click to enlarge Katie Dorion (centre) travels through time and memory in "How Often Do I Dream"
Katie Dorion (centre) travels through time and memory in "How Often Do I Dream"

The Atlantic Fringe scheduling offers two really valuable tools for mapping out a Fringe Binge: the opening night  Fringe Sampler  and Festival Chair (and charming funnyman) Kevin Kindred's  Fringe Talk Show. The Sampler has come and gone, but there are two more opportunities to take in the talk show, which shines the spotlight on an assortment of performers and shows.

Rewriting Distance  ★★★½

One of the things I like best about Fringe is that it is an opportunity to see shows like Rewriting Distance that fall outside the traditional definition of "theatre".  This show is a combination of dance, music, written and spoken word that is improvised by a group of artists who have spent a week working together and work-shopping their disciplines. The performance itself is frustrating and magical in the same way that theatre improvisation is. The artists play off and with each other, creating a delicious layering of words, music and movement. Sometimes gorgeous moments are created, only to be shattered as the piece veers off in another direction. Fascinating!

The Dead Sheep Scrolls Get Sketchy  ★★★½

Sketch comedy can be so hit or miss, but if you're looking to see it done well, check out this show. The material is sharp and delightfully absurd. (Imagine a ghost whose scariest attribute is that he isn't scary or a demonic grandfather who needs to be watered along with the plants.) Wolfville's Ross Chapman, Jamie Loughhead and Alan Slipp give off an easy-going vibe and have great chemistry. Likable and laughable, in the good sense of the word.

Variables  ★★★½

A show constructed from set scenes decided upon by the flip of a coin that comes with a flow chart to map the possible variations? I  wasn't sure how well a show like this would come together, but it actually creates an interesting piece of theatre. The clever concept comes with a good script filled with believable dialogue (written by Josh Tibbetts), two strong actors (Ian Sinclair and Vikki Humphrey) and capable direction (by Stewart Delo). The plot is basically boy-meets-girl, but a coin toss changes the obstacles they face or the point of view the story is seen from. Both actors have the chance to step into other characters' shoes. One caveat: the acoustics at Fort Massey are difficult for such an intimate show. Sit close to catch it all.

How Often Do I Dream  ★★★★★

I actually thought about giving hearts instead of stars to this show because I love it that much. Katie Dorian takes the intensely personal story of her relationship with her aging grandparents and turns it into a heartwarming, heartfelt exploration of love and memory that will speak to everyone. Dorian exudes warmth and her smile is like an embrace. Her presence is riveting and calming. But it is not just Dorian's personal charm and skill as an actor that makes this show standout. It is an expertly and intricately constructed piece of theatre that engages the heart and the head. A masterclass on what an autobiographical one-person show can be.

Mirrorball  ★★★

The Living Room theatre is transformed into a thrift shop for this one-woman autobiographical show. It's an interesting device that lets actor Beth Amiro tell her story through the hats and garments in the shop. Different items spark memories of the events in her romantic relationships—events that have lead her to reexamine what is important in her life. The show is not groundbreaking, but Amiro is an engaging performer with a bittersweet story to tell.

Jess Kidding  ★★★★

There's nothing like a good belly laugh, and comedienne Jess Fitzpatick really knows how to deliver them. Unlike Cupidity, Fitzpatrick's Fringe Hit  from last year which followed one character on a quest for love, this current show is a collection of random sketches. The format seems to work equally as well, allowing Fitzpatrick to find the hilarious absurdity in everything from traditional Cape Breton melodrama, to no-holds-barred sexuality of the Tinder generation. Highly recommended.

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