The Buzz

Switch Back

Randy Rutherford Presents Maryclare McCauley—Dragon Arts Collective

Switch Back is a carefully woven, cautionary tale, pulled from the real life of Maryclare McCauley. We can surmise quite early on, that there can only be two outcomes for the plot, each having a 50/50 chance, but McCauley keeps the audience guessing until the very end.

With only a single chair to evoke various locations, a solo McCauley uses her considerable vocal talent and body language to introduce us to the characters of the piece. Especially mobile is her face. As any really good storyteller must, she has chosen her words carefully. The show is 75 minutes long, but non of it is extraneous. The depiction of violence goes only so far. It is what we think can happen, in combination with the storytelling, that heightens the tension of the plot.

This show deserves more attention than it has been getting, and is well worth the three flights of stairs.

Michelle Cook


Otto & Astrid – Eurosmash!

Salvador Dinosaur—WECC – Ventura Hall

I caught these two their first time here and have been back every year. It is a Fringe tradition, not to be missed. We were especially pleased that they took the time to make this a totally new show. Astrid makes the most of her drum kit, with Otto on electric guitar. I love the energy, humour and just plain fun the supposedly bro and sis team always deliver. Some of the shtick is the same. Otto falls for an attractive gal in the audience and jealous Astrid takes her on. Astrid lusts after a male audience member and her lewd suggestions for after the show are too funny. The music ain’t bad either. I always love to see the new, totally outrageous outfit that Astrid selects a lucky fellow to partially remove. She outdoes herself each year. As my hubby remarked, Astrid moves more agilely on stage than her bro, and she is not a tiny woman. Her moves with her drum stool were absolutely acrobatic and hilarious. If you are prepared to rock and romp, this is the show for you. I guarantee you will leave with a smile on your face. Make time for fun and go see this Fringe favorite!

Just a comment about this venue and the Dramatic Arts Centre across the street. I am privileged to hang with the performers and I listen to what they say. For some reason these three venues are not getting the houses they merit. I don’t know if people fear the neighborhood or feel it is out of the way, but with the extremely high caliber of the artists at the three combined venues (2 at WECC) there is no reason to stay away. With all of TJ Dawe, Shoestring Theatre (Waiting For the Parade), How I Lost One Pound, The Musical, Hey 90’s Kids, You’re Old, Penny Ashton, Die Roten Punkte, Sword Play, Drunk Girl, and The Ballad of Frank Allen to choose from it makes this a prime spot to stay all day and night. There is also lots of unmetered parking. Some of the best of the Fringe is here and they seem to be being ignored. The area is full of Fringers and great restaurants and it’s up to us to support these great artists wherever their venue happens to be! Let’s not disappoint them or yourselves by missing what’s here.

Lisa Campbell


The Death of Me

Halo Productions—Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall

Death of Me asks us the questions, would we do anything different if given the chance? We are shown several scenes in which our helpless and perpetual good guy main character tries and fails to turn things around. The story was pretty funny. I did find a lot of humor in the one liners. The play needs a lot of work as it leaves the audience hanging with a lot of questions. The play is very well cast but I felt at times either the actors over did it or underwhelmed me by showing any true emotion. After this play came to a halt 20 minutes early, on a whole I felt underwhelmed and undersold. This play could have explored some cool places but instead chose to play it safe. For me it ended up being a just okay play.

Kaitlyn Kriss


Ruby Tuesday

Shy Guy Productions—Pantages Studio

The acting is sometimes on and sometimes a bit suspect. Mia convinces the audience most of the time but there are times of anger and sadness that don’t translate completely. Matt’s performance looks like he’s just going through the motions at times and there are occasions where his timing isn’t spot-on perfect—and at those moments, he needs to be.

As for the story, it takes a long time to develop. The intro’s fine but then it drags for a while before going into the revelation. I know the song and dance are supposed to be key to the characters’ progression and engagement but gees, I feel like I’m the poor schmo sitting at a sock hop with no dance partner.

Finally, we get into the nitty-gritty and the meat of the play. This is the best part of the show and I would have liked to see more exploration here. They go through the hopelessness of the situation but they’re missing some the persistence, the pursuit and the problem-solving. The characters seem to fold when there are more cards to be played.

If you’re looking for a nice-tidy conclusion, you’ll be disappointed—but that’s probably where theatre imitates life the most, given this problem. It’s a flawed but good effort that provides an insight into one of the darker sides of our society.

Ray Yuen


The Winnipeg School of Happiness

Petit Pont Productions—MTYP – Richardson Hall

What a bizarre play this was. I’m not happy or sad I saw it. The acting was decent and the concept was interesting. I found that the story was a mess and very hard to follow. The play relies a lot of metaphor and symbology however I didn’t find these were obvious or easy to understand. The whole production felt very sloppy and thrown together. I did enjoy two monologues in the show. One following the death of Elsie’s grandfather (this was beautifully acted) as well as the final admittance that happiness looks different for us all. I didn’t hate it but didn’t love it.

Kaitlyn Kriss


4.48 Psychosis

Theatre by the River—Red River College

I had to do some digging before I tackled talking about 4.48 Psychosis. The playwright, Sarah Kane, wrote this play during an episode of severe depression. It was a state that had affected her all her life. The play was completed shortly before she tragically committed suicide.

Presented as stream of consciousness, the script requires the audience to really focus in order to follow the actor’s journey. Over the course of the hour, many topics are explored, some of which are connectedness, self-worth, self-affirmation and choice. The darkness and despair dug into the play comes from the character’s inability to reconcile the barrage of thoughts she cannot escape. Ultimately, she is inundated. She simply disappears.

Elizabeth Whitbread courageously tackles this material and succeeds in delivering a cohesive and sensitive performance. She is able to create, for the audience, some order in the chaos.

This play is exhausting to attend. But in the end, although we are profoundly saddened, we are fortunate to be able to walk away.

Michelle Cook


Beers About Songs

PHAB Productions—Pantages Studio

Ryan wells is a vocal angel. His singing and natural charisma are what sells his show and makes it so special. It’s generally really hard to sell a one man musical, but Wells does it in style. I found myself consistently drawn in again and again by his story. This musical made me cry and Wells completely pours himself out to us and exposes his whole past. The songs and guitar playing were on point. This is one I will be bringing people back to for sure.

Kaitlyn Kriss


Prophecy

Impossible Mongoose—One88

This is a familiar tale told through a (somewhat) modernised lens, but just because the props aren’t Spartan, it doesn’t mean they’re not effective. If not for the horror of the story, the props can be comical, but the way it’s presented, you completely forget the absurdity of what they are.

Star and solo performer Nieuwenhuis expertly wields her voice and her presence into powerful and convincing characters. The gripping performance holds you to the very end, slapping the character’s hopelessness right into your face.

The conclusion literally leaves the audience stunned and silenced. Then as you leave, don’t miss the cookies on the way out—they’re delicious and it’s a nice way to decompress as you return to the real world.

Ray Yuen


Wooster Sauce

THEATrePUBLIC—One88

Downton abbey fans unite! This delightful British comedy will chant and ensnare you. Ridiculous yet poised the entire time the actor led us through the lives of bachelor and wannabe player Bertrand Wooster in all his missteps and social faux pas. If you love British humour you will love his show. I loved the performer’s energy and how he effortlessly switched between very distinct and pronounced characters. I found for me there were times it was a little hard to understand this one man monologue. The show material is quite dry with moments of hilarity. I did find my mind wandering from time to time throughout it. If you can’t stand dry British humour, this show isn’t for you.

Kaitlyn Kriss


Hot Thespian Action: Fourplay

Hot Thespian Action—The Gas Station

This show is aptly named. Four experienced and confident performers take the stage and play their way through ten sketches. It is very obvious that they are having lots of fun, as is the nearly sold out house.

All of the sketches touch on some aspect of current pop culture, so they are all quite accessible, and their tone is kept deliberately light. “Think Tank” and “Love Story” are two sketches that could provoke a more serious think, and, I suppose that the comfort of male genitalia must be relevant to at least half of the population, but I preferred to just sit back and enjoy.

Michelle Cook