The Fringe: Toronto's International Theatre Festival featuring local, national and international companies. Runs to July 11. $8 or less, $2 surcharge on advance tickets, discount passes. Advance tickets sold up to three hours before showtime by phone or at the Fringe Club (296 Brunswick); at least 50 per cent of tickets for each performance on sale one hour before showtime at the venue. No latecomers. 416-966-1062, advance 416-260-5294. See complete Fringe listings, page 75. See page 70 for map. www.fringetoronto.com
St. Vladimir's - 620 Spadina
Robert Gill - 214 College, 3rd floor
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
Palmerston Library - 560 Palmerston
and various bring-your-own venues.
Check out NOW'S daily Fringe updates at www.nowtoronto.com/fringe
INANNA written and directed by Claire Calnan. Presented by Donikers Daily at Royal St. George's Quadrangle (120 Howland). July 8-11 at 7 pm. Rating: NNNN
With good writing and clever staging, Claire Calnan's created theatrical magic in this adaptation of the Sumerian myth about Inanna, goddess of heaven and earth. Jenny Young gives the mercurial deity both dramatic power and human emotions, while the strong company - which includes the awesome Pasha Mckenleyas Inanna's sister, ruler of the underworld, and Sean Baek, Yurij Kis and Gray Powellas the men in her life - exult in the show's music, comedy and sexuality.
Dinner party hell
POND LIFE written and directed by Gordon Rand. Presented by Bloodreign at the Poor Alex. July 9 at 11:30 pm, July 11 at noon. Rating: NNNN
Two couples at a dinner party , high-school friends, tear into social conventions and each other in Gordon Rand's funny, nasty, often farcical script. The expert quartet of actors - Ryan Blakely, Jeanie Calleja, Kerry McPherson and Ryan McVittie - throw off the one-liners ("Honesty is the new lying") with skill, shifting moods with ease and convincing us that we never want to be at a social event with these people. And that's a compliment. The writing flags toward the end, but the energy doesn't.
THE RAP CANTERBURY TALES written and performed by Baba Brinkman. Presented by Babasword Productions at St. Vladimir's. July 8 at noon, July 9 at 3:30 pm, July 10 at 9 pm. Rating: NNN
Baba brinkman has a great time with rhymes and demonstrates major oratory skillz in his energetic, respectful and consistently clever rap adaptation of four of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. But compared to those recent Fringe hiphop Jobs, Brinkman lacks charisma, and the show's production - especially the strange lighting and the anti-climactic finale - needs work.
UBU THE KINGby Alfred Jarry, directed by Julie Florio. Presented by Rhino at the Victory Café (581 Markham). July 8-11 at 9 pm. Rating: NN
Jarry's 1896 ubu is one of the first absurdist plays, remembered for the "merde" thrown out by the title character as the opening line. Jarry draws a lot on Macbeth and Hamlet in this tale of a cowardly braggart who, pushed by his wife, seizes the throne and lives to regret it. But this production - from a group that's done better work - is a disappointment, with ill-used clown elements, fudged lines and amateurish style and pacing.
OUCH MY TOE written and performed by Jonathan Crombie and Lisa Lambert. Presented by Owl Day at KidsVenue. July 9 at 2 pm, July 10 at 12:30 pm, July 11 at 6 pm. Rating: NNNN
Who hasn't stubbed a toe? Ingratiating writer/performers Jonathan Crombie and Lisa Lambert put a comic poultice on the pain with a trio of musical tales for family audiences ( Greg Morrison's the musical director) that involve audience participation and some light, fluffy fun. There's enough tongue-in-cheek improv to pull adults in, too.
Kupps need cracks
THE KUPPS RUNNETH OVER written and performed by Doug Morency and Ayumi Iizuka. Presented by Zuka Box at Artword. July 9 at 10 pm, July 10 at noon, July 11 at 2 pm. Rating: NNN
From a bizarre japanese wannabe pop star to a sketch about an online date gone very wrong, there are some gut-bustingly funny moments in this variety-show-style birthday party for God thrown by Jim and Daisy Kupps, the married hosts of a religious cable talk show. Playing his ukulele, Second City vet Doug Morency is in fine form, but the surprise is the under-seen Ayumi Iizuka, who proves a first-rate character comic. Some of the couple's songs are nastily subversive, but too bad we don't glimpse more cracks in their marriage, a detail that might have given the material more edge and provided the show with much-needed momentum.
Pinocchio for grownups
PINOCCHIO written and performed by Stewart Matthews and Justin Sage-Passant. Presented by Screwed & Clued at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 9 at 12:30 pm, July 10 at 8 pm. Rating: NNNN
Don't bring kids to this version of the Carlo Collodi classic about a wooden puppet who yearns to become a boy. Though it's told as an after-lights-out story by two youngsters in PJs, it's a thoroughly adult tale, created almost solely by the skilled actors vocally and physically, with the help of a huggable teddy. Creators Stewart Matthews and Justin Sage-Passant use their great onstage chemistry to give the story a contemporary and dark turn here and there. And who else has the nerve to parody Fringe hit Job: The Hip-Hop Musical in the middle of their own festival show?
Love that story
FRINGE SHOW: A LOVE STORY written and performed by Ryan Gladstone and Bruce Horak. Presented by Monster Theatre at Artword. July 9 at 2 pm, July 10 at 9:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
Playing, respectively, a crusty Fringe veteran and a relative newcomer, Bruce Horak and Ryan Gladstone energetically and entertainingly take us through all the clichés and conventions of a National Fringe tour. The pre-show chat; the performance poetry show; the lecture disguised as a show; T. J. Dawe; gullible critics; how to pick up fellow Fringers - everything gets gently skewered. Sometimes the two are a bit too clever for their own good - they're like the Charlie Kaufmans of the Fringe circuit. But for frequent Fringers (performers or audience members), this efficiently staged show will ring true. Horak emerges as one of the city's most verbally nimble performers. And as a bonus, it's got one of the best climaxes in a Fringe show this year.
ONE MAN LORD OF THE RINGS written and performed by Charles Ross, directed by T. J. Dawe. July 8 and 9 at 7 pm, July 10 at 4:30 pm. Rating: NNNNN
Maybe only peter jackson and the Oscar-winning team behind the LOTR trilogy could appreciate every nuanced second of Charles Ross's brilliant 60-minute tribute to them and the Tolkien books. A master caricaturist, Ross efficiently captures moments, characters and transitions with more grace and efficiency than he did in his famous One Man Star Wars Trilogy. Equal parts enthusiastic fan and insightful critic, Ross adds plenty of impeccably timed jokes, yet never ignores the work's quiet emotional notes. He even makes fun of his adaptation - pointing out his exclusion of the character of Arwen. A unique - OK, precious - talent, not to be missed.
Yes to Nana
NANA by Olwen Wymark, directed by Michelle Ouellet. Presented by Ante-M Theatre at the Robert Gill. July 9 at 12:30 pm, July 10 at 10:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
Michelle ouellet confidently di- rects a 10-person cast in this richly theatrical adaptation of Emile Zola's naturalistic novel about the rise and fall of a 19th-century Parisian courtesan. From the exciting beginning, which unfolds at the theatre, to the disturbing finale, superb set pieces abound. The idea of having Nana (a beguiling Carin Lowerison) watch the enactment of scenes from her life as she becomes increasingly detached from herself is brilliantly realized, and the fine ensemble is full of lots of strong up-and-coming talent.
THE THREE B'S: THE WAILING IN THE WALLS by Greg Finnegan, directed by Shane Anderson. Presented by BMTC at KidsVenue. July 8 at 6 pm, July 9 at 11 am, July 10 at 4:30 pm, July 11 at noon. Rating: NNN
Bubbly bonnie, bold binkie and brainy Billie, that trio of girl detectives-cum-singing-group, returns with another broad, affectionate send-up of Nancy Drew-style mysteries, this one involving a haunted theatre and mysterious strangers. The girls - Caitlin Hussey, Grace Lynn Kung and Erin VanderBurgh - are fun caricatures, though narrator Janet Gigliotti isn't as sharply defined under Shane Anderson's fast-paced direction. Not just for young audiences, though at the KidsVenue.
THE DIVINE HERETIC by Tara Raquel Cates, Kevin Ralph Nelson and Alan Reid, directed by Jeannette Lambermont. Presented by DareDen at Artword. July 9 at 5 pm, July 10 at 7:30 pm. Rating: NN
There are some striking visual tableaux in this well-designed and expensive (11 actors, two onstage musicians) musical about what may have happened to the mother of Joan of Arc. But the script is vague and confusing (a stronger anchor, or at least a narrator, is clearly needed), and the songs are an endless series of derivative weepy ballads that need more contextualization. There's lots of talent onstage, but it's largely wasted in an earnest, pretentious mess. Abridged from a longer version; heaven keep us from it.
SIMPLE. CELIBATE. SOBER. written and performed by Soo Garay, directed by Nigel Shawn Williams, consulting director Shawn Alex Thompson. Presented by Nails and Ribbons at the Poor Alex. July 8 at 6:30 pm, July 9 at 2 pm, July 10 at 9:30 pm. Rating: NNN
Shawnya, an exotic dancer, sorts out the difference between owning her body and spirit and letting others use (and abuse) her in Soo Garay's physically vibrant, often narratively engaging work. There's some good comedy also, but the poetic sections of the text work less well, and the insights the character achieves aren't clearly won, despite Garay's intense performance under Nigel Shawn Williams's sympathetic direction.
FABLE: BASED ON A TRUE STORY written and performed by Adam Lazarus, directed by Jen Johnson. Presented by Schmigeggy at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 8 at 8:30 pm, July 9 at 11 pm, July 11 at 4 pm. Rating: NNN
Foul-mouthed, legless bouffon Eff - his name stands for what you'd imagine - was shat from God's ass on the seventh day of creation, and his view of life in the Garden of Eden with Adam, Eve and Lilith is at extreme odds from any traditional approach. The material needs some shaping, but the focused Adam Lazarus gives Eff an appropriately nasty, brash, salacious edge as he insults and flirts with the audience.
BELOW THE BELT by Richard Dresser, directed by Ravi Steve Khajuria. Presented by Same Day at Dupont Woodworking Cooperative (374 Dupont). July 8-10 at 8:30 pm, July 11 at 4 pm. Rating: NNN
In a desert factory that also seems a prison, two workers ( David Frisch and David Pauls) battle each other and their shit-disturbing boss ( Christopher Sawchyn) while they try to get out a big order for the company. The writing draws a lot on Pinter's early, menacing works, but the script isn't as strong as director Ravi Steve Khajuria's production, set in an actual factory (the staging is practically in the audience's collective lap), with the three actors driving up the intensity of these mercurial, insecure characters.
VIRGINIA adapted and performed by Martha Cronyn, directed by Rosemary Dunsmore. Presented by Heathcliff and Orange Cat at the Poor Alex. July 8 at 8 pm, July 11 at 4:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
If you don't love virginia woolf and her works, you might not initially be drawn to this 90-minute version of her life and writing by performer Martha Cronyn. And while it's true that we sometimes get impressions rather than full explorations of aspects of the famed Bloomsbury artist, Cronyn and director Rosemary Dunsmore expertly capture the writer and the woman's myriad moods, offering an intelligent, well-argued view of a rich, passionate spirit.
LUNATIC VAN BEETHOVEN
Written and performed by Keir Cutler. Presented by Doctor Keir Co at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 10 at 7:30 pm, July 11 at 5:30 pm. Rating: NN
Keir Cutler (teaching shake speare ) delivers yet another lecture disguised as theatre, this time trying to dispel various myths about the great composer. Instead of musical insights or any adequate performance - his singing the end of the 9th Symphony is like nails on a blackboard - the bewigged Cutler relies on random bits of trivia and silly pop cultural artifacts, all presented in his usual annoyingly overbearing style.
THE ADVENTURES OF JOSEPH ANDREWS by Kenneth Brown, directed by Melissa Haller. Presented by Studio 268 at the Factory Studio. July 8 at 10:30 pm, July 11 at 4:30 pm. Rating: NN
Kenneth Brown's adaptation of Henry Fielding's sprawling, satiric look at love, lust and birthrights in 1745 relies too much on mind-numbing narration. Its 90 minutes feel endless. Melissa Haller stages the difficult piece with skill, and Betsy Palmerstonand Andrea Tutt deliver a pair of fine comic turns. But why bother? The humour is forced - we're nudged into laughing - and the blandly handsome Robert Squire as the title character is incredibly blank when he's not dropping lines.
OVERLORDS!By Lee Smart and Paul Bates, directed by Lindsay Leese. Presented by Overlords at the Robert Gill. July 8 at 6 pm, July 9 at 8:30 pm, July 10 at 3 pm. Rating: NNN
Second city alumni paul bates and Lee Smart bring their malleable mugs, nimble bodies and tons of geeky enthusiasm to this silly sci-fi comedy about two alien overlords who attempt to take over Earth by rounding up its porn. There are some terrific, well-directed set pieces, and Bates and Smart play off each other beautifully, joined in nerd-dom by Gord Oxley as a slacker apartment-dweller. Only a shrill, unsubtle Christy Bruce disappoints as the supposedly sexy neighbour.
Hope's teen slides
THE HOPE SLIDE by Joan MacLeod, directed by Kate Twa. Presented by Terri-Lyn Storey at the Poor Alex. July 9 at 5 pm, July 10 at 11 pm. Rating: NNN
Joan Macleod's powerful one-woman show blends the rebellious, anarchistic Doukhobors, the 90s AIDS crisis and a narrator who reflects back on the days of her high-school angst. Tying them all together is the 1965 mountain collapse that buried the town of Hope, BC. Performer Terri-Lyn Storey gives a moving rendition of three Doukhobors whose loves are lost and of the contemporary narrator coming to realizations about her past and present. But the teenage figure, though she gets laughs, is a caricature defined by unnecessary histrionics.
WAITING FOR TRUDEAU: THE RETURN OF THE KING by Brett McCaig and Racheal McCaig, directed by Jim Soper. Presented by Fence Post and Derrick Chua at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 8 at 8:30 pm, July 9 at 3:30 pm, July 11 at 5:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
This fast-paced musical revue by Brett McCaig and Racheal McCaig sends up Canadian history and trashes lots of Canadian icons. Filled with broad, lowbrow laughs and the occasional sharp-edged zinger, it flies on the strength of the quartet of performers - the McCaigs (Racheal wins the vocal honours), Paul Constable and Paul Regan. A real crowd-pleaser, from a Canadian pop-tune opening to a gun-toting Trudeau and an episode of Separatist Idol.
Watch for the cow costume.
IN THE BOOTH written and directed by Dimetre Alexiou. Presented by Flamejob at the Factory Mainstage. July 8 at noon, July 9 at 11 pm, July 10 at 3 pm. Rating: NNN
There's lots of potential, both dramatic and commercial, in Dimetre Alexiou's often very funny script about the goings-on in the tech booth of a production of Twelfth Night. Ironically, the technical aspects work fine, but the script needs tightening. The ending is too abrupt, two of the characters need fine-tuning and the excerpts from Shakespeare don't work. (Alexiou also needs to consult a grammar dictionary about some incorrect pronouns.) Of the three performers, only Tabitha Keast, with her perfect comic timing, adds depth and nuance to her role as the all-controlling stage manager.
Cyrano nose best
CYRANO DE BERGERAC by Edmond Rostand, directed by Mary Dwyer. Presented by Red Letter at the Trinity College Garden (15 Devonshire). July 8-11 at 9 pm. Rating: NNN
Edmond Rostand's period comic romance about a big-nosed lover who woos a woman for a handsome but tongue-tied man gets an outdoor staging. The balcony scene and the nunnery episode in particular gain from the garden setting. Properly commanding the show, Chris Coculuzzi has the acting chops both vocally and physically to give the sword-fighting poet a body as well as a soul. While no one else - including Justin Conley as the attractive Christian and Roxanne Deans as the woman they both love - matches his vibrant work, there's still lots to enjoy in this cleverly written play.
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIS by Christopher Durang, directed by Joel Greenberg. Presented by Hermoine Jobbing Theatricals and Studio 180 at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 8 at 2 pm, July 9 at 11:30 pm, July 10 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNN
This series of nine sketches isn't top-drawer Durang, but they work scathingly well when he attacks the Catholic Church (a former altar boy cross-examines God about why He makes the innocent suffer) and right-wing family values. Director Joel Greenberg's cast - especially Mark McGrinder and Kimwun Perehinec - give the proper dose of acid to their portrayals.
Sleepless not sound
SLEEPLESS: A NEW MUSICAL by Denis McGrath and Scott White, directed by Shari Hollett. Presented by Cattle at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 9 at 5 pm, July 10 at 9:30 pm. Rating: NNN
The creators of Top Gun! the musical return with a work set at a sleep disorder clinic, but there's not enough narrative drive to fill 90 minutes, and the characters aren't as rich as they might be. Scott White's music is best in the uptempo material. The cast throw themselves into the show with gusto - Eddie Glen and Sharon Heldt as a bitchy married couple and Racheal McCaig as an overworked nurse are standouts.
THE CURSE OF THE TRICKSTER written and performed by T. J. Dawe. Presented by Big Sandwich Productions at the Robert Gill. July 8 at 1:30 pm, July 10 at 7:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
In an elliptical narrative style that's become his trademark, master storyteller T. J. Dawe spins a tale of battling Montezuma's revenge in Mexico that makes him flash back to earlier confrontations with pain, including mononucleosis and having his wisdom teeth extracted. Along the way, Dawe cleverly touches on everything from e-mail etiquette to TV newscaster behaviour, stopping just near the end to tie his thematic threads together. As always, Dawe makes it look easy.
LENNY AND RENO by Josh Bloch. Presented by Gooey Duck and Talking Camel at the Royal St. George. July 9 at 6:30 pm, July 10 at 4:30 pm. Rating: NNN
There's some entertaining and believable clown whimsy in Josh Bloch's tale of a married couple whose lives go off the rails when the husband's drawn to the siren call of commercialism. But as Lenny, the playwright isn't as grounded a character as Rebecca Auerbach's Reno, resulting in lopsidedness. Art wins over big bucks, but we have to care more about the outcome - and the couple's relationship - than we do.
THE BLOOD OF A COWARD created by the company, directed by Simon Rice and Sara Wood. Presented by Praxis Theatre at the Factory Mainspace. July 8 at 7:30 pm, July 10 at 4:30 pm. Rating: NNN
Though it has some fine scenes and (especially in the latter half) some evocative poetry, this collectively created work inspired by the life of hard-drinking writer Charles Bukowski seems like a workshop production. There's a paint-by-numbers feel to the script, which begins and ends in the charity ward of a hospital, a turning point for the poet, and though we're taken through various "significant" moments in his life, the character never comes into focus. The pairing of actors to play the poet at two stages in his life occasionally sets off sparks, with a grizzled Greg Dunham and a cocky Erin King standing out in the busy, uneven acting ensemble.
Love's labours won
random acts of love by Bruce Gooch, directed by Sanjay Talwar. Presented by new fangled stages at St. Vladimir's. July 9 at noon, July 10 at 10:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
Bruce gooch's absorbing two- hander about a couple of middle-aged actors who rehash an old affair while rehearsing a show about love in Shakespeare is clever, moving and - if my antennae are accurately tuned - accessible enough to become a hot commercial property. Set both in the present and during the couple's brief affair 15 years earlier, the script - subtly directed by Sanjay Talwar - takes many shots at acting and its revered institutions. But when it's asked to deliver the goods, the play (and actors Gooch and Lynn Vogt) makes good with exquisite readings of Shakespeare's text in an emotionally rich conclusion.
THE DIZZY & DALE CHRONICLES by Cheryl McNamara, directed by Sue Miner. Presented by Femme Fatale at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 8 at 12:30 pm, July 9 at 7 pm, July 10 at 2 pm. Rating: NNN
Gay partners Dizzy (jane moffat) and Dale (writer Cheryl McNamara) decide to create a movie that doesn't appeal to macho sensibilities and, in a related sketch, plan their marriage. There's a 50s sitcom feel to the show (think a queer Lucy and Ethel), but the writing could be tightened up even when director Sue Minermoves the action along quickly. Moffat's rubber-faced and -limbed Dizzy, who's run away from a circus childhood, is a comic dyke delight.
THE WEIR by Conor McPherson, directed by Autumn Smith. Presented by MacKenzieRo at Rowers Pub (150 Harbord). July 8-11 at 7:30 pm. Rating: NNNN
McPherson's play, set in an irish pub and involving a group of regulars and a newcomer who tell increasingly spooky yarns, gets a splendid staging in an actual pub, the audience almost a part of the action. Director Autumn Smith and her cast - Rod Ceballos, Kyle Horton, David Mackett, Cathy Murphy and Peter Van Wart - immediately pull viewers into this series of character sketches in which tensions aren't always voiced and friendship is a many-sided thing.
FLAVOR OF THE WEEK written and performed by Alix Sobler. Presented by InTrouble Productions at the Factory Studio. July 8 at 7:30 pm, July 10 at 4:30 pm. Rating: NNN
Trying to distract herself while waiting for the results of a batch of STD tests, the fast-talking, underemployed New York narrator in Alix Sobler's solo script rants entertainingly about cellphones, low-fat frozen desserts and coffee. Sobler the performer has a brash, manic energy; at times, her lines are delivered so quickly they're incomprehensible. And though there are lots of clever observations, the script is a tad manipulative. I wish Sobler went deeper into the emotional truths she needs to face in order to get on with her life.
DICKWHIPPED: THE KRISTEEN AND LAURIE STORY written and performed by Kristeen von Hagen and Laurie Elliott, directed by Lisa Merchant. Presented by Caviar and Lace at the Poor Alex. July 8 at 2 pm, July 10 at 6:30 pm. Rating: NNN
Laurie Elliott and Kristeen Von Hagen are into ex-boyfriend-bashing, and if their stories are even only partly true, they have good reason. Proving they're not part of the dickwhipped sisterhood who've attached themselves and cater to the men in their lives, the pair alternate tales of past relationships that are sometimes very funny, sometimes only slightly amusing. As they traipse through pickups, dating, sex and breakups, Elliott's the brasher of the two, and her style of humour works less well than the understated von Hagen's way of getting laughs.
MAGDA'S BEAUTY SECRETS by Diane Forrest, directed by Brenda Darling. Presented by Degenerate Art at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 8 and 10 at 5 pm, July 9 at 10 pm. Rating: NN
Beauty's more than skin deep. That trite truism is the source of Magda's Beauty Secrets, a show that blends the rejuvenating tips of a Helena Rubenstein-ish retired spa owner with her story of living as a despised Pole in Nazi Germany. Descriptions of facial exercises to stay young-looking fade into memories of persecution, but despite a promising set-up, Diane Forrest's script only touches on the irony of the pairing. The play, and therefore Corinne Conley's performance, fail to capture the horror or emotion of the situation.
THE REEFER MAN
By Russell Bennett and Gillian Stevens-Guille, directed by Stevens-Guille. Presented by Big Smoke at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 8 at 5 pm, July 10 at 9 pm, July 11 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNN
Adept at physical comedy and impressions, co-writer Russell Bennett rolls up a few too many plot points - not to mention bad puns on the word "high" - in this play about a Jewish lawyer's personal stand against pot laws. The script is uneven, and it takes way too long to set up. But several scenes, including the one where the hero's pot garden has been destroyed, are terrifically vivid and alive, and there are some fascinating facts about Canadian drug law history. Bennett's energy and enthusiasm are so infectious, he almost makes us forget the bits of dogma disguised as dialogue or an allusion to Nazi Germany that's in questionable taste.
THE AMERICAN DREAM by Edward Albee, directed by Barbara Larose. Presented by Fireplay at the Factory Mainspace. July 9 at 5 pm, July 10 at 11 pm. Rating: NNNN
Edward Albee's savage indictment of early 1960s American society gets a razor-sharp production. Director Barbara Larose and an across-the-board fine cast (notables include Dinah Watts, Tricia Briouxand Elva Mai Hoover) capture the right tone of barely restrained hostility in a play that, with its themes of consumerism, superficiality and emasculation, holds up incredibly well today. Not to be missed.
FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET written and performed by Nile Séguin, directed by Aaron Berg. Presented by Third Man at the Factory Studio. July 8 at 1:30 pm, July 10 at 6 pm, July 11 at 3 pm. Rating: NNN
With his confident and cocky delivery, stand-up comic Nile Séguin(who's of Rwandan and French-Canadian background) takes on the race issue as it applies to the entertainment industry. His observations - everything from a Rwandan-themed sitcom called I Dream Of Genie-cide to how comics use language to gain street cred - are funny, uncompromising and intelligent. The script needs tightening, and Séguin (who lost his way on opening night) seems more passionate about some parts of his script than others. But this is comedy doing what it should - provoking us, changing us and making us laugh.
cactus by Jonno Katz, directed by Mark Chavez. Presented by Epicworlds.com at the Robert Gill. July 8 at noon, July 9 at 4 pm, July 10 at 9 pm. Rating: NNN
Wearing a pinstriped suit, an enigmatic grin and (initially at least) a red nose, barefoot Aussie Jonno Katz takes his sweet time relaying his tale of three men traversing the desert, interspersed with ridiculous attempts to seduce the audience. There are a few missteps - the men-in-the-desert plot simply evaporates, and a strange ending is tacked on - but Jonno's sad-eyed love-me-please clown persona can be endearing.
Jack not nimble
JACK AND JILL written and directed by Jin Huh. Presented by XL at the Poor Alex. July 8 at 10 pm, July 10 at 3:30 pm, July 11 at 6:30 pm. Rating: NN
A husband and wife - he's korean Canadian, she's Caucasian Canadian - go through relationship problems when he's offered a chance, with strings attached, to produce a film and she becomes pregnant. Writer Jin Huh's script is awkward and sometime trite and his directorial pacing slow, but there's a germ of a play here about a multicultural marriage, if the characters had more personality and dramatic believability.
SWIMMING LESSONS WITH PAISLEY KITE written and performed by Emily Pearlman, directed by Cortney Lohnes. Presented by Cross Country Trampoline at St. Vladimir's. Closed. Rating: NNN
Ottawa's Emily Pearlman plays a cynical, noise-rock-loving, chemistry-obsessed 16-year-old who goes to Israel to... what exactly? Escape her annoying mother and stepfather? Reconnect with a mysterious character named Charles? Get material for a Fringe show? There are major holes in the script (including a too-abrupt ending) and the pace and tone are often off, but the tall, thin and expressive-eyed Pearlman alternates nicely between being mordantly funny and gently poetic. Think Ghost World Goes To Jerusalem.
WHOLE IN ONE by Paul McLaughlin, directed by Andrew Lamb. Presented by the Reading and Writing Group at St. Vladimir's. July 8 at 10:30 pm, July 11 at 2 pm. Rating: NN
Paul McLaughlin's script about golf, relationships and lightning seems cobbled together from statistics, jokes and some Mars And Venus clichés about men and women. There are a few good yuks (not including endless ball and hole references), but the acting foursome is uneven, and at 85 minutes the points could be driven home way more efficiently.
THE ADVENTURES OF BABA YAGA: LITTLE GIRL STEW written and directed by Emily Davis. Presented by Messenger at KidsVenue. July 8 at 7:30 pm, July 9 at 12:30 pm. Rating: NN
This kids' version of the russian tale about the cannibal witch Baba Yaga is part Cinderella, part Hansel And Gretel. The masks are great and there's promise in the use of shadow puppets, but the storytelling is bland and the actors - apart from Eleanor O'Brien as the witch whose house walks along on chicken legs - fail to invest their characters with much personality.