Fab Farm Show
FILMS BY MICHAEL ONDAATJE (Mongrel, 1970-1974), including The Clinton Special, with Paul Thompson, Anne Anglin, David Fox, Fina MacDonnell, Miles Potter, Janet Amos and Ted Johns. Rating: NNNNN
If you saw the recent revival of Michael Healey's The Drawer Boy at Theatre Passe Muraille, you'll enjoy The Clinton Special: A Film About The Farm Show. That groundbreaking 1972 play inspired The Drawer Boy.
Beginning with a shot of a group of cows heading down the road, Michael Ondaatje's documentary captures the everyday existence of the residents around Clinton, Ontario. A troupe from Theatre Passe Muraille, led by a dark-haired Paul Thompson, spend six weeks with them and reproduce their lives onstage, in the process becoming their friends.
It's a unique experience, something that hadn't been done before in Canadian theatre; as Thompson explains, he wanted to create our own heroes, so different from those characters onstage down the road at Stratford.
It's amazing to see a scene with Miles Potter and David Fox (as a farmer) that echoes an early scene from The Drawer Boy, or Potter - fictionalized and presented in Healey's play as a green actor - performing Farm Show episodes mentioned in the later play.
Interspersed are interviews with locals and actors, the latter sometimes transforming into chickens or a tractor. You can sense the excitement and nerves on both sides when the company stages the show in a barn for those who inspired it.
Just as wonderful as the 1974 film are 2003 interviews with company members, Passe Muraille's former artistic director Layne Coleman and Healey. They discuss the experience and how the show affected them and Canadian theatre, both then and since. A fascinating glimpse of the collective creative process at work and of Canadian stage history. Also on the disc are two other Ondaatje films, The Sons Of Captain Poetry (about poet bp Nichol) and Carry On Crime And Punishment.
You can purchase the DVD through Theatre Passe Muraille at www.artsboxoffice.ca.
EXTRAS 2003 interview with Ondaatje; interviews with The Farm Show creators; Ondaatje bio.
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS (CBC/Morningstar, 1989) directed by Richard Monette, with Geordie Johnson, Keith Dinicol, Goldie Semple and Lucy Peacock. Rating: NNN
Another in the series of Stratford productions directed by Richard Monette (and for TV by Norman Campbell), The Comedy Of Errors is one of the Bard's slighter efforts, in which two pairs of twins - two masters and two servants, one set of each separated from the other - are regularly confused for their doubles.
The trick in Monette's sometimes cutesy, commedia-inspired, fast-paced 75-minute production is having the identical twins played by the same actors: Geordie Johnson as the Antipholus sibs and Keith Dinicol as their servants, the Dromios.
The fun comes when all the characters have to be onstage at the same time, pulled off by cleverly having "look-alike" doubles.
Johnson brings a proper touch of melancholy to Antipholus of Syracuse, and Dinicol brings nice clown work to his parts. Also worth catching are Goldie Semple's turn as the commanding wife to one of the Antipholi and the late Nicholas Pennell, one of Stratford's best actors at the time, as father to the two masters.
EXTRAS None comedy on CD/DVD
DANE COOK: ROUGH AROUND THE EDGES (Comedy Central, 2007). Rating: NNN
This generous two-disc set features stand-up comedy phenomenon Dane Cook's performance a year ago at two sold-out Madison Square Garden shows. It's essentially the same arena act he brought to town last month at the ACC, captured here in both CD and DVD formats.
Cook, the first stand-up to exploit the commercial potential of MySpace, is a charismatic, wildly energetic performer, so it's no surprise that video captures his art far better than audio. He struts and prowls the circular stage like an alpha-male wolf, and judging by the female shrieks from the audience, that works just fine. Cook is arguably the first stand-up to get by on sex appeal.
Too bad his material isn't as edgy or prickly as his five o'clock shadow. The filler here includes rants about TiVo, the History Channel and how lame it would be to be a Civil War flutist. Cook's more at home delivering stories about breaking condoms, how men and women deal differently with STDs and how to use a motorcycle helmet, not a motorcycle, to pick up women in bars.
This isn't the cleverest material, but Cook - who trained in theatre before hitting comedy clubs - knows how to pump up his jokes with physicality. Watch how he segues from an amusing analysis of Oprah's antics to a nasty look at pedophiles in his own neighbourhood.
The show's closing bit, about sexual fantasies, is crude but works because it feels authentic. Cook's vocal tricks here - evoking a flapping pegasus of a dream lover - make this one of the few tracks that works as well on CD.
If anything, the extras - which include an audio commentary and a brief doc - add to Cook's appeal. He comes across as ambitious, hard-working but less obnoxious, and you get some telling insights into the origins of his material and the lead-up to the Madison Square Garden set, which included nervously trying out material in Rhode Island the night before.
EXTRAS Audio commentary, short documentary about preparing for his New York show.
DANE COOK: THE LOST PILOTS (Sony, 2007) w/ Cook, Justine Bateman, Joel David Moore and Liz Vassey. Rating: NN
Here's an example of a studio trying to cash in on an artist's sudden celebrity. Sony is releasing a 47-minute DVD featuring Dane Cook's two failed sitcom pilots and a couple of throwaway extras.
Cooked 1 is horrendous. It stars Cook as a flailing stand-up comic who loses a sitcom (talk about ironies!) and has to move in with his brother, his straight-laced sister-in-law (Justine Bateman from TV's Family Ties) and their two cute children.
Cook's character slacks off in an office job, tries to win back his commitment-seeking girlfriend and squares off against Bateman. None of it's very funny, and Cook can't find the right rhythms to make his character appealing.
In Cooked 2 he's more comfortable in front of the camera, even if the pilot feels like a West Coast Seinfeld. Here Cook's living with two roommates, a cynical underachiever played by Joel David Moore and a smart babe played by Liz Vassey. The plot revolves around a knife-wielding monkey Cook's bought and brought home. The monkey gets all the laughs, but at least there are some laughs.
EXTRAS Bloopers and deleted scenes which, oddly enough, include a scene about a knife-wielding monkey in Cooked 1.