I spent much of Friday going to solo shows, since I hadn’t seen many yet this Fringe.
Tonya Jone Miller wrote and performed A Story of O’s, about being a phone sex operator. (She’s from Portland Oregon, and the apostrophe in O’s is a legitimate American style choice.) She alternated talking to the audience as herself, and “taking calls”, wearing a headset and giving us her responses to an imaginary caller. That was made more visually interesting and more credible by her simulating some of the actions she was claiming to be doing on the call. She didn’t really explain how her character got started in that work and why she stayed, but many of the calls included in the show were from clients with whom there was an ongoing relationship, and for whom she was clearly an important connection in their lives. One may surmise that it was mutual. Late in the show a new caller asks her to describe her actual body instead of the one she is pretending to have in the ad, and she disrobes to her underpants to talk about how she feels about her body. This was powerful, along with what we could overhear from the call about the caller’s late wife.
Jack Fry, who did They Call Me Mister Fry last year about his first year of teaching in an inner-city school, wrote and performed Einstein, in which he’s telling the story of Albert Einstein’s life as the character of Einstein (and occasionally as his wife, lover, son, or colleague). I hadn’t known how long it took him to prove his theory of relativity by using measurements taken during eclipses. But I did not really like the character Einstein as portrayed in the show, partly because of his misogynist comments.
Next up was Daddy Issues, written and performed by Peter Aguero. His delivery was perfect, a non-stop slam-poet hum that built on the unrelenting turmoil of growing up with a father who had survived childhood abuse and the Vietnam war. The story of his relationship with his father did not have a tidy resolution, either a rapprochement or a dramatic cutting-out, but the terse credible acknowledgement that neither likes the other much. I was on the edge of my seat with tears running down my face. I admired Peter Aguero as a performer and as a person and I would definitely see him again if I had the chance.
Then I went back to the Cabaret space for Jessica Moss’s Polly Polly. This was in some ways the least clear narrative of the day, and I’m not completely sure I understood all the details, but I didn’t mind because she convinced me that there was a logical framework, with the premise that a solitary woman with an uninteresting life suddenly begins hearing a narrator in her head, and she sets out to find her more exciting self. I was impressed by the way that everything about her movement and posture conveyed character choices. And I loved the scene about attending a yoga class as part of the attempt to find herself.
Later in the evening, I squeezed in to a sold-out performance of Scratch, the improv show of Arlen Konopaki and Kevin Gillese, both former Rapid Fire performers now working in the USA. They meet up and perform at the Edmonton Fringe every year, and have a loyal following who love the high-speed, physically-active, frequently-sexual stories that they tell in a long-form improv format. In the show that I saw, they collected audience suggestions of an important event in someone’s life (learning to surf), an object (a teleprompter), and a Disney movie and a war movie to mash up (Aladdin and 300). This generated several story threads and many digressions and side characters not all of whom were human. The Princess Theatre is probably a difficult venue for improv because it’s a long thin movie theatre with a small performance area, but the performers use headset mics and a couple of rehearsal boxes to good effect.