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Atlantic Fringe 2016—Day 6 

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A Bitter Shrew
written and performed by Gillian English

Gillian English returns with two shows. Her shows last year sold out at our fringe, and she's been winning awards in Montreal, Adelaide, New York. The opening night crowd for A Bitter Shrew was large and laughing.

First, Gillian English, no matter what she says, is not a bitter shrew. Her tales of love, sex and farts (plus dating and near-death experiences) involve men with both redeeming qualities and deal-breaking flaws, and her response to life and men seems to be: don't back down. Believe that being ridiculous is not just something you can be; others can be too. One man will fuck her during her period, no problem, but can't stand one tiny fart. One guy is really good-looking but doesn't know what the CBC is.

English has a great style of making all her confessions very accessible. She's friendly, casual, and laughs at herself. We can all laugh at her, thinking, better her than me. Or with the more powerful relieving feeling, wait! Somebody else does that too? —JK

The Company House
2202 Gottingen Street

Wednesday Sept 7, 7:45pm
Thursday Sept 8, 6:30pm
Friday Sept 9, 8pm
Saturday Sept 10, 10pm
Sunday Sept 11, 6pm

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Butterscotch Palace
written by Ryan van Horne
featuring Val MacKenzie, Dana Rhyno and Alexander MacDougall

Another hit from Ryan Van Horne's play-pen. In some ways a polar opposite to his first play, the absurdist Department of Common Sense (Fringe Hit 2013), Butterscotch Palace is uncomfortably true-to-life. In a packed 40 minutes, Van Horne manages to scratch a number of itches 'til they bleed: bribes by Big Pharma, institutional sexism, doctors being bought, familial abandonment, blackmail, patients digging their own graves and quack remedies.

Of course, sixty years later, the 'quack remedy' called Music Therapy is now fully proven and successfully used in nursing homes and hospitals worldwide. That's the poignant part, and in many ways I would liked to have seen and heard more about the birth and growth of music therapy as a science. Indeed, it's what we were expecting.

Instead, if anything, there was too much covered. Was it necessary to paint the doctor as SO evil right from the get-go? The bribes, bullying and blackmail seemed to be an unnecessary sideline, methinks, to an already solid story. They're worth telling, for sure, but perhaps not in a 40-minute play about music therapy.

Alexander MacDougall is a little stiff as the thoroughly unlikeable doctor. We hate him the moment he opens his mealy Mengele mouth. He *looked* trustworthy, but sadly, we were never given the opportunity. By the time he utters "You can trust me, I'm a doctor" the line is redundant and just makes us cringe.

Val MacKenzie is expertly cast as the smart depressive who responds well to the doe-eyed Carmen and her calming tunes. As street philosopher Carmen points out, it's the difference between treatment and care—something our doctor cannot understand. She shows us that care goes beyond the four walls of this sad institution: "compassion is everyone's job" and part of the treatment.

The play rolls along beautifully with some clever nasty/kind counterpoints until the doctor (and the establishment he mimics) are exposed for what they are(—anything but patient-centered. The final scene, however, seemed far too abrupt. Take another 5 minutes, Ryan, to help swell our hearts—they're ready.

A note about the location: the dance floor at Menz Bar does not start shaking until 10 o'clock, but then, boy does it shake. Late evening Fringe plays will be competing with some heavy beats. Kudos to the actors for fighting through it and the volunteers for trying to address it. Hope you can lip-read. —Alex Handyside

The Rainbow Room
2182 Gottingen Street

Saturday Sept 10, 10:45pm
Sunday Sept 11, 6:40pm

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Merrily We Prance About
written and performed by Ned Petrie

Ned Petrie has become an Atlantic Fringe favourite over the last few years and with his solo sketch show Merrily We Prance About this year Petrie is in finer form than ever. The show features an array of sketches, without an obvious theme tying them together, but each one highlighting the inherent absurdity in a variety of facets of American and Canadian society.

One of Petrie’s strengths as a performer and writer is his ability to use the specificities and colloquialisms of language to firmly root his characters in a particular time and place. In one sketch he plays a Kentucky Defence Attorney giving his Closing Argument to the jury in a murder trial and it’s not just Petrie’s accent, but also his turns of phrase, that allow him to really thoroughly poke fun at a very specific Southern stereotype that is immediately recognizable. In a great example of the very specific being the most universal, I also saw an immediate correlation between Petrie’s Southern lawyer and Toronto’s former Mayor Rob Ford. Similarly, Petrie uses language to root his unhinged neighbour and frisbee thief Sid Lundy in a particular place as well, and there is an interesting connection between Sid and Petrie’s awkward flirter in the Opening Sketch, as both explore the connection between masculine fragility and unbridled rage.

Petrie is an extremely affable performer and Merrily We Prance About is smart, funny and topical. —Amanda Campbell

The Bus Stop
2203 Gottingen Street

Wednesday Sept 7, 11:15pm
Thursday Sept 8, 7:00pm
Friday Sept 9, 8:15pm
Sunday Sept 11, 7:20pm

Behind the Curtain: the lineup.
click to enlarge Waiting to get to Dark Matter at Plan B.
  • Waiting to get to Dark Matter at Plan B.



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