It’s been a pretty stellar year so far at the Fringe, no real stinkers, honestly nothing I’d give below a 3/5 if I were handing out stars. I’ve even gotten more companionship for shows than I expected. Here’s a quickie roundup of everything I’ve seen up til sunday night:
Trampoline – Weeping Spoon – Venue #3
Trampoline is a sweet and sentimental romantic comedy with a tinge of music and two winning leads. Comparisons to Garden State seem to be the thing amongst reviewers… I can see it but I definitely enjoyed this more. The two leads (Shane Adamczak and Whitney Richards) are a winning duo that really make you care about their characters. Expect plenty of Awwww moments from the audience.
Hunks – Venue #4
A couple months ago this quintet started putting on monthly shows at the Park Theatre down the street from my new place. I’ve been meaning to go but they are always the same night as softball or some other activity. It’s just as well it seems because their fringe offering this year is essentially a “best of” package of those first shows and it was all new to me. Really great sketchcom… Inventive, weird and just a hell of a lot of fun.
Searching for Dick – Tara Travis – Venue #19
I’ve long been a fan of Tara’s work with Monster Theatre. The wives of Henry VIII was a tour de force for her and last year’s puppet Agatha Christie number was incredibly charming. She has a stage presence that is simultaneously welcoming and comedic which really helps draw the audience into her stories. This year’s journey is definitely something quite different than the show previously mentioned as she tells are more personal story about her visits with mediums on her quest to speak with her deceased in-laws to be prior to her wedding. Whether you think spirit communication is poppycock or not (and most of you know where I fall on that) Travis engages so strongly with the audience that you want to believe in her conversations. Plus she bakes brownies!
The Seven Lives of Louis Riel – Monster Theatre – King’s Head
I’ve seen this show before and quite enjoyed it, but it was definitely rough. Ryan Gladstone explained that he’d had trouble finishing the script about the father of Manitoba and had really only finished it several days prior. I’d heard he’d revised it and polished it so I decided to give it another go (the fact that it was around dinner time at the King’s Head mid-long fringe day didn’t hurt either.) I’m glad I did. What was a good show is now a great one and Ryan’s enthusiasm for storytelling makes the manic hour of seven stories fly by.
D&D Improv 8 – GSAC
I don’t really have to “review” this do I? Saturday’s show was definitely an eventful one though as the second early death seemed to throw a big wrench into the works. It’s easy to see why as it seemed as if the character in question is meant to be the narrative driver of the show. The rest of the show saw our (NEW!) DM freaking out and whispered conversations as they looked to retool the plan going forward. I wished I’d booked a ticket to Sunday night’s show to find out how well that worked out but I guess I’ll see at the finale.
Highlight this year is definitely the Beholder puppet that Chadd was running, that thing is fantastic.
Two Ruby Knockers and One Jaded Dick – Venue #4
I believe this is Tim Motley’s third go round here with Dirk Darrow’s film noir stylings and he certainly seems to have a regular audience full of fans at this point. It’s a long way from the first time I saw him in a 10 person audience at MTC up the Alley. His experience shows and the characters film noir patter is perfect even as he ad-libs with the audience and occasionally has his slight of hand thrown off by slowpoke audience “volunteers.”
Becoming Banksy – Venue #3
The tale of an Englishman fleeing a failed marriage via holiday in NYC only to be mistaken for the popular street artist. Let me start by saying that I enjoyed this. The performers were talented and the story was cute… That said I really felt like the script wasn’t quite there. Some bits hit well, others were less successful and the whole show dragged a bit in spots. I would imagine that was the point of trying it out on the fringe circuit though and one more solid rewrite will probably have it ready for its New York debut.
Lord of the Thrones – Sound and Fury (and some guy named Ryan) – WECC
The CBC reviewer somewhat savaged this year’s Sound and Fury production and while I don’t think it was quite that bad I have to admit that I don’t think they’re a must see for me anymore. The performers are talented and energetic but their show feels less finely tuned every year. Whereas the occasional blown line was once a planned or unplanned laugh point they are now so common as to make one wonder about lack of rehearsal time. I get it, they have a massive fan base with seemingly endless good will towards them and all three guys are genuinely nice guys… at some point it would be nice to see them deliver a honed and polished (if endearingly silly and slapdash) performance again.
Worth noting, the using a volunteer from the audience as the hero thing was a cute idea… and on the night I went the guy they chose was very game and into it… I could see this completely being death if you got a stiff up there though. The show just relies on him too much.
Marathon – T.J. Dawe – WECC
How does he do this? Seventy five minutes, multiple narratives, all twisting together until you walk out with a sense of wonder. A picture painted with words, a comforting cadence and the occasional movement , you’re spellbound. When people ask me “What is fringe?” TJ’s pieces are always a go to reference in my mind. I love my comedy, I love a good drama or improv… but it just isn’t fringe to me without a storyteller and Dawe remains the best. It’s good to have him back in Winnipeg.
The Birdcage – Venue #6
It’s the movie, more or less scene for scene but with fringe production values. That doesn’t tell the whole story though. The performers bring their own touch to the characters and the show incorporates some local drag queens to often hilarious effect. The Christine Baranski role is played by a HEAVILY pregnant (and nowhere near old enough looking) actress lending her line about not being maternal an extra laugh.
I do have a few complaints, one would be that I think Val (the son) comes across as a complete dick in this version instead of just desperate. The Barbara character is also even more of a non-entity than in the film. And honestly, I get that fringe budgets are slim as hell but I think there could have been a bit more of an effort to create a south beach vibe for the opening/exit staging. I get that neon is out… but a pink light doesn’t cut it.
Overheard in line:
(10 Minutes before James & Jamesy started) What do you mean you’re sold out?
Tough one, I can’t really pick one this time.
Trampoline, Searching for Dick and Marathon were all completely stellar though.
Flyers Received: Mid 80s
Three Men in a boat, Broadway to Obscurity, Fire in the Meth Lab and Eleanor’s Story, boy free advance tickets is amazing.