Broad Comedy

Dates and Venue 5, 7, 8, 10, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Performance Works

Performers Joan Jankowski, Shayna Gibson, Erin Roberg and Katie Goodman

Reviewer John Jane

The four gals from Bozeman, Montana that comprise Broad Comedy hit the ground (or stage) running at the Performance Works with an irreverent, politically incorrect comedy hour. The ‘meat and marrow’ of the show is their pop parodies with bizarre titles such as "The United States extreme right wing cheerleading squad" and "I’m saving my hymen for Jesus" in which the savvy foursome mercilessly lampoon the George W. administration and send up teenage girls saving their virginity for J.C.

They get things moving with a hilarious rap parody, “Soccer Mom Ho.” Dressed in identical blue jeans and pink hoodies they cavil over the onerous obligations of getting their daughters to soccer practice.

The show is amazingly fast-paced, that is, if one discounts the frequent intervals of non-activity for costume changes. But not everything hits the target – the sketch that has the raunchy quartet dishing over a “passion party" goes on far too long and part of the show where reluctant audience members were dragged on to the stage wearing libidinous balloon shapes could have been excised altogether.

Katie Goodman, the group’s leader is a natural performer with great pipes. I particularly enjoyed her singing solo on “Clingy Girlfriend” about a woman with far too many needs, and the show’s closer, a parody of Sarah Brightman’s “Time to say goodbye”

Some of the humour does lose its sting in crossing the border, but there is plenty of fun to be had with Broad Comedy – just not the ‘good, clean’ variety.

Flamenco, Flamenco!

Dates and Venue 4, 6, 7, 8, 11 & 12 September 2008 | Waterfront Theatre

Performers Ricardo Garcia – guitar, Roberto Benson – percussion and ‘La Clara ’- dance

Reviewer John Jane

Ricardo Garcia’s Flamenco, Flamenco! underscores the exciting music as much as it does the dance. Garcia’s acoustic guitar playing is mellifluous, while percussionist Roberto Benson aggressively thrusts the rhythms with unconstrained force.

A sandy blonde dancer with an athletic figure steps in and out of those Flamenco rhythms, stomping and swirling around every square foot of the stage with vitality and grace.

Garcia incorporates different flamenco styles in his performance; from the free-flowing alegrias and tangos to the emotive, tientos and soleas. In one of the passages, Benson picks up a six-string electric bass guitar and treats the audience to a rarely seen (or heard) duo with an acoustic Spanish guitar.

The venue was full, but with the rows of seats banking up steeply from the stage, everyone was afforded an excellent viewpoint. Those in the audience near the front were witness to the energy of the dancer in an open and tangible conversation with the musicians.

With the Fringe’s main focus on experimental theatre and emerging talent, it’s somewhat surprising to get an opportunity to attend a concert by an artist with such a musical pedigree.


Dates 4, 6, 8, 11, 13 & 14 September 2008 Venue Playwrights Theatre

Performers Carmine Bernhardt, Vanessa Coley-Donohue and Linzi Voth

Reviewer John Jane

Greek mythology is a rich source material that can be re-tooled and re-envisioned. Groundlings Ensemble have taken Sophocles’ 2500 year-old play, Antigone (pron. An-tig-gonee) and adapted it to showcase their serious acting talents.

The story is based on Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, King of Thebes (yes, the guy who killed his father and married his mother) and a member of the most dysfunctional family in classic theatre.

In her quest for justice she must go against the newly installed king’s (her uncle Creon) wishes to give her brother Polyneices the rite of burial; she likely becomes the first known suffragette.

The three principle players, Carmine Bernhardt, Vanessa Coley-Donohue and Linzi Voth take on the roles of every character, male and female, as well as the chorus used to narrate the story and create an atmosphere through verse and movement.

Capilano College graduate, Bernhardt shines brightest; ably displaying passion as the play’s central character. Voth isn’t far behind and is convincing in the opposite gender role of Creon. Coley-Donohue fares least well in her multiple supporting roles mainly due to a lack of vocal dynamics.

Carmen Hung’s intricate lighting augments the drama without distracting from the performance. Ian Johnston's translation, though contemporary in its language, is pretty much faithful to the original.

All in all, I'm split both ways over this. It's certainly performed well enough; the girls have obviously invested much time and effort into this work and their hard work certainly shows. There may even be a kernel for a full-blown production here, but I wonder if classic Greek tragedy might not be a little too heavy for typical fringe-ers.

Who’s Afraid of Tippi Seagram?

Dates and Venue 6, 7, 9, 11, 12 & 13 September 2008 | Performance Works

Performer Collette Kendall

Reviewer John Jane

Hey ladies, it’s time to tighten the leash on your boyfriends. That martini-swilling, self-professed cougar, Tippi Seagram is back in Vancouver and bringing with her a brand new, tour-de-force, sexy comedy show.

The good news is: if you saw Tippi Seagram’s Happy Hour a couple of years ago and enjoyed it (most did), then you won’t be disappointed.

The bad news is: this show is cruder and ruder and even more irreverent than the last. But wait a minute! Maybe you like crude, rude and irreverent? So the bad news is good.

Over the course of the 50-minute show, this (gracefully) aging starlet leaves no famed turn un-stoned as she dishes over celebrities (Ben Mulroney, Sally Struthers and Paul McCartney in particular) marriage, sex, relationships, aging, kids (preferred lack of), and just about everything (except religion?).

Tippi is the alter-ego creation of Hamilton-based Colette Kendall, who offers a rapid-fire collection of smart, off-colour comedy, and a barrage of politically incorrect one-liners that will keep anyone with a heartbeat in stitches.

Fringe-ers coming to see Kendall’s “Tippi Show” shouldn’t expect to quietly hunker in the seclusion of the tenth row. Tippi is renowned for engaging her audience, often on a one-to-one basis. She (Tippi) laughs with her audience, not at them, in a propitiatory Rita Rudner comic style.

Who should be afraid of Tippi Seagram? Well, maybe twenty-something boys – and their girlfriends.

The Shakespeare Show

Dates and Venue 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 & 13 September 2008 | Havana Theatre, Commercial Drive

Performers Ryan Gladstone and Tara Travis

Reviewer John Jane

Ryan Gladstone and Tara Travis give an unpretentious, phythonesque performance in their highly speculative reading of the ambiguously titled, The Shakespeare Show (or if you prefer its unambiguous subtitle, "How an illiterate son of a glover became the greatest playwright in the world").

The basic premise of this 60-minute comedy is taken from the popular conspiracy theory that Will is a complete fraud and it was in fact Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford who should take the credit for all those plays and sonnets.

I got the sense that many sitting in the stuffy little Havana Theatre hardly cared who wrote Hamlet. They were there for a good laugh and Gladstone and Travis supplied in spades. Both performers have a great sense of comic timing with Travis in particular being deliciously over-the-top in some of the best physical comedy I've seen in a while.

Travis, a graduate from Douglas College is a natural mimic with a knack for regional accents. Her Scottish accent and Jack Nicholson impersonation was spot on - I'm still smiling at her hilarious depiction of a pregnant Anne Hathaway.

Both performers take plenty of liberties with the Shakespearean language that would undoubtedly offend the purists, but that was okay with this audience.

Gutenberg! The Musical! written by Scott Brown and Anthony King

Dates and Venue 4, 6, 10, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Granville Island Stage

Performers Nathan Clark, Ken Lawson and Matt Grinke

Reviewer John Jane

I wonder just how many people are aware (or care) that it was Johann Gutenberg who invented the printing press? Well, Scott Brown and Anthony King obviously believe that this is a fact worth knowing about, because they even went so far as to write a musical about it.

This is an absurdly funny two-man spoof of an extravagant Broadway musical about Gutenberg, his printing press and his ‘wanna-be’ girlfriend, Helvetica (who apparently had a font named after her). The two writers of the “historically fictional” musical, Bud and Doug, are played by a pair of likable dudes from right here in Vancouver (Nathan Clark and Ken Lawson) who perform all of the two dozen roles and sing all of the songs in an optimistic attempt to gain backers for a full-scale production.

Everything about this show is (hopefully) intentionally bad! The singing is bad, the acting is bad and the production is basement budget. Bud and Doug don’t have the financial resources to bankroll salaries for such a huge cast; so, they have come up with a device that allows the audience to identify the characters through the use of baseball caps with character names like “Drunk #1” and “Another Woman” written on them.

At the start of the second act (after a two second intermission), Clark and Lawson deride standard second acts. Through, ironically, they appear to fall into the same trap of starting the show with much promise, only to fall a little flat in the second act.

These local guys certainly kept the crowd engaged and spend much of the show discussing production process with audience. Ken Lawson, who plays Bud has obviously seen too many Jim Carey movies; deliberate, or otherwise, he parlays the same madcap, animated style as the famous comedian.

Gutenberg is hardly a masterpiece, but when the audience has as much fun as the performers, who can argue with that?

Busty Rhymes with MC Hot Pink

Dates and Venue 4, 5, 6, 10, 13 & 14 September 2008 | Performance Works

Performer Penny Ashton

Reviewer John Jane

Busty Rhymes is actually New Zealand stand-up comedienne, Penny Ashton and frequent Fringe contributor. This year she brings her own inimitable brand of self-deprecating, raunchy comedy dressed up in bawdry poetry and humourous anecdotes to the Performance Works.

One might have thought that a one-woman show whose central character is called “Busty” would have drawn more male patrons than female. But surprisingly, that was not the case on the night that I attended. Women seemed to outnumber men by roughly 3-to-1.

Her target is boyfriends. Past, present and those she would prefer to avoid in the future. Her routine is not really malicious; although, there is definitely an edge of cynicism present, as she generally describes the men she has known as either oafs, idiots, or just “downright b**t**ds.”

Like the former television soap opera actor herself, the show is clever, sharp, original and at times even funny. One of the better moments is an amusing song and dance entitled “Yes, Yes, No Tango” to the old tune of “Hernando’s Hide-away” that reveals her indecision about whether to go home with a man she meets at the pub – something that some women in the audience, according to the laughter, appeared to relate to.

Crude Love written by Russell Bennett and Gillian Bennett

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

Performers Russell Bennett and Gillian Bennett

Reviewer John Jane

There appears to have been more buzz circulating round the Fringe community over this play than any other. Russell and Gillian Bennett are a real married couple who play star-crossed lovers in their own production, Crude Love (crude as in the sticky black stuff). When the Georgia Straight featured them on the front page of their recent Fringe edition, the pair became the unofficial poster couple for the Fringe Festival itself.

That, and the fact that Russell Bennett bears a passing resemblance to Canucks goaltender, Roberto Luongo has helped them sell-out the tiny Carousel Theatre for every performance – it seems everyone loves a love story!

Crude Love is set in Fort McMurray, in 2012 and involves a romantic encounter between Newfoundland dump truck driver Phyllis McCormack and hard-core eco-saboteur Abbie Waxman. Phyllis is pragmatic and Abbie is a naive idealist, so they don’t exactly hit it off from the get-go. However, as the scenes progress the two manage to overcome the many challenges that lie in their path.

Their corporate identity is never actually stated, but Syncrude Canada is the ‘bad guy’ in this story. There is even a pre-show video of the Syncrude mining site as seen from the cockpit of one of their huge dump trucks.
The Bennetts have put together an engaging story that also tackles socio-political issues that they feel passionately about. But to their credit, they don’t hit audiences over the head with their agenda.

Despite this show’s popularity, I still see it as a work in progress. The ending is perhaps a little too melodramatic and there are far-fetched events in the story that are conveniently unexplained. For instance, why are the oilsands being occupied by the U.S. military? And what is the Canadian government’s position on this?

Mr. Fox

Dates and Venue 4, 5, 6, 9, 11 & 14 September 2008 | Performance Works

Performer Greg Landucci

Reviewer John Jane

Vancouver actor Greg Landucci draws both empathy and laughter from the audience as he recounts his brief life as the CFOX radio station mascot with a combination of raw physical comedy, stand-up observation humour and a bit of character acting. Landucci works the mostly youthful crowd, first into a frenzy, high-fiving everyone in touch distance to the blaring “Rock and Roll Part 2” (also known as The Hey Song) – you know, the one that often gets played at various sporting events, particularly when the home teams scores - then grosses them out with too much graphic detail about what it’s really like on the inside of one those colourful, yet grungy mascot suits.

It shouldn’t really surprise anyone that the demands of being a corporate mascot far outweigh the benefits, but Landucci takes the aggravation up a notch as he describes the numerous (and at times dangerous) antics he was required to perform in the pursuit of crowd-pleasing. Not to mention being upstaged by the San Diego chicken and the abuse metered out by people who want to have too much fun with Mr. Fox.

AfterLife written by Chris Van Strander and Candy Simmons

Dates and Venue 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 & 14 September 2008 | Studio 16 at La Maison de la Francophonie, 7th Avenue

Performer Candy Simmons

Reviewer John Jane

What do Ruth, an Appalachian midwife, Marion, a homemaker in Menomonie, Wisconsin and Karma, a New York City executive have in common?

Aside from being the three principle characters portrayed by Alabama native Candy Simmons in AfterLife, a play she co-wrote with Chris Van Strander; they don’t appear to have anything at all in common.

Except, that is, the most important commodity in their respective lives is missing - inner peace brought about through a sense of personal fulfillment.

Best described as a dark comedy and set in an Appalachian mining town in 1928; the first of three monologues relates the story of Ruth, who is determined by any means possible to have her own child. She even goes to extremes in carrying out murder and blackmail, though, in the former she justifies it as euthanasia.

Simmons is an exceptional actor and a remarkable story-teller. There were moments during Ruth’s poignant story, when I could feel the hairs standing up on the back of my neck.

Fast forward to Menomonie, 1960 and we meet Marion, a suburban homemaker who is generally content with her life but senses something missing in her “picture of heaven” and looks for it in yoga. Marion is the weakest of the three characters and the pace suffers a little as a result.

Finally, the story speeds forward to the present and finds Karma working in an office tower in Manhattan, equipped with ’bluetooth’ and laptop. Karma is a self-centred, tightly-wound executive who is obviously taking on far too much stress in her life.

Simmons plays conflicting qualities in the three women with appropriate empathy and an uncommonly deft touch.

I recommend seeing this extraordinary work before it’s scaled up to a much larger production with a higher ticket price.

© 2008 John Jane