THE FRINGE: TORONTO'S THEATRE FESTIVAL featuring local, national and international companies at 28 venues. Runs to July 16. $10 or less, $2 surcharge on advance tickets, discount passes. Advance tickets sold up to three hours prior to showtime by phone, online or in person at the Fringe Club (292 Brunswick). At least half of all tickets for each performance go on sale one hour before showtime at the venue; first show of the day available a half-hour before showtime. No latecomers. Fringe hotline 416-966-1062; advance 416-967-1528, www.fringetoronto.com. See complete Fringe listings and venue addresses. Check out more NOW Fringe reviews at www.nowtoronto.com/fringe.
THE CATERING QUEEN
by Alison Lawrence, directed by Ed Sahely. Presented by McGuffin at Tarragon Mainspace. July 13 at 7:30 pm, July 15 at 4 pm. Rating: NNNN a woman who coordinates cater ing services for elegant house parties deals with friends, lovers and her sidetracked life in this fine comedy/drama. Alison Lawrence 's script she also plays the central role is both funny (especially the behind-the-scenes bitchiness toward the piggy party guests) and moving (there's a sense of emotional uncertainty under all the quips), even if the wrap-up for the characters is a little too positive and pat when bittersweet might be a more believable tone.
Under director Ed Sahely , the entire cast including Dmitry Chepovetsky and Sharon Heldt as former friends who no longer share each other's traumas has a chance to shine. --
FLAMENCO CON FUSION 2
by Ricardo Garcia and Julie Gunn. Presented by Ricardo Garcia's Flamenco Flow at the Glen Morris. July 14 at 3:45 pm, July 15 at 8:45 pm. Rating: NNNN a flamenco dancer and a break dancer spar, accompanied by Ricardo Garcia on flamenco guitar. While one dancer breaks, locks and pops, the other pounds the stage with her heels. They dare and goad and cajole each other without saying a word, and the air crackles with pride and tension. Compared to the percussive, proud stance of the flamenco dancer, the breaker seems positively soft, sweet and comic in his rubber-soled sneaks and trackies. Their showdowns are epic battles between opposing yet complementary styles.
Fusing flamenco with breakdance, driving guitar and an overwhelming feeling of confidence and joy, this production will likely be a hit of the Fringe. A must-see.
THE BALLOON TREE
adapted by Robert Watson from Phoebe Gilman, directed by Andrew Lamb. Presented by Little Lamb at Palmerston Library. July 13 at 12:45 pm, July 16 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNNN robert watson's witty adaptation of Phoebe Gilman 's children's book will entertain both kids and their parents. The tale of a brave princess ( Diana Tso ) who bests her power-hungry uncle ( Jason Lambert ) gets a boisterous production under director Andrew Lamb , and designer Monique Stewart 's colourful costumes and set are just as much fun. This is the best kind of theatre for young audiences, involving kids in the entertainment and suspense without talking down to them.
written and performed by Dave Deveau, Sarah Dineen, Cameron Mackenzie and Stephanie Lalor. Presented by Pancake at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 13 at 1:45 pm, July 14 at 12:30 pm, July 15 at 7 pm. Rating: NNN in a post-apocalyptic world where clean is good, the habitués of a laundromat fight against an increasingly tyrannical owner. There's a frame story, a contemporary fairy tale that outgrims Grimm (though there's also a Hansel And Gretel reference), and the rest of the collectively created script is made up of short, snapshot scenes that do not always satisfy or fill out the story. Still, the performers know how to create meaningful dark comedy and their characters are pungently written. --
by Matt Alden, directed by Murray Utas. Presented by Ribbit Productions at Theatre Passe Muraille. July 14 at 2:15 pm, July 15 at 10:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
a geeky computer nerd (dan jean notte ) and a wild rebel girl ( Caitlin Howden ) carry on a cyber courtship and then graduate to a tumultuous opposites-attract relationship in the real world. Matt Alden 's psychologically rich script is beautifully detailed, right down to the song choices in a seemingly random karaoke scene. The two gifted actors create a dozen believable characters, sometimes metamorphosing in a nano-second. Director Murray Utas gets maximum theatricality from the show, which moves around in time and space effortlessly.
Note to other artists: look at how economically Utas sets up a stage picture. The team gets bonus points for their hilarious depiction of a video game that's still thematically relevant. Great big smiley face. --
Jem Rolls Off the Tongue
written and directed by Jem Rolls. Presented by Big Word Performance Poetry at the Glen Morris. July 13 at 2 pm, July 14 at 10:45 pm, July 15 at 5:15 pm. Rating: NNNN there's a reason scottish poet jem Rolls is a Fringe favourite: he's unique and wholly entertaining. With huge energy and dazzling memorization skills, he expounds on everything from the living hell that is lineups to being an optimist in a dangerous world. His tongue-twisting talent impresses in his original ode to spoonerisms. Beyond his way with words, Rolls's self-effacing humour, notably when he warns that next year he's going to be awful, make him likeable and charming, like an intellectual Dr. Seuss on acid. A must-see.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, directed by Robert Toms. Presented by Shoebox Theatre at the Fringe Club (292 Brunswick). July 13-15 at 5:30 pm. Rating: NNN this small-scale version of john Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask 's rock opera does the best it can with a tight budget. The small stage limits the production to an intimate concert setting with monologues woven in between, resulting in a loss of energy and ambition. Director/actor Robert Toms doesn't disappoint as everyone's favourite German transsexual, but Nathan Jarvis 's Yitzhak needs work. The charming songs never reach the glitzy levels they deserve.
by Joan Schenkar, directed by Sara Kitz. Presented by Here Is My Hand at the George Ignatieff. July 14 at 11:30 pm, July 16 at 2:45 pm. Rating: NN this dark comedy about three New England old-timers trading local horror stories has decent costumes, a better set than many of the Fringe productions and a talented performer in Holly Merritt , who plays fogey three with expert delivery. Director Sara Kitz proves effective in helping to exploit the script's comedy. Too bad Joan Schenkar 's story is dull, repetitive and dated we're a generation already mocking our own desensitization to violence. Add a "shock ending" that is telegraphed too early and you're left with a clever idea that never quite hits its mark.
Queen for a Day
by Kathryn Haggis and Nicole Kritikos, directed by Sandra Balcovske. Presented by Xerocombie Productions at the George Ignatieff. July 13 at 11 pm, July 14 at 2:15 pm, July 15 at 5:15 pm. Rating: NNN it's hard not to enjoy this farce, which takes the old game show in which housewives tried to get their wishes answered and its even more antiquated host Jack Bailey (hysterical Bruce Hunter ) and gives them a modern, gay-friendly twist. True, the jokes are fairly old-hat queer staples, but thanks to hostess Ellen-Ray Hennessey , who begins the show before the lights come down, harassing her incompetent staff and schmoozing the theatre audience, and the equally talented cast, themselves having a blast, this is light frothy entertainment that everybody can enjoy.
BLOWN SIDEWAYS THROUGH LIFE
by Claudia Shear, directed by Brenda Bazinet. Presented by Re-Group at the Factory Studio. July 14 at 7:15 pm, July 16 at 4:30 pm. Rating: NNN claudia shear's rambling mono logue about her terrible employment history is written in a direct, punchy style, but it's too episodic and slack, and there's little emotional basis for the central character's seething anger. Shear originally wrote and performed this piece, and it obviously would have felt more authentic and triumphant with her delivering it. Still, some scenes crackle with life. There's a poignant bit about actor Buster Keaton, and the most vivid writing concerns sex. (Shear once worked as a receptionist in a whorehouse.) Actor Kira Lynn , who looks and sounds like a young Rosie O'Donnell (complete with a believable Brooklyn honk), gives a persuasive, energetic performance that almost compensates for the script's gaps.
CROOK BACK DICKY
adapted from Shakespeare by Adrian Griffin, Dean Gabourie and Keith Knight, directed by Gabourie. Presented by ACME at the Royal St. George. July 14 at 7 pm. Rating: NNNN
shakespeare's richard iii, here seen as a man who idolizes his absent father, becomes an angry 80s punk musician in this adaptation of several of the Bard's history plays. Still a work in progress, the multimedia piece fascinates with its clever use of puppets that range from finger- to over-life-size and a strong, individual take on the material, though it'll be richer for viewers who know the story from the source plays. Performer Adrian Griffin shows ease in taking us into the character's confidence and shifting between classical and contemporary tones.
THE GOOD THIEF
by Conor McPherson, directed by Autumn Smith. Presented by MacKenzieRo at Rowers Pub (150 Harbord). July 13-16 at 8:30 pm. Rating: NNN conor mcpherson's darkly comic monologue, in which a petty thug finds himself swimming with much fiercer predators, is a striking blend of poetry and violence. There's some fine dark humour in the writing, a sureness of how to tell a series of stories within stories that grabs the listener. Working with director Autumn Smith , actor David Mackett strikes most of the right notes, though he occasionally falters in delivery and could bring more depth and layers to the play's final moments. DOGS! THE MUSICAL!! by David Barclay, Darren Barlow, Krista MacIsaac, Melissa Paraboo. Presented by Players Players at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 14 at 11 pm, July 15 at 4 pm, July 16 at noon. Rating: NN
the show delivers on the pro gram's promise of office politics, romance and butt-sniffing, but not much else. (I suppose you could add drinking from the toilet and having a fire hydrant onstage to whiz on as well.) Weak, off-key voices do little for the already poor lyrics in this cutesy look into the secret lives of dogs, and the script wrapped around the songs will delight only the most devout dog lover.
by Stewart Matthews. Presented by Screwed & Clued at St. Vladimir's. July 14 at 9:45 pm, July 16 at 2:30 pm. Rating: NNN a man (stewart matthews) awak ens from a dream to discover that he can see entire lives just by looking into people's eyes, throwing a real monkey wrench into his morning commute. On his way he meets someone special and must choose between a life of love and pain or a life in the shadow lands. Matthews uses his body to tell the story, tripping back and forth between his dream, his bus ride and his fateful meeting with clarity and ease.
TEACHING AS YOU LIKE IT
by Keir Cutler, directed by TJ Dawe. Presented by Doctor Keir Co. at the Glen Morris. July 13 at 10:45 pm, July 15 at noon. Rating: NNN
shakespearean dr. keir (keir cut ler ) is back again, relating the Bard to his personal life in the third instalment of his Teaching monologue series. Here, he's in hell: he's landed a substitute teaching gig in a high school, and his lecture on As You Like It devolves into a discussion of his feelings for the aptly named Rosalind, one of his brighter students. Cutler frequently pauses as if for laughs, slowing the pace to a walk when he could easily run, but you'll still leave wondering when to PVR Bravo to check out the other two shows, which are licensed to run on that channel. --
SWISS FAMILY GUY ROBINSON
by Brian Froud, Daniel Shehori and Steven Shehori, directed by Mark Chavez. Presented by Brainfraud Productions at the Royal St. George. July 13 at 4:15 pm, July 14 at 9:15 pm and July 15 at noon. Rating: NNNN
while the production may mainly appeal to Family Guy fans, Brian Froud 's manic energy and flawless celebrity impersonations make this show worth anyone's time. Using every character in the deranged TV cartoon, from baby Stewie to the killer monkey in Chris's closet, Froud's solo show playfully revises the classic story of a shipwrecked family. Froud, Daniel and Steven Shehori 's script is actually superior to most Family Guy episodes, lovingly riffing on the program's own attention deficit disorder. Froud is barely given time to breathe, but the show's rapid pace leaves the audience in fits of hysteria.
A sure-fire Fringe hit.
CREEPING LIKE SNAIL UNWILLINGLY
by Michael Whitehead, directed by Denise Norman. Presented by Undiscovered Country Theatre at St. Vladimir's. July 13 at 9:15 pm, July 15 at 1:45 pm, July 16 at 4:15 pm. Rating: NNN
dancer and cpr instructor Michael Whitehead teaches you all you need to know about CPR in his hour-long lecture/monologue. The title comes from Jaques's speech about the seven ages of man in Shakespeare's As You Like It: the second age is a schoolboy "creeping like snail / Unwillingly" off to school. Whitehead points out, and rightly, that many people are reluctant to learn first aid, but learning it gives you the skills to achieve something heroic. Although there's plenty of audience participation, you won't be certified to do first aid after seeing this show. But you won't forget Whitehead's lesson, nor his slapstick reminders about how to call for help.
Goofy good fun with an easy-going teacher who can throw in a little softshoe for emphasis.
You Talkin to Me?
written and directed by David C. Woodworth. Presented by Really Useless Theatre Company at St. Vladimir's. July 13 at 7:30 pm, July 14 at 12:30 pm, July 15 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NN a film critic who can only speak in film quotes is a cute premise, and there are some moments when the lines are particularly amusing. But when you combine that one-joke plot point with a melodramatic tale about the critic's pregnant sister and her loutish hubby, the story just becomes annoying and clichéd. The insulting rom-com finale might work if the author were going for an ironic homage, but I suspect it's just a lame ending to a weak play.
Two Doors Twice
by Lindsey Connell, directed by Kimberly Purtell. Presented by Sunday Night Blues at the Robert Gill. July 13 at 10:30 pm, July 15 at 3:30 pm, July 16 at noon. Rating: NNN
five standout actors are the rea son to watch this smartly written play about a writer from the present trying to uncover the truth behind a controversial sculpture of a woman soldier ( Sarah Evans , in a brilliantly understated performance). Made in another era, the sculpture has become immortalized as an ode to Private Reservist Lynndie England of Abu Ghraib infamy. If the bridge between the two times is hard to connect, at least the subtext in which we're asked to ponder the notion of guilt and innocence is effectively communicated. Powerful and provocative with a poignant conclusion, helped by Sam Kalilieh 's touching performance.
LET'S TALK ABOUT BEDS
by the company, directed by Dawn Nearing. Presented by Back Burner Productions at Theatre Passe Muraille. July 13 at 3:30 pm, July 15 at 7 pm, July 16 at 1 pm. Rating: NN
after a promising opening seg ment about facing lousy job prospects four years out of York U, a group of energetic writer/performers deliver an uneven sketch show centred around beds that will make you want to get under your own covers to escape it. A couple of scenes get laughs (I liked the nicely timed scatological one-upmanship bit), but there's too much bad sitcom-style writing and too little truth. Oh yeah: the Fringe show devoted to a single subject has become a cliché. Let's talk about originality, people.
PLAN LIVE FROM OUTER SPACE
by Ed Wood Jr., adapted and directed by Jim Gordon Taylor. Presented by Jolly Green Bean at the Fringe Club (292 Brunswick). July 13-15 at 8 pm. Rating: NN to make a stage version of ed wood Jr .'s notoriously bad sci-fi horror cult classic Plan 9 From Outer Space work, you've got to dig beneath the continuity errors and wooden acting to reveal something fresh. There are hints of that in Jim Gordon Taylor 's uneven adaptation, including a timely pro-U.S. theme and the suggestion of 1950s-style sexism and spousal abuse. But there are as many unfunny stretches that repeat the same joke or don't go anywhere. Despite some inventive bits of staging (flying saucer hats), Sean Fisher 's intentionally cheesy score and the so-bad-it's-good acting of Sandy Jobin-Bevans , Lisa Brooke (her hack actor rhythms are impeccable) and a couple of others, the show, like its doomed zombies, fails to stay alive. --
LIVING SHADOWS: A STORY OF MARY PICKFORD
written and performed by Tracey Power, directed by Brian Dooley. Presented by By the Clock at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 13 at 7 pm, July 16 at 4:30 pm. Rating: NNNN writer tracey power gives a lumi- nous performance as "America's Sweetheart," Toronto-born, golden-curled Mary Pickford, arguably the first film star, whose salary was bigger than the president's. To the tunes of a solo piano and accompanied by 20s film cards, the silent-film performer recalls her life when she's asked to star in, of all things, Sunset Boulevard. Playing numerous characters and putting her big, silent-movie eyes to good use, Power paints the picture of a woman whose fans don't allow her to leave behind her little-girl image. A rich, fascinating story that is well told, even if some of its elements are predictable.
written and performed by the company, directed by Jodie Miller. Presented by Laughing Dog on the Central Tech front steps (Bathurst and Harbord). July 13-15 at 7 pm. Rating: NNN a troupe of young people from the Six Nations Reserve takes audiences into their lives, offering an alternative to the media's reclamation-site stories. Theirs is an inside viewpoint, using satire (Canadian Heritage receives some knocks), comedy (directed at aboriginal and white stereotypes) and anger at broken government promises. It's not a polished show, but the commitment from the cast is absolutely heartfelt. And where else can you play bilingual (Mohawk/English) bingo?
THE TALE OF PIGLING BLAND
by Suzy Conn and Mitchell Kitz, directed by Marc Richard. Presented by M. Kitz at the Palmerston Library. July 13 at 5:30 pm, July 14 at 12:45 pm, July 15 at 4 pm. Rating: NNNN adapted from a beatrix potter tale, this bright and entertaining kids' musical follows the adventures of an innocent pig sent to market. Marc Richard 's sharp direction enlivens the production, as do the talents of a group of committed young performers, including Daniel Greenberg in the title role. You have to love a show that opens and closes with a chorus about stinky pigs, features a chorus line of cleaver-waving butchers and gives the three-piece orchestra porcine snouts.
written and directed by Ardyth Johnson. Presented by Physically Speaking at Palmerston Library. July 13 at 3:45 pm, July 15 at 12:30 pm, July 16 at 6:45 pm. Rating: NN there are a lot of theatrical pos sibilities in this clown-based show about a shoe-polishing military man who has daily tea with an agoraphobic woman who's sweet on him. But the strength of this show is the physical work of performers Lo Bil and Chris Sawchyn , as the script by director Ardyth Johnson - featuring a big, mysterious egg as the third "character" - is meandering, often unclear and ultimately fails to hold together. And why is this show in the KidsVenue?
written and directed by Mark Shyzer. Presented by Soak Your Head at Theatre Passe Muraille. July 14 at 9:45 pm, July 16 at 2:45 pm. Rating: NN
writer/director mark shyzer's program notes inform us that this show went from blank page to stage in a little over a week. It's too bad he and his cast didn't give themselves more time. There are glimpses of talent in his tale of three young roommates and their experiences with rejection in the audition room, the boardroom and the bedroom. Having one character act as a narrator occasionally pays off for instance in a scene where he interrupts a kiss to talk about how lame stage kisses usually are. Having another actor play a mock game show host falters. Often the actors read their lines as if they've just learned them, and the lights and sound design aren't very suggestive.
written and performed by Monika Schneider, directed by Schneider and Aviva Zimmerman. Presented by Monika Productions at the Factory Studio. July 13 at noon, July 15 at 10:30 pm. Rating: NNN monika schneider's play about a mentally challenged young man, his dying sister, her female lover and the siblings' bigoted patriarch is overly sentimental, but Schneider is a skilful, sensitive actor with a strong voice and a highly expressive body. Some sequences, like one featuring Nevil (performed with a mask that seems lifted from I, Claudia) peeking through the stage curtains playing hide-and-seek, are quite moving in their directness. But Schneider needs to learn how to hold back and give the audience more credit for picking up on subtleties.
THE FUNTASTICAL FRIENDSHIP OF MORRO AND JASP
written and directed by Byron Laviolette. Presented by Théétre du Refusé at the Palmerston Library. July 13 at 2:15 pm, July 14 at 5:45 pm, July 15 at 11 am. Rating: NNN heather marie annis and amy lee have engaging chemistry in this clown-centred children's show about two imaginative, red-nosed sisters who discover the importance of cooperation. The elder sister has to learn not to be too bossy, while the younger has to realize that her sister is more adept at certain things. Despite the actors' charm, the rambling script needs tightening and fewer episodes; the young audience's attention wanders too often.
written and directed by Aviva Zimmerman. Presented by Kicked in the Head at the Factory Studio. July 13 at 11 pm, July 14 at 3:45 pm, July 16 at 2:45 pm. Rating: NNN proving that the edgiest comedy says the unsayable, this tough-minded show sends up North America's obsession with pop culture and our apathy over international atrocities. The best sketches exploit the symbols of consumerist pap, including the infomercial and the game show. But here the infomercial is used to dispel children of their fairy-tale illusions, and the game show hilariously points out our smug indifference to global strife. Not everything works; the bookend structure, a fuck-you to the musical Beauty And The Beast's naveté, could be tightened. But the energetic young troupe many of them current or recent Ryerson theatre students isn't afraid of speaking up and out. Plus they're donating proceeds from their show to two worthy charities.
The Master and Margarita
by Mikhail Bulgakov, directed by Michael Wheeler. Presented by Serafina Theatre at the George Ignatieff. July 14 at 4 pm, July 16 at 8:30 pm. Rating: NNN
this russian classic has been cre atively adapted by Praxis Theatre , but the odd hybrid of Bible tale, love story and black magic is definitely not for everyone. When James Murray 's devilish Professor Voland enters the scene, aided by scene-stealer Leah Wahl , the play finds its momentum, only to stall whenever it focuses on the bizarre ramblings of institutionalized poet Ivan.
Still, thanks to a terrific cast and moments of unexpected dark humour, it's hard not to fall under The Master's bizarre spell. --
WELCOME TO EDEN, POPULATION: 2
by Allison McWood and Mark Selby, directed by Geoffrey Whynot. Presented by Genesis at Tarragon Mainspace. July 13 at noon, July 14 at 8:45 pm, July 16 at 5:15 pm. Rating: NNNN this musical take on adam and Eve is sharper in its songs (music by Mark Selby , lyrics by Allison McWood ) than its book (McWood), which often goes for obvious laughs. But under director Geoffrey Whynot , the performers, especially Mark Allan and Julie Martell as the first couple, offer some winning work. Robert Laughton 's Lucifer has a comic edge but could be nastier. This is a piece that doesn't aim to make you think but rather to entertain - and it does.
by Alex Dallas. Presented by PKF Productions at the George Ignatieff. July 13 at 9:15 pm, July 15 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNN fringe vet alex dallas puts her true-life stories of sex, death and Ian McKellan to good use in this engaging one-hour monologue. Dallas starts off by rhapsodizing about oral sex and alcohol, immediately setting the playfully ribald tone for most of the performance. Parts that risk coming off as mawkish, like discussions of 9/11 or her father's death, always manage to feel authentic and well observed. However, the show is hampered by the up-and-down pacing and an overreliance on cheap puns.
LOVE SONGS FROM UNLIKELY PLACES
by David Egan, directed by Charles Roy. Presented by Royganschaft Productions at the Helen Gardiner Phalen. July 14 at 5:15 pm, July 16 at 7 pm. Rating: NN
a cadaver declares his love for the medical student who has just removed his heart, and what follows is more metaphor than meaning. David Egan won the Fringe's Best New Play contest with this work, but Charles Roy 's heavy-handed direction drags every idea down with the most obvious, banal staging. The promising young cast wander through the script like ghosts, bumping into one hackneyed play on words after another but never connecting with a line or feeling that demands a more engaged performance.
LIVING WITH RICK
written and directed by Jeremy Taylor. Presented by Two-Wheeler at the Royal St. George. July 13 at 12:15 pm, July 15 at 11 pm. Rating: NNN writer/director jeremy taylor's Godot-like story, with one member of the pair of characters less vocal than the other, is cleverly and intimately staged to avoid the strictures of the venue, which is in its other life a school cafetorium. The show features a fine performance by Andy Trithardt as an obsessive philosopher who relies on alphabetical lists to get him through the day, and striking lighting by Tanner Harvey . The story's final hook, though, isn't as much of a surprise as it might be.
THE UNFORTUNATE MISADVENTURES OF MASHA GALINSKI
written and performed by Erin Shields, directed by Andrea Donaldson. Presented by Groundwater at the Factory Studio. July 14 at 11:15 pm, July 15 at 1:45 pm. Rating: NNNN
here's a wonderful discovery. in spired by Angela Carter 's feminist fairy tales, writer/performer Erin Shields has written an interconnected quartet of her own that riffs on, among others, Beauty And The Beast and the Dracula story. Shields delivers her poetic, vivid prose with a captivating voice and strong physicality. (A standout is her wind-up maid.) Director Andrea Donaldson stages the scenes so expertly that you'll swear the bare stage contains a forest, a barroom or a castle. The tales themselves, tinged with eroticism, conclude in a poignant little moment that's sad but true.
written and directed by Isaac Cravit. Presented by Call Back Productions at the Factory Mainspace. July 13 at 4 pm, July 14 at 7:30 pm, July 16 at noon. Rating: NNN
there's some sly wit and simmering tension in Isaac Cravit 's psychological thriller about a college-age woman with a daddy complex and the older man she brings home from her college bar. The unremarkable production on the huge Factory Mainspace stage fails to do the script justice, and the two performers are unevenly matched. As the troubled university student, Caitlin Mulqueen gives her line readings a nasty, suggestive twist, but Josh Holliday doesn't get beneath his businessman's shlubby surface to hint at other depths.
Still, recent Concordia grad Cravit has talent. His plot might be slightly contrived, but his dialogue crackles with menace.
written and performed by Alison Williams, directed by Vicki Williams. Presented by Under the Bed at Tarragon Extra Space. July 14 at 11:30 pm, July 15 at noon, July 16 at 9 pm. Rating: NNN writer/performer alison williams combines a 1930s sideshow tale with classical and newly created myth in this inventive solo show. A look at the nature of perfection, pleasure and reality, the show plays with narrative voice in its blend of stories within stories. The script could use polishing - some characters need development and the narrative lines could be clarified - but Williams has populated her world with intriguing beings.
SO CLOSE TO MY SKIN
by Marie-Thé Morin and Pier Rodier, adapted by Pierre Simpson, directed by Mathieu Charette. Presented by CP at Tarragon Extra Space. July 13 at 3:30 pm, July 14 at 6:15 pm. Rating: NN pierre simpson's version of a show about a troubled man seeking the woman of his dreams offers an experimental combination of text and song. There are some nice moments of juxtaposition, especially when the central character finds it difficult to sort out what's real and what's imagined in his world. As a performer, Simpson throws himself into the work wholeheartedly, but its emotions fail to touch the audience.
GOT IT GOOD
by Anne Marie Scheffler, directed by Michael McGinn. Presented by Theatre-a-Go-Go at the Helen Gardiner Phalen. July 14 at 1:45 pm, July 15 at 9:15 pm. Rating: NNN anne marie scheffler's solo show about her pregnancy takes a common chick-lit theme - downtown gal's adventures in babyland - and makes it uncommonly funny. Her style is warm but with an edge, and her stories have a sly undertone. Scheffler is absolutely at ease with herself and her audience, ad libbing through her scene transitions with a deceptively sweet grin. This is worth seeing for its clever skewering of the Sex And The City world alone.
ART IS A CUPBOARD
by Melissa Major, directed by Geoffrey Pounsett. Presented by the Sweat Company at the Factory Mainspace. July 14 at noon, July 16 at 7 pm. Rating: NN
melissa major's look at the plight of several real-life avant-garde artists trying to work and survive in 1920s Russia lacks dramatic shape, so a half-dozen strong performances and some intriguing ideas about art and politics just don't pay off. Geoffrey Pounsett 's direction of the huge cast (including a nicely used deadpan band/chorus) is sharp, bringing individual scenes to life, especially in the second half. But Major's script meanders, failing to find the heart of the tragic situation or of her tragicomic characters.
LIFE: THE EVOLUTION OF MAN (ABRIDGED)
by Elan Farbiarz. Presented by Wolf Productions at the Glen Morris. July 13 at 5:30 pm, July 15 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNN thirty seconds into this you think you're going to see a man's life from birth to death told entirely through music and motion, channelling the same irreverent exuberance as the company's The Bible (Abridged) show. Elan Farbiarz has that show in him. He's at his best when he's milking a great line or diving into physical comedy. Instead, Life turns into an okay tour-by-monologue through one man's experience, focusing on a crisis in his mid-20s that leaves the audience lukewarm. Farbiarz makes it work, but there's a more interesting play hiding in this material. I hope I get to see him do it.
Requiem Pour Une Ame Seule
written and performed by Isabel Barbat. Presented by Barbat at the Robert Gill. July 14 at 11 pm, July 16 at 5:15 pm. Rating: NN it's easy to admire isabelle barbat's grace and flexibility, and her singing is powerful. However, her movements, fluid as they are, are less dance than contortions or extreme yoga. Barbat's focus is impressive, but the strangeness of her moves - at one point she runs in place, panting and groaning loudly - is made more so by the disturbingly creepy "musical" accompaniment of banging drumbeats and assorted weird noises. Barbat has talent, but this piece feels forced.
EVIL IS THE NEW GOOD
by Nile Seguin. Presented by Third Man at the Glen Morris. July 13 at 12:15 pm, July 15 at 7 pm. Rating: NN
though affable stand-up comic Nile Seguin promises his routine won't resort to airline and pet jokes, he pulls them out barely 10 minutes in. A few gems are hidden in the act, including a bizarrely amusing anecdote about getting tested for syphilis. While Seguin's delivery is engaging, his mostly tired material doesn't warrant the show's plodding, hour-long running time.
directed by Alison McElwain and Christopher Stanton. Presented by Unspun Theatre at the Robert Gill. July 13 at 5:15 pm, July 14 at 9:15 pm, July 15 at noon. Rating: NNN
wildly inventive and clever, if too affected in parts, this CSI-like study of a relationship features star turns by its two leads, particularly the haunting James Cade . Structured as if the audience were part of one big class lecture, audiovisual aids and course syllabus included, Minotaur follows a professor and his two teaching assistants as they attempt to piece together the mystery of Nora and Kieran on the basis of various found items in a house basement. It's when the research becomes less clinical and more personal that this play-within-a-play-within-a-play truly finds its strength despite its somewhat silly ending.
adapted by Kevin Tighe from Edgar Allan Poe. Presented by Poe-Lemic at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 14 at 3:30 pm, July 15 at 8 pm. Rating: NN
kevin tighe's version of poe's rhythmic, atmospheric poem gets most of its bite from sound and visual effects rather than Tighe's performance. He's added one nice dramatic point about "the lost Lenore," but often the taped voice is hard to understand and the soundscape muffles the live voice. Too bad tension doesn't build over the course of the production. --
THE EVELYN REESE SHOW
by Susan Fischer. Presented by Miss Reese Productions at the Glen Morris. July 14 at 9 pm, July 15 at 1:45 pm. Rating: NNNN evelyn reese (susan fischer) is what results when Liza Minnelli, Joan Collins and Mary Tyler Moore have a baby and wean it on rye and ginger. She's the gal who's made it after all, and she'll tell you about her journey through her ex-husbands, "poofter" friends and trips to Vegas. Fischer showing off great gams and sporting a ratty mink, smeared lipstick and hiked-up short-shorts with an open fly delights, down to every gawdawful detail. To quote the lady herself, you can't buy this at Curves.
THE BURNING BUSH
written and performed by Tracey Erin Smith, directed by Rebecca Northan. Presented by Soul-O-Productions at Royal St. George's College Music Hall. July 13-15 at 8 pm, July 16 at 4 pm. Rating: NNN tracey erin smith's tale of a rabbi who discovers her true calling in striptease thanks to the intercession of Borscht Belt comic Jackie Mason - he's her guardian punner as well as her guardian angel - doesn't really get going until 20 minutes in. The red-haired Christie, our greeter, is brassy and not very funny. But when Smith morphs into Barbara Baumowitz, the too-serious rabbinical student, the blend of pole-dancing, pulpit-preaching and Madonna lyrics brings together some clever truths in an entertaining fashion. Who knew you could find God at amateur night in the Tit-for-Tat Strip Club? --
by Brendan Gall, Erin Shields, Alan Dilworth, Jason Mitchell, Julie Tepperman, Marie Beath Badian and Rick Roberts, directed by Aaron Willis and Rebecca Benson. Presented by convergence theatre collective at the Royal St. George's parking lot (120 Howland). July 13-16 at 8 pm. Rating: NNNNN in the framework of a car dealer ship pitch, the audience takes a walkabout tour and watches seven short plays by different authors, all focused (literally) on cars and their passengers. The tongue-in-cheek pitch is about lifestyle, and we see and hear all sorts of stories, with finely tuned direction by Rebecca Benson and Aaron Willis and choreography by Allison Cummings . There's a surprise around every turn in this unique theatrical experience, splendidly staged, filled with laughs and a few thoughtful, upsetting moments. One of the most adventurous shows in this year's Fringe.
adapted by C.S. Legacy, Tommy Taylor and Jordan Hall, directed by Taylor. Presented by Slightly Skewed and Forward Theatre at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 13 at 5:15 pm, July 15 at 11 pm. Rating: NNN based on alfred hitchcock's film, this adaptation finds survivors of a terrorist bombing adrift in a lifeboat where corruption reigns even though peace and co-operation would be the surest route to survival. The cast nails a conversational, intimate tone, bringing the dire situation closer to home, though sometimes they're difficult to hear. As an American reporter and an Arab nurse respectively, Jamie Mason and Mimi Nahri sometimes whine their lines, lacking the intensity of Peter Nelson 's puppet master, food rationer Richard Doyle and Brad Long 's likeable, doomed Andy. Nelson's final gestures will turn your stomach, though the discussion preceding it about corporate power in the Middle East and the liberal media is overwritten.
written and performed by Matthew Payne, directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones. Presented by SKAM at the Royal St. George's parking lot (120 Howland). July 13-16 at 7 and 10 pm. Rating: NNNN matthew payne pushes the theat rical envelope in his solo show set in a dark semi-trailer, where the audience sits around the sides of the box. At its centre is a young man, hired to count growths in petri dishes, whose work quickly becomes his life. Playing all the characters - cleverly defined by lights and designed by JP Robichaud , whose set is a marvel - Payne delivers a tale of mystery, suspense and comedy, a kind of claustrophobic X-Files with witty voices and visuals. The result is a striking piece about experimentation, intended for those who themselves like to test out new sorts of theatre.
THE STONE PRINCESS
by Zoe Henderson, directed by Mario D'Alimonte. Presented by Solar Stage at Palmerston Library. July 14 at 7:15 pm, July 15 at 2:15 pm, July 16 at 5 pm. Rating: NN only one of two twin-sister prin cesses can be queen in this simplistic, paint-by-numbers fairy tale musical by Zoe Henderson . Too bad the author and director Mario D'Alimonte cheats the young audience of theatrical magic: much of the good stuff happens offstage. Most of the characters are two dimensional, but Marlene Matos-Jones gives nice comedy to the elder sib, a happy, accordion-playing woman unaware of her wicked sister's jealousy. --
by Chris Gibbs. Presented by Gibbs at Glen Morris. July 13 at 9 pm, July 14 at 2 pm. Rating: NNNNN clueless good guy barnaby gibbs eagerly recounts his adventures with Antoine Feval , an incomparable detective who is more than he seems. Actor Chris Gibbs wins the audience by effortlessly riffing on everything from the lack of air conditioning at the Glen Morris to an audience member's dropped purse, all while telling a story worthy of a funnier Arthur Conan Doyle, full of twists, turns and gadzooks moments. He makes it look so easy and enjoyable that all the kids will be clamouring for a look at the boxes of papers from Gibbs's attic that inspired this play, if those papers exist at all. Hopefully, Gibbs will be back with more adventures of Antoine and Barnaby in future Fringes. --
by Compagnie Houppz. Presented by Compagnie Houppz! at the Robert Gill. July 13 at noon, July 14 at 7:30 pm, July 15 at 1:45 pm. Rating: NNNN
a trio of paris-based clowns makes creative use of water, sound effects and acrobatics in this light, playful production. Each performer brings a unique skill to the stage, from imitating a hapless fish to gargling classical music. The original sketches move quickly, building momentum until the entertaining, well-choreographed finale. The charming, mainly silent performers create a standout comedic experience.
adapted by Peter Cockett. Presented by Strutting Shadows Productions at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 13 at 3:30 pm, July 14 at 7:30 pm, July 15 at 12:30 pm. Rating: NNN this eerie adaptation of the scot tish play finds the witches haunting the sterile designer kitchen of the upwardly mobile Macbeths. The overused witches have a slim range of vocal expression - their presence as a Greek chorus demands more ugly whispers and fewer moans. The stage often feels too crowded with blank-faced, writhing young women, distracting from the execution of Macbeth as a domestic drama. However, leonine Florence MacGregor mesmerizes as Lady Macbeth, spritzing the damn spot with Fantastik like a deranged Martha Stewart.
STRIPES: THE MYSTERY CIRCUS
by Sarah Hayward. Presented by Mystery Circus at the Robert Gill. July 13 at 7 pm, July 14 at noon. Rating: NN this one-woman cabaret about an actor auditioning for a circus starts off strong, only to meander from one hollow scene to the next. Performer Sarah Hayward seems passionate about her material, but it becomes difficult to smile along when she introduces clichéd sketches about drug-addicted prostitutes and how lonely they must be. Hayward has a strong singing voice that's unfortunately attached to ill-conceived songs about "following your dreams," which long outstay their welcome.
RICHARD 3, QUEENS 4: THE DEADLY GAME
adapted from Shakespeare's Richard III and directed by Jennifer Parr. Presented by the Vagabond Knight Company and the Richard III Project at the George Ignatieff. July 13 at 1:45 pm, July 14 at 9:45 pm, July 16 at 1 pm. Rating: NN director/writer jennifer parr strips Shakespeare's Richard III of all but the scenes involving women, turning the production into a fascinating mess. The actors all do fine jobs bemoaning the evils of politics, especially Franoise Balthazar as the maniacal Richard. The costumes and lighting are ambitious for a small production, but the staging is sloppy and the musical cues jarring. The hour-long experiment also doesn't benefit from having half the script missing, leaving the production feeling unsatisfying and pointless. --
written and directed by Arlen Konopaki and Kevin Gillese. Presented by Rapid Fire at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 13 at 1:45 pm, July 14 at noon, July 15 at 7:30 pm. Rating: NNNN armed with audience suggestions, block-rocking top-40 beats and improvised light and sound, Scratch gets right at that hard-to-reach place where the funny is. The show I saw had tree demons, a male nurse, clear-cutters and a whole lot of swirly flashbacks and mood lighting, and in The Final Countdown the actors promise that although they're brilliant improvisers, characters will reappear throughout the run. By the way, if you see the tree demons, enjoy the "stance of anger."
JANE MOFFAT'S GINK
written and performed by Moffat, directed by Jane Miller. Presented by Femme Fatale at the Factory Studio. July 14 at 12:15 pm, July 15 at 8:45 pm, July 16 at 1 pm. Rating: NN jane moffat's autobiographical look at her aspiring-starlet, teenage self living in L.A. in the 1970s suffers from a lack of focus and poor direction. Everything's here for an intriguing look at La-La Land excess, including portraits of grotesque has-beens/ never-weres, a cute recurring joke about the lesbian subtext in the film Rebecca and the writer/performer's own confused sexual orientation. (She was a closeted lesbian yet bedded her female mentor's crude husband.) The show is disorienting. We're never properly introduced to a pivotal character named Joan, the significance of a symbolic lamp is glossed over, and we never learn how and why Moffat ended up in California to begin with.
The end result is a mishmash of impressions and movie trivia.
SWEET JANE & FREE, HAS A WEAPON
by Gregor Robinson, directed by Colleen Williams and Alex Fallis. Presented by Plain Language Theatre at St. Vladimir's. July 13 at noon, July 14 at 4 pm, July 15 at 8:45 pm. Rating: NNN the maudlin material in this set of monologues would be difficult to watch if delivered by unskilled performers. Thankfully, directors/actors Colleen Williams and Alex Fallis expertly dance around the script's extreme darkness and bring their depressed characters to life. In the narrative sense, the production's two acts are unrelated. But the oft-played theme of middle-aged regret is hammered home in both. Fallis gives his jilted lover character just the right mix of pretentiousness and sympathy, while Williams shines as a suburban housewife with a dark streak.
A MIRROR UP TO NATURE
by Rodger Barton, directed by Keith Knight. Presented by Shakespeare Vacuumed at St. Vladimir's. July 13 at 3:30 pm, July 14 at 11:30 pm, Jul 16 at 12:45 pm. Rating: NNN
rodger barton captures all the blood, guts and stink of Shakespeare's London, peppering this lecture/ monologue with excerpts that illustrate the influence of history on the Bard's speeches. This piece feels like a blueprint for a larger production incorporating more actors and speeches for Barton to work around. As it stands he seems slightly apologetic, as if he expects the audience to think that Shakespeare is wordy and inaccessible and that he's here to explain and excuse. This gives the piece a defensive tone that could turn some people off.
IT WAS KIT: THE TRUE STORY OF CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE
by Allison McWood, directed by Regan Macaulay. Presented by Triple Take at Tarragon Mainspace. July 13 at 4 pm, July 14 at 7 pm, July 16 at 1:45 pm. Rating: NNN allison mcwood's look at the life (and death) of Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe is sometimes entertaining, sometimes silly, with broad characterizations and a touch of the Three Stooges. The show's a crowd-pleasing, contemporary-toned farce, but its humour is more in the zesty delivery than the writing. Chris Coculuzzi , who moves easily from comic to serious, makes a fine Marlowe, and he's well supported by such comic actors as Stephen Flett , Kelsey Matheson , Scott Moore and Jeff White .
by Aden Ross, directed by Jerry Rapier. Presented by Plan-B at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 14 at 4 pm, July 15 at 10:30 pm. Rating: NNN
aden ross's play, with overtones of Sartre's No Exit, examines three incarcerated strangers forced to sort out their differences and recognize their similarities. The piece, with its sometimes dark humour, also questions the meaning of being an American. (There are parallels to our Canadian experience.) After a strong set-up, the script's tautness unravels toward the end of the show, but director Jerry Rapier gets a solid performance from a cast that includes Kirt Bateman , Teri Cowan and Christy Summerhays .
written and directed by Leah Bowen and Darcy Bruce. Presented by the Ice Box at the Glen Morris. July 13 at 3:45 pm, July 14 at 7:15 pm. Rating: NN separate storylines involving a pair of evangelists, a blustering detective and his long-suffering partner and a creepy elderly couple come together in the last 10 minutes of this show. The other 35 minutes feel like Fargo gone horribly wrong, with hammy performances and a script that barely hangs together. Reading the program and poster copy, which includes accolades from other festivals, I wonder what happened to the quirky black comedy that got lost in this dreadfully dull show.
by William Shakespeare, Costa Kamateros and Kenny Downey, directed by Kamateros. Presented by Theatre Fisticuffs at Theatre Passe Muraille. July 13 at 5:15 pm, July 14 at 8 pm, July 15 at noon. Rating: NN swordplay and other forms of fighting can provide an exciting climax to a play (think of the great scene from Hamlet). But watching five fight scenes from Shakespeare feels bizarre. Why do it? To illustrate different rapier techniques? To prove that skirmishes occur in comedy and tragedy? To comment on the current war? What this brief (30 minutes, not, as the program states, 45) show could use is a better structure. Director Costa Kamateros relies on awkward scene intros for context and cheesy music for mood.
That said, some of the brawls are nicely choreographed (if a little unspontaneous), and among the four young actors, Ashleigh Hendry best suggests individual characters even when she's wielding a pole or sword.
written and directed by Devon Haughton. Presented by People's Performing Arts Centre and Two Friends at the Al Green (750 Spadina). July 13-15 at 8:30 pm, July 16 at 7 pm. Rating: NN set in a toronto caribbean restau- rant, writer/director Devon Haughton 's comedy/drama spins out half a dozen story lines and fails to resolve several of them. In an overlong production with song and dance, the script raises political issues that it doesn't always handle theatrically. The audience enjoys the comedy, especially that of p! Barrington as the resto's owner, a West African professional unable to find work in Canada. But other than Sharon Campbell as his commanding wife, much of the acting is unconvincing.