I’ve experienced a “Fringe” benefit from having so many plays to see: I’m feeling pretty good about my job as a reviewer, and about the theatre scene in Halifax. I’ve not only survived 12 plays in four days, but the quality of this year’s Fringe offerings means I feel privileged to have seen the majority of them. Another 18 in seven day should be a breeze, right?
Yesterday’s audience for What Comes Next was sparsely populated, and that’s a shame. It’s an ethereal, atmospheric and contemplative work brought to Halifax all the way from Los Angeles. Basically, it’s three vignettes about a man searching for meaning in three very different lives. In the first, his desire to better himself to please women ends with him becoming the essence of emptiness. In the second, he is a socially inept pet store owner with but one pet to sell, and no heart to do it. (A local goldfish gives a lovely star turn in this quirky, funny piece.) In the last and strongest story, the man and his Muses craft a haunting story about the quest for the ideal at the expense of the real.
The Vanishing Twins boasts some strong performances and some lovely writing. Its setting is an interesting blend of ancient Greece and rural Nova Scotia, and the story is both mythical and relevant. The tale is told by six characters who have loved and lost the mortal Castor and the immortal Pollux, twin brothers who share one mother but who have different fathers. Elizabeth McCarthy is the heart of the play as a mother who struggles to divide her love and attention between her sickly son and her blessed one. At 90 minutes, the play seems a little long, but it’s a heart-touching story that’s worth the investment of time.
Uncertain is the first play I’ve seen in the store front on Gottingen that has become Cooke Theatre. The bright, air conditioned room worked well as a stage for this little one-act play set in a hotel room. The gist of the story is two strangers (played by Sarah Jean Begin and Danny MacFarlane) meet and plan a recreational tryst, but end up crushed by the emotional baggage they carry. The script is written in an oblique, poetic way that is at times frustrating and unnecessarily confusing, but both the actors and playwright have a spark of something that promises a bright future in theatre.
Mikaela Dyke is a slight, pretty girl with a radiant smile. When she steps onto the stage and announces that in Dying Hard she will be performing six verbatim monologues from men and women touched by Newfoundland’s fluorspar mining industry, you have no idea what you’re in for. The next moment, she slips on a pair of glasses and her face contorts. She opens her mouth and the voice of middle-aged man, complete with snorts and guffaws and a sometimes indecipherable Newfie accent emanates from her. His story, as well as that of the five other unique and uniquely captivating characters is moving and tragic. I challenge you to see this show without being deeply touched by its story and by Dyke’s amazing performance.
The Hot Mess Comedy Show was just what I needed after being shaken to the core by Dying Hard. The irreverent and energetic pieces tickled my funny bone. Some of the humour is the gross-out variety (My stomach churned a little as a sock puppet named Peter the Poo described the joys of saving and sharing feces) while other sketches, such as the jury room deliberations of four sane women and one pointy-tongued demon, were just bizarrely funny. Funny women. Funny show.
Go to www.atlanticfringe.ca for information on show times, locations and ticket prices.