The stage is generally piled high with corpses at the end of a Shakespearean tragedy, but by the time the titular character of “Joe: the Perfect Man” gets through with “Macbeth” it looks more like scene of a particularly rowdy kid’s birthday party. You see, Joe (played by the effervescent Rachelle Elie looking like a cross-dressing grandma), is an irrepressible, off-the-wall, out-of-work teacher who dreams of treading the boards. His take on Shakespeare requires a massive rewrite to include interpretive dance, opera, audience participation (with some pretty game and surprising talented audience members) and copious amounts of glitter. The show is laugh-out-loud funny but also surprisingly touching.
Show Times: Saturday Aug. 30 at 3:45, Sunday Aug. 31 at 8:30, Monday Sept. 1 at 6:45, Friday Sept. 5 at 10:00, Saturday Sept. 6 at 3:35 and Sunday Sept. 7 at 5:30 at The Neptune Studio Theatre. $10.
Well, I hate to weigh in too early, but I think I may actually have seen the 2008 Fringe Festival hit on opening night. Award-winning playwright Daniel MacIvor’s weird and wonderful “Wild Abandon” got a standing ovation from the good-sized crowd, and it was well deserved. This one-man show stars Kyle Gillis, an outstanding actor who is perfect as the adorably charming and disturbingly disturbed protagonist. And who else but MacIvor could meld such seemingly discordant scenes about cuckoos, suicide, dance styles and the deeper meaning of the word “cum” into a play that speaks to universal fears of abandonment? “Wild Abandon” is a wonderful example of what happens when a talented actor is married with a brilliant play.
Show times: Friday Aug. 29 at 9:45, Saturday Aug. 30 at 4:30, Sunday Aug. 31 at 6:00, Monday Sept 1 at 6:30, Thursday Sept 4 at 8:15, Friday Sept. 5 at 10:30, Saturday Sept. 6 at 4:30 and Sunday Sept. 7 at 5:30 at Khyber 2. $7.
For 50 years, Freda Josephine McDonald, born June 3 1906 in St. Louis Missouri, mother a washerwoman, father a vaudeville drummer, enthralled Parisians as the "Black Venus", the "Black Pearl", the "Creole Goddess" - the one, the only, Mademoiselle Josephine Baker. She danced with erotic sensuality. And clowned unabashedly. She sang. She starred in feature films. (Look her up on You Tube. Fascinating.) She dazzled. So mesmerized were Frenchmen that 1500 of them proposed marriage to the oft-married Diva. (She did accept marriage to two Frenchmen. One at a time, of course.) A major celebrity in Europe, such was not the case back home in the US of A. A gig with the 1936 Ziegfield Follies went over like the proverbial lead balloon. American audiences, it was reported, "rejected the idea of a black woman with so much sophistication and power. She returned to Europe heartbroken". It's this wondrously iconic figure and star that dancer Leslie Carvery has chosen to present. Last night's opening performance demonstrated Me And Josephine's shimmering strengths. And also its nettlesome weaknesses. Ms Carvery possesses a lithe physicality that easily commandeers attention, smooth expressive dance skills and a louche sensual beauty to ably approximate those similar attributes of her subject. Overall, Carvery's dancing dominated the show. Unfortunately, in lieu of the dancer portraying Baker to illuminate hothouse episodes of the Diva's remarkable life and to express her thoughts (pithy often witty observations on herself: "Beautiful? It's all a question of luck. I was born with good legs. As for the rest, beautiful, no. Amusing, yes.", race: "The white imagination is sure something when it comes to blacks." "Since I personified the savage on stage, I tried to be as civilized as possible in daily life.", and her view on humanity's future:"I think they must mix blood, otherwise the human race is bound to degenerate. Mixing blood is marvelous. It makes strong and intelligent men. It takes away tired spirits.", the audience watched a TV presentation of a text-heavy Josephine Baker mini-bio. A shame that. Better to have enjoyed Carvery in a stylish lively monologue serving the same purpose. What became obvious is this. Simply, Carvery is a genuine natural performer in need of a playwright. There's ample dramatic gold to be mined in Baker's rollicking history. With much that's applicable to the present state of our society, our insatiable celebrity worship and our often cock-eyed aspirations as a species. Carvery has all the necessary attributes and tools to bring Baker to life. All the bright promise to shine in a theatrically moving, funny and profound Josephine Baker play. So, that said, my recommendation? Come for the show. Stay for the dancing.
“Opening Morning” is a short one-hander written by local playwright Stephen Pitman. It’s the story of a young writer teetering on the edge of success and is told in a series of phone conversations with his smothering mother and unsupportive girlfriend. It’s a difficult set-up to pull off, as it can be boring to watch someone talk on the phone and to listen to only one side of a conversation. However, actor Dylan Aucoin is a pleasure to watch. His manner is very natural, and he makes it seem as if there really is someone on the other end of the line. The dialogue is well written in that the audience can actually fill in the unheard side of the conversation for themselves. It’s not a play that’s going to set the world on fire, but it makes for good fringe fare.
Show times: Saturday Aug. 30 at 3:30 and 9:45, Thursday Sept. 4 at 8:30, Friday Sept. 5 at 8:30, Saturday Sept. 6 at 10:00 at 10:00 and Sunday Sept. 7 at 4:30 at Khyber 2. $3.
If you like the busker festival, you’ll love Trevor Poole’s entertaining magic act "Jest in Mind". It’s like watching a talented busker who doesn’t fill the first three quarters of the act with hollow come-ons, and doesn’t constantly hassle you for money. The premise of the act is that Poole can pull thoughts from the minds of audience members, and truth be told, I lay awake last night trying to work out how he executed some of his tricks. (It’s particularly confounding when he manages to name correctly more than a dozen cards hidden from view by audience members.) His patter is entertaining and there are quite a few laughs to go along with the “oohs” and “ahs” of amazement.
Show times: Friday Aug. 29 at 10:00, Saturday Aug. 30 at 4:00 and 9:30, Sunday Aug. 31 at 5:30, Monday Sept. 1 at 5:30, Tuesday Spt. 2 at 7:15, Wednesday Sept. 3 at 9:30, Friday Sept. 5 at 7:15, Saturday Sept. 6 at 9:30 and Sunday Sept 7 at 2:45 at Khyber 1. $8.
When the Atlantic Fringe Festival starts August 28th, we'll post all the reviews by Kate Watson and Graham Pilsworth here.
Every Exit is an evening of theatre made up of two short plays and a monologue loosely connected by the exploration the life and/or legacy of William Shakespeare. The most successful piece is The Happiest Hour, a tale of unrequited love where a socially inept professor (Ken MacDonell) woos a Shakespearean scholar (Louise Daoust) with flowers and snippets of poetry. The play itself is gentle and perhaps a bit predictable, but the performances are at times charming. The second play, For Now, is an imagining of Shakespeare’s last day. The piece deals with situations that cry out for the actors to express intense sadness, but it is a tragedy that gets played as a comedy to its detriment. The monologue, Websterio, shows potential, but unfortunately it seemed like opening night jitters were causing actor Shayne Taylor to rush his delivery so that a lot of the words were lost. Still, the evening showed the promise of good things to come, and it looks like Halifax can look forward to more interesting and affordable theatre from The Birmingham Porch Theatre Collective.
Every Exit runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8pm at The Space, 2353 Agricola St (near the commons).Tickets are $8. Call 406-6262.
Bag Spray—a product that can infuse one’s testicles with the alluring smell of Brie or cold hard cash. A smarmy stand-up comedian whose jokes are mostly lame, and who makes even the funny ones lame by explaining them after he’s told them. A giant, steroid-enraged baby nursing at his mother’s tit. A mucous-spewing fish French kissing with her Newfie lover. These are just a few of the perverse images that will be seared into your brain after watching an evening of sketch comedy by The Dance Party of Newfoundland. The theatre is set-up cabaret style and the bar is open throughout out the show making for a great comedy-club atmosphere. These guys are so talented and so twisted that there must be fame and fortune on their horizons, so catch them now.
The Dance Party of Newfoundland plays May 10 and 11 at 8pm at the Alderney Landing Theatre.
The audience gasped with pleasure at the opening scene of To Capture Light—and that was a good indication of the general reaction to Luna/Sea’s beautifully rendered creation. The play tells the story of Canada’s first impressionist painter, Frances Jones Bannerman, artfully weaving the biographical facts of her life with imagined scenes of the painter interacting historical figures. Though the show dragged in spots and would have benefited from an intermission (to quench those persistent absinthe cravings), it was a highly entertaining evening. Bravo to the actors who switched so effortlessly and believably among characters and accents (Mauralea Austin’s Mary Cassatt is particularly delightful). Bravo also to Denyse Karn whose projections make the stage come alive.
To Capture Light runs Saturday May 10 and Sunday May 11 at 6pm at the Alderney Landing Theatre.
If you think you should go see In Pink, the play dealing with the anti-bullying movement started by two Annapolis Valley teens, just because you’ll learn something about the impact of bullying, you’re wrong. You should go see In Pink because it’s so many things that live theatre should be—entertaining, funny, well-written, well-acted, illuminating, challenging…do I need to go on? Andria Wilson and Michael Mcphee of Left Foot First Productions have taken this true story and written a dramatically viable work that will be enjoyed by young and old alike. Mcphee, as the happy-go-lucky Travis, creates a remarkably believable portrait of a kid who can look on the bright side of the worst situations. Christopher Fowler, as the more introspective DJ, anchors the show with a heartfelt performance. This play has a lot to say about the power that we all have, though it doesn’t sugar coat the consequences of standing up for what is right. I understand that tomorrow’s show is sold out, so get your tickets for Saturday or Sunday while you can.
In Pink plays on Friday May 9 at 11am and May 10 and 11 at 2pm at the Alderney Landing Theatre
I saw Stan Carew and the Magpies last night, and I couldn’t help noticing that there were more people in attendance at that concert than there had been at any of the plays I have seen so far at SuperNova.
The evening deserved to have a big audience—those guys can really play and Stan’s storytelling made the show flow very pleasantly. But, I am really disappointed by the lack of support shown by the people of HRM for the rest of the festival.
Look, I know there’s a big hockey tournament going on, but you can’t tell me that if there weren’t, the seats at Alderney Landing would be filled.
So, I have a few suggestions for getting people out to next year’s festival:
1. The PR department of Eastern Front should give away tickets to local schools for the children’s performances that happen during school hours. The festival wouldn’t be losing money—the theatre was practically empty for last week’s Rough House—and at least the talent from away would think that they were visiting a cultured city.2. Local politicians should do more than just buy space in the program. Why don’t they lead by example and bring their friends and families to see the great shows being offered? (I do expect that the politicians will be out in full force at tomorrow’s premiere of In Pink, since it is sponsored by Democracy 250 with government dollars. Wouldn’t want to miss a good photo op!)3. People need to turn off their televisions every now and then. Yes, live theatre can be challenging, but the rewards are worth it. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll put food on the table for some of this city’s amazingly talented artists.
Hope to see you at SuperNova!
If you are a woman over forty, I urge you to pick up the phone and book tickets for one of this weekend’s performances of Cathy Elliot’s funny and touching Moving Day. That’s not to say that this show will not be entertaining to men or younger people, it ‘s just that she so brilliantly captures the plight of the middle-aged woman that I think the seats should be filled with the people who will be inspired and fired up by it. Although the story is set in the sixties when women had fewer choices than today, she speaks to anyone who has ever felt over-looked or taken for granted. Her clever uses of everyday objects are delightful, and her robust singing voice is a pleasure to listen to. Get your bums in those seats!
Moving Day runs May 3 and 4 at 8pm at the Alderney Landing Theatre.
Does the world really need another retelling of the tragedy of Titanic? The answer is yes if it is Theatre Rusticle’s original and mesmerizing production April 14, 1912. What sets this show apart is the personification of the "unsinkable" ship. Lucy Rupert dazzles as the proud vessel cutting through the calm sea, her long wake streaming out behind her, and she is riveting as she contorts herself through the ship’s death throes. The human perspective is given by Patrick Connor and Matthew Romantini who portray real-life Marconi Officers Jack Phillips and Harold Bride. Their relationship is both amusing and touching. Added to all this is a wonderful score and a hauntingly evocative set. This is a stunning and memorable production.
April 14, 1912 runs May 2 at 11am and May 3 and 4 at 6pm at Alderney Landing Theatre.
The first piece of live theatre that my youngest son ever saw was staged a number of years ago at the On the Waterfront Theatre Festival (now known as SuperNova). I remember thinking how lucky we are here in HRM to have the opportunity to expose our kids to the theatre-going experience. Rough House, which opened today at SuperNova, is a perfect way to get young children enthused about entertainment that doesn’t emanate from an electronic box. In this one-man show, Andy Massingham uses a mix of slapstick and dance to take the audience through a day in the life of a man who is beset on all sides by a hostile world. The funniest bits involved a feisty chair and a fickle patch of light. It is the kind of show that encourages children (and adults) to laugh out loud.
Rough House runs Saturday May 3 and Sunday May at 2pm at Alderney Landing Theatre
If you're a certain kind of Coast reader, you'll remember the Hall of Best Knowledge comic that we used to run. HOBK threatened to pass into memory when creator Ray Fenwick needed a break from the grind of weekly deadlines, but luckily for everyone on the entire planet that won't happen. Legendary comics publishing house Fantagraphics Books has taken the entire HOBK Coast run and published the HOBK collection. It's called Hall of Best Knowledge and of course it's amazing. So amazing that even the National Post realizes it: here's the piece they did about Ray and his book.