Posted September 9, 2016. All info available at VancouverFringe.com
Trench-coated Tim Morley is back from Down Under with another noir-ish whodunit about a dame, a dead body, a couple of ne’er do wells and Dirk Darrow, a “jaded private dick”. Ruby Knockers is so named – not, Darrow tells us, because of her physical attributes – but because she has a fetish for those door-knocking Jehovah Witnesses. Morley throws in card tricks, sleight of hand, mind-reading and a whole load of terrific run-on similes like the one that starts, “As cold as a grizzly bear’s testicles” and on and cleverly on. Morley confessed the show was the sloppiest he’s done in years but I was okay with that; it shows just how quick a performer can cover his ass and Morley is a master ass-coverer. “Hanging on by a thin thread” was how he put it when it looked like the ‘volunteers’ were going to take over. Dirk Darrow doesn’t disappoint.
Windy Wynazz: Rich and Famous
At False Creek Gym
September 10, 11, 15, 17 and 18
San Franciscan Wynazz isn’t rich and famous yet and I don’t think the Vancouver Fringe is going to do it for her. It was a rough opening with tech problems and a very small, unresponsive audience that hadn’t had enough to drink. This show needs a late night, a small cabaret setting and a well stocked bar not a gym with a basketball hoop. Billed as “a blend of camp, seduction and insanity” it just barely got off the ground the night I attended despite a gut-busting performance including dirty dancing, acrobatics, puppets and wigs. What resonated most with me was Wynazz’s onstage persona telling us, “You don’t know what it’s like for people like me”. We don’t. And on a night like this one, it would be our worst nightmare: working it, working it. A+ for guts and gusto. Great reviews elsewhere.
Posted September 10, 2016.
There are some shows that bend your mind but The Nether turned mine right around. It makes a persuasive case for pedophiles keeping themselves and society safe by choosing to work out their sexual fantasies – including “The Act” – in a cyber world. Escaping into The Nether, ‘Papa’ indulges in his personal fantasy with a nine-year-old Alice-In-Wonderland-ish little girl. The bind, of course, is that fantasies like his must not “cross-over” into the real world and the jury is still out on whether the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’ worlds can remain mutually exclusive. When a do-gooder detective, in hot pursuit of Papa, closes down the operation, we have to ask: what will Papa do now that he’s on the real streets of Vancouver? Virtual reality as a safe place is not a new idea but the sympathy for Papa (David Bloom) that The Nether elicits is fascinating and more than a little unsettling.
Before TV’s Cagney and Lacey came real-life L.D. Harris and Minnie Miller, the first two policewomen appointed to the Vancouver Police Department in 1912. They wore the long skirts of the period, no weapons (well, perhaps a hatpin or two) and were hired, more or less, to help wayward women back into the fold. It’s a stellar cast with Sarah Louise Turner and Leanna Brodie as the two lady cops, Simon Webb, Sarah Roa and Sarah May Redmond (as Bella, the big, child-murdering immigrant woman who, astonishingly, can be soothed into compliance by joining in the singing of the old songs which, in this production are accompanied on the piano by Matt Grinke.) Written by Vancouver writer Sally Stubbs, this production is extremely polished and a decided cut above the usual Fringe fare.
More coffee might have helped draw me into the lives of these three characters: Kelly, a young psychotherapist; Peter, an unwelcome late night guest; and Kelly’s recently deceased husband Craig who was also Peter’s identical twin brother. Peter (shirt on) and Craig (shirt off) are played by one actor. But with a play that goes back and forth from present to past, and refers to the Vietnam War, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, old relationships, homosexuality, parental abuse and more, I I was losing it by about 10:30PM. Most significantly, Dying City illustrates the worst case of passive aggression imaginable. You just want to tell Peter to get out and to hope Kelly quits watching TV, biting her nails and gets on with living.
Posted September 11, 2016
Alison Kelly (best known for Mom’s the Word) was made for the role of Janet, a tough-as-nails-but-up-against-the-ropes theatre director. Kelly is in command from the get-go and never lets go. Written by Michelle Deines, Dog at a Feast is a real meal for anyone associated with the theatre and everyone else, too. Janet, a bitchy critic (Barbara Tomasic) and a ‘dewy’ young ingénue (Lisa Goebel) mix it up during rehearsals for the bitchy critic’s not-very-good-play called Dog at a Feast which, as far as we can figure, has nothing to do with dogs eating. The dialogue is sharp, funny and right on the money. Janet, re the process of putting up Diane’s play: “It’s a f—–g hierarchy and I’m at the top.” Kelly’s at the top of her form in this fast-paced, tell-it-like-it-is gem.
Not enough time to read the four Volumes plus Epilogue of Tolstoy’s War and Peace? Check out this Ryan Gladstone one-hour, tour-de-force deconstruction. Gladstone plays all the characters – all of whose names in “ov”, “off”, “ich”, “ova”, “sky” or “oy”. Don’t worry, be happy, you’ll get the drift. Gladstone gets bonus point for brilliantly lit “Footnotes” in which he digs some real dirt on Tolstoy whose first name is/wasn’t Leo but Lev and who, at the age of eighty-two, left his wife of forty-eight years – she who had transcribed by hand all 1,444 pages seven times over because the publisher couldn’t read Leo/Lev’s handwriting. Gladstone is charmingly, enthusiastically energetic and audience-friendly as he races through decades of the Rostov family and European history.
Martin Dockery fans – and they are legion – will be surprised at his 2016 Fringe entry. This is sort of a mini two-hander play (with a beginning, middle and end) starring Dockery and Vanessa Quesnelle as a might be/might have been couple. They appear to be in a recording studio but there’s no mic and no recording equipment. And it seems more like the woman’s living room. Quesnelle has a lovely voice and the song she sings a cappella – Love Is A Battlefield – is beautifully, if protractedly, performed. Not completely gone is the Dockery we dote on: windmilling arms, spidery hands, shotgun delivery but in this context his tics work against credibility: these two just don’t seem to have a future. And we’re left figuring they don’t.
Posted later on September 11, 2016
A lot of water, blood, sweat and tears have flowed under Jonathan Young’s bridge since he was a Studio 58 student twenty years ago and when he first wrote Great Day For Up as his requisite ‘solo show’. In the b/w photo on the Electric Company Theatre’s website – electriccompanytheatre.com – Young looks so young, so incredibly sweet and optimistic but this thirty-minute play shows a lot of existential questioning even then. Great Day For Up is so Beckett, so Waiting for Godot. It begins, “Already? Well?” And includes lines like, “I’m looking for the moral for whatever the ‘bit’ was” and “Have faith in scraps”. And yet it’s not Beckett because, faint as it might seem, there’s a bit more hope. A consummate performer, Young is spellbinding to watch and with only one show to go, I’d say run don’t walk.
The titular Old Woman is writer/performer and former Ballet BC dancer John Grady’s mother. Her decline into dementia is hard for Grady to witness and it brings him face to face with his own mortality. The plot rambles but is always interesting, intelligent and wryly funny; “Welcome to your dirt nap” is the way he warns fellow park users against death-by-a-rattlesnake that’s lurking in the park where he walks dogs. With his mother (whom we don’t see) losing her mind, he frets over forgetting a woman he once dated and words, words, words. What Grady has not forgotten is how to dance and the highlight of this show is a dance performance that is a homage to life, aging and death. It’s a stunning piece of choreography and a jaw-dropping ode to dance.
From Portland comes the comedy duo of Arnica Hunter and David Cantor in the sweetest bit of clowning I’ve seen for a very long time. They are servants in a Downton Abbey-type setting: she’s in a prim, mid-calf uniform, white apron and bonnet; he’s in black and white livery. And, oh, how they clean that house and rid it of mice both small and monstrously large. The show is more or less mimed with only the odd, “Get it” or “O-kay” delivered in a French accent and it’s scored in the style of the old b/w films. There’s death by scrub board, death by drowning (an over-watered sponge) and death by broom. It’s all funny, acrobatic and very, very clever. A physical comedy jewel for the whole family. I loved every minute of it.