Vancouver Fringe Festival 2013 – More reviews

Posted September 10, 2013

Summer Shapiro in In The Boudoir
Summer Shapiro in
In The Boudoir

In The Boudoir

At Performance Works
September 11, 13 and 15

Summer Shapiro is such a terrific clown she even makes dressing the stage sexy and funny. Two chairs, a table and tablecloth, wine glasses and a big plate of cold spaghetti. We know it: someone is going to be wearing or eating that gluey pasta before long. Shapiro’s character, wearing a frothy white tutu that constantly threatens to malfunction and sparkly, strappy shoes, is preparing for a date that’s a no-show. And where do you think she finds one? Right, some poor schmuck in the audience. But hey, when does a guy get the chance to end up in the arms of a beautiful stranger? Audiences and critics say Shapiro makes magic out of the mundane and it’s true. The set-up is a cliché but we love it because it’s so true and funny and sad: first dates are fraught with pitfalls. And her skills are top-notch from a goofy upper lip that quivers scornfully to an unladylike belly flop onto a red satin bed. Shapiro has a B.A. in acting from UCLA’s School of Theater, has attended the Samuel Beckett School of Theater at Trinity College, Dublin and graduated from the Clown Conservatory in San Francisco. It shows. No red nose but she’s the real deal.


Tim Motley in NCISS
Tim Motley in NCISS

Dirk Darrow: NCSSI (Not Completely Serious Supernatural Investigator)

At Waterfront Theatre
September 9, 11, 14 and 15

I never know how magicians do it. I watch for sleight of hand and, stare as I might, I always miss it. Australia’s Tim Motley sets up a 1937 film noir scenario with a murder to solve and he ‘magically’ solves it with the help of the audience and some very tricky tricks. How does he do it? I have no idea. He even swallows a bunch of razor blades. Motley has the private dick/film noir thing down pat with references to ‘doll face’, some ridiculous comparisons à la Sam Spade (“as clear and empty as Paris Hilton on a summer’s day”) and a bunch of bad, ba-da-boom jokes. He’s slick. He’s clever. And the show is a lot of fun.




Jean-Francois Plante-Tan in The Blue Tie
Jean-Francois Plante-Tan
in The Blue Tie

The Blue Tie (La cravate bleue)

At The Cultch Historic Theatre
September 11, 12, 13 and 15

This one’s in French so if you don’t understand the language, for heaven’s sake read the English synopsis before the curtain rises. Don’t expect to intuit what Jean-François Plante-Tan is doing because he’s alone on stage where he moves back and forth from a desk to an electric piano all the while singing soulful songs that sound remarkably alike. The synopsis will tell you the character (a surrogate for Plante-Tan himself?) hates his job and resents “Monsieur”, the boss, who continuously checks up on him on the phone. Also phoning far too frequently is his friend whom he enthusiastically calls “Buddy” and his girlfriend whom he calls “Cherie”. No wonder Monsieur is constantly checking in; this guy spends all his time on the blower. The character dreams of quitting his job and writing a Tony Award-winning, Broadway hit musical. Plante-Tan is a very young man, new to the stage, new to the Fringe, new to Vancouver; his freshness is appealing but it’s a long hard road to Broadway and he’s going to have to widen his musical range to get Broadway – or even TUTS – interested in him.


Chase Padgett (as Tom) in 6 Guitars
Chase Padgett (as Tom)
in 6 Guitars

6 Guitars

At The Cultch Historic Theatre
September 11, 14 and 15

In an un-juried festival like the Vancouver Fringe Festival the offerings range from awkward, one-year-out-of-high school skits to full-blown professional shows. 6 Guitars is one of the most polished shows I’ve seen in the 2013 festival. With one electric guitar, Chase Padgett takes on the personas of six guitarists and six guitar styles: Blues, Jazz, Rock ‘n Roll, Country, Folk and Classical. The most lovable character is Tom, an eighty-seven-year-old black American Blues man who plays the Blues, fortifies himself with whiskey and offers some homespun truths about life, love and music all at the same time. Padgett is also twenty-year-old Michael, an eager rocker whose every second word is “awesome”; Rupert, 27, a Country musician whose first band – Shit Kickers for Jesus – didn’t prosper; condescending Wesley who says he has been “speaking jazz” for twenty-five years; terminally cheerful Peter who used to hate “Puff, The Magic Dragon” and now “just loves folk music”; Emmanuel Ortega, flamenco and classical guitarist from Mexico. Padgett switches from one to the other, back and forth – eventually mid-sentence, mid-song. He’s fabulous, great with an audience and, yes, you will sing “This Land is Your Land” – and enjoy it! Should be a Pick of the Fringe.


Adam Keefe and Christine Lesiak in Fools For Love
Adam Keefe and Christine Lesiak
in Fools For Love

Fools For Love

At Performance Works
September 10, 14 and 15

Fools for Love is a case of “Love the one you’re with”. Christine Lesiak and Adam Keefe are Sheshells and Rocket, a lonely pair of neighbours who are looking for love in the Personals. Right under their red clown noses is a friendship that, given a chance, could blossom into something like love. Keefe borrows outrageously from Michael Kennard’s Mump (of Mump and Smoot) with a gargled voice and goofy presentation while Lesiak seems sort of normal except for the red nose. Stylistically, they don’t match up. Romantically, they don’t make a match for an hour. In between, they do a lot of traditional clowning, but the Ninja stuff is so yesterday. There’s some more innovative material with flashlights but overall Fools for Love doesn’t offer anything really new to clowning to keep adults entertained. Kids, on the other hand, might really love this show.


Unknown-1Gypsy Rose Lee at Minsky’s Burlesque

At The Cultch Historic Theatre
September 11 and 13

Burlesque (from the Spanish or Italian ‘burla’, to mock, trick or joke) has been around for a long time but the striptease, now an essential part of burlesque, only goes back to the late 19th century. The story goes that Gypsy Rose Lee’s striptease career began when, during performance, the strap on her gown broke and her dress fell to her feet. According to Wikipedia, “encouraged by the audience response, she went on to make the trick the focus of her performance.” Vancouver’s Burgundy Brixx makes a classy Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970) in this show and the gowns she makes for herself proves the adage about the difference between a stripper and a burlesque performer: “strippers makes money; burlesque performers make costumes”. For those who are into breasts, there’s plenty to see amongst the seven performers. Although it’s all tastefully done with strategically placed pasties, I can’t see this show working well earlier than about 10PM and a better venue would offer a cabaret-style setup where hooting and hollering – encouraged by MC Douglas Thoms – is the norm. But burlesque is back and it’s alive and well and living in Vancouver.