Monday, 12 July 2010

Fringe Festival: It's a Wrap

So, my attendance at the Fringe Festival ended on July 11th amidst the cheering for Spain's victory and hoots and hollers up and down Bathurst Street as I walked from the Tarragon down to the Randolph Academy.

You may have noticed that I stopped reviewing a few days ago. Well, life and laziness intruded. I didn't stop going to plays, I just didn't post. So, for the curious, and because I like closure, here is a list of my last few plays. As usual please feel free to leave your comments, especially if you disagree with me:-)

by Rob Salerno
presented by Ten Foot Pole Productions from Toronto

DESCRIPTION:You’ve NEVER heard the hot new Canadian rock duo ALL-POWERS?! They’re HUGE in Germany, and they’re just about to break it in Canada – unless this show bankrupts them first. A rock comedy about friendship, fame, love, sex, pornography, money, and following your dreams. From the playwright/star of Balls (“4.5 Stars: seriously hilarious” SEE) and Fucking Stephen Harper (“funnier than Rick Mercer” NOW).

MY REVIEW:I loved Rob Salerno's hilarious satire, Fucking Stephen Harper, which I saw at last year's Fringe and liked Big in Germany. While Salerno stuck to his outrageous humour in this work, amidst the crass and funny porno jokes ("the only difference between art and porn, is lighting"), there is a sensitivity to male friendship that is not usually explored. Good on, ya, Rob. Rating: 3.5 Stars.

by Dance Animal
presented by Dance Animal from Montréal, QC

DESCRIPTION: Winner of the 2009 Just For Laughs “Best of Montreal” comedy prize, Dance Animal has been declared Montreal’s first “comedy supergroup” (Brett Hooton - The Hour). Anchored in the bilingual spectrum of city life in Montreal and mixing the high camp of musical theatre with sketch comedy and character monologues, “Dance Animal Presents: Dance Animal” is your perfect summer cocktail.

MY REVIEW:I had a amusing time at this dance work featuring misfit dance "animals" recruited by Le Tigrrrrr to join her dance group. From scenes of dancing seniors to tender first love, the dances are executed with humour as are the bio pieces from each animal. My faves were tough talking dance "gecko" and the gleeful "starfish". Rating: 3.5 stars

by Otto & Astrid Rot
presented by Die Roten Punkte from Berlin
Cast: Otto & Astrid Rot
Genre: Cabaret-Comedy

DESCRIPTION: Die Roten Punkte (The Red Dots) are Berlin’s Prince and Princess of Indie Rock. Utterly dysfunctional siblings Otto and Astrid Rot unveil their eagerly anticipated third album, “KUNST ROCK (ART ROCK)”.
[FOUR STARS] “Pitch-perfect pop parody.” The Scotsman, Edinburgh
[FIVE Stars] Hairline, Edinburgh
“Comically and musically, the Rot’s Rule!” - Toronto Star
“A show not to be missed!” – Mondo Magazine, Toronto

MY REVIEW:My first intro to this comedy duo and I must say, I enjoyed it. With songs like "My Banana Has A Home" and "Second Best Friend" these two do a great take on brother-sister bands, and the music is pretty catchy too. I didn't expect the physical comedy from sister, Astrid; it was the icing on the cake. Rating: 4/5 Stars.

Lyrics: Ted Strauss and Justin Maxwell
Theatre Direction: Taliesin McEnaney
presented by Inertia Productions from Montréal
Choreographer: Jenn Doan
Cast: Jenn Doan, Ted Strauss, Joseph Bembridge, Melina Stinson, Jeremie Chetrit, Audrée Southière, Brian Abbott, Randa Eid and Boss Nod

DESCRIPTION: Based on an ancient Inuit myth, a young hero ventures across a surreal Arctic landscape to recover his wife, who has flown off in a fury. It is a grand journey inhabited by a spirit fox, a treacherous mountain, and mischievous creatures. The Arctic folktale is brought vividly to life with a fusion of live rock music, dance and theatre.

MY REVIEW:Weird, wacky and wonderful. The Duck Wife isn't like anything I've seen before. If this was a movie, it would be a cult hit that I would go see at the Bloor Cinema. The dancing is original and strong, the acting is good, and the music is a good fit. My only complaint is with the female vocalist, whose lyrics were sometimes lost due to poor diction. Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Choreography by Kendra Hughes
presented by Kinetic Elements from Toronto
Choreographer: Kendra Hughes
Genre: Dance

DESCRIPTION: Come blast off with Kinetic Elements and experience space like you never have before! Eternal Eclipse explores the legends of the Greek Gods and Goddesses that inspired the names of the planets orbiting our solar system. Tales of forbidden love, scandal and irresistible power are expressed through the visual narratives of contemporary dance.

MY REVIEW:This could have been a good dance piece but it was undermined by a few untalented participants; I can't even refer to them as dancers because what they were doing wasn't dancing. Movement, yes, dancing, no. The real dancers were obvious, their technique strong and expressive, a definite contrast to the weak ugly movements of the others. Rating: 2.5 stars

by James Fanizza
presented by Teatro Comunque from Toronto
Director: Carrie Adelstein
Cast: Heather Allin, Matt Lemche, Kristen Corvers, Virginia Kelly, Becky Grimman, James Fanizza, Ron Boyd

DESCRIPTION: Inspired by the Tragically Hip’s 38 Years Old, “Goodnight, Amherst” is a gripping drama that profiles a broken family in Amherst, Ontario. When Michael unexpectedly returns home, his rural family must confront the past and come to terms with the horrifying event that tore them apart twelve years earlier.

MY REVIEW:Good effort from this cast. A bit too much set for a Fringe show (full size fridge, stove, set table) but it was used well and the blocking of the actors made good use of the stage. The play is a bit confusing in terms of who visited Michael while he was away (sometimes Grandma visited, and at other times, no one seemed to visit him) but they the cast seemed like a family and the story held my attention. Rating: 3.5 Stars

Book by John Mitchell
Music & Lyrics by Brock Simpson
presented by Brock & John Productions from Toronto
Director: John Mitchell

DESCRIPTION: Trying to escape a vain and murderous father, a man ends up in a cottage in the woods with seven women. Musical
reimagining of Snow White about an innocent confronting jealousy, a mirror, poisoned apples, and seven seriously unhappy divorcees. From the folks that brought you, “All Hams on Deck” and “People Park”.

MY REVIEW:Sometimes you just want a good laugh and an absurd situation. Well, this play fits the bill. The divorcees, Grumpy, Dopey, Sneezy, Doc, Charming, Happy, and Sleepy were well-realized with relatable marital problems and personalities. Joe's father is a funny, self-absorbed bore and Joe is a cute mensch of a son, who deserves to be appreciated and loved. Joe and the divorcees learn from each other amidst catchy tunes. Rating: 4/5 stars.

by Eugene Ionesco
( &
presented by Randolph Entertainment & REDHANDED film and theatre from Toronto
Director: Rosanna Saracino
Choreographer: Melanie Windle
Cast: L.A. Lopez, Danie Friesen, Chris Johnson, Evan Dowling, Chelsea Leaman, Hilary June, Hart, Denise Norman, Kelly Holliff

DESCRIPTION: A small town is visited by the mysterious Black Monk. A plague follows, a maelstrom of panic ensues as citizens drop like flies. In high Absurd style, these characters reveal the fears and flaws we have towards Death. Darkly comedic, highly physical, this adventure shakes us with horror and hilarity.

MY REVIEW: A multi-talented, enthusiastic cast brings this performance to life (pun intended) with great teamwork, singing, dancing and witticism. I enjoyed the social commentary about how soon after an incidents, we band together into Us and Them and cast blame at Them, however absurd it is. Perhaps there are too many theatrical styles thrown into the mix, but the capable cast is able to run with whatever was thrown at them. Dying was never so well done. Rating: 4.5/5

by Ray Rivers
presented by Riverslea Productions from Campbellville, ON
Director: Julian Nicholson

DESCRIPTION: Politics makes strange bedfellows as the past and present collide for children of the Bob Dylan generation. The global financial meltdown sparks a crisis in the lives of a couple and their best friend challenging their anti-establishment legacy and interpersonal relationships as they settle into retirement. This dramatic comedy rockets you from Vietnam protests to the shambles of Wall Street. Adult situations and strong language - not recommended for children.

MY REVIEW:While it was refreshingly welcome to see a cast over the age of 50 on stage at the Fringe, I wish they had been better actors. The script itself, is well-written, but the performances did not live up to it, so I was not as involved as I could have been. Rating: 3/5 stars.

by Orville Green/ Grace Lyons/ Valarie Laylor
presented by The Heritage Singers from Toronto
Director: Devon Haughton
Cast: The Heritage Family

DESCRIPTION: Olde Tyme Country Wedding tells the story of Toronto resident Babs Spencer, who is compelled by a desire to visit to her birthplace in rural Jamaica, Uphill. Opposed by her overly protective parents, the young woman makes the trip and finds herself embroiled in a love triangle. The outcome is a return to her roots, not only to her birthplace but also to an authentic, olde-tyme country wedding.

MY REVIEW:Ehhh....Ohhh...the words of audience favourite, "Norma", the blonde-highlighted, brash, spurned girlfriend in this love triangle. As is common with Caribbean plays meant for family audiences, the script is a simple one that can be followed by any age group. These types of plays are successful because they bring adults who were born "back home" and the children born abroad (be it England, the States or Canada) together with a platform of culture that everyone can relate to. The songs by the Heritage Singers will be familiar to some and not at all to others, but they are catchy and culturally relevant to an audience who doesn't often see representation in mass media. For all audiences though, it offers laughs, brilliant costumes and folk dances. My only complaint was with the body microphones that were not well-positioned, allowing loud breaths from some of the singers and actors. For me, it was a glimpse into my Jamaican culture that was unfamiliar: the Wedding Godmother and Godfather, the Cake Parade are elements this city girl did not know about country weddings.Rating: 4/5 stars.

by Andrew Connor
presented by Elison Zasko Inc. from Moscow, Russia
Cast: Elison Zasko and Andrew Connor

DESCRIPTION: A volatile hostage crisis in Russia reunifies two childhood friends separated by war. As James and Maya do battle with a twisted knot of past and present entanglements, thousands of lives hang in the balance. Fringe veterans Elison Zasko (The Sputniks) and Andrew Connor (Boom, Cyclosa Confusa, The Cody Rivers Show) join forces in this new high-stakes drama.

MY REVIEW:The plot has some interesting twists and turns, but it is the dual between these characters that holds the attention. I did feel that Zasko's interpretation of the hard-ass Russian journalist persona, Maya could have done with some toning down. Her voice needs some softer tones to add colour to her otherwise good performance. Rating: 3.5/5 stars.

by joel fishbane
presented by A Literary Tour de Force from Toronto / Montreal
Director: Ashlie Corcoran
Cast: Jackyln Francis and Ieva Lucs


DESCRIPTION: The last will and testament of famed writer Lincoln Kennedy contains a curious request, forcing his mistress to confront his wounded widow. A seriously comedic play by Joel Fishbane (“An Act of God”, Fringe 2003) that explores the nature of legacy, the struggle for solace and the reasons why all writers go to Hell.

MY REVIEW:It won the Best New Play contest and it deserves it. Well-scripted plot with fully realized characters brilliantly played by Francis and Lucs. When it's good, you just know it. Would see this again in a heartbeat and you can too at Best of the Fringe. Rating: 5/5 stars.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I just came across this review of Killing Game - and on behalf of the cast and crew, wanted to thank you for your support!

MK Piatkowski said...

And I'm even worse. Thanks on behalf of the team of Joe White for your review.

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