Tag Archives: fringe

How DO you solve a problem like Maria? Straight Edge Theatre has a new answer

In this surreal time of isolation, fakenews and fakeshows, the Straight Edge Theatre team is bringing to the Fringe that Never Was another of their brilliant and uncomfortable musical productions in Nun F*cks Given.  Or they would be if the Fringe that Never Was, was.  With book and lyrics by Steve Allred and Seth Gilfillian, composition and music direction by Daniel Belland, this premiere is gonna be something.  Not quite sure what  – director Bethany Hughes must be under the seal of the confessional – but the team that dressed the splash-zone audience in PPE for Evil Dead and forced their ensemble to sing while working out on spin bikes in Cult Cycle is bound to have something unique in their robes.   The creative team includes Bethany Hughes (director and choreographer), Chance Heck (fight director), and Jordan Campion, the stage manager who keeps them all in Holy Order.   Straight Edge has booked many amazing performers you haven’t seen on stage in months.  Casting the divine Sue Goberdhan as God was an inspired choice.  Jaimi Reese gives a standup performance as Father Long Johnson. The rest of the cast includes

  • Mother Superior – Seth Gilfillian
  • Mother Inferior – Steve  Allred
  • Mother Posterior – Lilith Fair/Zachary Parsons-Lozinski
  • Mother Anterior – Matthew Lindholm
  • Choir Mistress – Amanda Neufeld
  • Altar Boys turned zombies – Geoff Ryzuk, Mark Sinongco, Anthony Hurst, Josh Travnik
  • The Dancing Monks who become possessed – Daniella Fernandez, Ruth Wong – Miller, Larissa Pohoreski , Alyssa Joy, Aly Horne, Kendra Humphreys, Brittany Hinse and Bella King

After I had read this far in the promo materials, I must confess that I was actually sorry The Fringe That Never Was is not actually having real performances, because I want to see this show!   The plot teaser provides even more tease.  “After the breakdown of the nearby nuclear power plant, the nuns at a local nunnery start to realize that they have developed new abilities. The timing of these superpowers could not have come at a better time, as the clergy at the next door Catholic monastery have all been possessed by the spirits of dead saints turned evil. They must use their new powers to protect the city from the possessed monks and stop the source of the leak before their mutation leads to inevitable spontaneous combustion. Packed with nonsense, nun chucks and nun puns. So so so many puns. ”

Want to see it?  Out of luck.  Want to support the Edmonton Fringe and pay tribute to the work of Straight Edge Theatre?    Click here. Want to make a habit of it?  Keep clicking on the Fringe website and find more shows that don’t exist that you’d buy tickets to if you could.  Taken a vow of poverty?  Share the links.  Devout followers, novices, and skeptics alike should make a pilgrimage to Nun F*cks Given.

Fringe 2017 – the last weekend

A Beautiful View – Perry Gratton directed Nikki Hulowski and Samantha Jeffreys in this Daniel MacIvor script, a lovely celebration of a hard-to-label relationship between two women. “You have to be very organized to be bisexual”, the one explains to herself/the audience while deciding not to follow up on an unexpected sexual encounter.   There are a lot of segments where a character speaks facing the audience – sometimes they are alternating in a conversation with each other as retold to the audience.  I don’t know how much of that is in MacIvor’s script, but I think I remember a lot of it in a play Gratton directed several years ago at Fringe, Letters to Laura.  The ending was … well, there was enough foreshadowing that the not-entirely-explicit awful/sad ending must have actually happened.  But I wish it hadn’t, since I really liked both characters.  They were quite different from each other, but there were things I identified with in both of them.  (A Beautiful View has one holdover performance on Thursday.)

Late Night Cabaret – Late Night Cabaret is an Edmonton Fringe tradition.  It happens at midnight, every night of the Fringe except the last Sunday when things wrap up early.  I only went to it once this year, but it wasn’t hard to pick up on the ongoing jokes and routines.  Hosts Amy Shostak and Julian Faid have guests from other shows every night as well as the very talented house band Ze Punterz.  The Backstage Theatre sells out with happy artists, volunteers, and dedicated fringegoers extending their evening and building community.  It runs about an hour and a half with an intermission, and I think maybe the bar stays open during the show.  Some people go to it every night.

Multiple Organism – This piece by Vancouver’s Mind of a Snail troupe (Chloe Ziner and Jessica Gabriel) was the most original and creative work I saw at this year’s Fringe, and I liked it a lot.  It made extensive use of unusual projection techniques.  Some of it was a little gross, but not gratuitously so.

Rivercity: The musical  – Rebecca Merkley wrote and directed this new musical which seems to be an homage to the Archie-comics characters without quite borrowing their names.   It’s full of amusing quick-changes for double&triple-cast actors, silly puns, and cartoon-inspired sound effects (especially the wind-up-and-dash running starts of red-headed Andrews (Molly MacKinnon), which sounded like the Road Runner or something).  In between, though, there were some touching and serious solos for various characters, particularly for the viewpoint character Bee (Vanessa Wilson) and for the Jughead-like Jonesy (Josh Travnik, also multiply-cast in Evil Dead).   The cast of four (Kristin Johnston plays Reggie and the principal among others) covers too many characters to count.  Live music is provided by Scott Shpeley and Chris Weibe, wearing Josie-and-the-Pussycats-style cat-ears. 

Tempting – Erin Pettifor and Franco Correa are a psychic and a sceptic in Ashleigh Hicks’ new script.  When the audience enters the Westbury Theatre auditorium, the large stage has been made into a cozy cluttered studio-space for psychic Alaura (Pettifor).  She is puttering about doing yoga poses in a disjointed distracted way and making tea.  At first it is not clear why Adam is dropping in before business hours, and it is also not clear why Alaura is so immediately adversarial.  Those things do become clear – Adam’s girlfriend Constance is a client, and Adam wants Alaura to recant the advice (or prediction, or support) she gave Constance in a decision Adam doesn’t like.   The problem as described is interesting – Constance is dying and in pain and wants to pursue medically-assisted death, which Alaura supports and Adam doesn’t.  But I don’t really feel compassionate for either of the characters on stage, as I find out more about their motivations and connections to Constance, and I found the ending unsatisfying. 


I think I saw 28 performances this Fringe (one a repeat) and I might see a couple more at holdovers this week.

Super powers of various kinds

Another little change at this year’s Fringe festival is that an artist pass or volunteer pass works as an ETS transit pass.  It used to be that artists and volunteers could request a separate transit pass.  I had the impression that they had a limited number of passes, so I usually didn’t get one, and it was a nuisance to carry around one more thing.  This way’s great – I’ve taken the bus several times for short journeys instead of driving or walking.  On the other hand, the festival also used to have a bus-ticket perq for ordinary festival-goers, and it seems they don’t have that any more.


Yesterday’s short bus trip down Whyte Avenue to 101 Street and then a short walk in the neighbourhood that might be called CPR Irvine or part of Ritchie or just “behind the A and W” brought me to Concrete Theatre’s Playhouse performance space for The Superhero Who Loved Me, a new play by Chris Craddock, directed by Wayne Paquette and starring Kristi Hansen and April Banigan.  At first I thought, this is great, it’s just like the comic-book superhero tales that are my usual cinema fare.  And about halfway through, I thought, they’ve already had more character development and logical plot points than most superhero movies.   Hansen is the secret-agent/superhero isolated by the requirement for secrecy and Banigan the old classmate looking for friends after her divorce, and when they meet again things get steamy pretty fast.  They have all the superhero/mundane mixed-relationship troubles you might expect, and I cared about them.  Staging was simple, painted rehearsal-boxes and a few props, and the obligatory show-you-the-world flying scene was acted out with Barbie dolls.  Two more performances this weekend, and then held over at the venue next weekend.

Another short trip away from the Fringe grounds brought me to the Garneau Theatre for fresh popcorn and the midnight showing of Mo’ Manada, the Boylesque T.O. sequel to O Manada from a couple of years ago.  This year’s revue was hosted by Justin Trudeau (Morgan Norwich) and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau (Johnnie Walker), and featured four talented men from Boylesque T.O. as well as stage-kitten (costumed stage-crew and occasional performer) Shagina Twain.  The hosts were just as entertaining as the dancers, and the midnight crowd was very enthusiastic.  One more show today.


The official Fringe holdover series in the Westbury Theatre was announced yesterday.  Tickets are available from the Fringe box office / website now for Prophecy, My Love Lies Frozen in the Ice, Legoland, and Drunk Girl.

Other independent venues make their own arrangements for holdovers.  Varscona Theatre will be doing one more performance of No Exit and several for An Exquisite Hour.  Holy Trinity is holding over Urinetown.  Concrete/Playhouse is adding two performances of The Superhero Who Loved Me (ticketing info not available yet).

And there’s two days left to see plays, eat mini donuts and green onion cakes, watch buskers, and hang out with other people who are passionate about theatre, until we’re back to ordinary life (which for me is more of the same, but at a slower pace and with more sleep.)

More performance genres at Fringe 2017

Note:  I don’t know why the caption isn’t showing up on my photo.  That’s Bethany Hughes from Evil Dead talking to the audience members seated in the Splash Zone. 

 

Animal Farm Treatment – I have never studied, read, or seen any version of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, but as with Sartre’s No Exit, I had a general idea of the theme and I knew one line.  During Animal Farm Treatment, a solo show by creator/performer Alice Nelson from Calgary, I wondered how it would appear to an audience member who didn’t know the expected outcome from the original cynical parable.  The playbill said that she has a study guide to accompany her show for high school audiences.  The performer skilfully switched among several speaking characters, using different physicalities and speech patterns as well as clues of having the characters refer to each other by name, and she used a few simple props to move the story forwards.  I knew that the experiment in democracy would not end well, but I kept hoping it would.  Two more shows, Friday 2:45 and Saturday 11:30 pm.

Evil Dead – Amanda Neufeld directed this lively, funny, gory musical, which is playing at L’Unitheatre.  Bethany Hughes stage managed, and in the picture above is reassuring the audience members in the Splash Zone.  Music is a four-piece instrumental group under the direction of Daniel Belland (also seen in Mormonic at this festival).  The narrative moves quickly through the tropes of horror fiction, the college students each with his or her own incentives to vacation at a lonely cabin (Matthew Lindholm, Jaimi Reese, Nadine Veroba, Stephen Allred, Josh Travnik), the eerie woods with limited access, the intrepid explorer returning from Egypt to finish her father’s work (Neufeld), the source of local knowledge Reliable Jake (Travnik), and the demons (uncredited here because that would give away some plot).  It’s very funny, and the songs are great. The action moves quickly and it’s over in 90 minutes as advertised.  Some tickets are available for tonight’s late show.

Puck Bunnies – This is another cleverly-scripted and poignant drag comedy in the spirit of Flora and Fawna’s Field Trip with Fleurette, from Guys in Disguise.  Darrin Hagen, Trevor Schmidt, and Jason Hardwick play the girlfriends of junior/minor-league hockey hopefuls, sharing support, gossip, and relationship troubles while in the bleachers for an intra-squad scrimmage.   Tammy, Tanya, and Tina are more than silly caricatures (although I have to say that the costumes are spot-on perfect), each with her own struggles.  The dramatic-irony part (where the audience knows something a character doesn’t realize) is great.  The gentle insertion of a more feminist awareness into a culture of “support the boys at all costs”, by Hardwick’s Tina, is credible and satisfying.  I last paid attention to this culture in the mid-90s, I found it disturbing and necessary to be reminded that, despite the pussyhat, some things have not changed.   Shows Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.

You Fucking Earned It – At last year’s inaugural Edmonton Clown Festival (now renamed Play the Fool, and running Sept 28-Oct 1 2017), in a panel discussion Deanna Fleischer (aka Butt Kapinski) pointed out that traditional bouffon was criticizing the king in front of the king, and she challenged performers using bouffon techniques to ask themselves “Is the king in the room?”  There are two key points in this.  One is to punch up – make fun of the powerful instead of the powerless.  The other is that if it’s good bouffon serving its purpose, nobody in the audience should feel comfortable and safe.  At the start of the performance of You Fucking Earned It (a Naked Empire Bouffon work featuring Cara McLendon and Sabrina Wenske, directed by Nathaniel Justiniano whom you might recall from You Killed Hamlet), I wondered whether the piece would succeed at the second point for an Edmonton audience, but it definitely did.  One more show, 2:45 today (Friday).

The show I’ve been working on, How I Lost One Pound, the Musical, also has one more show this festival, at 6:30 pm today in the Rutherford Room at the Varscona Hotel.  We are not sold out at the box office and I will have some tickets available at the door as well.  I’d love to show more people this quirky funny low-key narrative about a woman at mid-life.   Lesley Carlberg’s show will also be playing at Vancouver Fringe and at Guelph Fringe in October, if you miss it here.

 

Fringe solos and classics

Edmonton Fringe 2017 is somewhere around half over.  Around this time I start realizing I can’t see everything I should see – I can’t even see everything I want to see.  I don’t think I can fit in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, and I can’t find a time to see Turn of the Screw either.

But one of the great things about Fringe is that we don’t all see the same shows – and even when we do, we don’t all see the same performances.  So we have lots to talk about.

Wednesday I saw two touring solo shows along with two scripted plays at the Varscona Theatre.  None of them was classified as new work.

Redheaded Stepchild – Johnnie Walker tells a story as a 12-year-old boy, Nicholas, as his wellmeaning-but-weird stepmother Marianne, and as his more suave alter ego Rufus Vermilion.  It’s suitable for families as well as adults, as Walker catches the 12-year-old’s voice and physicality very well without mocking him, and his problems are easy to identify with.  And the stepmother – first we see her quirks through Nicholas’ eyes (that awful laugh!) and her acknowledgement that she never wanted to be a mother and isn’t cut out to be a stepmother, but then we see her understanding that she messed up and offering Nicholas a kind of low-key companionship which he accepts.  Walker and director Morgan Norwich have created an entertaining and inspiring tale with good pacing and interesting visuals that fits the one-hour time and the King Edward School stage perfectly.

No Exit – Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist philosopher, wrote No Exit in 1944.  All I knew about it beforehand was one famous line, but as it’s somewhat of a spoiler and comes late in the play I won’t write it here.  Ron Pederson, Belinda Cornish, and Louise Lambert are the three disparate characters stuck in an ugly room together.  George Szilagyi has a small part as the bellboy.  The colour palette of the show is mostly the faded maroon of old blood and worn-out formality.   It was funnier than I expected, and the unhappy characters made me intrigued rather than restless.  Kevin Sutley directs.

The Exquisite Hour – I don’t usually manage to see the Teatro la Quindicina show at the Fringe, but this year I made time to see Jeff Haslam and Belinda Cornish in an older Stewart Lemoine two-hander.  Cornish’s luminous self-possessed presentation works well in this gentle tale of a socially-awkward bachelor (Haslam) getting a visit from a mysterious stranger.

Ain’t True and Uncle False – Paul Strickland, another touring solo artist, comes from Covington, Kentucky.  He launches headlong into a set of affectionate tall tales about characters in a trailer park, one unfolding into the next and calling back to a throwaway comment earlier, the kinds of stories that would be funny enough on a page but are even more entertaining with guitar accompaniment and dialect and the physicality of his bowlegged uncle rocking back and forth licking his teeth.

Start of Edmonton Fringe 2017

Here are a few notes on shows I’ve seen so far, in alphabetical order by title.

Bash’d:  A Gay Rap Opera

Two talented local performers, Jezec Sanders and Kael Wynn, do a powerfully moving version of Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow’s 2008 rap musical.  The beats are slick, the rhymes are fine, the show-within-the-show about Dillon, the small-town boy kicked out when he comes out and Jack, the urban party boy who never expected to fall in love and settle down is charming, the context is Canadian and unfortunately not dated, and parts of it made me cry so hard that a stranger offered me a hug after the show.

Gemini

Louise Casemore and Vern Thiessen perform a script written by Casemore which fits perfectly into the basement bar space of El Cortez, using the flaws of the space (noise from upstairs, odd lighting, heat) to develop the mood and characters, showing how a sarcastic bartender and a grouchy overbearing customer get to know each other and care about each other as time passes.

Gordon’s Big Bald Head

This Fringe improv tradition, with Jacob Banigan, Chris Craddock, and Mark Meer, builds a long-form story every night out of one of the other show descriptions in the program book.  The one I saw included a plucky orphan (but not the Cockney one), a coffee shop next to a copy shop, some mobsters, a secret pope, an amulet (not as common nowadays as talismans), and other unlikely elements, all meshing into a convincing and ridiculous story.

Interstellar Elder

This new solo show from Ingrid Hansen (Little Orange Man) is original and delightful.  There is enough narration that we understand what’s going on, but Hansen’s on-stage character Kitt demonstrates her story mostly through movement.

How I Lost One Pound, The Musical

I’m working on this show as local crew for Toronto touring artist Lesley Carlberg.  There’s a performance every day in the Rutherford Room of the Varscona Hotel.  Lesley’s story has many familiar-sounding aspects, but is told in a charming, unassuming manner full of asides and tangents.

Urinetown, The Musical

Grindstone Theatre tackles the cynical and self-aware Broadway hit with a cast of 14, a small musical ensemble led by Vicky Berg, and a multilevel scaffolding set that manages to change the beautiful brick and wood worship space of Holy Trinity’s sanctuary into the depressing underbelly of a near-future dystopic city.   I loved the asides from Officer Lockstock (Bob Rasko) and Little Sally (Carol Chu) which made fun of the tropes of musicals at the same time as providing them.  Paul Morgan Donald was particularly strong as Cladwell P Caldwell, but the cast includes many experienced actors and talented singers.  Likely to sell out.

So that’s a start – some improv, some solos, some scripted drama, some musicals, and the busy schedule ahead of me includes more of the same as well as some comedy, some burlesque, some unplanned viewing, and some shifts selling drink tickets.  I love Edmonton Fringe!

 

Second post from the Fringe

Since I last wrote, I’ve had a Fat Franks dog, a New Asian Village butter chicken plate, a Rustixx California pizza, and a Rock Creek pear cider, so my eating-and-drinking festival experience is well under way.

I’ve also seen five more shows and done some volunteer shifts, been rained on, been too hot, and been too cold.

Seven – a dance show by a group from Victoria BC, with seven dances loosely representing the seven stages of grief. I particularly enjoyed the rhythmical unison parts of the dance, and the effect of having several helium balloons taped to the floor and lit.

God is a Scottish Drag Queen III – Mike Delamont’s latest show was exactly what I expected, and funnier than last year’s show.

Come and Go – This puppet story was set late in the age of vaudeville, and the main characters were a couple of vaudeville performers, Jim and Mabel, who disagreed about what to do next with their lives – settle down conventionally or head to Hollywood via work in burlesque.  The story had historical resonance but also touched on some familiar themes in male-female relationships.  “But what would I do there?”  “You’d be my wife”  “… and then I’d kill myself”  “With what?” Ianna Ings and Sophia Burak wrote the script and were joined in performing by Matt Newman.  Scenes with Jim and Mabel were interspersed with vaudeville-performance numbers – a singer, a dancer, a cat playing drinking-glass chimes (my favourite!) and dogs doing tricks.   Jim and Mabel also do a vaudeville-team comic routine which the writers credited to George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Subway Stations of the Cross – Ins Choi, the Toronto playwright of Kim’s Convenience, performs a solo show which starts out as a conversational narrative, explaining the different forms of his name that he’s used over the years and discussing how his family is full of preachers and his mother had hoped that would be his destiny as well.  It gradually shifted into a less realistic and more poetic mode, interpreting encounters he had on subway platforms with mythical import and Christian symbolism.  I appreciated both styles.

Tangled Up in Blue – This short (45-minute) two-hander was delightful and subtle, a contemporary glimpse of long-time friends (Spencer Jewer and Katie Fournell) and the repercussions of a brush with romantic connection.  I appreciated the playwright’s choice not to conclude predictably, and I found both characters very believable.  It reminded me a bit of last year’s Letters to Laura.

Fringe takes off

I guess I’ve been estivating along with the blog, so I haven’t had any Fringe previews.  Fortunately, other bloggers and reviewers have given me lots of suggestions, which I’ve used along with the program book (better than the Christmas catalogues from Sears and Eatons when we were kids!) to buy my first tickets.  If you’re just starting to look at what’s out there, I recommend the following pre-festival resources.

I’ve been busy working on Death Comes to Auntie Norma, which opens in the Westbury tomorrow (Saturday) evening and isn’t sold out yet.  It’s a satirical look at the dark side of the American dream, written by Zach Siezmagraff.

Last night as the grounds filled up with festivalgoers and handbilling artists and food and music and happy buzz, I caught two shows.

Second Breakfast Club, from the River City Revue burlesque troupe, was a thoroughly enjoyable burlesque show threaded along the premises of Lord of the Rings characters/archetypes in the scenario of the Breakfast Club 1980s movie about mismatched kids stuck in Saturday detention – a rebellious hobbit, an archery jock, a teacher-pleasing elf, a princess, a bearded dwarf headmaster, and a … what is Gollum anyway?  It also slipped in tongue-in-cheek nods to Harry Potter, Star Wars, and other fictional universes along the way.  Kiki Quinn is credited as playwright and performer, with Lilly Whyte, Lady de Winter, Lucie Lemay, Forbsie Flare, and Beau Creep also performing.

Pinniped and Other Poems, an evocative lyrical musing by Skye Hindeman, is playing at C103.  I saw a version of this show at Nextfest, but here at the Fringe it’s tighter, more coherent, and more visually interesting, with some fascinating stage business.  U of Alberta drama students Alexandra Dawkins, Emily Howard, Connor Suart, and Jake Tkaczyk perform, Vik Chu contributes an original score playing a piano and a violin not always in conventional ways, and Phillip Geller directs.

Today I’ll be serving customers in the South beer tent, and then seeing at least three shows.  It’s going to be cloudy and not too hot today, and it is Fringe and it will be wonderful.  Hope to see you there!

Today I

Fringe Holdovers 2014

There were several held-over shows that I hadn’t seen, but I had other commitments midweek, so I went to three shows on the holdover weekend.  The Westbury lobby fills up fast with people who were too busy during the Fringe to see everything they wanted.  Nobody’s wearing Artist or Volunteer badges any more, but probably a lot of them were last week.  I should mention that a few volunteers and staff are still around making things run smoothly at the box office, concession, and lobby-filling ramen-noodle-block of a queue, and I’m always in awe of them.

My companion and I saw Mike Delamont’s solo show God is a Scottish Drag Queen II, and the two dance shows of Jake Hastey’s Toy Guns Dance Theatre.

It was my first time seeing Mike Delamont perform.  His persona wore a “lady’s power suit”, a floral two-piece with wrap blouse, with bare feet and a sensible bobbed haircut.  This was not really what I picture when I hear “drag queen”, but it fit the character, and made me think vaguely of photos of Queen Elizabeth visiting Scotland.   I kept forgetting that he was supposedly speaking as God, because he was just making funny observations as a person.  And I actually have no idea why he was in drag, or whether his persona was supposed to be male, female, or not conventionally gendered.  Maybe that was covered in his original show, and it wasn’t very distracting either.  His performance had a few improvised bits and responses to audience questions or reactions, but mostly he went through a list of several topics that people had asked to hear more about after his previous show – mostly stuff about Christianity and Biblical stories.  I appreciated the deft way he acknowledged a suggestion to talk about pedophile priests by stating immediately that sexual abuse is not funny.  Apparently he plans to return to Edmonton with a third show, for which people can submit more suggestions and questions on line.

The two dance shows were Red Wine, French Toast, and the Best Sex You’ve Ever Had, on the Friday night, with a cast of six (David Clennin, Robert Halley, Dylan Parsons, Tia Kushniruk, Amber Bisonnette, and Richelle Thoreson), and Propylene Glycol, Maltodextrin, Retinol Palmitate, and Other Words I Don’t Understand Like Love on the Saturday, with eleven dancers (most of the above plus Richard Lee, Dario Charles, Cynthia Hicks, Katie McGuigan-Scott, Jemma Robinson, Valerie Rodriguez) , an opera singer (Elizabeth Raycroft), and an occasional narrator (Christine Lesiak).  I enjoyed both of them and I will make a point of watching for more productions from this company.  People I met during Fringe who had seen one or the other described them as “the one with a scene of eating cake” (Red Wine) – it was surprisingly amusing to watch the cast members all eat cake in different ways, especially Tia Kushniruk – and “the one with the pillows” (Propylene Glycol).  In both shows, I was immediately captivated by the overwhelming playfulness of the performers and the choreography.  I also loved the approach to sexuality seen in many of the pieces, joyful and open and not limited to exclusive opposite-sex pairs.  I was impressed by the athletic and evocative dance skill of Robert Halley and Richelle Thoreson, and by the distractingly-flirtatious stage presence of Dylan Parsons.  I don’t really see how the titles fit or distinguish the work, and I noticed that the Propylene Glycol show actually mentioned both red wine and French toast.  But that didn’t bother me.

Last day of the Fringe: House, Bible Bill, Crack

On the last day of the Fringe, things gradually became calmer and quieter all over the site except for possibly at the south beer tent.  A few artists were still handbilling for shows later in the day.  The box office lineups were small, and there seemed to be lots of sell-out houses.  I enjoyed a sit-down breakfast (an omelette, scone, and coffee) at Café Bicyclette and a grilled-cheese lunch on the patio at the Next Act, and appreciated running into friends now that we had time to talk.

I saw four shows.  One was a repeat viewing of a friend’s show that I’ve already written about.  The others were House, Bible Bill the Gospel Musical, and Crack.  And now I’m caught up, at least for the next ten hours or so until I go see Jake Hastey’s Red Wine, French Toast, and The Best Sex You’ve Ever Had as a Fringe holdover.

House is a solo play written by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor.  It was performed by Jon Paterson, in a relentless hammering style that immediately conveyed the character Victor’s intense angry near-obsessive nature even before he started discussing his experiences in group therapy.   He explains that some people are weird (they are born weird) and that some are fucked up (they get that way because of stuff that happens to them), and that he is just fucked up, not weird.  I would not like to have this character in my life, but I liked listening to him on stage.   As an engineer and a former engineering student and engineering educator, I was amused by the bit about Victor having wished to be an engineer because he envied the comradeship and shared pranks of groups of engineering students.

Bible Bill: the Musical, like En anglais, s’il vous plait, is a new work covering an aspect of Alberta history, sponsored by the Provincial Archives of Alberta.  Like En anglais, it showed me some history I didn’t know very well, in an easy-to-absorb personal story format.  Because I didn’t grow up in Alberta I hadn’t known very much about “Bible” Bill Aberhart and the Social Credit movement, and this show put some pieces together for me.   The performance took place in the main worship space of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, on a performance stage just outside the sanctuary/altar area.   It was set at the broadcast location of Bible Bill’s regular Sunday evening radio show, probably a church, with the various characters addressing us as the live audience.  Musical director and composer Nick Samoil played a small organ to accompany the singers and the congregational singing in which the audience was invited to join.   (Like the authentic church singing of my youth, people sang in unison, on a melody line that was pitched too high to be enjoyable for this alto.)  Kevin Mott played William Aberhart with sonorous confidence, and Laura Raboud played his supporter and friend Ernest Manning (father of Preston Manning).  Aaron Casselman was an additional narrator in the character of a radio technician, and Vanessa Wilson provided comic relief and musical entertainment as a singer engaged for the show but more accustomed to lounge singing.  I found the story and characters interesting, but I was wishing for more singing.

Crack is a new drama by Anne Marie Szucs.  It was directed by Kristen Finlay and performed at the Walterdale Theatre, which is one of my favourite Fringe venues.  Three friends gather for a weekend at a cabin to celebrate Christine (Joyce LaBriola)’s birthday.  Christine seems to be the hinge of the friendships, with Angela (Rebecca Ponting) the innocent church-going homeschooler and Pam (Anne Marie Szucs) the swearing sarcastic businesswoman both a bit jealous of Christine’s connection to the other.  As the weekend moves on and the wine bottles get emptied, the two move from distant politeness to more direct questions and criticism.    Christine and Angela both need to consider changes in their lives, and their friends’ questions and challenges help them figure out what to do.   At first I thought the actor playing Angela’s delivery was a bit stilted and monotone, but later I got to appreciate the nuances of the character’s hesitation, naïveté, kindness, and courage.  The scene where Angela leads her friends in a yoga routine, slipping naturally into a teacher role with understated authority, shifted the way I saw the character for the rest of the show.   Partway through the play, I was laughing at so many lines that were funny because they were familiar and I thought “this should be a movie!”

After Crack I took advantage of my two badges to visit the Volunteer Party and the Artist Party, and that was it.  I saw a total of 42 performances of 35 different shows, counting a couple of repeat viewings as well as watching all performances of Sonder from the audience.  I have tickets to see three holdover shows this weekend, after which I will have watched 107 theatrical performances so far in 2014.