The 14th Vancouver Fringe Festival

Simon, Pieman of Athens

by Barbara Whiting

Stage Door (Canada)

Venue 7

Watching this play was like watching the Special Olympics, and only in Canada do we consider the mentally challenged as one of us, and not as a separate entity.  It's admirable that a group like Stage Door has come up with winners for the BC Drama Festival, and are in their second year in the Fringe.  Peter Adams, who plays the Troubador, Kevin Millsip as the Narrator and Roddy MacDonald as Lord Duncan Hind manage to get the other actors working together in Whiting's flowing script  which twists Shakespeare in humorously ridiculous snipets. -- Ed Farolan

Miss Julie (in Paris)

from the writings of August Strindberg

theatre simple (USA)

Venue 7

Last year, I reviewed The Master & Margarita which theatre simple brought to the 1997 Fringe. Although this year's production is simpler than the one last year, it still brings out the high calibre quality of this Seattle theatre group. This company's artistic directors Andrew Litzky and Llysa Holland together with Paul Herwig tackle a difficult piece directed/instigated by M. Burke Walker whereby 95% of Strindberg's writings (Inferno, The Occult Diary, Miss Julie and other selected letters/essays) are put mise-en-scene by these three actors who come in the beginning of the play to paint moustaches and beards on their faces and play the different psychotic personalities of the Swedish playwright August Strindberg. These three professional actors performed this complex work extremely well, and I look forward to see them again in next year's Fringe with another innovative production.(Unfortunately, due to a family emergency within the cast, the last two shows scheduled on September 18 & 19 were cancelled.)--EF

Les demoiselles

by David Garfinkle

Historical Performance Society (Canada)

Venue 7

This play made its world premiere at the Edmonton Fringe last month and its Vancouver premiere last night. Reading the impressive Company Biographies of Garfinkle and the actors, it is no wonder at all why this exquisite production should not be rated less than five stars. The experience and expertise of these prima donnas shone like stars in the night:  Lee Van Paassen as La Duclos--professional actress, director, artistic director of The Conservatory, and long standing member of the theatre community (25 years), performing the part with grace and neoclassical elegance; Leslie Wilson as Katrin, BFA from the University of Alberta, recipient of the Jessie Richardson Award for her role as Emilia in 1997, playing the dying, syphillitic half-sister of La Duclos with a controlled nervousness and élan; Vanessa Le Bourdais, professional singer, composer and playwright, exuding in her role  as Grandmere Gorla with passionate anger against Racine; Laura Di Cicco , a Jesse Richardson awardee for her performance in Axis Theatre, professional radio and TV actress, playing the crafty Madame de Sévigné with the elegance and grace only a French neoclassical actress could express; Karen Kennedy, a new graduate of the Vancouver Academy of Music, on her way to Germany this fall to pursue her operatic career, bringing the Comtesse de Soissons to life with her aristocratic naiveté; and last, but never least, the writer/director David Garfinkle, a long time performer, theatre artist and, I must underscore, an educator, as he brings to life historical documents based upon original translations of the early monologues of neoclassical French playwright Jean Racine and the letters of Madame de Sevigne.  He centers on the life of Paris tragedienne Marie-Anne Duclos (1668-1748) , daughter of Racine, as she searches for the truth about her parents. I must commend Garfinkle for his scholarly work, for the professionalism in his work as director, paying close attention to the stylized acting of the neoclassical period, and educating audiences on costumes, acting styles, and a slice of life of 17th century France. I encourage him to pursue this line of work and look forward to seeing another period piece written/directed by him, perhaps from England's Jacobean period?--EF

Sex With the Dead

by Steven William Wallace

Braveheart Productions (Canada)

Venue 5

How does Karma rebound on a narcissistic, self-indulgent Hollywood agent with and insatiable appetite for all manners of perversions? You'll have to see Sex With the Dead (directed by Lorne Seifred) to find out. Kevin Blatch shines as Sol Abrams in this sometimes dark, sometimes comical portrayal of a man driven by the pursuit of money and the pleasures of the flesh. Just as conniving, though not as flamboyant, Dave Sprout portrays a worthy foil as Mr. Moses - the man who can 'arrange' anything. Kelly Page (as Kelly Ann Young) and Fiona Forbes (as Marjorie) play the female leads and Page shows us that revenge and the lust for power are not solely male pursuits. This short (25 minute) production is well-staged and delivered. It touches on such essential elements as greed, power, sex and revenge. The total package. Sex With the Dead is an intelligent, direct portrayal of the consequences of greed. When you always want something more, there is a price to pay. And sometimes, the fee is substantial.--Randy Belon

The Duck Variations

by David Mamet

Glance Productions (Canada)

Venue 5

A set comprised solely of a plain black backdrop and a single wooden bench permit one's imagination to soar as the characters in this comedy speak. And speak they do! Actors Philip Blake and David Purvis take on the personas of two aging, opinionated, and verbose men (gentlemen?) who pass their time having conversations in the park. They discuss nature and humanity; life and death; rules and cycles; simplicity and complexity; nature and friendship. Oh yeah. And ducks - they talk a lot about ducks. All of this is interpreted through a filter of humor and good-natured crabbiness. Under the direction of John Jewell, the interaction between Black and Purvis is, at once, believable. The actors go beyond the stereotypes of aging to create complex characters eager to share their observations with one another. We don't know much about who these characters are or what brings them together, then again, we don't have to. Their easy-flowing dialogue and "sim-bye-ot-ik" relationship draws the viewer into their world of cranky jabs and almost childlike imaginations. Once drawn into the dialogue, sixty minutes passes in a flash. The play is simultaneously entertaining and thought provoking, allowing the audience to examine their perceptions of aging and relationships. The genuine affection the characters show for each other cannot be masked by their outward sarcasm. In the end, we are left with a message of the importance of friendship. As the characters aptly state: "Nothing that lives, lives alone."--RB

Transcendental Masturbation: A Beginner's Guide

by Glen Calendar

Draggo Butto Farms, Inc. (Canada)

Venue 4

This one-man show by Glen Calendar is an eclectic blend of music, stand-up, and pun. As the title of the production suggests, the content can be mature. However, the general flow of Mr. Calendar's rantings are intended for those with less discerning tastes. Indeed, the heartiest guffaws from the audience came from the gaggle of young girls occupying the front row --probably as impressed with the young performer's zero-percent body fat and sparkling g-string as they were with the content of his monologue or the lyrics to his songs.Much of the show is improvised and this, perhaps, is its weakest point.While Mr. Calendar exudes an obvious charm and blazing wit, there is simply not enough here to make you sit up and take notice for an extended period. As a one hour show, Transcendental Masturbation over-extends itself. While there are numerous episodes and musical numbers that make one smirk, there are few belly laughs. The content which is humorous deserves attention, however a production in the twenty-five to thirty minute range would have been more appropriate, allowing the performer to find his niche and exploit those segments of his production which do shine (such as his song about a very bad lover). This is not to be overly critical. Indeed, Mr. Calendar himself asserts that he is 'new' to performing (as if he needed to tell us). With enough polish, and a maturation of his writing style, there is much in this production which is salvageable. If you like your humor unpolished and teetering on the edge of absurdity and bad taste, you will not be disappointed with this presentation. On the other hand, Glen Calendar may just be a talent to keep track of. His obviously disjointed perspective does show promise. Only time will tell.--RB


by Barbara Nickel

Septext Productions (Canada)

Venue 7

Sublime.  Esoteric.  Poetic.  Almost a full house for opening day and two curtain calls. This superb production,  written by Newfoundland poet Barbara Nickel and directed by Gil Yaron, who makes his professional debut as a director, tells the story of three musicians whose lives parallel those of Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, and Johannes Brahms.  Septext's mandate is to fuse music with text, and the result is excellent.  Three musicians in chamber music style play the ghosts of  Brahms (Angela Quiring), Clara (Jane Hayes) and Robert Schumann (Finn Maniche), while actors David Adams (whose professionalism shone in his thespian delivery), Pamela Raven, and John Turk play their dramatic roles as they unfold dark secrets in this tragic love triangle.  The music was flawless, the acting was close to perfection, and the set, austere but elegant.  This production whould definitely be a pick of the Fringe.--E. F.


by John Graham Davies

Market Forces (UK)

Venue 7

BBC's John Graham Davies acts out multiple roles here; in fact, 5 characters, as he narrates his own experience on convoys to Bosnia. At the end of the show, he asks donations for another convoy leaving soon. Impressive and very gallant of him.Four stars.--EF


by Vivienne Ya-Wen Wang, Gabriel Alden, Mallory Catlett, Jennifer A. Rozylo

Vivienne Wang with SFU Contemporary Arts (Canada)

Venue 7

If an excursion can be defined as a digression, a confused deviation from a set path, then Vivienne Wang's offering at Venue 7 is aptly named. Constantly shifting from physical humor, to piano recital, to slide show, to monologue, Ms. Wang showcases her enormous range of talents and keeps her audience guessing as to what she'll do next. Vivienne Wang takes a very intellectual (occassionally bordering on pretentious) look at such topics as immigration, bilingualism, and new beginnings. Throughout, there is the element of risk and self-exploration - and once committed, there is no turning back. The performer conquers challenges both as a contemporary entertainer, and as a young child boarding an ocean liner for an unkown land with agility and poise. However, though the production is billed as a "concert-comedy", there is too little of each. Ms. Wang plays the piano with dazzling technical expertise and genuine emotional gusto. Her singing voice is intoxicating. Unfortunately, the audience does not hear enough of either throughout this perforrmance. Abstractions and disjointed tangents consume too much of the production. It appears that the performer is experimenting - throwing her obvious talent into a landscape of metaphor and imagination. And this is just as it should be if one agrees iwht the concept of Fringe theatre. Still, though pwerful in its own right, this performance is not accessible and engaging for everyone. --RB

The Old Woman

by N. Gogol, D. Kharms

Theatre Club/Kiev (Ukraine)

Venue 7

Brilliantly acted and intimately staged, The Old Woman drifts lazily between numbingly slow passages of reminiscence and longing, and segments of intense emotion accompanied by incessant shouting. As much of the presentation is in Russian, the overt display of raw emotion helps the monolinguistic observer remain focused through the slower scenes. Witnessing an imaginary relationship between two prominent Russian artists (Nikolay Gogol and Daniil Kharms) who lived a century apart, The Old Woman fluctuates between sheer rapture and utter boredom. It is only the intensity of the perfomers and the unpredictable sequence of events that keep those unfamiliar with the works of Gogol and Kharms captivated. Still, it is just enough. Oleg Lipstin, as Kharms, proves to be the focal point. From his almost imperceptible move across the stage at his entrance, to his insane rantings of hatred and intolerance for other human beings, he keeps one riveted by the forecefulness of his delivery and his inescapable presence. Gediminas Sederavcius portrays an intriguing Gogol: whispering intently, escaping into the night, and serenading the audience with prose, piano, and harmonica. Alla Doruga, The Old Woman, is also captivating - -even though her time on stage is brief and her character speaks virtually no English. As with the other performers, it is her intensity, her will, which the audience can simply not ignore. The Old Woman is not for those who like their drama tidy, neat, and linear. Its maddeningly slow pace and inaccessible linguistic content would make such a viewing frustrating in the extreme. For others however, those who have the patience and the perspective to internalize the emotions and experience the passion underlying the words, this production will not disappoint.--R.B.


by Steven Berkoff

English Suitcase (England)

Venue 3

Kevin Williamson's English Suitcase Theatre brings another interesting production to the Fringe this year. Traditionally, he has put on classics like Macbeth, Rashomon, and Goethe's Faust, among others. However, this year, he has decided to experiment on this contemporary British play, an adaptation of the Oedipus myth, set in England during Margaret Thatcher's reign. Eddy (Kevin Williamson) is the hero who opposes the regime, answers the riddle of the Sphinx, and discovers the cause of the plague. But Berkoff puts a happy twist to the otherwise Sophoclean ending where Oedipus gouges his eyes and Jocasta kills herself. Although I found the play too long, with the actors constantly ranting profanities, I found the experiment theatrically interesting. The actors in clownish faces delivering lines at super energy levels kept the audience in awe. The almost sold out opening night drew approvals in the form of positive whistles and shouts from an appreciative audience, proving the resilience and popularity of this theatre company who has had hits at the Fringe for more than a decade. The company has recently moved to Winnipeg, and Kevin Williamson wants feedback for this particular production. You can email him at


by Foursight Theatre (England)

Venue 3

Although this production had its merits, i.e., some historical facts about the World War II, an insight into Eva Braun's personality , the English fascists, etc., I was a bit perplexed because only two actresses portrayed different roles and I did get rather confused guessing who's who. Both actresses  Lisa Harrison and Naomi Cooke were excellent in their delivery. I just wished that there were more actresses to portray the other roles, and actors for the male roles, to make this play more understandable. But what do you expect? There are the budget constraints of the Fringe and the actors have to make the most of it. Most productions on the Fringe are 1 to 2 men/women shows, and like this play, we have multiple roles being played by 2 actors. Take as examples the other Fringe shows: Bonnie Living Dangerously, paranormal, Taking sides, etc. Gone are the days of frivolous theatre, and... welcome to the Theatre of the Austere!--EF


by Jacque Lalonde in collaboration with the hussy collective

Shameless Hussy Productions in association with Way Off Broadway (Canada)

Venue 3

This retelling of the Bonnie & Clyde Story was much enjoyed by a sold out house during opening night. There were oohs and wows as Bonnie and Clyde shot their way through the police, drove away with stolen cars, escaped from jail cells, and just about anything that kept this couple a legend of American gangsterism. The production was interesting enough with both actors Rene Iaci and Tom Jones playing  not on;ly the main characters but other  roles as they recount their story which ends with the 167 bullets that finally kill them. Two or three curtain calls followed with appreciative applause. Four stars.--E.F.


by Ian Goldberg

big boy Productions (Canada)

Venue 4

I found this sophomoric production comprised of amateur actors silly, and yet, entertaining. Ian Goldberg has a funny piece here, spewing jokes about Jewish surfers, easy women, and coming up with weird, comical characters like the Mexican Jose (Luis Ribeiro) with his Mexican revolution outfit who turns out to be Aunt Josie, our hero's aunt. Brad Silver (Justin Gilbert) was amateurishly funny in his role as the Jewish surferr, and Wabu Wabu, played by Barry Greenfield, the surf legend king, looked ridiculously Jewish-Polynesian. For Wise Hall, it was almost jam-packed, surprisingly enough, and some audience members, in Hawaiian fashion, were given leis as freebees by the actors who paraded in the auditorium. All in all, it was ridiculously enjoyable, and I'd give this show three stars.--EF


by Book-Rick Hawkins; Composer-Steven Dorff; Lyricist-John Bettis

Waiting for Bernice (Canada)

Venue 4

This musical written by Emmy award winners Rick Hawkins and John Bettis hasn't made it to Broadway yet, but with this talented cast, I hope to see it make its way there. This talented group from Edmonton are graduates of the Theatre Arts Program of Grant McEwan College. And if this college can crank out graduates like these, Grant McEwan must be a pretty good Arts institution. In this particular production, pay particular attention to Lisa de Witt who is a natural on stage both as an actress and a singer. Leeanne McLim, Jason Bay, Peter Nicci, Emily Slywchuk, Sean Moores, Michelle Todd, and Scott Cranwill also played their roles with utmost professionalism. Congratulations to Director Jessica Rose for a job well done. I look forward to seeing this group make it to the big time. I believe their next project is getting to the New York Fringe, or even to Off-Broadway. Who knows? With talents like these, anything can happen.--EF


by Verna Chan

I've Got a Barn Productions (Canada)

Venue 1

Professional lounge singers Verna Chan and Doug Laalo bring the fifties back to life in this night clubish atmosphere, accompanied by top instrumentalists Peter Dent at the piano, Tomo Foster, drums and Travis Baker, bass. Nostalgia for Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett songs--Come Fly with me, The Best is Yet to Come, Makin'Whoopee, I'll be around, How little we know, and other old favourites, with improvised dialogue in-between songs, make this show an enjoyable, relaxing and memorable  evening for oldies like me. The venue even has a bar where you can sip your drink as you watch the show. All that's needed for this production is a little dance floor where the audience can dance and interact with the actors. Four stars.--EF


by Terry Winkelman

Mega Rouge (Canada)

Venue 1

Terry Winkelman's one-woman show was excellent. It's a pity that the wrong venue was chosen for her. For a show of this sort, something like Cavern or Havana would be more appropriate. But other than that, she did a fine job as an insomniac telling us stories of her life, studies, etc. on her bed, as she lay sleepless, imagining fantasies of drowning, her past relationships and so forth and so on. She is a good actress, the piece was good, and I look forward to seeing her again in another one-woman show, but in a smaller venue.--EF


by Doug Curtis

Ghost River (Canada)

Venue 1

"paranormal" is a drama about spiritism. Doug Curtis tells us a story of a ghost he encounters at Doug McEachern's house close to where he lives in Calgary. Although the storytelling was interesting, I found a few digressions where he talks about his bastard son from a previous relationship, killing dogs, his family life as a Catholic, etc., irrelevant to the theme of the play. He should have stuck to the ghost story itself, and that would have made the play a bit tighter. I found the play too long because of these digressions. The music was good as well as the sound and light effects provided by the 'paranormal house band' Peter Moller and Lester Quitzan. Three stars.--EF


by Keith Provost

Slop Girl Productions (Canada)

Venue 8

This award winning psychological thriller reminded me of Hitchcock's Psycho and dial M for Murder, and I'm pretty sure the writer was inspired by Hitchcock. Actors Samantha Wilson and Kennedy Goodkey did a good job delivering Provost's script.  Although this venue was a bit warm, the ambience was just right for this chiller.  Highly recommended for those who love suspense, murder and horror stories .  Four stars.--E.F. 

Watching the Animals

by Blacken Tan Dance (USA)

Venue 3

Watching the Animals was divided into six segments themed from sensous-cat crawling set to a Zamfir-style pan flute, to angry air-kicking and somersaults lifted by an African Bambataa percussion.The five women and two men that comprise Blacken Tan provided a lot of their own a apella popping and hissing sounds, complemented by body slapping and foot-stomping. All the dancers except one of the men were in seriously tight form, with hard lean bodies, while one of the two men looked more like a wrestler than a dancer, with his Andre-the-Giant-like sternum and belly looking most out of place among the other pixie-like waifs, and hindering the fluidity of his movements. I wonder if he wasn't added to the ensemble just so they would have a baritone in the group. One scene in particular was done extremely well, with what looked like a real seven-foot tree in the spotlight on the empty stage which seemed to dissolve right before my very eyes into three sprite-like beauties, pirouetting about like genies fresh from a bottle. One of the closing scenes was set in a diner and the waitress goes up to a table of three who order their dinners using contrived ludicrous expressions, waves, thrusts and punches. It seems to take almost three minutes before they're done ordering, to which the waitress goes over to the cook and perfectly repeats every gesture, including some quite hilarious nose-poking and butt-grabbing. I think had there been a bigger audience, this show could be so much more fun, because a lot of the posturing and posing was simply quite silly. With the audience as small as it was, though, I had the feeling that nobody wanted to be the first to laugh, under penalty of being deemed a cultural heathen. --Curtis Newart

Cirque Poule

directed by Stephane Kirkland

Cirque Poule (Canada)

Venue 3

Billed in the Fringe guide as "outcasts, freaks and flying clowns who feed themselves on audiences, Warning: coarse gibberish", Cirque Poule, or Chicken Circus, was a trip into the netherlands of the absurd. The show began with accordian-playing-chicken-ladies wearing flamenco dresses laying eggs as they rhumba'd across the stage. Once the chickens left the stage, a woman came in pushing a dolly with a suitcase on it, with a woman's head poking out the side. The woman in the suitcase was almost foaming at the mouth, blathering on in a tongue foreign to this planet before breaking out and chasing her captor up onto a swing suspended from the ceiling where they battled it out. Very well choreographed and plenty of gut-laughs. A troll with a six-inch nose, a half-samurai/ half-geisha girl fanning herself with her own feet and a women with four legs were paraded in one after the other. I was skeptical at first that Cirque Poule would deliver on their promise for freakiness and was gladly proven wrong. The six women who make up Cirque Poule are either incredibly inventive and have no fear or else they're just nuts, plain and simple. The finalÆ was a Barnum and Bailey-type knife-throwing act that had everyone on the edge of their seats, only to be topped by a fire-breathing amazon with a multi-coloured blinking cone bra. Whether you have kids or not, this show is worth seeing. Last two performances on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.--CN

Playing with Fire (After Frankenstein)

by Barbara Field

Theatre Crossing (Canada)

Venue 7

This show is a new version of the Mary Shelly classic, and excellently performed by seasoned actors Mackenzie Gray, Brent Fidler, Kristina Copeland, Leo Vernik, John Destry, and Bill Croft, and directed by Way Off Broadway  Artistic Director Michael Wener. The play was well received by an appreciative audience.  Light and sound effects by Michael Schaldemose and William Moysey, Costumes by Patricia Fawcett, and Set Design by Eddy Moore delivered a superlative production worthy of what drama critics would tab as "five stars". A Fringe show that is a must. Catch the fire at the Firehall Theatre Thursday, September 17, 3 pm; Friday September 18, 6:15 pm; Saturday, September 19, 4:30 pm; and Sunday, September 20, 12 pm.--EF

Take 2

by Natalie D. Meisner

ladies breaking legs (Canada)

Venue 7

This supposedly funny show was not funny at all.  The only thing I found funny here was the discovery that Edy confessed he was a woman, and not a man.  A friend I met after the show commented: "The only thing I found funny was when a drunk in the audience (who was hauled away from the venue by an usher for 'disturbing the peace') commented 'Marilyn Monroe' when one of the actresses, in cliche fashion, asked the audience:  'What screen name should I  give myself?'"   The author confesses that this play would be cliche ridden, which it was, and all the Jerry Lewis antics which the two actresses acted out were, surprisingly, loved by Montreal audienceswhen it was performed at the Fringe there.  I'm not surprised, though, since the French love Jerry Lewis for strange, silly reasons. There were a few laughs from this Vancouver audience, but all in all, I'd give this show two stars.--EF

The Brutal Telling

by Jennifer Mascall

Mascall Dance (Canada)

Venue 3

This educational narrative in dance form gives us an insight of a series of vignettes, anecdotes, and images of the life of Canadian artist Emily Carr.  Excellent choreography by Jennifer Mascall performed with gusto and passion by Marthe Leonard and Olivia Thorvaldson, and superlative music and sound design by Veda Hille and Martin Gotfrit. Interesting insight on Carr not only as artist but also writer.  She made her mark as an artist only in her fifties when she met the Group of Seven in Toronto.  Four stars.--E.F.

Basic Brown

by Federico Barahona

directed by Jonathan Teague & Kevin Millsip

Venue 5

Thursday, September 17th, 10:30 p.m. and Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

Lucy (Alexandra Castillo), is a valley-girlesque Hispanic who asks God why she's brown. He says all colours of the rainbow are important. She answers, "Then why do I have to be the shitty colour?" Lucy is a receptionist at a car-lot, who sits atop a giant prop telephone and all the people who call in pop their heads out from where the buttons would be. She has to deal with an abusive fishcutter mother who tells her she's going to kill her for smoking and taking birth control pills and keeps saying: "I was pregnant with you for nine months and thought you were going to die!" Her mother calls her a lazy cow and tells her she looks like an Indian when her hair's uncombed. Lucy's boyfriend is a radical white dweeb who thinks he's black: "When you're born black, you're born in jail," he says. Lucy fights with Chris over his constant verbal diatribes over discrimination. She reveals she's just as prejudiced as her oppressors when he calls and she asks him, "Are you looking for the stupid white-ass department?" Chris (Kevin Kerr) and Lucy's mom (Krista Mennell) each play at least five characters each, quite adeptly. In the end, Lucy is fired in favour of a girl who apparently knows more about cars, but insiders are convinced it's only because she's white. In the end, Chris and Lucy almost break up, because as she says, "You don't listen to me…quit pretending you're black and admit you're just confused…and pay for dinner." I think the playwright hopes to make a statement with this play about the wrongs of racism but doesn't say much more than Lucy's prejudiced as well.--CN Newart

Strange Wednesday

by Laura Trasolini

directed by Todd Witham

Glance Productions Theatre Society (Canada)

Mark (Phil Trasolini) just moved into an apartment by the airport. It's been a year and a half since his girlfriend Carrie died and he's struggling to stay sober. His best friend Jenny (Silya Wiggins) comes over to help him unpack, says she broke up with her boyfriend last night and then spent the night at a porno theatre. Then she goes for Mark's jugular: "Why didn't you call me last night? You don't care about me." They fight before seeing strange flashing lights and hearing bizarre humming sounds that convince them a UFO's landing in the front yard, at which point they begin to panic. "I'm scared," he says. The UFO hovers for a good seven or eight minutes outside the window while she dumps her purse looking for the cell phone to call the police. He notices a deck of cards and says they can play cards if they get bored. They start arguing about God. He admits he drank last night, and she becomes furious that he fell off the wagon. He puts his head in her lap and she forgives him. She admits she wasn't really at a porno last night, but at a hospital with a woman whom she hit in a crosswalk then fled, (who died later in the night). No one knows, not even the police. A bright light flashes into the room; he goes outside and screams, "Are you God? If you could forgive me, maybe I could learn to be sober…I don't want to hate myself anymore!"  When he goes back inside, she says, "You're a bastard! You've been using me since Carrie died!" Then she says, "Kiss me." He refuses, she slaps him, then he throws her to the ground. It's her turn to go out into the bright light: "What do you want from me?" she says, "Let me go! I'm not going to be held down anymore!" She goes inside & apologizes to Mark, then confesses the real reason for her bizarre behavior is not that she killed a woman, but that her boyfriend tried to rape her last night and then told her to move out. "At least I was getting attention," she says. Mark kisses her on the lips and agrees to go to the police station with her. They play 52 pick-up waiting for the movers to arrive.

I'm not quite sure what this play is trying to say but it was a painful 55 minutes.--CN

Economies of Life

Bob E. Thomas (USA)

Venue 2

Flying in church in his underwear? He's a 40-ish ex-Hamish from Pennsylvania. There were only 9 people in the audience and he kept asking, "Is everyone o.k.?"   You're probably thinking: "We did pay $8.00 to get in…" Little of his material was funny. He talked about arguments with brother, the time when his family went to a restaurant and ordered lobster but since Dad didn't know how to eat it they just ate the lettuce garnish. "The mute shall inherit the earth." He had a job snipping bushes which meant many hours of silence, "like now." I felt like his shrink as he poured out one unfinished memory after the next. It was like watching the straight man deliver all the set-up lines with no punch-lines. He thought he was a genius and Jesus as kid. He interposed musical scenes with his dialogue in hopes of illustrating his stories which only served to further confuse me. He talked about how a kid in his church drank the communal wine then barfed, and how he was forced to wear a green gown to his confirmation ceremony while everyone else wore white. The dead silence in the theatre prompted him to joke, "I know what you're thinking…"Where's the partial nudity?" I, for one, definitely was not thinking that. When he entered his teens, he says, he turned to heathenism, and became an idiot-savante musician. "Redundant , isn't it?" He talked plenty about women with moustaches, including his never-married high school teacher. "Makes you suspicious, doesn't it?" he asked. A lady in the audience shouted "No!".I started thinking to myself that he must have a huge ego to think that we'd be interested in such trivial, mundane things that have happened to him or else he's been traumatized and is trying to work it out in the theatre, with us, the audience as his shrink. He admits his biggest fear is to "die" onstage in front of an audience, and adds, "You must think I'm awfully good at it by now," which earned him one of the few laughs of his hour-and-a-half-long show. He concludes by telling us of how his brother confessed he was sterile shortly before commiting suicide, and tells us, "It doesn't matter what I say in front of people now because at least I feel alive." This was a bizarre show and not for the faint of heart (nor patience).Last show: Sunday, September 20th at 6:15 p.m.--CN

Samantha Panther, P.I.-Tough Girls Don't Sing

written and directed by Angus Kohm

starring Stephanie Wiens

Rubbed Raw (Canada)

Venue 2

One of the best Fringe shows I've seen. Besides an excellent stage presence, Wiens has an affinity for characterization and proves it by playing more than a dozen characters, plus operating a slide projector. She has a great voice and stage presence, to boot. In the tradition of Mike Hammer, this show is dedicated to Mickey Spillane, "in the year of his 80th birthday." She's "a P.I., a private eye, but never a P investigator." Panther is full of stock lines like, "I give my enemies the 45-calibre flu," and "I stuck the gun so far into his face that he had to turn around to see it." This plot revolves around her sister Katz (the singer), the mob, and the Feds who enlist Panther's help in solving a string of murders by showing her slide after slide of mafia suspects stuffing their faces with heaping plates of spaghetti. The Feds ask Panther to impersonate her estranged sister (who's a prime target) to catch the killer. Panther says she'd rather go to jail. Panther escapes from the Feds, and discovers a report implicating one Donna Maria Hammerhead Puccini, who's rumoured to have ruled the mob since in her mother's womb. In her search for the killer, Panther meets up with men whom she falls madly if not briefly in lust with, and earns laughs and groans with lines like, "Falling in love with him would be easier than falling down a flight of stairs." She finally questions her dead sister's shrink who rips off his disguise to reveal he's a handsome young hunk (of course). He admits programming assassins with Katz's music. She demands to know the real killer's name. He says, "I won't tell you…it's Doctor/patient privilege". She responds, "Then I'll kill you…P.I./Scumbag privilege." Needless to say, Panther solves the case, notwithstanding a final bloodletting by a crazed chef who's "obviously sampled a lot of her own work." A definite go-see. Last show: Sun 8:15 p.m.--CN

The Muffin Tin

by Marilyn Browning

Sunshine Coast/Watersyde Productions (Canada)

Venue 4

This one-act psychological drama about guilt and loss directed by Paul Murphy and starring Derek Browning, Marilyn Browning, and Bryan Carson kept the audience interested during its 70-minute run.  Browning takes a kitchen item, the muffin tin, and develops her play around it. For non-professional actors, I felt they did a good job.  Three stars. Last show Sunday Sept. 20, 12 pm--E.F.


by Jason Bryden

The Gloaming Factory (Canada)

Venue 4

An almost full house was entertained by Jason Bryden's one-man show where he covered topics ranging from Rock stars to red neck racists.  The show started with a big bang, with an energetic audience laughing and cheering at all his jokes, but it started to drag a bit when he started doing a soap-operaish dramatization of a murder scene, and Bryden actually shed tears!  Now, I came here to laugh, and not to cry.  So I ask myself:  Why did he put this scene in?  If he tightened his act a bit more by cutting a few scenes, especially the last ones which were no longer funny (and I could tell from the audience's reactions), this show would have been better. Three stars. Two more shows left: Saturday, Sept. 19, 4 pm; and Sunday Sept. 20, 3:45 pm.--EF

Five Stuck Dogs

Catholic Guy Productions (Canada)

Venue 1

This group of five clowns (four women and one man), whose names don't appear in the program, did a fairly good show: three stars, I would say.  I spoke to one of them after the show, and asked him why they didn't put names in the program, and they felt they preferred it that way.  But these clowns just romp around the venue doing all kinds of silly things that clowns do to keep an audience entertained. Some were funny, some weren't. A lot of improvisation. There were a dozen or so people in the venue when I saw the show, but it appeared they enjoyed the different antics of these actors.  Last show Saturday Sept. 19 , 7 pm.--EF

Jonathan Kay: 21st Century Fool

by Jonathan Kay

Attic Theatre Company (UK)

Venue 1

I found this one-man show boring.  I think Kay himself was bored and he had to pick on the audience to get his ideas for this 90 minute show.  Why does he insist on 90 minutes?  One-man shows get boring after 1 hour!  There were two girls he was forcing to participate by letting them sit down in the first row.  And he went on and on insisting.  What a waste of time!  The girls, of course, refused.  And they're correct to refuse.  They're the ones paying for the show to get entertained.  No wonder there were less than a dozen people in the audience.--EF

Bus Please! or the Black Shoes

by Frank Engel, Mark Eriksson

The German Canadian Mime-Clown Connection (Germany)

Venue 8

These two clowns tried to make a cross between Mr. Bean and Marcel Marceau.  But it doesn't work.  You're either Mr. Bean or Marceau. At least these two had a story to tell: two people waitng for a bus, and what else to do but to think of silly things to do while waiting. I found some of their antics a bit disgusting, like picking on their noses.  However, some things worked. The newspaper scene was okay, and the audience seemed to like that. And of course there was the shoe story which ended the play.  Inspired perhaps by Imelda Marcos?--EF

Lying In State

by Roz McKinnon

Exonerated (Canada)

Venue 8

This melodrama about a Drag Queen is interesting.  There's been a lot of interest now about drag queens.  You see a lot of these in movies now. The story takes play at the drag queen's wake, and Rebecca (Jane Anston) is crying away remembering what a great friend Gemma was.  Now Gemma is actually Jim, and the funny thing here is the picture on the wake is the picture of Stuart Sankey who plays not only Gemma and Jim but also his parents, Mr. B and Mrs. B.  The highlight of the show is the 'life after death' scene where Gemma appears to Rebecca and does his make up on stage with her help and then a final performance before he goes to that happy place of eternal warm waters.  I found it interesting because it was different.  You'd expect a Drag Queen show to be a comedy with a lot of faggots screaming and singing.  But this one was a dramatic piece taken seriously.--EF

Eclectic Chairs

by Pat Zogar

The Big Production (Canada)

Venue 8

Pat Zogar plays a woman who talks about her bittersweet/hilarious journey  from Kindergarten to wise old grandmom.  It does get a bit preachy towards the end of the show, but nevertheless, I kind of agree with her ideas, as she comments on the sad state of the Canadian way of life.--EF

Dear Dollface

by Joanna Goose-Gray

Gray-Goose Theatre (Canada)

Venue 2

This production allows Joanna Goose-Gray to showcase her considerable talents as both the philandering mistress and defeated wife of an aging, wealthy alcoholic. If follows the mistress - Norma Anderson - as a Newfoundlander who emigrated to Toronto in hopes of finding success as an actor. Though her professional endeavors do not materialize, she never loses her wry wit and the ability to laugh at herself - along with most things (and people) around her. Her constant one-liners are in stark contrast to the wife's remorseful reflections. For the wife, hope in having any type of a satisfying relationship with her husband is forever lost. With Norma, however, impulsiveness and Newfoundlander grit make virtually every experience something to reflect upon with comic perplexity. Events eventually bring both characters together and the character assessments which ensue are, well…harsh. Joanna Goose-Gray delivers both roles with confidence: switching accents, presentation, and composure without a hint of hesitation. In all, an entertaining production, particularly for those who can appreciate the complexities of a relationship with an alcoholic partner. It is not an easy thing to care for, even love, an addict of any kind. This play encourages us to play voyeur while two very different women experience just such a relationship in markedly different ways.--RB

Home Free

by Lanford Wilson

Bruhanski Theatre Studio (Canada)

Venue 2

Michael Hardy is brilliant in this eccentric, fast-paced, and sometimes disturbing production. From the moment he takes the stage, one feels the need to clench their teeth and hang on. Severe, anxious, jealous, childlike, Hardy's character (Lawrence) is a frenzy of activity, indecision, and madness. Belva Stone is equally impressive as 'Joanna', yet her character cannot match the presence of Hardy's. The play follows a complex and occasionally confusing afternoon in a small apartment shared by this brother and sister duo (or are they husband and wife?). Imagination, fear and uncertainty reign as the pair awaits the encroaching arrival of their child , Miss Brown, or perhaps a batch of kittens or puppies. Though the script is bizarre, the play is brilliantly acted and adequately staged considering the limitations of the venue. A must see for those who relish intense (almost manic) deliveries.--RB

The Naked Mind of Joe Boxer

by John Conway

Dreamwalk Productions (Canada)

Venue 2

John Conway serves up a raucous smorgasbord of humor and heart warming insight as he gives us a glimpse of his obviously caring --though slightly askew -- psyche. He offers the insights of a five year old boy, an ancient leprechaun, a witch from the burning times, the ghost of a Lakota Sioux Elder, and a flamboyant Scotsman to help us explore such concepts as gender, religion, and politics. Throughout this show, his message is one of tolerance and acceptance. He stresses the need for happiness and freedom and the monumental importance of children. Conway suggests that through happiness and self-awareness, we can all grow. He encourages us to be proactive in following our dreams. A word of warning: beware the first four rows if the thought of a large naked man in your midst is a concern. Still, no one in the vicinity of the Naked Mind of Joe Boxer is truly safe. Highly recommended, especially if you like Fudgee-O Cookies.--RB

Under Milk Wood

by Dylan Thomas

Working Poor Actors Club (Canada)

Venue 6

Now, here's an interesting approach to theatre--the Foursight method which is 'actor centric'. Kate Hale, Artistic Director of England's Foursight Theatre, directs this group of 12 talented actors, and orchestrates them as they dramatize Tomas's work.  The play is not the thing, in this case; the actors are the thing.  The play is only a medium for the actors.  Interesting concept, exciting delivery, and a lot of hurrahs at curtain call from a full house audience.--EF

Why We Have A Body

by Claire Chafee

Random Acts (Canada)

Venue 6

This all-woman show that questions lesbianism and feminism was not meant for male audiences.  I felt out of place in this theatre where 99% of the audience were women, a lot of them lesbians and feminists, from the way they held hands romantically, laughing at all the lesbian jokes, and savoring the intimate kissing scenes between Lili (Rosanne Johnson) and Renee (Taylor Stutchbury).  But the one who was best liked by this audience of women was Mary (Erin Graham) who played her role as the "criminal" with relish and energy.  If this show, which lasted almost two hours, had not been shown at this hot, soffocating venue, I would have enjoyed it more.  I'm glad there was an intermission, or else we would all have fainted from the heat. The scenes could have been tightened more, and for the Fringe, anything over one hour, even if it's a good show, can be hell.--EF


24 hours everyday

Your Computer (Venue 9)

This is my favorite show..  I say my favorite (trying desperately to be a computer nerd myself), because this type of show is the thing of the future: internet theatre.  Cyberspace and global communication is happening ,and will be a common way of doing things as the 21st century approaches.  I can at least be proud to say that our monthly A & E webzine is the only review webzine in cyberspace.  So, Vancouver, be proud of this cyberspace pioneer, and kudos to NetSoap-- the first 'live' theatre in cyberspace! EF