Ritchie Community League (Venue 36, 7727 98 Street) is a new BYOV. They have five shows playing in their intimate auditorium with multilevel stage and licensed concession. There is convenient parking,washrooms, level access, and cash ticket sales on site. I started my day at the Ritchie Community League with Kurt Man: buyer and seller of souls, a new solo work by Brendan Thompson. As the program description suggests, the story starts when Kurt Man, who has had a business buying and selling souls, takes early retirement and tries to find meaning in his life. What made this quirky story interesting to watch was that it was told through the device of having other performers speaking lines while projected on a screen on stage. The backgrounds of the video suggest scene changes and locations. I recognised most of the video performers, but as the show didn’t have printed programs, I was distracted by trying to figure out who they were or what I’d seen them in before. End credits moved too quickly for me to catch all of them, but they included Colin Matty, Ellen Chorley, Emma Houghton, Katie Hudson, Mark Vetsh, Holly Cinnamon, Eva Foote, Clinton Carew, and Mark Stubbing.
Letters to Laura is also new work, written by local actor Elisa Benzer (last seen in Honk!) and directed by Perry Gratton. Benzer and Evan Hall (last seen in a small but essential part in Clybourne Park at the Citadel) perform in a gentle realistic contemporary story of people who meet, cautiously move toward romance, and awkwardly figure out whether their new relationship is sustainable long-distance. I loved it that the story portrayed the use of electronic communication in a natural way rather than making fun of it. Editing on the fly and accidentally sending an unplanned text message, not being prepared for the immediacy of a video call, the first escalation of hot messages in public and the awkward dance of backing off on that … all of that felt familiar and affectionate. I liked the way both of them narrated some of the story directly to the audience, and I liked the parallels in the two viewpoints, especially as seen in Laura’s phone calls with her friend Beth and Marc’s phone calls with his mother. The notes I took during the show also said “sex scene – pretty socks” which is not to imply that the rest of the view was unattractive at all, just that I also noticed that Marc had attractive patterned socks.
The Wonderheads‘ new show The Middle of Everywhere was, as expected, a wholehearted delight. The troupe of Kate Braidwood and Andrew Phoenix also included Emily Windler (Poe and Mathews) for a three-character story in mask with light and sound effects. A little bit of voiceover at the beginning and end provided extra enjoyment but would not have been necessary to follow the story. A lot of the story was just a fun exploration in a variety of fantasy settings. I loved figuring out each new setting from the minimal clues, and at one point I was moved to tears by having bought in so completely that I’d forgotten it wasn’t a real possibility. The Wonderheads are based in Portland Oregon, and they trained at the Del Arte school of physical theatre in California.
The last show I saw last night was The Show, or The Show to End All Shows (I’m not quite sure of the title), a new original work. It was lightweight and short and it made me laugh. It reminded me of a sort of vaudeville of various talent performances, strung together by the loose plot of what happens when most of the performers don’t show up for a show. The Producer and Director (Rumi Jeraj and Roman Anthony) along with one of the techs (either Berkley Abbott or Griffin Schell) do a funny routine of putting on clown costumes before concluding that none of them know how to clown, for example. An Opera Singer (Aniqa Charania) and a Musician (Sam Banigan, whom I last saw in Exposure, a Cradle to Stage production at the Walterdale last year) do a very funny duet of Averil Lavigne’s Skater Boy. The program said that most of the performers are local high school students, but Jake Tkaczyk (U of A BFA class of 2017) was a late addition as Actor, bringing a hilarious manic energy as well as pomposity and vanity to the role. Rumi Jeraj’s song-and-dance routine at the end was a delightful surprise. The Show plays at Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre, the one that advertises its air conditioning.
The Fringe continues until Sunday August 24th. Sonder‘s next show is tonight, Sunday at 9 pm at King Edward School.