Halifax Fringe 2019 went out with a bang, with much thanks to Hurricane Dorian. The final weekend of performances was cancelled as the city shut down in preparation for the storm. And so, here are the last of the reviews. See you next year for Halifax Fringe 2020!

Women’s Issues
By Katie Clarke

Women’s Issues explores the complex internal and external forces that shape responses to sexual trauma and bigotry and how they sometimes divide us.

A mommy blogger, ex-navy gym teacher, career woman and new adult grappling with gender identity meet in a church basement support group. Led by a man who “has a lot of experience with women’s issues” and talks over the participants to go on long tangents about himself (some excellent comic relief), it’s not exactly a good environment for sharing or healing. The participants show us what they’re really thinking—how dismissive they are of each other and themselves—through confessional-style monologues. It’s an effective device, but some of the best moments were when the characters bounced off each other and I would have liked to see more of that.

The script was collectively written by the performers and director Katie Clarke and based on interviews that appeared in news outlets, making the characters realistic and bringing nuance to the talking points that have been predominant in discussions of the #MeToo movement. It made me feel empathy for an anti-choice conservative, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the writing because I can be very self-righteous.

There’s no easy resolution for a play like this and I would have been skeptical if one had been attempted. We haven’t worked this stuff out yet, and neither will the characters in 45 minutes. The play challenges us to get to work on collectively writing a better ending for all of us—I hope we take up the call. - Nicole Maunsell

The Pit Theatre, University of King’s College, 6350 Coburg Road
Thursday, September 5th at 8:00 PM
Friday, September 6th at 8:00 PM
Saturday, September 7th at 8:00 PM

By Vadim Gran

Vadim Gran is a charming storyteller. In Happy-ish, he recounts tales of his childhood in Soviet Russia, his eventual move to Montreal, and coming to terms with his new Canadian environs. Many of the stories are about learning to understand Canadian customs, and adjusting to the ‘friendliness’ of his new people. There are sweet anecdotes about smiling at strangers on a subway, or arriving in Montreal and feeling suspicious when locals offered him help with directions.

Gran’s stories mainly hinge on stereotypes about how Russians understand Canadians to be (and vice versa), and while there is nothing especially novel or surprising in them, watching Happy-ish is like getting to know a new friend over drinks. The 45-minute show bounces from childhood, to present day, and will move from a story about forced manual labour, to overcoming nerves in an improv comedy class. A fun and engaging way to spend an hour. – Michael Lake

Neptune Windsor Studio
1589 Argyle Street
Friday, August 30th at 4:45 PM
Monday, September 2nd at 8:15 PM
Wednesday, September 4th at 7:35 PM
Thursday, September 5th at 10:15 PM
Friday, September 6th at 5:15 PM
Saturday, September 7th at 6:20 PM
Sunday, September 8th at 6:30 PM

Walking While Black in Moscow
By Les Kurkendaal

Kurkendaal is black and gay and finds himself in Moscow on a trip with his then boyfriend, now husband. As one might expect, this is excellent fodder for a stand-up show about a clash of cultures.

It turns out, not entirely surprisingly, that a black person in Russia is an unusual sight - people gawk, take pictures, and passersby greet him with "Hello, bro." Kurkendaal takes this in stride and with good humour as he is confronted with just as many stereotypes of his own.

Kurkendaal is consistently high-energy, but where this show shines is when he settles down and talks about moments of real human connection. He tells a touching story of receiving help from a stranger, and of finding a very well-hidden gay bar and meeting local queers. In tandem with Happy-ish, this show offers a vastly different perspective on a Russian experience - a decade or two apart, one from an insider, one from an outsider, these are two divergent tales of one very large place. - ML

Neptune Imperial Studio
1589 Argyle Street
Friday, August 30th at 8:05 PM
Saturday, August 31st at 7:05 PM
Sunday, September 1st at 3:10 PM
Monday, September 2nd at 10:00 PM
Friday, September 6th at 6:50 PM
Saturday, September 7th at 8:45 PM
Sunday, September 8th at 5:55 PM

Broadway Boyz
By DaPoPo Theatre

You might enter Broadway Boyz expecting a glitzy musical revue, but what you’ll get is something much more raw and unfinished, but with so much more heart.

The trio of talented and charismatic performers (Forbes MacQuarrie, Patrick Maubert, and Garry Williams) have created a show that is casually soul-baring – from singing brand new songs (like, brand brand new, just a few days new) to speaking candidly to the audience about their experiences of homophobia in the entertainment industry and in their own lives.

Broadway Boyz feels like a living and breathing thing. I don’t imagine two performances could be the same, and that is the beauty of this creation. We are in the room with three honest people who want to share their love of musical theatre, but who also want a platform to address the industry’s treatment of queer men and women. They have invented a format to do just that.

By the end of the show, we feel closer to each of these men. They have performed for us, but also revealed deep, painful truths to us. We cry, laugh, and sing with them. In the end, we are grateful for their honesty and vulnerability. This is the most beautiful thing I have seen at this year's Fringe. – ML

Neptune Scotiabank Studio Stage
1589 Argyle Street
Thursday, September 5th at 6:00 PM
Friday, September 6th at 8:40 PM
Sunday, September 8th at 5:30 PM

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