Atlantic Fringe 2016—Day 8

Friday, September 9, 2016

Here's what's on today at the Atlantic Fringe Festival.

Attention Seeker
written and performed byGerard Harris

A year after Gerard Harris' 2015 Fringe show, A Tension To Detail, we find that time has not changed Harris much, nor slowed him down. He still paces around and bounces in his seat on his own imaginary coals. He's still, undoubtedly, the master of spinning yarns, sometimes losing track of the threads he weaves. Harris still battles against the clock and time management, and he still speaks with lightning speed accessibility, forging a Fringe show that is uniquely his.

In this chapter, we have a show that feels both immediately familiar, yet stands as its own separate beast. While Harris still engages the audience with his own eccentric warmth, Attention Seeker is something we haven't seen before. At the show's onset, Harris confides that, despite his inner grappling and anxiety, he has always sought to be the centre of everyone's attention. Harris loves sharing his rapid-fire personality with those around him and that is precisely what the audience is given here. Ditching the more intimate storytelling style of his preceding work, he anchors his newest performance with a centrepiece story regarding his rocky journey delving into the world of stand-up comedy and finding some semblance of success. As a result, Attention Seeker presents an interesting combination of amusing personal anecdotes, a somewhat centralized storyline, and actual funny (and less funny) jokes straight from Harris' stand-up vault. The stand-up motif is a particularly clever thematic device, and subtly harkens back to Harris' inherent need to acknowledged and appreciated.

Although the performance could definitely benefit from being less chronologically disjointed and tighter in terms of narration, Attention Seeker is an interesting step of evolution for Gerard Harris' comedic brand of story-telling; he's clearly in his element, brandishing his cringe-worthy humour and shameless self-deprecation. Harris is definitely one to check out this Fringe season for although it may not have quite the same heart of his previous work, it definitely has a whole lot of nerve. —Carey Bray

The Bus Stop
2203 Gottingen Street

Friday Sept 9, 9:45pm
Saturday Sept 10, 12pm & 9:40pm
Sunday Sept 11, 2:40pm

Callaghan! And the Wings of the Butterfly
by Sex T-Rex

Sex T-Rex’s Callaghan: Wings of The Butterfly, is another brilliant, rollicking adventure from this exceptional Toronto-based comedy troupe which is continually using long form sketch comedy to tell highly theatrical and captivating new stories.

Wings of the Butterfly introduces us to Jack Callaghan, an often brooding hero on an archaeological quest in Guatemala to find the ancient Mayan relic, the wings of the butterfly, which holds the secret to time itself. With the help of his friends Sal and Walt, Callaghan navigates a plethora of dangers before confronting the villainous Dr. Klaus Von Handerstopp, who has disastrous plans for the butterfly wings. Callaghan must also come to terms with the fate of his wife, the savvy and intelligent Muriel, in order to save the world from Handerstopp.

The story is tightly and imaginatively woven, the characters are well defined and and strongly portrayed by the cast, especially those who play multiple secondary characters as well, but I think the trademark of Sex T-Rex is how joyfully and genuinely fun their shows are to watch. From their beautifully choreographed fight sequences (Kevin MacPherson), to their self-referential asides and clever pop culture references, to the fun dance sequence (Robin Henderson) Callaghan: Wings of The Butterfly, like Swords: A Play of Swords keeps the audience in nonstop laughter. It is silly. It is playful. It is exactly what theatre, in its purest form, was meant to be.

Go see this gem of a show. You’ll wish you could go back in time and experience it all again.

The Bus Stop Theatre
2203 Gottingen St.

Friday Sept 9, 11:15pm
Saturday Sept 10, 6:30pm
Sunday Sept 11, 10:20pm

The Common: For As Long As You Have So Far
original production created by Dustin Harvey and Robert Plowman with Brian Riley, Andrea Dymond and Rae Brown

A play that only exists between your ears, 1 person at a time 

Book in advance and you will receive notification via email of the secret meeting place the day of the performance. You will be outside walking for 40-50 minutes, so dress for comfort and the weather. Please arrive 15 minutes before your departure time. Get your tickets in advance to receive SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS! Starting at a secret location in the North Common audiences follow the path of a mysterious natural underground creek arriving at Victoria Park. You are both the star and the only audience, set on a journey through the city with only a voice on an iPod, a book and your imagination as a guide. Along the way you create images that transport you through decades in time; you drift by the skate park when it was an Egg Pond, the Citadel as it was being surveyed by Charles Morris, sit at the bench in the Public Gardens where Sanford Fleming devised time zones, Samuel Cunard won a shipping contract, Joseph Howe fought a duel. It is a dreamlike world twisted up with historical facts, mythology and serendipitous encounters. Expect to be entertained, educated, to get emotional and to never look at a park bench the same way again.


Friday September 9, 6:15pm and 6:30pm Saturday September 10, 3pm, 3:15pm, 3:30pm, 3:45pm,4pm, 4:15pm, 6pm 6:15pm, 6:30pm
Sunday, Sept 11 3pm, 3:15pm, 3:30pm, 3:45pm,4pm, 4:15pm, 6pm 6:15pm, 6:30pm

A Drag Queen Stole My Dress
written and performed by Gillian English

Gillian English doesn't need my help to promote her show A Drag Queen Stole My Dress. Before performance time she had a line out the door, and people a buzz with excitement—for a moment I even questioned if I would get in. She's a pro on stage and delivers personal anecdotes with a sarcastic humour many would kill for. She would teach you how to hide the body (a family joke she candidly admits during the show).

The trick of the play that is almost immediately apparent is that this is actually a more relatable show than a drag queen theft. It's about a bad relationship—a relationship she wanted desperately to go well even as the man she was in love with failed her over and over. Some part of me hoped the ending was that her betrothed was the titular drag queen, but unfortunately real life is far more messy and endings more ambiguous.

English's betrayal is very much fixed in Halifax and as she winds us through the names and places changed to protect the innocent she gets more willing to share what the "true story" is, slipping playfully back into the real place names and what might be her genuine feelings about what may sting more harshly than she reveals. This is a crowd-pleasing familiar journey that is a success because of English's larger than life personality and her ability to spin a story with the best of them. —Ian Mullan

The Company House
2202 Gottingen St.

Friday Sept 9, 9:30pm
Sunday Sept 11, 4:30pm

Dark Matter
by Colleen MacIsaac

At only 15 minutes, this is a delightful, pensive little Fringe treat, easy to squeeze in between your other shows. Three characters orbit each other closely on a tightly cramped stage, but emotionally, of course, they’re each worlds away, navigating grief, the tension between science and the supernatural, and the logistical challenges of breakfast.

Performers alternate which role they play nightly, so keeners can go twice to get a nuanced experience. See this if you’ve ever felt lonely when faced with the vastness of the universe. —Nicole Maunsell

Plan B
2180 Gottingen Street

Friday Sept 9, 6:45pm
Saturday Sept 10, 12:45pm & 9:45pm
Sunday Sept 11, 2:35pm

Everybody Dies in December
written and performed by Nancy Kenny

Nancy Kenny steps easily into the role of Claire, a third generation funeral director with a warm smile and comforting voice who talks to the deceased on her table with a generosity rarely paid to her in life.

Kenny's choice to address the audience directly gives an unsettling reminder that death is something we will all face, and her cheeky suggestion to "wear clean underwear" is the sort of dark humour that peppers the show. Her voice as Claire has an unsettlingly familiar tone of a person delivering bad news with a positive spin as she reveals her secrets.

The world Claire inhabits is claustrophobic, with friends and acquaintances appearing frequently on her table giving the impression that she lives in a small town with few choices. Claire lives with the expectation she will inherit the family business, get married, have a child, and it's assumed that she too will find herself on this table being prepared for her funeral.

Though the story is a familiar one at its heart, its unique telling is deliciously clever and funny and will leave you wanting to live your life to its fullest, because none of us are getting out alive. —Ian Mullan

The Bus Stop
2203 Gottingen Street

Friday Sept 9, 5:15pm
Saturday Sept 10, 4:40pm
Sunday Sept 11 8:50pm

I'm Only One Man
written and performed by Jon Blair

Jon Blair's I'm Only One Man plays like a Saturday Night Live audition tape as he cycles quickly through at least 12 different quick comedic scenes (I lost count). Blair is comfortable on stage and knows how to get a laugh with characters and scenes that are smartly constructed for an audience that is used to television jump cuts. The shocking juxtapositions taking the familiar and turning it on its head is the mine from where Blair extracts his humour.

If you were one of the many who turned out for the local comedy group Picnicface in their heyday you will love this show; the fast-paced joke density is perfect for those looking for crowd-pleasing sketch comedy by a seasoned comedy professional. —Ian Mullan

The Company House
2202 Gottingen Street

Friday Sept 9, 11pm
Sunday Sept 11, 3pm

Illustrated Lady
written, performed and tattooed by Sophie Postcroteau

Charming. Postcroteau is a great storyteller. The details of the shopping expeditions of her childhood, the foods she ate, the friends she met and kept or met and lost are all shared in what feels like a calm heart-to-heart chat with some you're comfortable with and like very much. She has chosen to memorialize minutes and milestones of her life with tattoos, and her reasons all make terrific sense.

Before the audience goes into the show, each is asked to draw a little something that makes them happy. (I drew a cat.) Then in the show, Postcroteau reviews them, again explaining why this one or that isn't the one she will tattoo today (she already has two cat tattoos). In this show she chooses a cupcake and proceeds to tattoo it onto her inner calf, where it will stay forever, along with the tats (a sun, a record, a chicken leg) she chose in other shows. Postcroteau explains every step of the tattooing. It feels just as if someone were showing you how to knit one, purl two. —JK

The Rainbow Room
2184 Gottingen St.

Friday Sept 9, 10:10pm
Saturday Sept 10, 6pm


It's Greek to Me
written and performed by Kevin Gerald Connors

You have no idea how much of a struggle writing this review is. Although in my mind I can be a harsh critic, there is a part of me that wants all of you performers to do well, that believes that you should get some praise for your hard work, even if you don’t succeed in everything you try, that wants to find something good to say about even the most disappointing production.

But here I can’t. I just can’t.

Look, Connors is a hard-working performer, who commits to each character he plays, each dreadfully stereotypical, horribly hackneyed, woefully offensive...see I can’t do it.

Connors’ idea is sound and really promising. He plays, in succession, a series of characters from Greek mythology and performs a brief sketch based on their characteristics and the myths surrounding them. (By the way, while it’s far from the worst thing here, and I know acting is physically demanding, I could have done without Connors’ onstage gulping of water, heavy breathing and sighs of “oh boy” during character changes.)

Once you go through the theatre door, the idea is that you’ll be transported to Ancient Greece, but, well, it ultimately feels like you’ve been transported to the 1950s. The bevy of characters includes a pink-scarf wearing “flamboyant” Ares who’d rather have the blood of handsome young men spurting in his face than rape women (“eww”), an “urban” Zeus who calls women “bitches” and speaks on his cellphone with an equally “urban”-sounding Hera who threatens to mess up said “bitches,” and a thick-glasses-wearing Hades who throws out words like “shtup” and “tuckus” and talks about his mother-in-law moving to Florida. (Do you begin to see the problem here?) There’s also a joke about a man being raped by the Minotaur, just to cover all the bases.

At the end of the play Connors tells the audience he hopes he didn’t offend anyone, but I don’t really think he understands precisely what is offensive here. The show reminded me of nothing so much as the episode of The Simpsons where Krusty tried to revive his standup career by reviving the “golden” “ethnic” material of his formative years. It’s Greek is not just bad, it’s Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's bad. Avoid it. —Martin Wallace

Plan B
2180 Gottingen Street

Friday Sept 9, 8:55
Saturday Sept 10, 7:15
Sunday Sept 11, 3:25pm & 7:25pm

Mel Malarkey Gets The Bum's Rush
by Cathy Petch

Mel Malarkey is the owner and host of The Vagabond, a Vaudeville theatre under threat from the increasing popularity of movies. We're with Mel (Cathy Petch) on the final night of the Vagabond's existence, a fact she's concealing from the implied audience, but not, of course, from the real one, as we are invited to see not only the flamboyant and raunchy onstage Mel, but the more solemn and emotional backstage Mel, who reads us odes she's written about the life that brought her to the Vagabond and about what will be lost with its closure.

It's the backstage Mel, I suspect, that has led other reviewers to refer to the play's "pathos," but I think it's Onstage Mel you'll enjoy most with her musical saw, her dildo songs and her period-specific jokes. Her often obscene and disparaging, but always vivid, introductions of the acts that are performing while we join her backstage make you wish you could see them, but  for my money the best Vaudeville act is Mel's interaction with the relentlessly mugging Dickie the Pianist (played by Director Em Glasspool). The mostly silent Dickie's exaggerated facial expressions are the perfect counterpoint to Mel's barker spiel.

At the heart of Malarkey, there's a lament for a form of entertainment that was superseded by the arguably less intimate formats of TV and movies. Where, one may ask, can we find entertainment that captures at least some of Vaudeville's riot, joy, and raunch? Well, with Mel and Dickie at the Rainbow Room, of course! Stop on by! While you're there, pick up a bottle of Elixir! (if Mel and Dickie haven't drunk them all already.) —Martin Wallace

The Rainbow Room
2184 Gottingen St.

Friday Sept 9, 7:10pm
Saturday Sept 10, 4:00pm
Sunday Sept 11, 7:50pm

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

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

The Mom Show or the Most Boring Show Ever
written and performed by Amy Grace

The Mom Show is a delightful surprise that delivers a postpartum dissection of motherhood from the stretched belly to a personal identity crisis. Viewed as either a glowing pregnant woman creating life or an obstacle to the party planning process, the modern mother is expected to be everything but an inconvenience.

Amy Grace is a sharp performer who manages to make her show relatable and funny to an audience with or without children. In a generation where "adulting" has become a verb to describe performing the day to day minutia of life, being a mom seems to be doing it on a whole other level.

The Mom Show is a honed piece of theatre so timed-out that when the moments of vulnerability are found and allowed to breath they stand out and tug at the heart reminding us, or maybe just me, of my own theatre-loving mother. I do question the subtitle "the most boring show ever" which does a disservice to an entertaining show. Later when I questioned the choice a friend pointed out, "perhaps it's just typical mom reverse psychology?" —Ian Mullan

Company House
2202 Gottingen Street

Friday Sept 9, 7:00pm

Nautica: A Circus Sea Journey

Nautica explores the traditionally masculine world of sailing with an all-female cast from Halifax Circus, who rock in hammocks fashioned from silks, climb a rope mast to lookout for land, and ride the waves on a trapeze.

Featuring acrobatics and aerials, the story is told in seven vignettes set to music from artists as disparate as Tori Amos, Massive Attack and Great Big Sea. In Revelry, the crew cavorts in a tavern, flirting with each other and drunkenly showboating as they tumble and swing. In Sirens, one trapeze artist entices another until they are swinging together with limbs intertwined, languidly waving like seaweed in a current. The embodiment of a storm spins frantically on the silks in Maelstrom, menacing our sailors and threatening to drown them as they brace against the wind, clutching each other.

Entrancing, expressive and skillful, the multifaceted vignettes weave a tale of passion, joy, and respect for the power of the sea. Worth seeing even if you don't know that partial ticket proceeds go to Circus Circle, a youth drop-in program that teaches circus and life skills. —Nicole Maunsell

St. Matthew's Church
1479 Barrington St.

Friday Sept 9, 7pm & 9pm
Saturday Sept 10, 2pm, 7pm & 9pm

No Brag, Just Facts
by Brenda Thompson
performed by Andrew Wetmore

In No Brag, Just Facts performer Andrew Wetmore gives a real life account of Lester Beeler, a resident of Bridgetown, Nova Scotia from 1918-1993. Wetmore throws himself into the role of Beeler, doling out anecdotes about times long since past as if they were his very own. Armed with a picture slideshow, a few props, and expressions from the time period, No Brag, Just Facts is an affable and endearing historical throwback.

Whereas the performance can benefit from a little more brevity, Wetmore has a very casual and relaxed presenting manner, which allows for the love for his subject matter to come through, and thus prevents his work from becoming dry or burdensome. This is a project of passion, which in essence is what Fringe is all about.

As No Brag progressed, I began wondering why Wetmore chose to invest in Beeler’s story. What it was about this man that so profoundly piqued his interest? It was not until this play’s conclusion, when Wetmore, lost so deep in the moment, looked out to the audience and said, “I love life here.” that I think I understood his reason, and it's a very comforting one at that. —Carey Bray

The Waiting Room
6040 Almon Street

Friday Sept 9, 8:35pm
Saturday Sept 10, 2:20pm


Noel James, What's Welsh for Funny?
written and performed by Noel James

Fresh from a show at the Comedy Lounge at Lubljiana, Slovenia (by way of a holiday in Newfoundland where he was apparently screeched in and had no idea what the fuck was going on), James has washed ashore for his third fringe in Halifax. His casual (read: shambling) style and silly-putty face Fast-paced and brash show, yet James has this self-deprecating look on his face much of the time. A master class in the art of the pun taught by a bit of a daft. The word play is constant and funny. James runs through girlfriends, Wales, the amazing number of eccentric jobs he's had with a bit of physics thrown in, which James has a degree in. Really excellent bit about Stephen Hawking. James is indeed from Wales, from the city of Swansea, also home to Dylan Thomas (fans of Under Milk Wood are in for a treat). —JK

Plan B

Friday Sept 9, 10:10pm
Saturday Sept 10, 4:05pm
Sunday Sept 11, 6pm

Our Summer Home
by Kai Rudell

Albert, the father of the family inhabiting Our Summer Home is dead; our knowledge of him is conveyed through his pre-recorded will. It is his voice that introduces us to the characters in the play. There is Edith, the polished and hypercritical mother with a drink always in her hand, Charlie, the much-put-upon mamma's boy, who is constantly threatening suicide, and Siegfeird (sic), or Ziggy, the handsome and none-too-bright actor, who is obviously his mother's favourite. Oh, and there is also Abigail, the main character, who sets in motion the action of the play with her proposal that the family meet once a year at their cottage, or "summer home," to reconnect. Despite Abigail's relative lack of character flaws, she is also the only family member left nothing in Albert's will.

While the characters are a bit broad (and to be frank, I liked Edith and Charlie better with their original names, Louise and Buster), they are well acted, and, despite a few, not irreparable, plot inconsistencies, the opening performance shows potential for a broad farce or twisted melodrama, a truly enjoyable play.

Except there is no play. Not really. Billed at forty-five minutes, the play's actual running time is barely twenty. A climax and a denouement (with a "twist") arrive before we've had a chance to know the characters beyond their broad outlines. All the complicated setup proves pointless. The ending abrupt and unsatisfying.

It is the nature of the Fringe that many productions are not so much plays as ideas for a play. It often serves as a kind of workshop for actors and playwrights just starting out. Once this play is reworked and fleshed out it might become a solid production, but as it stands now, it's barely a momentary diversion. —Martin Wallace

The Living Room
2353 Agricola Street

Friday Sept 9, 8:20pm

Paddy N' Rob
by Robert Murphy

It seems every year that I attend the Fringe, I always end up seeing, usually due to proximity or convenience of schedule, that one low-budget, “less popular,” show that, despite my initial lack of expectations, turns out to be one of my favourites. This year Paddy N’ Rob is that show. Of all the comedies I’ve seen this year, this is the one at which I laughed the most frequently and whole-heartedly.

In Fringe comedy either one-person “confessionals” or sketch troupe shows now tend to predominate, but the “comedy duo,” once a mainstay, seems now largely out of fashion. That’s a shame, because the performance of a comedy duo has its own unique rhythm. The humour arises mostly not out of complicated set-ups or knock-out one liners, but in the interplay between the two performers.

The show is a series of loosely connected bits. If there’s a theme running throughout, it’s failure. The different characters Paddy and Rob play can’t get dates, can’t write a Batman theme song, can’t figure out how to leave their shitty jobs. Although the characters Rob plays are usually a little more focused and competent than those Paddy plays, they are no more likely to succeed. This isn’t a game of “laugh at the losers” though; the laughs come during the initially supportive conversations in which they gradually realize either that they have very different goals or that they have neither the talent or knowledge to achieve them.

The night I attended there was an opening glitch, and they had to restart the show twice, which was not only handled well by the performers but also, quite frankly, seemed congruent with the show’s theme. It was also really poorly attended, which breaks my heart. You’ve still got a couple of chances to see this uproariously funny show, and well, it’s only five bucks, so, as Donald Trump might say, what have you got to lose? (But remember: Don’t. Ever. Fucking. Dis. Coldplay.) —Martin Wallace

The Living Room
2353 Agricola St.

Friday Sept 9, 11pm
Saturday Sept 10th, 10:05pm

Perk up, Pianist!
written and performed by Sarah Hagen

Sarah Hagen sits at a piano, playing classical pieces while simultaneously making wry observations interspersed with jokes. It's a style of entertainment more often found in expensive lounges (although with arguably better music here) and represents yet another entry to the seemingly endless list of genres and forms that the Fringe can accommodate.

 Hagen's brand of humour is well represented by the dirty (and somewhat goofy) pun in the title (a pun she connects, with apparently characteristic self-deprecation, with her dating life.) She's an engaging and endearing performer, delivering her lines in a warm voice that contrasts nicely with the silliness of some of  her jokes. She's also, of course, an accomplished concert pianist, and the way in which she subtly times her lines to match the tone and rhythm of the pieces adds to the overall charm of the experience. One of the best hours I've ever spent at the Fringe.

The Rainbow Room, incidentally, is the perfect venue for Perk Up Pianist! It's a small space with a layout that enhances the intimacy between artist and audience, so necessary to performances like this. (And, btw, if you like you can buy a drink from the bar next door and bring it into the venue. Enjoy your beer and Beethoven!)  —Martin Wallace

The Rainbow Room
2184 Gottingen St.

Friday Sept 9, 8:40pm
Saturday Sept 10, 2:30pm
Sunday Sept 11, 5:10pm

by Paul Power

Cringe at the totally OTT-and-ham-on-rye acting! Wince at the oh-so predictable stereotypes! Squirm at the starchy Grade 10 dialogue! Groan at the awful one-liners!

But within minutes you will begin to forgive the actors, the clichés, and the playwright. And you will do so easily and willingly. Because you will quickly warm to a true-to-life story, well-told by competent actors playing quirky yet genuinely human characters.

The setting and great music may be 'Nam-era USA, but the message remains current - even for a 20-year old script produced by the edgy HubCity Theatre out of Moncton NB.

Get past Nick, the pompous, pretty-boy, narcissist, (as indeed he himself does) and you too will reveal a hurt being who slowly gains compassion and humanity, eventually losing his prejudice and his own significant 'multiple disabilities'.

Look beyond David's disability and you see a smart visible minority (pun intended) who just wants to be. And 90 minutes later, he does.

Always sensible Diane [I did not get her name] was excellent as the love/lust influence. House-Mother and uber-flirt, Miss Cracker, was truly cringe-worthy, yet surprisingly likeable.

All the characters do their share of philosophizing, and although it's done with a shovel, not a spoon, it is above all genuine. Yes, it takes a few minutes to forget about David's disability, but you will - and it won't be forced. You will see the play to be a message about truth and scruples. And you too will like it. —Alex Handyside

The Company House
2202 Gottingen St.

Friday Sept 9, 5pm
Saturday Sept 10, 3pm
Sunday Sept 11, 11:50am

written by Mark Foster
performed by Paisley Conrad, Alexandra Cubbon, Justin Moir and Peter Sarty with Genny Dow and Edie Reaney Chunn
directed by Lara Lewis

Rut is playing in a very small venue, and there is no room to cram in more chairs for an overflow crowd. Go to your communication device now. Buy your ticket now.

Two straight couples are in the beginnings of relationships. Jack (Justin Moir) and Molly (Alexandra Cubbon) meet in a school library. Hannah (Paisley Conrad) and Dez (Peter Sarty) meet in a bar. Hannah and Molly are friends, as are Jack and Dez. The action switches between the two men talking about the women, the two women talking about the men, and each couple.

The stage is set with a small couch, table, and chairs. The actors do most of the shifting of this furniture, and do it very well. The library study table becomes a table in a bar with the addition of a red checked plastic table cloth. There's been some brainstorming somewhere to figure out how to do these shifts, and it all works very nicely.

First off, Mark Foster's writing is great. He has a terrific ear for dialogue. Everything the characters say (and they say a whole hell of a lot) rings true and natural. Characters don't proclaim. Sometimes they're fast talkers. Sometimes not. Just like in life.

Second, the acting is solid. It's real acting. All four actors do really fine work; Paisley Conrad as Hannah is the stand out. Her Hannah is a whirlwind of sour and sadness; elation and inebriation. She has a great potty mouth. She's the most physical of the four. At one point she and Molly are sitting on a table, with drinks; Hannah's drink is knocked over and a big puddle spreads over the table. Was it supposed to? Hannah takes off her shirt and mops it up, laughing. Or is it Conrad mopping up the mess, responding beautifully to an on-stage accident?

The four are watched by two gods: Latitua, God of Performance, and Coninua, God of Community, who start the play off and sit off to the side, occasionally commenting on the entanglements of the mere mortals, and pulling strings. Genny Dow's Latitua is a terrific worry wart; Edie Reany Chunn's Coninua is a bit of a smooth criminal. Props to costume designer Naomi Froese for their robes.

All that said, no fringe play should be more than 60 minutes long, and Rut clocks in at 80. Risky. Here's a thought: get rid of the Gods. The airy fairy question of whether or not they meddle with mortals could be tackled by Foster in another work. Here the nuts and bolts of how Jack, Molly, Hannah and Dez are going about things is much much much more interesting.

All for a measly five bucks. —JK

The Living Room
2353 Agricola Street

Friday Sept 9, 6:30pm
Saturday Sept 10, 2pm
Sunday Sept 11, 7:35pm

Swordplay: A Play of Swords
by Sex T-Rex

Sex T-Rex’s Swordplay: A Play of Swords is a swashbuckling epic adventure of filmic scope deftly brought to life with beautiful and creative theatricality and nonstop hilarity.

As in a futuristic The Princess Bride, a grandfather, born in the 1980s, brings his sick granddaughter an old video game to play, where three Musketeer-like comrades, Roland, Salvatore and Barnabas are serving the Princess Pimpernel, when suddenly Roland burns to death in a fire and Pimpernel is kidnapped by the evil Baron Thorne. It is up to Barnabas and Salvatore to save the day. What is so wonderful about this story is that what comes next is entirely unexpected, jammed with popular culture references that are woven elegantly into the story and the characters’ development, and creatively culminating in gruesome sword fights and all the plot points coming together tightly in a most satisfying way.

Sex T-Rex is a comedy troupe made up of highly skilled improvisers, and Swordplay: A Play of Swords shows how long-form sketch comedy can be pushed to its limit where it melds into devised playwriting and Swordplay: A Play of Swords is an excellent example. The physicality of the cast combined with the imaginative vision of Director Alec Toller proves that theatre is still the perfect medium for creating the impossible. We are taken across seas, on to a dragon, through video game green tubes, and swinging from chandeliers, with immediacy and silliness abound.

Simultaneously, Sex T-Rex creates an entire world for us to wholeheartedly believe in, while also poking fun at how little they need in props and sets (foam swords, cutout set pieces, and a large piece of fabric) to achieve this feat. The fight choreography by Kevin MacPherson is both fierce and joyful, if morbidly so, and the music choices add another dimension of cinematic proportions and pop culture bliss.

Get thee forth, on thy honour, and sit thyself down, and play.  —Amanda Campbell

The Bus Stop
2203 Gottingen St.

Friday Sept 9, 6:45pm
Sunday Sept 11, 1pm


Trashed - A Recycled Circus Story
By Christy Sanford 

In a once beautiful land, now sits a sad world. The world is polluted and darkness fills the air and their hearts.   Beautiful homes are now filled with junk food wrappers and pop cans. Tired and sick, they had lost their will to care for themselves and their home.

Until one day someone decided to make a change.  How could they ever be happy with all this TRASH!? Using Aerial Arts, Contortion, Physical Theatre and Dance, our story will come alive. Join us on an adventure to recycle our trashed planet, bodies and minds."

Studio in Essence
1535 Dresden Row

Friday September 9, 6pm and 8pm Saturday September 10, 2pm and 6pm

Tunnel of Love
by Kevin Hartford

We're all probably in a little bit of denial that we'll die someday. But what if your denial outlives you? Kevin Hatford's dark comedy about heading toward the light starts with a car crash and two recently deceased strangers who are lying to each other and themselves.

Jessica Barry plays Claire, a muscle-car driver in a lacy dress and denim vest, who's getting increasingly exasperated with Frank (Scott Baker). Despite all evidence and an otherwise annoyingly logical mind, Frank refuses to admit that he's dead, and Claire realizes she'll have to drag him along to whatever comes next. As the two get to know each other and Frank's mental gymnastics become more and more impressive, you start to wonder who's helping who. Barry and Baker have great onstage chemistry and hilarious material to work with: it's fun to watch them play off each other. Don’t look here for deep lessons about the meaning of life, but expect to relate to both characters as they hover between life and afterlife. —Nicole Maunsell

The Waiting Room
6040 Almon Street

Friday Sept 9, 5:45pm
Saturday Sept 10, 3:50pm
Sunday Sept 11, 2:30pm

We’ll Always Have Port Stanley
written by Marion Johnson

In We’ll Always Have Port Stanley, we are taken to the Harbourview Resort, a hotel referred to as a little piece of heaven, where folks can get away, maybe even getting a little lucky while they're at it. The entire show is set in the room of timid, apologetic Harry (Quincy Russell), who we quickly learn is preparing for a romantic rendezvous with fellow hotel-goer, the more direct Jen (Maggie Hammel). Whereas both seem to embrace the Vegas mantra of “What happens in Port Stanley stays in Port Stanley," there is palpable awkwardness and nerves for both characters—and it’s not just pre-game jitters…

Akin to its premise, We’ll Always Have Port Stanley is a short-lived affair that would benefit from more big emotional punches to make its climactic moments resonate more with audiences. Whereas Quincy Russell does wounded, vulnerable Harry justice to a degree, his overall performance came off as quiet and reserved in comparison to his counterpart Hammel, who seemed much more confident and comfortable in Jen’s skin.

All told, there is heart to be found at the Harbourview Resort. It is a place that offers pure escapism. It’s a play about life, and as such, it’s a reminder that life isn’t always so easy to escape.

Winner: Best Production & People's Choice at 2015 London One Act Festival. —Carey Bray

The Waiting Room
6040 Almon Street

Friday Sept 9, 10:05pm
Saturday Sept 10, 7:10pm
Sunday Sept 11, 8:00pm


World Tour: A Tragedy in One Act
by Shawna Edward, Scott Marleau, Jennah Foster-Catlack and Monica Serodio

World Tour: A Tragedy In One Act is an unfortunate and misleading title for a sketch show starring Shawna Edward, Scott Marleau and Monica Serodio.The three comedians bring a lot of passion for their craft to the stage with sketches that run the gamut from jokes about feminist porn, to Pokemon, to pot and politics.

There are several fun moments, such as a re-enactment of the Justin Trudeau elbowgate incident sung to the tune of The Lion King, as well as a performance of Miley Cyrus's Wrecking Ball played on most school children's first instrument: the recorder.

The show is silly with the energy of a college comedy night where the raw talent is still being honed but makes for a fun evening nonetheless. —Ian Mullan

The Living Room
2353 Agricola St.

Friday Sept 9, 9:35pm
Saturday Sept 10, 3:50pm
Sunday Sept 11, 9:25pm

The Wrath of Ponzi
written and directed by Nicholas Cox

What is OmniGlo? Representatives will tell you it’s not a pyramid scheme. It’s an innovative model responsible for churning out more billionaires than any other competing business. But it’s not a pyramid scheme… so don’t call it that.

Wrath of Ponzi centres on the shoulders of James (Tom Lute), a failed real-estate agent who’s hosting a dinner party with his viper-esque girlfriend Cleo (Audrey Eastwood) for his ex-girlfriend Amy (Rachel Hastings), who, much to James’ chagrin, shows up with her new, sarcastic girlfriend Devin (Jessica Oliver).

The meal quickly devolves into a business pitch for James; OmniGlo is his shot at redemption and Tom Lute does his character justice, depicting a faux sense of eagerness that quickly implodes into blatant desperation. But the play truly comes into its twisted own following the arrival of Lance Maryland (Andrew Chandler), OmniGlo’s “Black Diamond Leader,” who modestly insists you simply call him "Pharaoh." Andrew Chandler shows the right amount of restraint with the southern, electric sadism of Pharaoh. He is the perfect mix of business guru and masochist. You can tell how he relishes the way his followers refer to him with cultish reverence. It’s this insanity that turns Wrath of Ponzi on its head, transforming a formerly entertaining comedy into a shocking, violent spectacle in a matter of seconds.

Ponzi is a classic show that fits right into the spirit of Fringe. Its entertaining script and solid acting make it likely one of the more unforgettable of shows you’ll see this week. Just be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart. —Carey Bray

The Waiting Room
6040 Almon Street

Friday Sept 9th, 7:15pm
Saturday Sept 10th, 1pm

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