SHAKESPEARE'S COMIC OLYMPICS by William Shakespeare and the company, directed by Chris Coculuzzi. Presented by Upstart Crow and the Fringe at Trinity College field. June 30-July 11. Rating: NNNN
how do you follow up on a hilar ious series of gladiator games and a yuk-filled World Cup match? With the biggest sports event of all, the Olympics. So Upstart Crow , which has given us so much fun by transplanting Shakespeare's plays onto rough-and-tumble outdoor sports events, grabbed the 17 comedies and romances (the late plays that start tragically but have happy endings) and grafted them onto not-so-serious Olympics events.
Got lots of characters masquerading as the opposite sex? Have them compete in Cross Dressage, a transvestite beauty contest.
What about a ton of clowns? Have them all enter a decathlon where the one left standing wins. End the show with a marital marathon, in which many couples compete for the Olympic gold ring.
Director Chris Coculuzzi - who also plays Shakespeare, the ref - and his well-toned performers milk every bad pun and joke they can in the midst of snippets from the plays. Some of it's very funny as well as very fast, with references to The Lord Of The Rings and its good and bad wizards, a mascot called Calibear, the WWF and a blurring of Shakespeare's contemporary Ben Jonson with drug-guilty athlete Ben Johnson.
And speaking of Jonson the writer, there are no faster mouths on the field than commentators Rob McKee as that scribbler and Stephen Flett as Jack Falstaff, Shakespeare's best-known buffoon. This year Flett and McKee penned their own lines (they ad libbed most of them in previous years) and nearly run away with the show.
Didn't catch the troupe this year? You still have one more chance. There's talk that next Fringe the company will stage the NHL (National Historical League), using a few as-yet-untouched plays. Upstart Crow in its inspired fashion will then have diddled with all of Shakespeare.
And I promise - you will like it.
kentucky waterfall by Jason Neufeld, with Neufeld and Alix Sobler. Presented by Brand Neu Works and the Fringe at the Factory Studio. July 1-10. Rating: NNNN
one of the more charming new scripts at this year's Fringe, Jason Neufeld 's play about the unlikely love affair between a jaded, emotionally distant big-city photography student named Janice ( Alix Sobler ) and a mullet-sporting Canadian Tire employee from the country named Clyde (Neufeld) succeeds because of the gentle honesty of the script and the onstage chemistry of the acting duo, real-life partners. There's lots of clever commentary in the clash between Janice, who hates everything or likes distasteful things (karaoke, bad pop songs, mullets), only in an ironic, detached way, and the more open-hearted Clyde. As Janice, a hipper-than-hip Henry Higgins, gradually changes Clyde, he's left even lonelier than he was before.
While the show could use stronger direction, the cheesy between-scenes ballads (and interpretative dance duets, performed straight-faced by the couple) offer a nice counterpoint to what's happening onstage.
Magnet a draw
THE REALLY REAL ADVENTURES OF SCOTT FREE AND WILL DO by Lesley Halferty and Kate Keenan, directed by Rebecca Benson, with C. J. Schneider, Keith Barker, Halferty and Keenan. Presented by Shrimp Magnet and the Fringe at KidsVenue. July 2-10. Rating: NNNN
for some misguided companies , theatre for young audiences is about how hectic the actors can get, running around and yelling their lines frantically. That kind of show, rooted in Saturday morning TV cartoons, turns theatre into a lazy form of babysitting. One group that knows how to get the attention of children and their parents intelligently is Shrimp Magnet Theatre , which has performed occasionally in the Fringe and during the summer on Centre Island. This year their Fringe show was The Really Real Adventures Of Scott Free And Will Do , featuring C. J. Schneider and Keith Barker as two friends whose mothers both believe their son's friend is imaginary.
Written by co-founders Kate Keenan and Lesley Halferty , who also play the parents, the show has clever games of fantasy, enough quips to engage grown-ups and episodes of fast action that have a purpose. A combination of song, dance, high energy and fun, Really Real was one of the best shows at the Kidsvenue; in fact, the artists poured more thought and theatricality into it than you'd find in some Fringe shows for adults.
And if you missed it, you and your kids can catch the company on Centre Island through the Labour Day weekend, where they're presenting a former Fringe hit, The Emperor's New Clothes .
Full Fringe Coverage at http://www.nowtoronto.com/fringe/