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10 must-see plays at the Fringe Fest 

Selections from our reviewing teams’s daily online reports.

click to enlarge Theatre Brouhaha’s Punch Up
  • Theatre Brouhaha’s Punch Up

1. A Tension to Detail

Thu September 10, 8:10pm Fri September 11, 6:30pm Sat September 12, 4:30pm Sun September 13, 4:25pm Museum of Nat History, 1747 Summer St, $10

People often mistake going to the theatre as a passive experience. But a show like Gerard Harris' is an ardent reminder that being an active audience member watching great theatre can be exhilarating. Hold onto your hats and buckle your seat belts. Harris is rapid, catapulting energy, reminiscent of someone like Robin Williams. He packs his stories with comedy and charm, and builds and builds and builds toward a heart-racing, beat-the-clock, storytelling sprint. The show is personal, captivating and hilarious. —Amanda Campbell

2. With the Help of Tony Robbins

Thu September 10, 9:10pm, Fri September 11, 9:30pm, Sat September 12, 9pm, Sun September 13, 1:45pm and 9:15pm Fort Massey Church, 5305 Tobin Street, $2

Performances like this are the reason I come to the Atlantic Fringe Festival. Bare-bones, cheap ($2 admission!), staged with no more than a few worn props, Tony Robbins is pure Fringe, the sort of thing you wander into expecting little and leave feeling energized and amazed. In an hour-long monologue, the fiercely intellectual, often misanthropic, always very funny Dave Millett gleans durable and subtly complex philosophical observations from such relatively mundane acts as getting a haircut. —Martin Wallace

3. Spirits

Thu September 10, 9:30pm Fri September 11, 7:40pm The Waiting Room, 6040 Almon Street, $5

I love a good bar-room play, and Halifax writer/actor Matt McIntyre can add this one to the rich tradition established by the likes of Eugene O'Neil, Patrick Kennedy and Charles Bukowski. Watch for the simple but elegant staging by Dorian Lang (one of our most interesting up-and-coming directors) and the terrific work of his strong ensemble cast, including Mr. McIntyre. In classic Fringe fashion this production reveals a group of emerging artists coming into their own. —Hugo Dann

4. Theatre Brouhaha's Punch Up

Sat September 12, noon and 7:40 Sun September 13, 7:30pm, Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen St, $10

The comedy bar has been set for Fringe 2015 by this demented piece of gold slathered in whipped cream and chloroform. Blending elements of Stephen King's Misery and Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, Punch Up involves Duncan, the Most Pathetic Man Who Ever Existed (played by the scene-stealing Wesley Crawford) taking Pat, The Funniest Man Alive, as a comedic prisoner. It succeeds thanks to its unprecedented script and expert execution. —Carey Bray

5. Sit On My Face

Thu September 10-Sat September 12, 7pm, The Company House, 2202 Gottingen St, free

As a teacher recounts her difficulties with the sex education curriculum in an Ontario high school, the anecdotes segue into monologues, by director Sam Horak and others. Like sex itself, the monologues are, at times, awkward, uncomfortable, funny, amazing, heartbreaking, totally hot and, in the case of the "shark week" and PEI bits, something you've never experienced before. No, really—in the age of the internet, how easy is it to say something novel about the human sexual experience? Sit On My Face does. Twice. —Kevin Hartford

6. Shrinking Violet

Fri September 11, 7pm Sun September 13, 3pm Fort Massey Church, 5303 Tobin Street, $10

Anna Fraser's Shrinking Violet is a fun, perceptive look into a teenager's relationship with her eating disorder. Jane (Fraser) is a high school student living with her mother in the wake of recent loss. Between her grief and teen awkwardness, Jane's imaginary friend Ana (slang/therapy-talk for anorexia) begins to control her life. The unapologetically millennial script is a realistic portrayal of how anorexia erodes more than the body, while the actors' breezy chemistry is sublime. —Meghan Hubley

7. The Yellow Wallpaper

Sun September 13, 2:30pm The Waiting Room, 6040 Almon Street, $6

Here is the kind of gem that one hopes to unearth at the Fringe. Playwright Alison House adapted Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 1892 story into a short, riveting piece that plays equally well as Gothic horror story and as feminist text. In the play, we meet Jane (Christine Daniels), a young woman whose domineering doctor husband prescribes her a rest-cure of confinement—in a room with horrid yellow wallpaper. Daniels gives a brilliant performance as a tightly wound spring, and it's devastating to watch her uncoil. —Kate Watson

8. Confessions of an Operatic Mute

Thu September 10, 10:40pm Fri September 11, 6:10pm, Sat September 12, 6:30pm The Waiting Room, 6040 Almon Street, $10

In his brilliant solo show, Briane Nasimok regales the audience with his life story based on his unnoticed rise as a prolific mute. Mutes are opera's version of extras, characters resigned to the background. They are the silent and forgettable, and also the ones he built his career on as member of the Canadian Opera Company. For an actor who's been deprived of standing in the stage's spotlight, the inspiring Nasimok fully deserves his chance to stand in it now. —CB

9. Ginger Nation

Thu September 10, 5:05pm; Fri September 11, 5:25pm, Sat September 12, 6pm; Sun September 13, 1:55pm and 9pm, The Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen Street, $10

Shawn Hitchins tells his chronicle of being a gay redheaded sperm donor with the ease of someone who has spun this yarn many times and has gotten very good at weaving it. His demeanour, pop culture references and use of a microphone evoke stand-up comedy more than theatrical monologue, so after long stretches of awkward insemination jokes, darker and authentic emotional terrain dealing with the complexities of paternal rights comes as a surprise. He is movingly vulnerable talking about the isolation of growing up different. —Patricia Denyko

10. Yes People, No People

Thu September 10, 8pm; Fri September 11, at 8:50pm Sun September 13, 5:50pm The Waiting Room, 6040 Almon Street, $7

If they were prizes for expertly choreographed theatre pieces, Yes People, No People would win one. A series of short sketches performed by Zach Faye and Julia Topple, the show is knitted together by over-arching social commentary about beauty, wealth and belonging. Particularly successful is a recurring bit about a well-to-do young couple slumming it in a coffee shop, as stylized movements conjure up their personalities and situation. Smart, stylish and beautifully executed, this is a Fringe must-see. —KW



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