BORDERLINE by Robert Fothergill, directed by Mark Cassidy. Presented by DMT Productions. Aug 12 at 8 pm, Aug 14 at 11 pm, Aug 15 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNN
Robert Fothergill's look at cana- dians trying to comprehend the complexities of the situation in mid-1990s Rwanda feels manipulative, at times resembling a debate rather than a piece of theatre. But there are some absorbing moments, heightened by Mark Cassidy 's careful direction, and in an uneven cast (one actor seems to have received the script a few days before the performance), Niki Landau is strong as a relief worker caught between love and duty.
A GIRL NAMED GRACELAND written and directed by Livia Berius. Presented by Pink Jellybean. Aug 13 at 5 pm, Aug 14 at 3:30 pm, Aug 15 at 8 pm. Rating: NNN
Here's a genuine discovery. Krista Colosimo , Morgan Norwich and Keri-lee Smith play dozens of roles in this insightful, moving look at three generations of women in a family. Livia Berius 's script needs some work. At times it's unclear who's who, in what era. (Sharper period details would help orient us.) But there's lots of imagination at play in the performances and the staging. I'm sure I'll be seeing work by all four women - most of them theatre students or recent grads - soon.
GUANTANAMERA by T. Berto, directed by Sam Hancock. Presented by Pencil Neck. Aug 14 at 6:30 pm, Aug 15 at 5 pm. Rating: N
T. Berto's script about two prisoners in Guantanamo Bay tries really hard to be existential and absurd but instead comes off as a banal writing exercise: "Use dialogue to describe something that no one mentions." Watching it is itself a form of imprisonment.
PLUM AND OTHER COLOURS by Susan Bertoia, directed by Mercedes Baines. Presented by BellaLuna. Aug 12 at 9:30 pm, Aug 13 at 6:30 pm. Rating: NN
Vancouver writer/performer Susan Bertoia has a larger-than-life stage presence, but her script - supposedly inspired by various colours - lacks focus. For every vignette that works (a recitation of a woman's daily chores, an old Italian woman's guilt-inducing lecture), others grow tiresome or feel pointless.
PLUMBING by Chad Barclay, directed by Rebecca Benson. Presented by Clear Light. Aug 13 at 11 pm, Aug 14 at 9:30 pm. Rating: NNN
Chad Barclay's sex comedy about a controlling woman who tries to understand her pornographic fantasy about anonymous sex with a plumber needs a tightening with a dramaturgical wrench. Barclay doesn't examine the woman's psychology and fails to deliver original ideas about love, lust or fantasy. The piece, however, is amusing and entertaining, especially with musician Jason O'Brien 's funky electric bass line heightening key moments.
THE POSSIBILITIES by Howard Barker, directed by Andrea Donaldson. Presented by seventeenth floor. Aug 14 at 12:30 pm, Aug 15 at 6:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
In the possibilities, british play-wright Howard Barker strips life down to its simplest, most brutal elements, and director Andrea Donaldson offers a smart, suggestive staging of three scenes from the play. She and a talented trio of performers balance the tone and tension of the difficult piece nicely. They're helped by the production's design - also by Donaldson - which links the scenes efficiently and effectively. Keep your eye on her.
TELL TALE adapted by Dian Marie Bridge, Djennie Laguerre and Karim Morgan, and
FISH EYES written and performed by Anita Majumdar, directed by Gregory Prest. Presented by Cric Crac Collective and Pull'it Out. Aug 12 at 11 pm, Aug 14 at 8 pm, Aug 15 at 2 pm. Rating: NNN
This spirited double bill gets off to a terrific start with Tell Tale , a trio of traditional oral stories from Haiti and Jamaica, adapted and delivered with a contemporary edge and lots of energy and laughs by three relative newcomers, Dian Marie Bridge , Djennie Laguerre and Karim Morgan . There's a great sense of physical play and clear storytelling, although the work's setting - a subway car during last summer's blackout - is a bit of a McGuffin. Less successful is Fish Eyes , Anita Majumdar 's often amusing but just-as-often confusing look at an East Indian high schooler caught between two cultures. The material has potential (why isn't the title explored more?), and Majumdar has charisma and is a fine Indian dancer - her choreographic send-ups are amusing - but she relies too much on stand-up comedy mannerisms and takes on a broad accent that's grating.
THICK by Rick Bland, directed by Mark Bruce. Presented by Blandino. Aug 12 and 14 at 5 pm, Aug 15 at 12:30 pm. Rating: NN
Writer rick Bland's play about Rudolph, a mentally challenged (hence the title) man, and his dysfunctional family shows some sophistication in its use of time. But Rudolph's faux stupidity - or naïveté - grows tiresome, and the conclusion sinks into sloppy sentimentality. Tamara Bick shows some sass as Rudolph's rebellious sister, but otherwise the production is trite and predictable.
THE WIDOWER conceived and directed by Michelle Ouellet, created by the company, based on a story by Arthur Schnitzler. Presented by Ante-M Theatre. Aug 12 at 6:30 pm, Aug 13 at 9:30 pm. Rating: NN
This brief adaptation of an Arthur (La Ronde) Schnitzler story about a young man who discovers his recently deceased wife was unfaithful feels more like a student exercise than a full production. Under Michelle Ouellet 's direction, multimedia elements like video footage and sound effects sometimes work but are just as often heavy-handed. That said, the strong ensemble of young actors perform gamely enough.
UNTITLED by Ryan McVittie, directed by Kimberly Purtell. Presented by Straw Dogs. Aug 13 at 8 pm, Aug 14 at 2 pm, Aug 15 at 9:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
Ryan Mcvittie's script about a surly playwright's relationship with his bright-and-shining younger brother initially seems too clever and self-referential for its own good, but a lot is resolved in the work's poignant final moments, carefully helmed by director Kimberly Purtell . As a writer and actor, McVittie's best at sardonic humour, but he also shows a lot of insight into sibling rivalry, the nature of heroism and art. Fine performances all around, with McVittie and Jeanie Calleja creating characters who are complete opposites of those they created a month ago for Pond Life at the Fringe.