Tag Archives: borderland

Eleven solo shows

I saw eleven one-performer shows at this year’s Fringe.  I used to avoid them, preferring to see the interaction among characters rather than watching a single performer tell or recreate a whole story.  But the genre has grown on me, first with my admiration for storytellers and then extending to performers who act out their narrative with props and multiple characters.

Ask Aggie – Christine Lesiak’s departure from her clown persona to be an “advice diva”, answering audience questions about romance and sex, interspersed with stories and songs about her experiences with five husbands.  Funny, easy to listen to, and actually full of advice I didn’t disagree with.

They Call Me Mister Fry – Jack Fry tells stories about his first year of teaching elementary school, in inner-city Los Angeles.  He shows slides of some student work to illustrate some of the stories.  Reviewers seemed to like it more than I did.  It was well delivered, but it’s a genre of story that I’m very familiar with.

RiderGirl – Colleen Sutton tells about becoming and being a part of RiderNation, the community of Saskatchewan Rough Rider fans, along with other changes in her life, such as leaving a military band appointment to study acting.

Nashville Hurricane – Chase Padgett’s narrative was held over for one show yesterday, which is no surprise.  It was one of the best and most polished shows of any kind I saw this year.  His characters were very distinct from each other, compelling and not all likeable.

Borderland – Izad Etemadi, from Victoria BC, used first-person narrative and three point-of-view characters to tell a story in tribute to people he’d encountered through a Toronto-based group Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees.

Dykeopolis: Queer Tales and Travels for our Times – Kimberly Dark’s anecdotes, questions, and thought starters were a perfect example of the saying “the personal is political”.  Through stories from her own life, starting from the first girl she was attracted to in high school, she illustrated important points about gender and sexuality in ways that the audience connected with.

Zack Adams: Zack to the Future: – Shane Adamczak, from Australia tells a silly story about time travel to the future.  Many of the audience seemed familiar with his character from previous shows but it was my first time seeing him.

Canuck Quixote – Colin Godbout plays guitar and sings, and in between talks about the musicians and the songs and how they fit with themes of ethnic minorities and quixotic journeys.  I like some of the music and I wasn’t familiar with all of it, and I still didn’t find the show compelling.  Maybe his understated stage presence and lack of eye contact were too reminiscent of the title character of Nashville Hurricane.

Roller Derby Saved my Soul– Nancy Kenny recounted how discovering the sport of roller derby had changed her life as a 30-something single woman who “thought I’d have a more interesting job by now” and who struggled to get along with her mother and sister.  The stage floor had a bit of derby track taped onto it.  During the show she puts on roller skates and derby gear, and then delivers part of her story while skating.  This was not as distracting as you might think.  I really enjoyed it and found it inspiring.

Bad Guys Finish First – Gavin Williams starts off giving a self-help seminar about how to be successful by not caring about other people.  His character is so over-the-top mean that it’s clearly not sincere, but he still made the audience uncomfortable.  Of course there is a twist before the end, but it happens a bit too fast for credibility.  This show is a fascinating example of, I’m not sure if it’s the literary device of unreliable-narrator or the theatrical device of dramatic irony or something in between, though.

Limbo – Andrew Bailey tells stories about being a teenager and university student with obsessive-compulsive disorder.  His director Britt Small also directed Ride the Cyclone.

Rent, Borderland, and other stories: Fringe 2013

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 RentGod 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.