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The BUZZ – Reviews
Parachuting Camel Productions—Alto – Portage Place
I have never been to a Fringe show before, save for outdoor performances, so my experience was doubly special: Not only was I treated to my very first Fringe play, but it also happened to be a very good one. Letters is a story we can all understand; a story about a country whose every citizen, in their own way, wanted to do the right thing in the face of incomprehensible cruelty. Some were called to serve, some stayed behind and tried to keep things running, to maintain civility and normalcy. It is a story that we have all heard before, perhaps from grandparents or even great-grandparents, about the time when Canada learned that silence means complicity and when diplomacy will not work, we need to be willing to risk everything to stand up for what is right.
Set near the tail-end of WWII, Letters is the story of a family that must come to grips with the grim reality of being torn apart by war, uncertain if they will ever be whole again. Told through the letters that are written back and forth, brought to life by truly stirring performances of the talented cast, and made all the more poignant by current events. Be sure to see it as this Fringe season comes to a close – and be sure to bring tissues. There is only one more performance: Sunday, July 28th at 12:00PM, in Portage Place (3rd floor). While you’re there, reminded of all the times you have heard “Never Again” and “Lest We Forget”, please keep in mind that Never Again Is Now and this is not only a historical play but also a cautionary tale.
Mix Tapes From My Mom
Imaginary Productions—X Cues Cafe and Lounge
You’ve probably heard a lot of positive things about this show. (Though surprisingly, not from the Jenny; at this writing there are no other reviews of this show in these pages.) Most of them are true.
The show tells the story of what could simultaneously be the best and worst day of writer/performer Corey Wojcik’s life, punctuated by musical interludes selected from the titular mix tapes. A live five-piece band (including Wojcik, taking most of the lead vocals and the odd bit of acoustic guitar) recreate classic rockers from the late 60s to early 2000s along with one original number, most bearing some obvious relation to the plot. It’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s more than a little rock’n roll, and it should appeal to nearly any Fringegoer.
I just want to add my props to the venue. It’s closer to the Fringe “main drag” than you probably think; I got there on foot from Portage Place in about 10 minutes, really not a big deal in terms of travel time, especially to a destination that serves iced coffee, which was itself almost worth the trip. If you’re coming to or from Knox United Church – perhaps to see The 500 List, which makes an excellent companion to this show, with their common device of a long curated list of songs framing a highly personal story – most people will barely notice the walk, which Google Maps tells me is actually shorter than going from the Square to the Warehouse. Any way you slice it, the trip is shorter than it might seem and well worth it.
Viva Dance Company—The Rachel Browne Theatre
Confession: I’m not a huge modern-dance fan. Ballet’s more my style (aka I’m older). So, be warned, not a great critic of it.
Still, I’ve seen a fair amount of MD over the years and around the world, and this brilliant piece by Edmonton’s young VIVA company is the best I’ve seen in 20 years. Maybe ever.
Simply off the charts for creativity, choreography, athleticism, poise and execution. And all the things you (might) hate about contemporary dance — pretentiousness, willful obscurity, arrogance, wince-worthy music — is just gone from this stunning tribute to the universality of … water.
Execution? The synchronization is simply superb. The true test of that always comes in the last 15 minutes of an hour-long show when the 8 dancers are dead on their feet. This troupe never missed a beat. And there are no stars here — they all seem equally talented — although one dark-haired dynamo (tats on the back of both legs — can’t miss her) might be the strongest of an intensely acrobatic team.
There are 2 more performances of Water — 5:30 Saturday and 7 pm Sunday. Run, do not walk, for tickets. The best dance performance at this year’s Fringe (I’ve seen all of them). By far.
I happened to run into a friend at this show, and on the way out I commented to her that it was “very artsy and Fringe-y, physically impressive, and also kinda hot”, an assessment with which she seemed to agree. The same company had a hit last year with Flight, an adaptation of The Little Prince, and this show worked a similar magic, though not in so kid-friendly a manner.
I say that not only because the sexual tension in this thing exceeds the legal limit in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, but also because there’s no narration as there was in the previous show – maybe six words are spoken, mostly little outbursts serving more as sound effects than dialogue. The audience is left to decide for themselves what’s happening, though it probably helps if you know it’s a loose adaptation of Sartre’s No Exit. Not knowing this at the time I watched it – I only learned this as I was reading up in preparation for writing this review – I had interpreted it a bit differently, as about a triad relationship that isn’t terribly healthy, but that no-one can actually bring themselves to walk away from. I’d argue that thematically, I wasn’t all that far off.
Of course, it’s perfectly defensible to ignore all that and just go to admire this group’s always impressive acrobatics. In fact, for what is in many ways a very “Fringe-y” production, there’s something here to appeal to a surprisingly wide variety of audiences. It’ll make you gasp, it’ll make you think, and there’s a good chance it’ll make you horny.
Merkin Sisters—MTYP – Mainstage
Although she was miked the first few words couldn’t be heard as the mike was not turned on. Even with the head mike I couldn’t hear her well and missed a lot of what she said (my wife asked me “What?” a few times too)
Very touching, some amusing portions, but I missed a lot.
Parachuting Camel Productions—Alto – Portage Place
There were some Tech problems with the initial audio and lights aimed during the show. Some dialogue was too fast.
I’m a softie and the show brought me to tears.
Outside In—The Gas Station Arts Centre
Throwback was an absolutely unbelievable show! When I wasn’t howling with laughter, my jaw was on the floor due to all the insane circus acts. The aesthetic was so fun as well, who doesn’t love some throwbacks right? It had me dancing in my seat! I completely recommend this show to people of all ages! Absolutely loved it!
Success 5000 Productions—Son of Warehouse
A neurotic autobiographical writer with daddy issues and a slacker songwriter looking for some quick cash are both booked in the venue and the same time, hilarity ensues. The show is extremely well written and paced, with the banter between our two characters both setting up some effective character moments and creating some well timed jokes. Likewise, the songs that accompanied the show were all extremely funny, with CDs and cassettes available after the show. Anyone looking for a solid comedy in these final days of Fringe is highly encouraged to seek out one of the last showings of Double Booked.
The After After Party
After Party Theatre—MTC Up the Alley
In lesser hands this show could have been as big a train wreck as its two rather distasteful characters. But it was handled brilliantly with razor sharp comedic timing, unwavering confidence and obvious chemistry. If these two hugely talented women read the phone book, I’m certain it would be just as stupidly hilarious.
S.E. Grummett—Stephen Juba Park
2 lovable, disgusting campers lost in the forest teach valuable life lessons on camping, sex, and how to not mansplain during the middle of someone else’s show. Simultaneously crass and clever, the show itself sometimes overplayed it’s premise, but overall is quite funny. Targeted at a younger crowd, anyone interested in feminist humor definitely should check it out.