three stars, by the way, and is running every night at 8 pm and Friday and Saturday at 10pm too.
Of course, I fitted in a few more shows as well.
Borderland – Izad Etamadi’s one-person show about a gay man leaving Iran, one of the eleven countries where homosexuality or sodomy is a crime legally punishable by death. The performer plays three characters – Navid the would-be refugee, Zia who helps him escape, and Leila, a woman who takes care of him after he moves to Turkey and gives us glimpses of her own story as an “ugly woman” in a patriarchal culture. His portrayal of Leila, and his transformation to the female character by turning his back and flirting his hips while donning a headscarf, were amusing without quite crossing into ridicule. I wanted to hear more of that character’s story. The performer also sang unaccompanied, both in Persian (I think) and in English. The English material was original and in the musical-theatre idiom, and it reminded me somehow of local musician Joel Crichton.
Nashville Hurricane – I missed seeing Chase Padgett’s 6 Guitars at last year’s Fringe, so I was curious about his 2013 show. This year’s solo performance reminded me of a short story, the kind of short story that’s an affectionate sad portrayal of characters in the rural South and in the music business. He spoke as four characters, each with his or her own mannerisms and accent. The eponymous character was a young musician who was probably autistic, and the others were various adults in his life. The show I attended was sold out, and I didn’t look at my watch once. Chase Padgett was so good that for a little while I felt like my own storytelling aspirations were futile.
Capital City Burlesque’s Elvis Odyssey – This show had solo pieces and group numbers, loosely tied together with the themes of Elvis Presley music and a global survey of cultures. Along with nine or ten burlesque dancers, all talented, attractive, and seeming to enjoy themselves, other features of the show included Tim Mikula (of Rapid Fire Theatre and Doctor Jokes) as master of ceremonies, an impressive troupe of belly dancers called Les Trois Femmes, and costumed support staff – the Panty Zamboni and the Merch Girl. I hadn’t seen this troupe before and I definitely want to watch for their shows in future. An interesting note is that their Sunday-afternoon Fringe shows are “covered”, meaning that the dramatic finish of an act usually involves sparkly pasties on top of a bra. This is a bit odd, but probably a nice touch to expose them (ahem) to a wider audience. The show started a little late and ran a bit later than scheduled, which was frustrating to me at a satellite venue during Fringe when I had another show elsewhere to get to shortly afterwards.
Excuse Me … This is the Truth – This well-done story gently poked fun at the culture of contemporary enthusiastic Christianity, as backdrop to the sweet tale of a boy (Jessie McPhee) caught between his bossy longtime girlfriend (Joleen Ballandine) and a new friend (Lianna Makuch) who appreciates his interests and makes him notice that his girlfriend has been making all his decisions for him. Also, they throw candy into the audience. Really good candy.
Rent: the Musical –Strathcona Alumni Theatre, the Linette Smith company that did Spring Awakening last year, is doing a production of the recent Broadway musical Rent, about a group of struggling artists in New York City’s Lower East Side. Many of the characters are HIV positive. As the story starts Christmas Eve they’re all unhappy for various reasons, including the threatened eviction alluded to in the title.
There’s a cast of 14 and four musicians, squeezed onto the small stage along with a couple of scaffolding fire-escapes. But they use the space well (and look more comfortable than the audience squeezed onto risers). I haven’t seen other productions of the live show, just the movie, but in this production I was immediately captivated by the story of Collins (Hunter Cardinal) and Angel (Jordan Mah), rather than focusing on Mark and Roger (Cameron Kneteman and Maxwell Theodore Lebeuf) and their parts of the story. Hunter Cardinal stood out for me because he projected his character’s emotions so powerfully. The scene in which Angel dies in thrashing agony as Collins tries to comfort him and himself was particularly effective. Cynthia Hicks was also delightful to watch, portraying Mimi with a mix of allure and loneliness. Maureen (Emmy Kate Devine)’s defiance and performance-art show, Joanne’s and Benny’s (Morgan Melnyk and Christopher Scott) uptown discomfort with the bohemian crowd, and the minor characters’ contributions to the plot and strong musical support (especially from Gabriel Richardson and Lauren Derman). It’s a long show (two hours ten minutes plus a short intermission), but it is well-paced and everything moved smoothly. (As a brand-new stage manager, this impresses me more than it used to.) The musical accompaniment was well balanced, allowing all lyrics to be heard in the small space but still sufficiently powerful when needed.
I believe that it’s sold out for the remainder of its run. This is no surprise, with the cast list full of names to watch in musical theatre, and a production worthy of them. Sometimes for BYOV shows there are a few tickets at the door, though.