At various locations until September 14, 2014
Posted September 7, 2014
These guys – Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson – are Best of Fest award-winningly funny. This is an all-new show with some hilarious physical comedy: imagine Peter ‘milking’ Chris who masquerades – sometimes – as cowpoke Pete Erp’s beloved cow Winifred. Throw in a wicked oil baron (Peter again) and his upper-crusty English hired killer (Chris again) and you have a recipe for a gun-totin’, cow milkin’, citrus fruit destroyin’ romp somewhere in Alberta. Heck, there’s even sagebrush rolling around as the gang of two set out to shoot the bad guy in “cold blood” or “C.B.” Yep, they’re tough, more than a bit clueless and very, very funny.
Fact: Greenland is 83.1% water – most of it in glaciers. Written by Nicolas Billon, Greenland begins and ends on the bow of SS Master with fourteen-year-old Tanya Morrisey (Kirsten Slenning) preparing a fact-filled report for school. We get lots of information but what’s even more interesting is the mystery at the heart of the play: Tanya’s twin brother has died and an island – emerging as a consequence of global warming – has been named for him in Kalaallisut, the language of Greenland. In Part 2, on the stern of the boat, we meet Tanya’s Aunt Judith (Lindsay Drummond), unhappily married to glaciologist Jonathan (Billy Marchenski). His first love is ice; Judith doesn’t even come close. In the wheelhouse in Part 3, Jonathan – heavily into his scotch on, what else, ‘rocks’ – describes his love of glaciers and how the history of the planet can be read in them. Back on the bow for the epilogue. All is not exactly revealed but what we do, finally, discover is how young Tanya learns to cope with the tragedy of losing her sibling. Under Kathleen Duborg’s sensitive direction the performances are passionate and the staging is unique. Limited seating; dress warmly.
Beverley Elliott disparages her big-boned body but let me tell you, it’s all heart inside. On a cold winter night you could warm your hands on this show. “Aunt Bev” is, undoubtedly, everyone in the family’s favourite aunt but her luck with men, she admits, is “crappy.” With a teenaged daughter but never married, Elliott goes looking online for love but didn’t see what was coming: forty-seven (!) coffee dates looking for “Mr. Right.” Not all the material is about finding romance, however; one scenario relates falling in love as a teenager with The Guess Who and discovering there’s more to the world than her Presbyterian parents had led her to believe. With a show created from episodes, it’s tough to build an ever-increasing arc and this show feels as if it has several endings. Elliott is at her best when she’s in a rage; she can lift the finish off a laminate floor when she gets going – all that curly red hair ablaze. And although it’s clear she’s trying for some balance, the quieter bits feel somewhat sentimental by comparison. But it’s a terrific show by an amazingly generous performer. Icing on this cake is her gorgeous voice.
Writer/performer Craig Erickson has an intensity that keeps directors casting him in serious, often villainous roles. Who knew he could be funny? In a ‘know thyself’ moment, Erickson penned his own show to showcase a completely different side of himself: a lighter, goofier Erickson, flexible enough to play Calvin (an insurance salesman), Calvin’s wife Sarah, Sarah’s old boyfriend Skip, nerdish Bruce, evangelical Josh and even a ventriloquist’s dummy. When Calvin joins a support group for closet comedians, his world changes: Calvin gets serious about being funny. Jesus Made Me Funny sends a good message: “Go with your gut” and if you’re a praying sort of person, “Pray for the best.” Funky little venue on Kingsway and Fraser; entrance is off the well-lit alley, parking is free and easy.
Mesmerizing. Storyteller Martin Dockery begins in the dark, his deep voice breaking the silence: “Imagine. Imagine.” And then he takes you on a mysterious journey across the desert to a house with an old man sitting on the front porch. Backwards and forwards through time. It’s a bewildering yet somehow fascinating tale. Lines like, “I’m not the man you think I am”, “I am not the woman you think I am” and her son, “half man, half child, two hearts” repeat and repeat like a mournful tolling bell. And just when you begin to feel you, too, are lost in the desert, Dockery wraps it up in a moment so poignant it’s almost painful. I’m not sure where Dockery intends us to go but I went to my mother’s story: abandoned as an infant by her mother, she spent her entire adult life wondering why. In Dockery’s tale, the half man/half boy, “a child without a name” who never knew his mother, is given to violence and vomiting as an art form – surely a reference to compulsive storytelling. With his hands flying like pigeons on speed, Dockery is a riveting spinner of tales. This one feels painfully, cathartically personal.
Back-to-back Martin Dockery for me. A surreal experience. But he’s not alone in this show. Billed as a “puzzle piece”, Dockery shares the stage with Vanessa Quesnelle. As with The Dark Fantastic, Dockery wraps it all up in a surprise ending. Along the way, however, there’s lots of parry and thrust between the two characters. It appears the male character has phoned for “a brunette” to come to his hotel room. She’s been instructed to pretend to be his wife. He denies the phonecall but is prepared to go along with her, to “go with the flow”, an expression he says he’s never used but, later, uses. He also says he never “riffs”, but does. There’s terrific chemistry here; Quesnelle’s character gets feisty, Dockery’s gets defensive. There’s huge pain buried here somewhere and we don’t find out why until the very end. It all makes sense is a crazy, fantastical sort of way.
There’s no mystery here: writer/performer Ryan Gladstone is super-skilled as he takes us along with Grant Canyon (an insurance fraud investigator for the Des Moines Trust Insurance Company) who’s hot on the trail of the recently stolen Bombay Sapphire. Tied to a chair, he’s being beaten when we first meet him. With each blackout, Canyon remembers more of how he ended up where he is. Imaginary bodies eventually litter the stage as Canyon fumblingly solves the mystery and pockets the Bombay Sapphire in his tweed suit jacket. Film noir-ish, the cast includes the obligatory femmes fatales, a Mexican drug lord, crooked insurance company president and a host of others – all played by Gladstone. There’s lots of goofy wordplay: “blood pouring outta me like jelly at an all-night café”, “wrapped tighter than a burrito at a Grateful Dead Concert” or “like a hamster on a date with an elephant.” Huh? Terrific performance and lots of fun. Can-yon!
And here I thought actor Susinn McFarlen was spilling the beans. But playwright Loretta Seto really exists and she really wrote Dirty Old Woman. McFarlen, however, so completely embraces this 50-something mother of two grown kids, you’d swear it was her own story. And congratulate her on her good fortune. In the play, Nina (recently dumped by her husband of twenty-seven years for a younger woman) goes looking online for Mr. Right Enough. It’s a bust and she ends up taking a course in expressive dance. She “jumps the bones” of the twenty-year younger teacher (Robert Salvador) and ends up in a relationship fraught with the disapproval of her kids, her ex and even some friends. This is rich territory for McFarlen who not only has great comedic chops but an air of wry wisdom about her. Emmelia Gordon plays Nina’s daughter and Alison Kelly is Nina’s protective – and envious – friend. Hot as the sex we’re led to believe Nina is having are the tickets for this show. Hustle.