Barry Smith's Baby Book: A Grownup Comedy About Stuff

Dates and Venue 6, 7, 9, 10, 12 & 13 September 2008 | Waterfront Theatre

Performer Barry Smith

Reviewer Ed Farolan

I saw Smith two years ago in this same venue when he did his powerpoint comedy about his experiences with a Jesus cult in Montana. This time, he does another PPS with his baby book, showing old pictures tracing all the way back to his grandparents and great grandparents from a small hick town somewhere in the southern part of the USA. He documents details, by scanning mountains of pictures, including receipts and homework from his grade school years. I enjoyed the show as I did his Montana cult show two years ago (check our 2006 archives). He's won a number of awards for his solo shows, including the 2007 Vancouver Fringe "Critic's Choice Award".

All Sorts

Dates and Venue 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, & 13 September 2008 | Japanese Church

Performers Sindy Angel, Jake Anthony, Ruben Castleblanco, Lianne Crow, Daryl Dickson, Alex Edwards, Katie Gray, Susan Katz, Erica Kemp, Jonah Killoran, Chris Kozma, Spencer Lee, Danny Maclean, Nathan McNamee, Callan Parker & Rachel Whitmore

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Written and directed by Susann Uchatius, this brief play (30 minutes) reflects in a simple but straight-to-the point way that human beings come in all sorts. She uses shadow play techniques as she narrates the story of why the crow is black. The ensemble acting was superb: this is the only play in the Fringe that has the most actors (17!)

In her notes,Uchatius pinpoints the fact that we "often identify ourselves as a certain sort in a world of sorts". And I agree. This is what makes humanity so complicated, and that's why wars are begun, misunderstandings arise because we want others to be like us. There is no tolerance in this world of humans.

This play teaches us to be tolerant. And it is a humbling experience because we realize that we are all disabled in this world. We are imperfect and that's what makes us disabled. One may have a Ph.D., but he stutters; someone may have a beautiful voice, but is blind. And so forth and so on. These are some of the insights which the play conveys.

The Sputniks

Dates and Venue 5, 6, 7, 8, 11 & 12 September 2008 | False Creek Gym Performer Elison ZaskoReviewer Ed Farolan

There is an interesting twist at the end of this solo show which I didn't expect. But all in all, the performance by Zasko was excellent. She timed her pauses well, her Russian accent was natural, the transitions were perfect. It's hard to hold an audience's attention for 60 minutes, but she did. She narrates the story of the Sputnik family, Russian Jews, academics, who feel pressured because they are Jewish and taking over the jobs of the Russians. They escape the iron curtain, become refugees in Vienna, move to Sweden, and finally to Canada. I'd give this show 10 out of 10. I just wish they turn down the air conditioning at this venue. It was freezing.

The Musical of Musicals: The Musical

Dates and Venue 4, 5,6, 7,10, 11, 12, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Carousel Theatre

Performers Mikal Grant, Steven Greenfield, Anna Kuman & Colleen Winton

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Boy, what a good show! And what fabulous actors! Where do you get all these talents, Ryan? Yes, another Ryan Mooney production. I featured Ryan in this site sometime last year, and in one of my reviews, I predicted that this young director will be one of the shining directors here in Vanouver in the not too distant future. And proof enough are this musical's sold-out shows.This is Mooney's forte: musicals, and he handles it with panache. And this is what we need here in Vancouver: more musicals. We want to laugh, escape the harsh realities of living, and temporarily live in the singing and dancing world of fantasy. Musical is Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell's parody on Broadway musicals, Oklahoma, Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera, Chorus Line, etc. In his notes, Mooney saw this musical when he took a trip to New York and "laughed hysterically" at this show. I could also see that the actors enjoyed themselves, and so did we. I believe that this show will be one of the Picks in this year's Festival. Ten out of ten!

The Movies (Abridged)

Dates and Venue 6, 7, 9, 10, & 13 September 2008 | Granville Island Stage Reviewer Ed Farolan

Another of those shows with no programme except for the name of the production company (Fringe schedule). People never learn. So, here goes: three nameless actors are giving a quick review of films. Now, are these actors making fun of films? Are they trying to put down the mega-giant movie rental company, Blockbuster Videos? Not too clear. Or maybe both? But I see them imitating Mafia-type film actors, Robert de Niro, Charlton Heston, etc. And at the end, it's hurrah for the independent films and independent film rental video stores, and down with blockbuster movies and blockbuster rentals. There's no structure, the themes are scattered all over the place. The actors talk too fast: the show was slated for an hour, but they went fast forward and finished in less than 45 minutes. Which was a relief because I was getting bored around 15 minutes down the road. In fact, someone in the audience walked out after 10 minutes. I got the impression the actors were hurrying up and wanted to get out as fast as possible. They were shouting, which is different from projecting, and they were eating their words, and I couldn't understand half of what they were saying. That's the Fringe for you. You've got the good ones, and the bad ones. And from what I can do..

Confessions: Three Monologues

Dates and Venue 4, 5, 6,10, 11, 12, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Agro Cafe

Performers Evan Frayne, Marisa Smith & Alicia Novak

Reviewer Ed Farolan

I have a fetish about programmes, and I'm happy to say that this group had a programme. Director Josue Laboucane is a Studio 58 graduate and obviously, he knows the importance of having programmes distributed before a play starts so we know who's who and what the show's about, etc. But Laboucane forgot to put his notes. I'm not familiar with these monologues. Are they original? If not, who wrote them? The only piece mentioned is Novak's Tightrope where the programme describes that this is her original work.

I liked the coffeehouse setup of this show. The Hemlocks Band of four singers and instrumentalists sang what I assumed were original compositions done in quiet folksy style, followed by the first monologue, The Susan Smith Tapes, about a woman who tapes her confession on why she killed her children. Smith delivered her lines well, with that southern drawl, but I wished she could have projected more as I was sitting at the back and the ceiling fans were whirling and drowning some of her lines.

This was followed by an intermission, where we went to the bar and bought drinks and coffee and listened again to the Hemlocks. Novak followed with Tightrope, her confession on her experiences as an x-rated website stripper to pay her way through university, and affairs with different men including one of her college profs. Again, a problem with projection and the ceiling fans. (Maybe they should be turned off?)

The last monologue was the best. Frayne delivered his lines clearly, and thank God, I could hear him from the back His "confession" to his wife back in the States, Letter from a Soldier, was how he felt about Iraq and the market bombings. The monologue was funny at first, and then sad, as he befriended an Iraqi family that was killed in that market bombing.

It was a 90-minute affair in this cozy cafe, and I felt relaxed and at ease with the music and the laid back atmosphere. Good show, guys!

Exposure x 2

Dates and Venue 5 ,6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Carousel Theatre

Performers Joan Bryans & Sharon Wahl

Reviewer Ed Farolan

I had the gut feeling that this play was written by a school marm. Now we have a show produced by middle-aged teachers? Nice change of pace from all the other shows played by younger actors, which again gives variety a name to the Fringe. The performers were excellent. I enjoyed Christopher Durang's 15-minute piece on theatre delivered exquisitely by Mrs. Sorken (Joan Bryans). The next one-woman piece, Eyes.Two written and directed by Sally Stubbs, and performed by Sharon Wahl lasted almost 45 minutes. This is too long, unless it's a fabulously written script. But the script wasn't very good. It went from poetry to prose. Stick to one genre would be my suggestion. There were also just too many things talked about--the husband's extra-marital affair with a younger teacher, his lingering illness and eventual death from cancer, Edgar Allan Poe, etc. If Stubbs focused on only one theme and had another actress, for variety's sake, play another role on another theme at 15-20 minutes each, then the show might have taken off.

The Mechanical Bride

Dates and Venue 4, 5,6, 7,8,9,10, 12, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Carousel Theatre

Performers Ming Hudson & Graham Newmarch

Reviewer Ed Farolan

A sci-fi play. That's what I like about the Fringe--the variety of it all. In this sci-fi romance, we see two humanoids, HE and SHE who fall in love, get bored with each other (or better still, SHE gets bored with HE), then get back together again after finding out that their creator falls in love with SHE and tries to destroy HE. It's a run-of-the-mill plot embellished with high tech props: laptops, cell phones, monitors, three television sets going on at the same time, and wires strewed all over the stage. The actors were good. They were funny in their sci-fi style, acting robotically, learning human emotions like "taking a walk", kissing, dancing and talking. At first, there is no communication as they spit out unrelated phrases, and eventually we see a metamorphosis from machine to human. Interesting plot; actors delivered their lines well; acting was superlative. And the audience (another full house!) enjoyed.


Dates and Venue 4, 5,7, 9, 11, & 14 September 2008 | Waterfront Theatre

Performer Andrew Bailey

Reviewer Ed Farolan

With the help of a flip board, Bailey narrates for 55 minutes his thoughts, experiences and anecdotes on love, sex and romance. He uses a flashlight to represent God and his conscience, and he talks about masturbation, lesbians, and his first experience in love-making. I believe that Bailey is on his way to being a professional stand-up comic, following the footsteps of Seinfeld et al. and I wish him the best of luck. It's time we have some Vancouverites make it big on TV, if that's where he's heading. The audience enjoyed his jokes. He has a certain style about him, hitting those punch lines at the right time to get the audience's attention and laughter. I should have tried to catch him at the end of the show to ask him why he calls his show Putz, but I had to run and catch another show. I'd give this show an 8 out of 10 rating.

My Autopsy

Dates and Venue 4, 6, 7, 8, 13, & 14 September 2008 | Studio 16

Performer Hamish Boyd

Reviewer Ed Farolan

This is an extremely good show, and I was surprised there were less than a dozen in the audience. Boyd confessed to me later that he wasn't really pushing the marketing aspect of his show as much as the other performers at the Fringe were doing. For his age (he said he was 56), Boyd looked boyish. I asked him how come he knew so much about the hippies, and he said I lived through that period. He narrated his days as a hippie and his LSD psychedelic experiences, as well as his boyhood fantasies as Dracula. But the title of his show, which was the crux of the performance, dealt with his experience in a hospital in Yellowknife where he worked in the autopsy department. He describes how he was taught to cut out cadavers, and the narration got to be interestingly morbid. The new age experience also dealt with his meeting up with the "enlightened" master, Namgyal Rinpoche. I commented that for someone like me who was his contemporary, the material was understandable, but for the younger generation, a lot of things in his monologue which he sang sometimes with his autoharp probably wouldn't make sense.


La Mexicaine de Perforation

Dates and Venue 5, 8,10, 11, 13, & 14 September 2008 | Studio 16

Performers Trepan & Aitherios Theatre

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Calgary-based actors Aaron Coates, Cheryl Hutton and Rew Lowe were extremely funny as they emulated a Victorien Sardou/Feydou type of a French farce in this 70-minute play written and directed by them. It was a full house and surely, by word of mouth,this show will certainly be sold out fast in the next days to come, as it was sold out in Calgary. So buy your tickets now. Everything about this show was done right. The comedic timing was perfect; the actors who played multiple parts were in character; and from a professional standpoint, these actors knew when to hold for laughs and when to interact with the audience. The plot is based on the real life "cataphile" subculture of Paris.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Dates and Venue 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Studio 16

Performers Susannah Coster, Gary Boon, Ben Dudley

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Superlative! Something different from the typical male Sherlock as now we have a female version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's shrewd detective, by the name of Shirley Holmes. Coster plays Holmes extremely well, disguising herself in many instances to solve her case. Gary Boon as Dr. Watson was impeccable, and Ben Dudley, playing all the other parts, was extremely versatile. London Theatre Productions (, based in London's West End, began producing in 1992 and has received rave reviews for their shows. I spoke to Dudley after the show, and he said it's been more than 10 years since they've done the Canadian circuit. Hope you thespians come back next year!

Dr. Serenity Hawkfire's Beyond Being Workshop

Dates and Venue 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, & 14 September 2008 | Studio 16

Performer Suzanne Falter-Barns

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Apparently, this show met with success in a U.S. Fringe. However, for a Canadian audience who's more conservative, I don't think the aggressiveness of this kind of show would work well here. Supposedly a parody of New-agers, I didn't quite see anything funny in it. I was in fact convinced that she was a New Age follower, instead of someone making fun of it. Trying to get the audience to participate in a show like this doesn't really work well, unless you first get an audience high into drugs or alcohol before coming to see the show. That way, they can act as outlandish as the performer and thus, have more fun. But in the show I watched, there wasn't much cooperation from the audience and Falter faltered in her attempt towards interactivity.

Memory Machine

Dates and Venue 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, & 13 September 2008 | Studio 16

Performers Sahar Sajadieh, Parjad Sharifi

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Enigma was the first thing that entered my mind as I read the programme notes describing the play as "an exploration of human memory and identity based on the concept of arhetypes, cognitive philosophy and poetry of Omar Khayyam." What the f...are they talking about? The notes go on to cite a verse in Khayyam's poem (in the original Arabic and the English translation) about a clay pot. The performers who directed and designed this play use the pot as a metaphor of the reborn human being. Interesting enigma but might be too much above the heads of a normal Fringe audience. The actors use microphones and a tape recorder to drive their point through, but the novelty wears out after the first 15 minutes.

The Spy

Dates and Venue 6, 7, 10, 12, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Waterfront Theatre

Performer Jonno Katz

Reviewer Ed Farolan

There was a full house that attended opening night of this show and I was wondering why. Well, the performer was excellent, that's why. With his cockneyed accent, Katz engaged himself with the audience, playing guessing games as he narrated his life as Seymour Foggs, an MI6 spy. Just his appearance alone made the audience laugh. He reminded me of Peter Sellers in Pink Panther as he bungled along, shooting spies by mistake, and doing impersonations of his superior, codenamed Silver Fox, his colleague and lover, Anna, and the Russian spy, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich..

I believe this show will make it to one of the top picks of the Fringe.

Daniel Packard's Live Group Sex Therapy Show

Dates and Venue 6, 8, 11, 12, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Performance Works

Performer Daniel Packard

Reviewer Ed Farolan

It wasn't a full house during the opening of this caberet- type setting of a performance where the audience sat around tables and Packard sitting on centerstage would dialogue with the audience about sex, dating and man/woman relationships. But those who attended this "therapy" enjoyed themselves, answering questions from "Dr. Daniel", as he counseled individuals, especially women, about dating.

I enjoyed the part where he discussed why men who were assholes ended up getting dates, and not the nice guys who always finished last. What was good about this show was that he didn't humiliate or make the audience feel "awkward",as he put it, during this "therapy" session.

His performance could win him a top pick spot in this year's Fringe.


Dates and Venue 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 & 13 September 2008 | Havana Theatre, Commercial Drive

Reviewer Ed Farolan

There was no programme in this show, and so I didn't even know who the performer was. In the Fringe programme, we only have his picture, the name of his production company (Chicken For Supper Productions), the kind of comedy (physical comedy), and the number of minutes (65). Why would the Fringe miss out on the name of this performer? And why doesn't this performer have a programme?

At any rate, opening night was a full house and apparently, this nameless performer, according to him, had been in the Fringe before for his Star War monologues. So most probably he has quite a following because he received cheers and hurrahs for his performance.

Physical indeed, because he was sweating at the end of the performance and his orange shirt was wet with perspiration.Perhaps the opening night audience liked this kind of entertainment where he would mimic noises from a gas lawn mower that wouldn't start, and go wild with his imagination, shouting and mimicking battle scenes as he fights imaginary enemies. I guess that's one brand of entertainment which this performer likes doing, following the Jim Carey tradition.

It's not my cup of tea, but if an audience goes for it, well, there must be something there.

Dreams and Desires

Dates and Venue 4, 5, 6, 10, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Studio 16

Performer Barbara Bell

Reviewer Ed Farolan

I've always been skeptical about one-person shows. You can't take the middle ground in this type of performance. You're either good or bad. If it's middle, it's mediocre, and therefore, it's bad. And that's what I felt about this show: mediocre. No matter how good the lighting effects are, or the nice colorful props and set, if the theme of a one-person show is not interesting, then the whole performance goes down the drain. I applaud Barbara Bell for trying. But delivering is something else. Try something funny, next time around, perhaps clowning aound, or doing a show that's out of the ordinary, instead of a show that isn't entertaining at all. Theatre means entertainment, and if you can't entertain, then it's not theatre.

Fringe Picks: And the Winners Are....

CRUDE LOVE, THE MUSICAL OF MUSICALS:THE MUSICAL, A MAN, A MAGIC, A MUSIC & THE SHAKESPEARE SHOW . These shows were chosen to extend their runs.Most sold out their shows and you couldn;t get in; so, this is your chance to see them 18-21 September. It's been a busy two weeks; we've reviewed more than 28 shows, and it was another great festival.

My love affair with the Fringe started in the early 1990s when I was teaching Acting at the VCC Langara Campus (as it was referred to at that time). My students, particularly Elmer Wiens, were enthused about joining the Fringe, and so I asked Ross Pink who was directing film documentaries at that time to direct my one-act play, The Caged Dream, for The Fringe. So we all pitched in and did the show. Well, we made more than break even, but it was a great hands-on for my students. The next year, Elmer asked me to direct his play Critical Paths which I did. We had open auditions, and again, it was a great experience and we made good at the box office.

Since then I've been reviewing the Fringe religously, but I still have an itching to get a group together and resurrect our old company, The Vancouver Experimental Theatre, and come up with a project I've been dreaming about for years: Shakesperean Soliloquies. So if you guys are still around, let's go for it next year.

There were just so many great shows this year--the variety of it all--from school marms, to puppet shows and musicals. Congrats to the picks of this year's Fringe, especially to you, Ryan Mooney. I predicted in my review of your show that you'd make it for the Picks. Until next year, folks! EF

© 2008 Ed Farolan