Check out NOW's Fringe Festival Guide with up-to-date reviews and features! Rating: NNNNN
THANK YOU.by Tanya Smith, directed by Dian Marie Bridge. Presented by Carey St. at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 14 at 1:45 pm, July 15 at 12:30 pm, July 16 at 7 pm. Rating: NNNN
a young white student discovers, to her surprise, that the donor of her university scholarship is an elderly black woman. Focusing on the growing relationship between the pair as well as the older woman's history, Tanya Smith's script has some nicely revealed secrets but ends a bit mawkishly. Still, Smith and the splendid Barbara Barnes-Hopkins give the show a rich emotional life under Dian Marie Bridge's sympathetic direction, with Quancetia Hamilton in a strong turn as an initially comical nurse.
three more sleepless nightsby Caryl Churchill, directed by Christopher Brauer. Presented by Broken Dog at the Factory Studio. July 15 at 12:30 pm, July 16 at 8:45 pm, July 17 at 1 pm. Rating: NNNN
caryl churchill's beautifully structured drama shows us three different couples who are unable to fall asleep for reasons ranging from infidelity and jealousy to existential angst. The play can be gut-twisting in its bleak revelations about human behaviour and limitations, but it's also full of dark humour. Director Christopher Brauer brings out the contrasting moods and colours effectively, and the actors communicate a lot, whether they're shouting at each other, writhing in quiet desperation or recounting movie plots rather than confronting problems.
THE BIG BUTTON SHOWby Bruce Horak, directed by Rebecca Northan. Presented by Peanut at the Palmerston Library. July 14 at 12:30 pm, July 15 at 6:30 pm, July 16 at 7 pm, July 17 at 1:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
a clown show for kids of all ages in the Mump-and-Smoot gibberish-dialogue tradition, The Big Button Show is an entertaining treat. In this variation on the be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale, the chained Foof brings his stuffed-animal friend Rico to life with lots of gymnastic, imaginative fun and a nod to the importance of friendship. Working with director Rebecca Northan, playwright Bruce Horak and Derek Flores understand how to play together as clowns.
LUST'S LABOUR'S LOSTby Brock Simpson, directed by Mary Francis Moore. Presented by Brockspeare at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 15 at 10:30 pm, July 17 at 3:15 pm. Rating: NNN
this updated version of Shakepeare's Love's Labour's Lost the verbally jousting male and female groups become a guy band and a grrl band is only occasionally entertaining, despite good performances by many in the 14-member cast, notably Bruce Hunter, Andrew Pifko and Krista Sutton. The book would be funnier and tighter if one of the subplots were dropped; the music for the women's band is more engaging than that for the men.
AN UNFORTUNATE WOMANby Nicola Gunn, directed by Mark Chavez. Presented by NaNa/Gunn at the Glen Morris. July 14 at noon, July 16 at 7 pm. Rating: NNNNN
shades of virginia woolf's mrs. Dalloway and Rowan Atkinson colour this breathtaking one-woman production featuring Nicola Gunn as a cast of dozens. Three characters' stories intertwine during a day that changes all of their lives. Gunn's subtlety and sense of timing bring pathos to their most mundane actions.
Easily one of the Fringe's most popular shows. The only problem is that you probably won't be able to get tickets to go twice.
SMILE WHILE YOU DIE!written and performed by Rachelle Fordyce. Presented by Theatre Serendipity at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 14 at 7:30 pm, July 16 at 2:15 pm. Rating: NNNN
rachelle fordyce delights as Eve Rae Mann (say it quickly), a young woman who risks succumbing to her life as a cog in a vicious cycle of work and consumption. Only in her surreal dreams does she feel free. Fordyce uses audio-visual elements to separate the dream space from the real space, but intentionally builds a surreal element into both that unites them as strange, partly imagined constructions. Mature, solid work from this hard-working young performer.
GRUMMELOTby Lia Como and Jimmy Hogg. Presented by Stories from the Attic at the Royal St. George. July 14 at 6:15 pm, July 16 at 7 pm, July 17 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNN
performers como and nigel smith play six stock commedia dell'arte characters in this tale of love, lust and money. There are some clever turns in the storyline, but the characters need better filling out. The exception is Smith's limber, never-still Arlecchino, the tricky servant who's always trying to put something over on his master, the covetous Pantalone.
LAVICIOUSwritten and directed by Laura Roald. Presented by Dark Deeds at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 14 at 11:30 pm, July 15 at 3:30 pm, July 16 at 6:15 pm. Rating: NNN
vengeance in different forms infuses this tale of three sisters a photographer, a columnist and an actor whose intertwined lives become all about getting even. Using Shakespeare's bloody play Titus Andronicus as one of its narrative lines and underlying themes, the piece has a clever soap-opera feel. Sharp dialogue fills most of its first 40 minutes, but the last third of writer/director Laura Roald's script gets silly, strident and tiresome despite the committed performances of Jane Miller, Melanie Windle and Laura Wilson.
BOYGROOVEby Chris Craddock, music by Aaron Macri, directed by Ken Brown. Presented by Ribbit at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 15 at 4 pm, July 16 at 10:30 pm. Rating: NNNNN
a boy band is formed, rockets to the heights and then dissolves in this splendidly entertaining, high-energy production about the moves in the rock world both onstage and behind the scenes. It's propelled equally by Chris Craddock's script, Aaron Macri's jumping tunes, Ken Brown's fluid direction and a first-rate ensemble: Andrew Bursey, Jon Paterson, Scott Walters and Matt Alden. A bull's-eye Fringe show.
TORCHEDwritten and directed by Kate Twa. Presented by Terri-Lyn Storey at the Poor Alex. July 15 at 8 pm, July 16 at noon. Rating: NNNNN
you'd think a solo show about a teenager who gets burned in a chemistry experiment and nearly dies would be a downer, to say the least, but Kate Twa's script for Torched manages to be uplifting and poignant, even as the tragedy unfolds. Examining events from the perspective of the victim, her sister and her distraught mother, Twa's writing is matched perfectly by actor Terri-Lyn Storey's exceptional talent.
It's a marvel to watch the sincerity and grace with which she acts out losing her virginity, breakdancing and pseudo-attempted suicide within moments.
So good you might actually believe there are other actors onstage.
in trousersbook, music and lyrics by William Finn, directed by Paul Rivers. Presented by Open Windows at Artword. July 14 at 8:45 pm, July 15 at 6:15 pm, July 16 at 1:45 pm. Rating: NNNN
in trousers, the rarely produced first part of William Finn's Marvin Trilogy the other shows are the more popular March Of The Falsettos and Falsettoland examines the influential women in anti-hero Marvin's life: his high school sweetheart, his schoolteacher and his wife. It's not Finn's strongest work. The rich harmonies are there, but some of the lyrics - especially the rhymes - feel forced, and Finn shies away from dealing head-on with the complexities of his character's burgeoning homosexuality.
Still, director Paul Rivers stages the piece imaginatively, and the fine cast - headed by Daniel Krolik as a vulnerable yet not unguilty Marvin, and Laura Caswell as his confused wife - present a solid argument for the work.
KATHRYN - STARRING AS HERSELF, AT LASTby Andrew Faiz, directed by Daniel Kash. Presented by Junes at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 14 at 3:30 pm, July 15 at 6:15 pm. Rating: NNN
canadian-born singer kathryn Albertson talks eloquently about her experiences as an entertainer and an alcoholic with simplicity, dignity and a total lack of self-pity. This is a woman who can legitimately drop names like Ethel Merman (Albertson was in the original production of Gypsy), Ed Sullivan, Howard Hughes and Jerome Robbins. Andrew Faiz's script is sometimes stilted and could be stronger. But it's a fascinating story, and even with some tentative moments, Albertson has the bravery, under Daniel Kash's direction, to unveil her history and herself to the audience.
THREE RING CIRCUS: ISRAEL, THE PALESTINIANS AND MY JEWISH IDENTITYwritten by Daniel Thau-Eleff and Chris Gerrard-Pinker, directed by Pinker. Presented by Moving Target at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 14 at 11 pm, July 15 at 2:15 pm, July 16 at 5:15 pm. Rating: NNN
jewish winnipegger daniel thau Eleff parallels his sad romantic tales with his changing views on Israel and Palestine in this solo show, co-created with director Chris Gerrard-Pinker. Thau-Eleff's a charming performer with a winning smile (aware of that, he uses it in an intentionally ambiguous way during the show), but the writing, often presenting one viewpoint or another, could more effectively tackle the political and emotional complexities that riddle the Middle Eastern situation.
HALF FULL OF ITwritten and performed by Dan Welsh, directed by John Kuhn. Presented by Punch at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 14 at noon, July 15 at 9:45 pm, July 16 at 1:45 pm. Rating: NN
an anger-filled, frustrated writ er estranged from his ex-wife, son and ultimately himself has to make some key life choices in this one-man multi-character show. Writer/performer Dan Welsh has an impressive stage presence, but despite snatches of good writing, the central figure fails to engage the audience with his dilemma or its solution.
MIRACLES OF MAKE-DOby Rena Polley, directed by Dragana Varagic. Presented by Dropping Down the Ladder at the Poor Alex. July 14 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNN
as part of a whole - this is just one scene from a drama actor/playwright Rena Polley is currently writing this would probably be must-see theatre. But this 45-minute piece is not enough, and Dragana Varagic's uninspired direction doesn't help. What we do see, a young minister ( Riley Gilchrist ) trying to comfort a woman (Polley) who's lost her son in the second world war, does whet the appetite for the final product, particularly a chance to view more of Gilchrist's quiet power and Polley's ability to move seamlessly, as the script demands, from angry to flirty to tortured without missing a beat.
Get writing, Polley.
BELLA DONNAby David Copelin, directed by Sue Miner. Presented by Some Strange Reason at the Factory Studio. July 15 at 7:30 pm, July 17 at 4:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
david copelin's clever and darkly funny script (it won this year's New Play Award at the Fringe) about the sexual, political and religious machinations surrounding history's notorious Lucrezia Borgia gets a thrilling production. Director Sue Miner navigates the complicated stage traffic lots of unseen secret passageways with skill, and gets her fine actors (headed by the confident and charismatic Françoise Balthazar and Nick Abraham ) to have as much fun as we're having. With a new man in the Vatican, this play about passion, poison and popes seems especially relevant.
WELCOME TO VAUDEVILLEby Steve Morel and Jenny Parsons, directed by Michele Muzzi. Presented by Ditties and Frocks Theatricals at the Palmerston Library. July 14 at 11 am, July 15 at 3:30 pm, July 16 at 5:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
here's a show for family audi ences that grabs viewers with its catchy music and lyrics and its engaging performances. In the town of Vaudeville, where "every single day is a show," the mayor has to resign when he falls in love with a window washer. The candidates for his job literally parade around onstage, and the audience votes on the winner. Writer/actors Steve Morel and Jenny Parsons are delightful, as are fellow performers Geoffrey Whynot and musician Scott White.
THE REMAINDERSwritten, performed and directed by Ryan V. Hays and Katie Crown. Presented by Son of Iron Man at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 15 at 11 pm, July 16 at 4 pm, July 17 at 1:45 pm. Rating: NN
two comics arrive onstage to find their script for the evening scattered across the floor, their sketches out of order. It would have been a great premise had they actually built a series of sketches from the mess: instead, it's one tedious in-joke after another, with only a few laughs that everyone can enjoy. Interesting audio-visual components, but without a stronger premise and with too many groaner jokes, the production flounders and the performers look a bit embarrassed.
THE BOOK OF LIZ
by Amy and David Sedaris, directed by Victor Correira. Presented by God Is in the Dairy at the Factory Studio. July 14 at noon, July 16 at 10:30 pm. Rating: NNN
when sweaty, underappreciated cheeseball-maker Sister Elizabeth Donderstock ( Lois Tucker ) runs away from her Squeamish (read Amish) village, she learns lots of lessons in the big bad world. So goes the plot in sibling-team extraordinaire David and Amy Sedaris's irreverent play, an extended comedy sketch that takes a while to get cooking. The direction could be tighter, but the actors have fun playing multiple roles including self-involved waiters, recovering alcoholics and obnoxious city types. You won't see cheese in quite the same way again.
THE SIMPLEST THINGwritten and performed by Jim Dalling, directed by Adam Lazarus. Presented by Singin' Fish Theatricals at Honest Ed's loading dock (west and south of Bathurst and Bloor). July 14-17 at 7:45 pm. Rating: NNN
hobo clown stinky takes his audience on a gentle, imaginative search for the simplest thing in life. With a touch of Japanese philosophy, an invisible dog and a lot of audience participation, performer Jim Dalling creates a charming, innocent world that he invites his viewers to get involved in. And most of them do, willingly.
THE BUTTERFLY KISSby Robyn Burnett, directed by Debbie Barton-Moore. Presented by Integrity Entertainment at the Robert Gill. July 14 at 1:45 pm, July 16 at 8 pm. Rating: NNNN
an unconventional romance set in a funeral home is brought to life by Debbie Barton-Moore's expert direction, Robyn Burnett's funny, moving and original script (amazingly, written while she was still in high school) and the perfectly cast Margot Massie and Jamie Burnett as kooky mortician Windy and uptight actuary Sam. Burnett's script conveys a lot: the tentative breaking down of emotional walls, life's simple regrets. The recorded soothing, haunting voice of Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole brings the show to a close on just the right note. A must-see.
PIAF: LOVE CONQUERS ALLby Roger Peace, directed by Naomi Emmerson. Presented by La Vie en Rose at Artword. July 14 at 10:30 pm, July 17 at 4:30 pm. Rating: NNN
naomi emmerson's performance as tragic songstress Edith Piaf is terribly affecting but only when she sings. Emmerson, nicely accompanied by pianist Donna Garner, delivers songs like La Vie En Rose and Mon Dieu with throaty, heartbreaking passion. Too bad Roger Peace's script is a paint-by-numbers bioplay and director Emmerson has added banal images projected onto a screen that distract from her singing.
PATTi FEDY IN... LOVERS ROCK!by Emelia Symington-Fedy, directed by Anita Rochon and John Turner. Presented by the Chop at the Glen Morris. July 15 at 12:30 pm, July 16 at 11 pm. Rating: NNNN
painfully awkward and a little bit nuts, Patti Fedy has a solution when her best friend, Margaret, moves away to college. A complex and comical discussion about friendship and loneliness follows. Emelia Symington-Fedy's commitment to her alter ego goes down to the tips of her birdlike fingers, creating a soft yet hysterical clown show about love, friends and being genuine.
ON THE MONEYby Kos Kostmayer, directed by Benjamin Tabah. Presented by Another Day @ the Office at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 14 at 5:15 pm, July 16 at 11 pm. Rating: NNNN
three restaurant employees liv ing lives of quiet desperation take matters into their own hands in Kos Kostmayer's play about money and the lengths we go to to get it. This gripping piece has a stellar ensemble cast. Conor Green's portrayal of Jack, the young bartender with a happy family, works particularly well.
Watching Jack's inner transformation as the conflict between his own needs and those of his family deepens shows Green's subtle physical and vocal skill.
His performance highlights the clean, complex work by the rest of the actors, including Miranda Edwards, Martin Doyle, Colin Doyle and Duane Murray.
the disputeby Marivaux, directed by Kate Lynch. Presented by the Sweat Company at the Robert Gill. July 14 at 10:30 pm, July 16 at 4 pm. Rating: NNNNN
are men or women more likely to be unfaithful? Marivaux explored the possibilities in this 18th-century play, and director Kate Lynch makes a strong argument for its theatricality. The story involves a scientific experiment: a quartet of infants raised in isolation and then brought together to see what chemistry starts to bubble. The cast is uniformly fine, with Carly Street and Geoffrey Pounsett standouts as a freshly minted couple who display an infatuation that's self-involved, fickle and childish.
Hollywood Grade 8written and performed by Sarah Martyn. Presented by Mad George Productions at Howlett Academy (15 Madison). July 14-17 at 8 pm. Rating: NNN
anyone who's set foot in a class room knows that teaching isn't always glamorous. But it certainly does have its moments, and Sarah Martyn lets you in on them in this chronicle of her life change from wannabe actor to grade 8 teacher. There are the thugs who steal shoes, the uptight principal and, my personal favourite, the specially challenged girl who can't sing to save her life.
Refreshingly talented, genuine and engaging, Martyn has created a show that's as funny as it is moving, capturing the lows and highs of teaching, the realities of being a grown-up and the funny, crazy world of acting.
Hope Martyn's students realize how lucky they are.
The Magnificent Robertsonsby Lisa Brooke and Alex Kane, directed by Lindsay Leese. Presented by the Three "R"s at the Robert Gill. July 15 at noon, July 16 at 9:45 pm. Rating: NNN
a vampire musical, a choreo grapher/costume designer whose wife doesn't realize he's gay, excessive use of the song Lady and all manner of spoofing the 80s. What's not to like? The cast of The Magnificent Robertsons is clearly having a ball in this parody of theatre life, and if you're not quite as enthusiastic initially you'll warm up quickly thanks to hilarious Second City alum Lisa Brooke, who makes even the smallest moment hers, and her equally talented colleagues, including Lisa Merchant, happily off Train 48.
Not magnificent, but definitely worth catching.
howie the rookieby Mark O'Rowe, directed by Allan Hawco. Presented by Feral Productions at St. Vladimir's. July 14 at 10:30 pm, July 16 at 1:45 pm. Rating: NNNN
actor danny sullivan delivers a tour-de-force performance in this solo version of O'Rowe's violence-laden play about Dublin gangland fights. His energy, focus and commitment to the piece are impossible to ignore. Whether Sullivan's acting out being strangled, having sex or simply talking to his bereaved mother, he's riveting. Adds new meaning to the term "fighting Irish."
THE STRONGER... A VARIATIONadapted from Strindberg, directed by Allyson McMackon. Presented by Theatre Rusticle at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 14 at 3:30 pm, July 16 at 7:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
based on a strindberg play about a wife and a mistress, The Stronger features three performers interpreting the complex emotions arising from a chance meeting between the two on Christmas Eve in a café. Who is the stronger one the wife who has a husband, or the mistress who owns his imagination? More of Strindberg's text could be used to anchor their movement, but the strange, surreal yet playful tone makes this a standout production.
ARTICULATEwritten and directed by Cayman Duncan. Presented by Saucy Fops at the Royal St. George. July 15 at 11 pm, July 16 at 5:15 pm. Rating: NNN
a man and a woman (playwright Cayman Duncan and Terri Runnalls ), both interested in starting a relationship, go through all the steps some of them presented as internalized voice-overs of deciding what to say and not to say to each other. The time frame is intentionally non-linear, and Duncan's script is sometimes clever, especially in a to-phone-or-not-to-phone sequence. Still, the chemistry between the performers and their skilled lobbing of lines back and forth can't make up for some overlong scenes.
throwing stones> by Chad Barclay, directed by Rebecca Northan. Presented by Clear Light at the Palmerston Library. July 15 at 12:30 pm. Rating: NNN
two 10-year-olds, played believ ably by Bruce Horak and Audrey Dwyer in commedia masks, share a shy but strong bond in this play for young people, directed simply and effectively by Rebecca Northan. Writer Chad Barclay proves he's got a good ear for preteen dialogue, and conveys how hard it is for kids to share emotional truths. The fact that one of the characters is running away from home adds theatrical tension to the piece, but setting it during the 1979 train derailment crisis contributes little.
THE ZOO-KEEPER'S LOVE SONGwritten and directed by Johnnie Walker. Presented by Nobody's Business at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 14 at 9:15 pm, July 15 at 3:30 pm, July 17 at 5:15 pm. Rating: NNN
good work from a group of york and U of T drama students about a collision of fantasy and reality. Amy Duncan's awkward teen character amuses, but the rest flounder in a script that's not quite as good as it would be if the relationships between characters were stronger and the ending less obtuse. Promising and thoughtful, but needs a few more go-rounds on the workshop floor with these strong performers to further explore its themes.
THE THREE B'S: MYSTERY AT MELODY MANSIONby Greg Finnegan, directed by Sarah Baumann. Presented by BMTC at the Palmerston Library. July 14 at 3:45 pm, July 15 at 8:15 pm, July 16 at 12:30 pm. Rating: NNN
playwright greg finnegan re turns with another affectionate parody of the Nancy Drew tales, featuring a trio of friends the studious Billie ( Kate Ann Vandermeer ), the athletic Binkie ( Grace Lynn Kung ) and the vivacious Bonnie ( Caitlin Hussey ) who are amateur sleuths as well as a teen singing group.
This time around they're caught up in a fast-paced story narrated by Ieva Lucs, who also plays all the other characters involving a summer camp, a spooky house, a lost will and a swamp zombie.
A FRESH PAIR OF SHORTS: TWO "CHEEKY" PLAYSby Matthew Toner, directed by David Premi and Nancy Bradshaw. Presented by Cabbagetown Theatre at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 14 at 11 pm, July 15 at noon, July 16 at 5:45pm. Rating: NNN
we unhappy few, the first of this poorly paced pair of shorts, still impresses with performances by clumsy Michael Halkusis and dour Blake Thorne. The second, The Pimp Hand Of God (winner of the 2002 Fringe 24-hour playwriting contest) moves along much more smartly, with the very funny Stephen Flett and Christopher Irving as two men stuck on a desert island with only one mango between them.
THE COMMENT CARDby Tricia Cooper, directed by Christine Wach. Presented by Manitoba Avenue at the James Joyce Pub (386 Bloor West).July 15-17 at 8 pm. Rating: NNN
tricia cooper is one of the most naturally gifted comic actors in the city, and in her autobiographical show about working as a frustrated waiter in a family restaurant, she delivers some pee-your-pants-funny stories. Highlights include her impersonation of tough-talking co-worker Gwen and her affectionate deconstruction of the word "retarded." Along with the laughs, there's some insight into how we deal with denial and anger. Unfortunately, the script lacks shape, and Cooper and director Christine Wach use too little of the James Joyce Pub's space to create a vérité vibe.
PAVLOV'S BROTHERby Mark Ellis and Denis McGrath, directed by Liza Balkan. Presented by Salivating Dog at the Factory Mainspace. July 15 at 9:15 pm, July 16 at 12:30 pm. Rating: NNN
the premise that before nobel Prize-winning scientist Ivan Pavlov hooked up with a dog he tried out his theories on his brother Nikolai is full of comic and dramatic possibilities. Writer/actors Mark Ellis and Denis McGrath take this idea inspired by a New Yorker humour piece and touch on sibling rivalry, Russian politics and human psychology. But despite a few vivid moments and strong performances, the script never comes together and the team never finds a consistent tone.
MAN-O-REXICwritten and directed by Caroline Azar. Presented by Stepford Theatre at Artword. July 14 at 3:30 pm, July 15 at 12:30 pm, July 16 at 7 pm. Rating: NNN
props to former fifth column rocker Caroline Azar for delivering the coolest show you're likely to see at this or any other Fringe Festival. Part anthropological commentary, part B-movie send-up, the show illustrates how humans and gorillas go apeshit over love and lust. The connections among the passionate primates could be tweaked some, and I'm not sure an ongoing gag concerning a Three Stooges member works. But the songs (oh yeah - it's a musical!) are haunting, the staging near-perfect, and actors Suzanne Bennett, Marc Ouimet and Glen Sheppard display some genuine animal chemistry.
THE MOLLY MURDERSwritten and directed by Anthony Furey. Presented by Frontal Lobe at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 14 at 12:30 pm, July 16 at 9:45 pm, July 17 at 1:30 pm. Rating: NN
furey's earnest piece about a grieving mother manipulated by a sleazy politician deals with abstractions rather than human figures.
The playwright clearly wants the piece to say something and not just entertain, but too often his characters seem to be around to make a point, not to actually feel and react to events. The exceptions are Caroline Azar's passionate mother, who gives the play a strong emotional centre, and Matt White as her nephew, whose rage boils over in effectively dramatic fashion.
SHAKESPEARE'S NHL (NATIONAL HISTORY LEAGUE)by Chris Coculuzzi, Matt Toner and William Shakespeare. Presented by Upstart Crow in the Central Tech parking lot (Borden and Harbord). July 14-15 at 7 pm, July 16-17 at 2 pm. Rating: NN
upstart crow takes on the bard's handful of history plays in the final instalment of their "Shakespeare sports" plays. Difficult as it is to find touchstones for these less popular plays, surely there's a less confusing way to present the characters and plots. As it stands, there's too much hockey and not enough exposition. Still a fun piece, with possibly the largest cast at the Fringe.
HIP-HOP 4 DUMEEZwritten and performed by Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion. Presented by Sable and Batalion at the Poor Alex Cabaret. July 14 at 10:30 pm, July 15 at 8:45 pm, July 16 at 5:15 pm. Rating: NNNN
get your learn on with montreal's phattest Fringe darlings, Eli Batalion and Jerome Sable. This still needs a few cuts to the script and cleaner execution: it feels a bit slapdash in places where it should be more certain. No one cares, though, because the boys move too quickly to dwell on any small fault for long.
There couldn't be a better venue for this piece and these hysterical performers.
I DON'T BELIEVE IN PHYSICSwritten and performed by Marissa Gregoris. Presented by Gregarious Productions at the Poor Alex. July 15 at 2:15 pm, July 16 at 9:15 pm, July 17 at 2:30 pm. Rating: NN
That Marissa Gregoris is talented is obvious. She's funny, smart who else would wonder how a hydrogen atom might feel? and clearly worthy of her Canadian Comedy Award nomination.
Equally obvious, though, is how this solo show wastes her skills, especially when you consider how many other solo shows are offered at the Fringe. Still, even during the weak moments, Gregoris herself is never less than compelling.
cheapskatewritten and directed by Massimo Pagliaroli. Presented by Good Company at the Poor Alex. July 15 at 4 pm, July 17 at 8:15 pm. Rating: NNNN
here's a play that deserves to be shown outside the Fringe. This comic gem doesn't aim too high in its subject matter. It manages to take the overly familiar theme of 20-something relationships and somehow make it new, and boasts a terrific cast who deliver every line with sitcom-perfect timing. Thank director/writer Massimo Pagliaroli, who even manages to work the crew into the play, and Meredith Shaw, as Sabrina, who walks off with every scene she's in.
DON'T GET ME STARTEDwritten and performed by Mike Petersen. Presented by Charles Ross/Chicken for Supper at Artword. July 15 at 8 pm, July 16 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNN
pop-culture-obsessed mike peter sen energetically takes us through several significant moments in his not uninteresting life, including his parents' separation, an uncle's mysterious death and getting to meet his three symbolic father figures: Jim Henson, George Lucas and Darth Vader. There's too much telling involved, and Petersen never brings all the show's elements together meaningfully.
But he's a likeable, witty raconteur, and when he begins using puppets (he worked for years with Henson) the piece comes magically alive.
Death of a Vacuum Cleaner Salesmanby Allison McWood, directed by Andrea Romaldi. Presented by Cinnabar at the Robert Gill. July 14 at 7 pm, July 17 at 3:15 pm. Rating: NNN
is there anything worse than telemarketers? Its hard not to relate to Allison McWood's smartly written comedy about the salesman from hell (a spot-on Peter Treadwell ) and his hapless victim, the weak-willed Scmiller ( Robert Monk ). Disappointingly short it was just getting good when suddenly it was over. And McWood's subtext about how easy it is to lose hold of our dreams is too easily forgotten. May be inspired by Arthur Miller, but doesn't get there. Very satisfying beginning.
MAUDLIN DEMENTIA RETURNS TO THE STAGEby Chris Caswell, directed by Courtney Cunningham. Presented by Poison Pixie at St. Vladimir's. July 14 at 5:15 pm, July 15 at 9:15 pm, July 16 at 5:45 pm. Rating: NNN
this was a hit in new york but definitely is not for everyone. It's a kooky story about a nutso actor who decides to kidnap her doppelganger, stage veteran Maudlin Dementia, and assume her identity in order to stage her own comeback. But even those who find the material wanting will be charmed and impressed by Chris Caswell, who actually made me feel like I was watching a true play, not a solo actor doing a bunch of voices. (You'll love her Spongie LeMay.) And you've gotta get a kick out of the script's attempt to give King Lear a happy ending.
the bibleby Adam Long, Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor and Mathew Croke, directed by Elan Farbiarz. Presented by Wolf at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 15 at noon, July 16 at 8 pm. Rating: NN
this quick run through bible stories and Biblical injunctions from the Old and New Testaments is mostly sophomoric weak comedy sketches that bombard viewers without letting them take a breath.
A lot of the audience was in stitches, but I thought the best part of the show was the energy of performers Tim Bolen, Elan Farbiarz and Dave Lapsley.
I THEE WEDby Karen Lee Pickett, directed by Britt Small. Presented by On the Lam at the Poor Alex. July 14 at 7:30 pm, July 15 at 12:30 pm, July 16 at 5:15 pm. Rating: NNN
say "i do" to i thee wed, a play that's so well-acted by Karen Lee Pickett and Lisa Hitch, you feel you're eavesdropping on the private moments between lesbian couple Nona and Grace. The play shows the changes in levels of acceptance from 1901 to 1954 to 2004, a structural device that works thematically but not emotionally. We become attached to the characters only to have new ones introduced. Best ending line in a play I've ever seen.
pajama men in stop not goingwritten and performed by Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez. Presented by Second City Theatricals at the Poor Alex. July 14 at noon, July 15 at 6:15 pm, July 16 at 11 pm. Rating: NNN
think jim carrey doesn't go far enough? Feel that Robin Williams isn't really on? Meet the Pajama Men, Fringe favourites known for their rapid-fire wit and willingness to go to any lengths for a laugh.
Note that I said lengths, because they sure don't leave the shallow pond in this melange of not merely stupid, but really, really stupid humour (alien humour, dying cowboys, things that are gross). An acquired taste, but they sell out everywhere they go, and the audience loves them.
GAGS 4 THE MASSESby Benjamin Crellin. Presented by Crellin at the Royal St. George. July 14 at 8 pm, July 15 at 1:45 pm, July 16 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NN
new zealand stand-up benjamin Crellin tackles mostly predictable, sometimes dated topics (are Teletubbies still worth satirizing?) with occasionally tepid, sometimes funny results. Though his regular use of animal sound effects is annoying rather than entertaining, he scores with quips about how to market religion and the unshakable conviction of white colonizers that they're bringing the truth to other cultures.
HEAD-SMASHED-IN BUFFALO JUMPby Tara Beagan, Brendan Gall, Chris Hanratty, Kate Hewlett and Christopher Stanton, directed by Gall. Presented by UnSpun Theatre at the Factory Studio. July 14 at 2:15 pm, July 15 at 9:45 pm, July 16 at noon. Rating: NNN
this collectively written piece follows a group of lonely people including an agoraphobic young woman and a Czech pawnshop owner who live in and around an apartment building. Some powerful passages are full of lyrical beauty and heightened emotion, and there's some clever staging by director Brendan Gall. But the script is just as frequently precious and vague, and that intriguing title never pays off. Still, kudos to this talented young company for experimenting with the form.
NICIMIS (LITTLE BROTHER)by Dawn Dumont, directed by Kathryn Winning. Presented by Daywalker at the Factory Mainspace. July 14 at 11 pm, July 15 at 4 pm, July 16 at 5:45 pm. Rating: NNN
dawn dumont's earnest play about a native law student/aspiring documentary filmmaker who goes back to the reserve and influences the lives of her brother and his friends deals with lots of complex issues: alcoholism, abuse, fractured families. There's a play in here somewhere, but the writing and some of the performances feel forced. Dumont hasn't dug deep enough into her characters' histories for us to care about them.
THE THREE SISTERS: A BLACK OPERA IN THREE ACTSwritten by Kristine Nutting, songs by Nutting and Christian Berube, directed by Eileen Sproule. Presented by Cowgirl Opera at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 14 at 7:30 pm, July 16 at 4 pm. Rating: NNNN
kristine nutting transplants Chekhov's play to Saskatchewan in this ghoulish, exuberant and striking musical in which the three siblings here living under the thumb of a transvestite parent long for Edmonton rather than Moscow. Part bouffon circus, part Grand Guignol, part country music opera filled with toe-tapping melodies, the broadly performed piece isn't for the squeamish or the prurient, but it's lots of fun and the most original Fringe show I've seen this year.
OZ RECALLEDby Jesse Stewart, directed by Timothy French. Presented by Sunesis at the Walmer Centre (188 Lowther). July 14-15 at 8 pm, July 16 at 4 pm. Rating: NN
an unhappy, middle-aged doro thy returns to Oz and is forced to set things right again, along the way resolving her own problems. The idea for this new musical is great, and Marc Kimmelman's energetic choreography fills the postage-stamp-sized stage, but the songs are generally dull and the performances, other than those of Sharron Matthews as Dorothy and James Quigley as the Tin Man, weak. Put much of the blame on writer Jesse Stewart, who as an actor also fails to fill out the Scarecrow's stuffing.
THE SLIP-KNOTwritten and performed by TJ Dawe. Presented by Big Sandwich at the Robert Gill. July 15 at 7 pm, July 16 at 1:45 pm. Rating: NNNN
there's nothing new about com plaining about your dead-end jobs, but in the hands of master storyteller TJ Dawe you actually feel like you're there, whether it's with the Canada Post employee who overuses the expression "happy camper" or the Shoppers Drug Mart company radio station that loops endless 80s music. Witty and laugh-out-loud funny, this odyssey through work hell takes on everything from corporate euphemisms to the origins of St. Nick. There's even some acid tripping to get you in the mood. No wonder Dawe is a Fringe favourite.
TALES FROM ANOTHER ENGLANDwritten and performed by Justin Sage-Passant, directed by Stewart Matthews. Presented by Screwed & Clued at the Factory Studio. July 14 at 9:15 pm, July 15 at 2:15 pm, July 16 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNN
after last week's bombings, it's tempting to read more into the sombre beginning of Justin Sage-Passant's solo multi-character piece, which is essentially a love-hate letter to his native England. But the writer/performer, one member of troupe Screwed & Clued, has other themes to explore, such as the destruction of the English countryside and the Americanization of the English tea house. His characterizations are vivid, but some are mere sketches, and the emotional centre - something about a dead father - isn't strong enough to support the play.
CONFESSIONS OF A CLASS CLOWNwritten and performed by Ryan Gladstone, directed by Bruce Horak. Presented by Monster Theatre at the Glen Morris. July 14 and 16 at 1:45 pm, July 15 at 9:45 pm. Rating: NNNN
fight the man with ryan glad stone, class clown extraordinaire. His confessional work about growing from grade school imp to adult champion of an education system that would let kids think creatively and love learning will be familiar to anyone who's laughed with or at that guy who refuses to fit in. Gladstone, armed with a chair and a red rubber nose, lights up the space with genuine optimism in an exuberant, easygoing performance. The script needs tweaking here and there, but who can resist a genuinely funny guy telling good stories about bad teachers?
SKETCHOLA: THE MUSICALdirected by Marcel St. Pierre. Presented by Unckey Darryl's House of Sketchola at the Robert Gill. July 15 at 11 pm, July 17 at 5 pm. Rating: NNN
here's a mixed bag of comedy from Bad Dog Theatre alums who sketch their little hearts out for an hour and make you laugh in spite of yourself. There's no doubt that Rica Eckersley, Sarah Buski, Jan Caruana, Darryl Dinn, Lee Pitts and Greg Komorowski enjoy working together, because otherwise the show wouldn't feel like a sequence of in-jokes.
Hilarious even, particularly the demonic bird and the Most Inappropriate Entrance Ever sketch. However, the pieces need to be better connected to play at their sketch-o-rific best.
k the mby Dorothy Gebhardt and Rhonda Riche, directed by Dave Pearce. Presented by Dethawed at the Factory Mainspace. July 14 at 7:30 pm, July 17 at 5:15 pm. Rating: NN
this unfunny, pointless, clichéd script looks at several denizens of a local karaoke bar. Only the energetic Gord Oxley as a sleazy singer from a competing establishment saves it from being complete torture to watch and oh, mercy! listen to.
SEX AND OUR CITY... TORONTO!by Erin Gamelin, directed by Patrick Conner. Presented by Scrambled Leggs at the Factory Mainspace. July 14 at 2:15 pm, July 15 at 11 pm, July 16 at 4 pm. Rating: NN
erin gamelan attempts to trans plant the HBO sex comedy to multicultural T.O., but the script's messy and unfunny, the characters mere types and the local references (the Drake, Elmwood Spa) less than cutting-edge. Gamelin, uncharismatic and flat-voiced as Carrie Bradshaw, can't decide if she wants to send up the show's stylistic conventions or embrace them. The only refreshing twist comes from some non-traditional casting: Farah Merani, a woman of South Asian background, plays the Miranda-like character, while Samantha is enacted (wouldn't you know it?) by drag artist Jason Beharriell, who's got the sassy look and walk down pat.
St. Vladimir's (620 Spadina)
Robert Gill (214 College)
Artword (75 Portland)
Factory Mainspace and Studio (125 Bathurst)
Tarragon Mainspace and Extra Space (30 Bridgman)
Royal St. George (120 Howland)
Poor Alex (296 Brunswick)
Helen Gardiner Phelan (79A St. George)
Glen Morris Theatre (4 Glen Morris)
Palmerston Library (560 Palmerston)
and various bring-your-own-venues.
For tickets call 416-966-1062 , 416-967-1528 (advance)