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.