The Vancouver Fringe Festival's 13th season kicked off last September 4th with a variety of shows ranging from Music Dramas, Comedies, Dramedies, to Children's Theatre, Mystery Dramas, one-man/woman shows, Physical Theatre and other miscellaneous genres.
Wayne MacEachern and I have reviewed more than 20 productions, and if more staff were available, perhaps we would have covered all 100 shows!
Anyway, here are the reviews!--E.F.
(Legend: Stage 1=Firehall Arts Centre Mainstage; Stage 2= Firehall Arts Centre Studio; Stage 3= W.I.S.E. Hall; Stage 4= Vancouver East Cultural Centre; Stage 5=Green Thumb Theatre; Stage 6=Tesla Gallery; Stage 7=Britannia High School Auditorium; Stage 8=Havana)
Faking Life (Stage 2)
Evil Genius Productions (Vancouver, B.C.)
The play´s concept is interesting. It brings us to the frightening reality of how the Internet can spy into our private lives.
Davey puts a camera in every room of his house and makes it his business to charge internet users a fee for watching the goings on. Like peep shows, the more you use it, the more you pay.
I was not happy, however, with the level of energy of the actors. Whether it was opening night jitters, or the suffocating heat as though you were in a sauna, or a baby crying almost all through the play, the actors were mumbling to themselves. They were going about like zombies, particularly Todd McGillvray and Jennifer Silverman. Stephanie Rosloski and Timothy Edwards were at least trying, but if the rest of the team don´t help out, they´re going to drag the rest down. So, my advice is work as a team and be aware that there are people who are paying to hear you and not just to see you.--Ed Farolan
Sexual Perversity in Chicago (Stage 3)
a play by David Mamet
Saucy Eye Productions (Chilliwack, B.C.)
Despite opening night jitters, this Chilliwack theatre group did a good job. They were energetic, they owned their lines, they were comfortable with each other. The simulated sex scene where Kasey Kieler and Dena Ashbaugh strip each other and make love was artistically done, and they felt relaxed with each other, which of course, made us feel relaxed, instead of queasy, in return. Scott Tremblay with his four letter words coming out of practically every other phrase was so natural you´d think that´s how he normally talks. And Eleanor Spooner had great audience rapport particularly in the scenes where she read her fairy tales to an audience of school children. Keep up the good work and I´m sure it´ll get better in the next performances.--Ed Farolan
Trouser Parts (Stage 4)
by R. Bozi and D. Bloom
Grinning Dragon Theatre (Vancouver, B.C.)
Excellent and entertaining performances by six talented actors! Professionalism to the nth degree with their precision acting and theatrics! Two curtain calls and a warm ovation from an appreciative audience!
Rita Bozi (a Jodi Foster look-alike) does a marvelous job as co-creator of this production and performer. Her performance as Brandon based on transcripts from the true-to-life rape complaint of this victim is truly touching. But most memorable and moving is her cross-dressing from woman to man in the scene Run with the girls when she takes off her bra and tapes her breasts to be ´one of the boys´.
The audience enjoyed Runway : the actors model as females first, then males. Other enjoyable vignettes in this show include The Bible, where Jane Perry as the Preacher comedically poses the question of how God feels about cross-dressing and chromosomal confusion. Then there´s the absurdist humour in La Maupin, excellently acted by Kim Tuson, who plays a Lesbian singer of the Paris Opera in the 17th century. Permission,a vignette of the Paris Lesbians in the 1920s, indulging in opium and dancing to the beat of the Tango was exquisite; and Soldiers, a satire of women in the military, reminded me of the precision dancing in Chorus Line.
This is a great team of performers, working very well together. And I look forward, as Rita Bozi does, to the full production of this musical satire in 1998!--Ed Farolan
The Twilight Zone: Live Onstage (Stage 1)
Theater Schmeater (Seattle, Washington)
The first laugh I got was Tim Moore´s portrayal of Rod Serling. He looked more like Brian Mulroney than Rod Serling! Whether this Canadian content was done on purpose, I don´t know. But apparently, this Seattle-based company courted the Canadian audience by introducing comic antics a-la-canadienne, like inserting intermission numbers with Miss Intermission dressed as a red-uniformed mountie, and a Canadian flag being waved by a tiny mechanized robot on a table.
The two scenes presented in the production , 22 and Chaser, are based on two Twilight Zone episodes aired in 1960 and 1961. The actors were all personable. Of course, they had to be, because they were trying to sell Twilight Zone T-shirts at the end of the play. That´s one thing I like about Americans. They can sell you anything, and that´s what makes them the greatest salesmen in the world.
But this production was entertaining. The actors were energetic and full of fun. Thanks for visiting us and performing in Vancouver´s 13th Fringe Festival.--Ed Farolan
The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus (Stage 7)
by Christopher Marlowe
English Suitcase (London, England)
Although originally from London, English Suitcase will be relocating at the end of the year, and establish a repertory theatre company based in Toronto. Kevin Williamson, who founded the company 10 years ago, plays Dr. Faustus in this 17th century play based on Goethe´s Faust who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for fame, fortune and love.
Williamson is an excellent actor. He has been bringing his company to the Fringe circuit in Canada for the past 10 years. I had the opportunity of seeing him portray the lead role of Macbeth a few years back here in Vancouver.
English Suitcase is a prime example of how a company with a shoestring budget and only a few suitcases can travel and perform anywhere in the world. It´s amazing how Williamson can take a Shakesperean or for that matter, any classical play that requires a cast of hundreds, with all kinds of sets and costumes, and cut it down to mere skin and bones, and yet, still come up with a play that´s intact plus quality performance on the part of the actors.
Take this play, for example. Williamson, who also directs this play, has cut down a 3-hour play to one hour, and has reduced the number of actors to three: Dr. Faustus (Kevin Williamson), Mephistophilis (Florence MacGregor) and J. Morgan Drmaj who plays the Chorus, Valdes, Lucifer and Emperor Carolus. Incredible, isn´t it? But true, and, at the same time, educational, and we can all learn from him.
The three actors were magnificent. MacGregor played Mephistophilis in that gargoylean, metaphysical almost out of this world kind of acting which was expected of her since she had to play the role of an evil being. Her speech and movement, bordering on the unreal and the supernatural, reflected this character. Drmaj played his different roles ewith relish, but I liked him best as the playful Emperor Carolus catching grapes with his mouth as he threw and caught them one by one, and disgustingly slobbering and salivating all over the floor as he spoke. I believe that was called for at this stage of the play. We needed a little comic relief at this point in time for this really heavy drama.
Finally, the best scene in the play was obviously the last soliloquy of Faustus before he is finally dragged to hell, and Williamson delivered his lines exquisitely. All in all, the actors truly deserved the strong and warm applause that followed at the end of their performance.--Ed Farolan
Stand-up Jewish Comedy U.K. (Stage 3)
Ivor Dembina (London, England)
Ivor Dembina´s Jewish jokes were generally funny and entertaining. I liked best his joke about Israel and Palestine finally getting together as one nation and naming their country Israelstine. Some jokes, though, didn´t quite make it through, particularly the one about Princess Diana who had a premonition of her death, and that was why she auctioned off all her clothes.
All in all, though, this British Jewish comedian rose to the occasion and was well-received by Vancouverites, proving to them that Jews are funny.--Ed Farolan
Furusato (Stage 6)
Terrie Hamazaki (Vancouver, B.C.)
It was refreshing to have an Asian lesbian come out with her poetry and disciplined performance in the Fringe. Rarely do we see performances by Asians at the Fringe, and I hope more Asian Canadians can participate. Her story about her relationship with her mother was very moving, and her portrayal of both roles, creative and graceful. The only objection I had was that her show went over 35 minutes, almost 45 minutes, in fact. And to hold an audience´s attention especially for a heavyweight drama like this one, I feel keeping it down to a maximum of 30 minutes would suffice.--Ed Farolan
Harp and Solo Monologue with Music G
by Kico Gonzalez-Risso
Vetta Chamber Music and Recital Society (North Vancouver, B.C.)
It was something unique taking a piece of chamber music and mixing it up with a detective story. It is also rare and surprising to find a talent like Rita Costanzi renowned internationally as a harp soloist acting as a female detective in a monologue which I found cleverly written by Gonzalez-Risso. I think we should have more of this type of a cross-genre of drama and classical music, instead of isolating one from the other. With her international experience, Costanzi obviously had stage presence as an actress, and I believe she should continue doing work along this type of cross-genre, in particular when she does performances with The Vetta Chamber Music and Recital Society. Including drama and poetry will surely spice up a recital. And it might be interesting to perhaps go one step further and do a duo or trio, where two or three actors/musicians would perform a play interfaced with classical music.--Ed Farolan
Some crafty writing mixed Mike Hammer metaphors with romance and poetry from another era to deliver a unique version of a mystery. Discovering ones self and ones passion was positioned against the tactics of examining a crime scene. Unfortunately the transitions from gumshoe jargon to classic poetry were often uneven and lost their impact as a result. Rita Costanzi demonstrated an ability to connect with the audience but there wasn't enough drama in the 20 minute play to capture our involvement. Ms. Costanzi finished the thirty-five minute production with a beautiful Harp Solo that seemed out of place but with her immense musical talent - noone seemed to care.--Wayne MacEarchen
All Our Rock And Roll Heroes Died When We Were In Cadet Camp ( Stage 3)
Ian MacDonald (London, England & Sydney, Australia)
Sixty minutes of Aussie Ian MacDonald laboring about rugby players (of course), first kisses (...by rugby players), dogs, church choirs, Samurai businessmen, Latin wooing techniques, and cadet life should have been much better. MacDonald lacks the range of facial animation and vocal idiosyncrasies to make this an engaging performance. Perhaps the partisan crowd saw and heard things hidden beneath the surface, but a quick unofficial poll afterwards suggests at least 50-50. Of course, I didn´t ask the guy that was sitting next to me who seemed to explode in laughter every time MacDonald opened his mouth.--Wayne MacEachern
Snow White And Rose Red Are Sitting In A Bar And Having A Drink (Stage 5)
Rhea Rose and Colleen Anderson
Red Snow Productions (Vancouver, B.C.)
Despite some very fancy and clever deconstruction of our clichéd world, this production promises much more than it delivers. There´s a powerful message in this script, but at times, it moves too fast and becomes lost in an attempt to add sophistication in the form of poetic rhymings by its stars. The question of role models and conditioned behaviour is as murky as ever, and while I´m sure the message was more personal for the women in the audience, I saw many quizzical faces on the way out of the door. Snow White was captivating when she discarded the sugary sweet voice that characterized her princess role. She came to life when she literally let her hair down and danced. But too often I lost concentration on the message when her voice adopted a sing-song canter. Rose Red was totally lacking emotion and passion in a flat performance that reminded me more of a lullaby than a fairy-tale.--Wayne MacEachern
The Real Inspector Hound (Stage 7)
by Tom Stoppard
We´re In It For The
Glory Productions (Coquitlam, B.C.)
This company was quite good. Taking a difficult play like Stoppard´s with English accent and all, this Coquitlam group (doing its second Fringe) is on its way to glory. The actors enjoyed themselves, which is most important, especially when doing a comedy. They felt funny, and they acted funny, which made the audience enjoy their funniness. Director Brigitte Both´s stage composition was well done. There was good balance on stage, with actors coming in and out and positioning themselves in different areas, and the play´s pace was just right for comedy: swift with no unwanted pauses. The timing for punch lines were good; Moon´s (Thomas Yachnin) pacing was fast, then slow, giving variety and colour to his speech. Birdboot (Ian Cordon) needed more clarity in speech, and a lot of times, he sacrificed his enunciation for his English accent. Cynthia Muldoon (Amanda Merier) was stunning, and I probably will take up her offer and call her up. She left her phone number in the program. I´m sure she´ll have knights calling her for more than just a game of Scrabble. Congratulations and see you next year in your third Fringe Festival!--Ed Farolan
American Buffalo (Stage 1)
by David Mamet
Way Off Broadway (Vancouver, B.C.)
This internationally known touring company based in Vancouver has had Jessie Award-winning productions for risqué productions such as Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and Fuck Machine. Their innovativeness brought them to do an all-female play meant for male characters, and they did quite well. Mamet´s play, I am convinced now, can be done by females, particularly after watching the powerful acting by Jenn Griffin, Terry Winkelman and Deborah DeMille. The printed program was quite creative too. The characters and actors were portrayed as wanted criminals on the run. Kudos to Director Michael Wener for a good show, and to musician Steve Wener (brother?) for an interesting musical score for this play.--Ed Farolan
Jesus And Everything (Stage 6)
A Catholic Guy Production (Vancouver, B.C.)
Well, it is extremely difficult to know what to say about this performance. Maybe it was because it was a premiere, or maybe it was because it was Eleven O'Clock at night, or maybe it was because I'm a former Catholic turned Agnostic. But I didn't laugh once inspite of being handed a Happy Face Soul. Innes attempts to turn a one-joke situation into something cerebral and falls face down - REALLY! The issue of Good vs Bad has never been left so muddled. There were a few good lines. While imitating the Crucifixion, Innes remarked that his arms were getting tired and perhaps that was why they used the nails. Well, I didn't feel any nails but I sure as hell felt crucified! I was extremely happy to see the show end a good 20 minutes short of the advertised time. Ironically, I find myself muttering "Goooood" and "Baaaaad" a lot lately. Was that the point of this lunacy? Spend your time and your money on other fare and save yourself from Jesus and nothing. Really!--Wayne MacEachern
"FAG-HAG": The Love Stories (Stage 1)
Gun Shy (Vancouver, B.C.)
Easily my favorite production of the year to date. Three stunning performances of three delightful stories. The anticipation of each monoloque grew throughout the whole play. Tamara Guner was fabulous as a Russian exotic dancer in love with a man who lived as a woman. Her ability to deliver humorous lines while portraying an individual who is angry, frustrated, and confused never failed to bring the crowd to life. Jennifer Fahrni, who looks remarkably like Terri Garr, was the anchor that provided the outlet for sentiment, and Lori Triolo rode a spectrum of love, loneliness, regret, and vulnerability that challenged our ideals and existing notions of the labels we attach to people. After the performance, my friend and I found ourselves coming back time and again to the question raised :"How many labels can one person have?" I look forward to more from Farquhar and all the players. Truly memorable.--Wayne MacEachern
I Buried Paul (Stage 6)
Mark Paton (Toronto)
This one-man show, although supposedly a comedy, wasnt funny at all. Mark Paton was boring with his hat-changing dialogues between himself and his girl friends. It was boring to the point of being annoying. He was also using a microphone as a prop, and when he sang, his guitar strumming was louder than his singing. Next time, click on the microphone so we can hear you sing. If Paton got rid of the hat-changing and stuck to the story line of how he replaced Paul McArtney, the play would have been better (and shorter!). The audience came to listen to Beatles songs, and if we saw more of Paton imitating and singing like Paul McArtney, the play might just make it.--Ed Farolan
The Master and Margarita (Stage 4)
adapted from a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov
theater simple (Seattle)
This award-winning production has had rave reviews wherever they performed, and I simply agree with no hesitation at all. With two curtain calls and standing ovations from a sold out house, what else could you ask for? This actor-based ensemble founded in 1990 has for its objective to strip the theatrical experience down to its elemental parts: the imagination of the actor and the audience, the playwrights words and the directors vision. And this production did just that to the enjoyment of the audience. Amy Augustine was just as beautiful both dressed and undressed, as the loving Margarita, and Andrew Litzky performed his role as The Master well, although I would have expected more voice projection especially when dealing with a full house. Rachel Katz did a great job coordinating scene transitions and set changes using the simple, practical and functional techniques of Brechtian theatre.--Ed Farolan
Famous Dead Stories We Just Made Up (Stage 4)
Angry Actors (Vancouver, B.C.)
Brief and troublesome is our lifetime; neither is there any remedy for mans dying, nor is anyone known to have come back from the nether world. For haphazard were we born, and hereafter we shall be as though we had not been. (Book of Wisdom 2: 1-2)
The concept of death was well dramatized by this group of professional Vancouver actors. There was humour, a lot of it in the beginning, and there was tragedy at the end. There has to date never been a group daring enough to come out with a play dealing with this very sensitive issue, and it jars us to know that life is fleeting, and to prepare ourselves for the inevitable which we cannot avoid. Fine script and acting by this group.---Ed Farolan
Naked Wedding (Stage 4)
I believe this show has been overrated by critics. Here you have two dancers doing modern ballet with dialogues anyone could hardly understand because of their accent plus they weren't enunciating and projecting enough, and I understand why: they were using up all their energy with their modern ballet acrobatics, which wasn't very unique, anyway. Besides, the story was too simplistic and mundane: boy meets girl, they fall in love, they break up, and they reconcile. So what?--Ed Farolan
Inquisition (Stage 8)
Kitsilano Theatre Society
I think the playwright's intention in this mystery drama was to keep us guessing how these two high government officials were related to each other. And of course, if you didn't have a detective mind, and took the dialogues literally, then you'd never suspect they were husband and wife. I liked this play; the acting by veteran actors Paula Shaw and John Destry was forceful; the production design was polished; and the script was cleverly written.--Ed Farolan
Pendra: The Sex Astrologer (Stage 3)
A definite talent for fluid and spontaneous delivery...but how spontaneous? For one who has never bought into the Astrology gig, I found myself combatting the urge to believe too many repeated forecasts and profiles. But what did it matter, anyway, when we are talking about a performance piece?
The thing is it was remarkable to see how many among the audience were such great lovers and were to expect nothing but stupendous sexual encounters in the near future!
I wonder if every show had the ¨best lover¨amongs them and..what would have happened if all of us were born on the same day?
Pendra is a bit shocking a la Howard Stern; a bit obnoxious a la Dianne Warwick or Jo-Jo; and, I suspect, a bit redundant. Psychic pussies and intellectual penises seemed to be more prominent than anything ever investigated by the X-files team!
I laughed, as did most of the audience, but I was glad when it was over. Her column in Loop Magazine is much more suitable as it can be read once a month, and it only takes a few minutes. Great costume, though!--Wayne MacEachern
Jonestown (Stage 5)
The Loose Noose Theatre Co.
The production seemed to be extremely demanding both physically and mentally particularly at a venue such as the Green Thumb Theatre. Rapid and frequent costume and character changes that take place often while the dialogue continues makes it difficult for the audience to keep track of the temporal sequence of events.
At one point, a much too long speech by Jim Jones (Kevin Jollimore) occurs while two actresses (Lainey Bates and Nicole Barnett) chidingly stare down at the shufflers and restless souls in the audience. This tactic was more annoying than effective, but I tend to believe it would have been more successful in a larger venue with a larger cast.
Barnett is excellent as the caring sister, and Bates does well as the tortured victim. But when they adopt their other roles, we can´t distinguish the transformation.
This is an example of a production that would benefit immensely fro increased funding and a more spectacular stage. Jonestown the event was a tragedy. Jonestown the play is a valuable viewpoint. It just needs to be bigger.--Wayne MacEachern
The Landlady (Stage 7)
by Wade Nott
This company of singers devoted to performing opera, cabaret and music theatre presents its third Vancouver Fringe musical production. Wade Nott also acts in this musical as one of the disgruntled tenants. Tina Overbury who wrote and directed Only Nine, one of the Fringes picks last year, directs. This play was fun. The singing by mostly Vancouver Opera chorus members was great.--E.F.
In Search Of (Stage 7)
by Laurier Dubeau
When you hear titles like this, you know that theres going to be something wrong with this piece. And true enough, there was a lot of confusion as characters search for themselves, as the author himself puts it. There was a lot of disfunctional music as well as repetitive movements to show the routine of waking up, going to work and having drinks afterwards. What was confusing for me was: Where was the search?--E.F.
Autumn Leaves (Stage 5)
by Julianne Bernstein
Just Two Productions
This was a touching production. Short but touching. And I forgot to bring kleenex. Well, perhaps, for those who belong to the Vietnam Veterans generation like myself, I found this story about two sisters who visit the Vietnam Veterans memorial in Washington D.C. and find their brothers name engraved in the black granite quite heart-rending.--E.F.
Play (Stage 2)
by Annabel Soutar
I Spy a Theatre Company
Why does this company waste its time dedicating itself to a systematic questioning of theatre? And in this play, they were doing just that. It was absolutely boring as I sat there for one hour watching these two clowns debate on how to write a play. The audience was laughing. I was the only one not laughing. I wasnt sure whether there was something wrong with the audience, or with me. And furthermore, they were going over their one-hour alotted time. I suggest that this company dedicate itself to something more theatrical, like doing a good, classsic play, for instance, Becketts Waiting for Godot, which would be a good tool for the two talented actors who were clowning around for nothing.--E.F.
Simulated Nudity (Stage 3)
by Graham Collins
This stand-up comic was good. Very good. Its a pity he didnt have a full house, and I believe its because he limits himself to a mature audience. If he made his show For General Patronage or even with Parental Guidance, hell be taking in more money from the box office.--E.F.
A Choose Your Own Play: The Lost Myth of Adventureland (Stage 8)
by Martin Gordon Schobel
Now why dont we have more Childrens Theatre on the Fringe? Lets get the kids involved the way Schobel did with his play. Fantastic! The sold-out house full of kids were totally involved in this production, talking and interacting with the actors. Malone (Heath Radzanowski) stood out. He should. Hes the main character. The others were a bit acting-shy, and to play to kids, you have to open up and play with them, so to speak.--E.F.
Vanunu I am your spy (Stage 1)
by Mara Coward & Camyar Chai
The Imaginary Enclave Company
Based on a true story of international intrigue, this production tells the story of a man,Vanunu, (excellently portrayed by Mordecai Briemberg) who was kidnapped by the Mossad and sentenced as a traitor to 18 years of solitary confinement for protesting against the nuclear weaponry of Israel. This play has been chosen as a Fringe pick and extended.--E.F.
Spanish Fly (Stage 1)
by Roman Danylo
The Roman Danylo Corp.
This other Fringe pick (also extended) was, to me, my favourite. This highly experienced group of actors kept the audience laughing with every punch line. The volunteer at the ticket desk of this sold-out house almost didnt let me in until he read a note from Jance Fontaine with my name on it. Thanks again, Janice!--E.F.
The Fringe has a warm spot in my heart. I was a participant in 1993 with my one-act play The Caged Dream which Ross Pink directed, and again, the following year, I directed Elmer Wiens´Critical Paths, a result of the Continuing Education acting classes I gave at Langara.
The great thing about the Vancouver Fringe is that it does not discriminate. Whether you´re amateur or professional, everyone gets a chance to show their wares. And I say kudos and more power in the next years to come to Joanna Maratta for making the fringe an international institution of the performing arts, as well as to Communications director Janice Fontaine for her openness and, truly, great communication power!--E.F.