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?
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
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.
The Rainbow Room
2182 Gottingen Street
Saturday Sept 10, 10:45pm
Sunday Sept 11, 6:40pm
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.
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.