Monster Theatre's Ryan Gladstone in Freud vs. His Ego


2010 Vancouver International Fringe Festival

13: The Musical!

Performance Dates 9, 11, 12, 15, 18, 19 September at Firehall Arts Centre and Pick of the Fringe 24 & 25 of September at the Waterfront Theatre with a held over run on 7, 8, 9, 10 & 11 October at the Norman Rothstein Theatre.

Performers Members of Awkward Stage Productions

Do you remember what it’s like to be 13? The performers of this rock and roll musical about teenage angst sure seemed to…although for some of them, 13 isn’t such a distant memory. The production features a senior cast and a junior cast ranging in age from 12 to 18, as well as teen sound and lighting operators, a teenage stage manager, and a young adult band. Having a senior and a junior cast not only provides more youth with the opportunity to perform, but also provides a unique mentorship opportunity. I was pleased to have the opportunity to watch the junior cast perform…they may not have quite as much stage or life experience as their senior cast members, but they are, after all, the age group the show was created for! Alex Lara played the awkwardly sweet main character, Evan. After his parents’ divorce, Evan is moved from New York City to Appleton, Indiana, where he needs to find a way to fit in to his new school and make new friends before his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. The entire cast was enjoyable to watch, but 12-year-old Alyssa Baker especially stood out as Evan’s nerdy neighbour Patrice. The musical dealt with a range of issues around teenage popularity and relationships and featured memorable and catchy songs I’m still singing to myself hours later. This is the inaugural performance of the newly formed Awkward Stage Productions, a non-profit society focused on providing performance and production opportunities to youth going through that “awkward” transition from childhood to adulthood. The audience all seemed to enjoy themselves immensely, including Robert Horn, co-author of the novel the musical was based on. In conclusion, let me leave you with an audience comment I glimpsed on the Fringe “Buzz Board” outside the Waterfront Theatre: “I am 50 years old. 13 made me feel young again.”

© 2010 Cassie Silva


Performance Dates 9, 11, 12, 16, 18 & 19 (6 shows) September at Playwrights Theatre Centre

Performers Rolf Reynolds and Dennis Brydon Innes

You know you’re about to experience something unique when the warning on your ticket reads: “Warning: Mature Content. Sexual Content. Clowns.” While mature and sexual aren’t adjectives I’d typically use to describe clowns, they are definitely fitting words to describe what unfolded on the stage at the Playwrights Theatre Centre. The production, which was created around the actors’ two Clown/Trixtr’/Fool characters, Billy (played by Innes) and Balthar (Reynolds’s character), featured plenty of audience participation and garnered many laughs. Billy seemingly had it all – even down to the white picket fence and the dog in the front yard, but felt like something was still missing on his Quest for Ultimate Happiness. Just when he is ready to give up, Balthar shows up to help him get some perspective on life. The show had a good message about the frame in which we view each other and ourselves, but honestly, when I think back on the show, the most stand-out memory isn’t of a moral takeaway but rather of Balthar’s bare behind. The production utilized the roles of the Fool/Clown to draw attention to the challenges of the human experience so the audience could gain additional consciousness about how we as humans view ourselves. Whether or not the audience left that theatre “changed” is up for debate, but I can guarantee one thing – that none of them will fantasize about a French maid outfit quite the same way again! This show won Spirit of the Fringe in 2009 for good reason – it was ballsy, brave, and original.

© 2010 Cassie Silva

Misadventures of a Massage Therapist

Performance Dates 11, 12, 13, 16, 18, & 19 September at False Creek Gym

Performer Jason Brasher

Jason Brasher is the kind of guy I want as a best friend, co-worker, and masseuse. He’s a great storyteller, obviously loves what he does, and still has the ability to crack up at his own jokes. His monologue, complete with sound effects and different voices, was essentially a stand-up comedy act, in which he shared with the audience hilarious stories about his job as a massage therapist and how he became the person he is today. There weren’t as many horror stories about clients as I went in expecting, but I rather enjoyed Brasher’s tales of pranks pulled on crazy co-workers, and his encounters with Canadian wildlife over his career. I’d like to see him perform again in a few years to find out what new stories he has to share by then!

© 2010 Cassie Silva

Pretending Things are a Cock

Performance Dates 9, 12, 14, 15, 18, & 19 (6 shows) September at Revue Stage

Performer Jon Bennett

You may be wondering what would possess a young man to create a slideshow featuring photos of himself posing with phallic looking monuments and objects taken on trips around the globe, ranging from a giant cactus to the Hollywood sign. Apparently the answer is “If you grew up in a small town where your father was also your minister and your school teacher, you’d want to rebel a bit too.” Some photos were quite clever and well done, while others were the juvenile sort you would expect to find in most young men’s college photo albums. Juvenile or not, the audience loved it. There was even a cheer of Canadian pride when Bennett revealed a photo of his “CN Tower cock." Bennett’s commentary is what makes the show special, more so than the photos themselves. He uses the photos as a tool of describing how he came to take the photo, his relationships with his friends and family, and the odd situations in which he found himself in the days surrounding the photos. He has developed quite the fan following over the years (his Facebook site has over 10,000 fans, not to mention his sold out shows around the world) while doing his best to keep the photos a secret from his mother. This show will not appeal to everyone, but is worth seeing if only to find out the story behind Jon’s missing thong (the sandal, not the underwear!).

© 2010 Cassie Silva

Dr Horrible: Sing-Along Blog

Performance Dates 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, & 19 September at Firehall Arts Centre & Pick of the Fringe: 23 & 26 of September at Waterfront Theatre

Performer Members of Broadway West Productions and Relephant Theatre

A musical tragicomedy in three acts, originally produced for internet distribution during the American writer’s strike, this show will appeal the most to the youtube generation. The musical opens with Dr. Horrible video-blogging about his latest nefarious schemes, his dreams to join the Evil League of Evil (ELE), and his long-term laundromat love-interest, Penny. Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible’s nemesis, captures Penny’s attention with an insincere attempt to assist in her efforts to help the homeless, and soon makes it known to Dr. Horrible that he’s not really that into Penny, he just plans to sleep with her to spite his arch-enemy. Politically-incorrect songs like “Nobody’s Asian in the Movies” kept the primarily college age crowd hooting and cheering the entire show. Stand-outs were Jon Lachlan Stewart as Dr. Horrible himself, his damp sidekick Moist, played by Steven Greenfield, Christina Hardie as love-interest Penny, and the adorably-arrogant Captain Hammer (Shane Snow). I hadn’t seen the video version but still had a great time, and my friend who is a fan of the blog thought the stage version was fantastic “although no one can compare to Neil Patrick Harris playing Dr. Horrible.”

This is definitely a must-see event for anyone who read the above synopsis thinking “wow, superheroes are so cool!” rather than rolling their eyes in disgust. While I felt the show ended a bit randomly and could have benefitted from another act or two, it stayed true to the film. I’ll just have to hold out anxiously for a sequel…
Dr Horrible was selected as Pick of the Fringe so there’s still a chance to catch the action. While perhaps not the most polished and professional production of the Fringe, it’s definitely the most fun.

© 2010 Cassie Silva


Performance Dates 10, 11, 12, 14, 17 & 19 September at Waterfront Theatre & Pick of the Fringe: 26 September at Waterfront Theatre

Performer Martin Dockery

It comes as no surprise that Martin’s monologue about his West African escapades has won him top honours in Toronto, Winnipeg, London, Orlando, Fresno and New York City. It’s honest, humorous, inspirational, and resonates with anyone who has ever travelled, or yearned to travel, to the opposite end of the world to “find” themselves.
Any story that begins with “So I was in the backseat of a car driven by Belgians in the middle of the Sahara desert, a day outside of Timbuktu,” is bound to be good. Martin’s story wasn’t just about the sights he encountered along his journey, but about his ultimate search for an epiphany about his life. There were moments, including such a graphic description of a bout with traveler’s diarrhea it could almost be described as interpretive dance, where the entire audience (obviously made up of seasoned and wannabe travellers) would groan in a “we’ve been there, man” kind of way. Martin’s polished performance won him a well-deserved standing ovation along with the opportunity to perform his show one more time in Pick of the Fringe.

© 2010 Cassie Silva

Brown Girl in the Ring

Performance Dates 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17 & 18 September at Havana Theatre

Performer Valerie Mason-John

The thing that I’ve always enjoyed about fringe festivals is the surprises. One is never sure of what is going to happen until you’re inside the theatre and you’re seated to far from the exit to make a discreet escape. The occasional minor disappointment is easily compensated by uncovering a theatrical gem. Brown Girl in the Ring is hardly a gem, but it does offer a fair share of surprises. The show’s title is taken from a traditional children's song originating in the West Indies and popularised by Boney M during the short-lived disco craze in the late seventies. Valerie Mason-John uses it as a metaphor in a self-produced, single-handed performance that is part fantasy and part semi-biographical. One might have expected that a play that pitches its main premise as a black woman having a legitimate claim to the British monarchy would have been a non-stop hoot. Certainly Brown Girl does have many comedic moments (some work, some don’t), but the fact is, even when projecting a faux Windsor accent and donned in a loud fuchsia dress and white Colonial style wig, Mason-John is a better narrator than a comedian. Undoubtedly, the show’s best parts are when she leaps through dimensions to relate though a conversation with an imaginary friend Michael, poignant childhood experiences as a foster child with a white family.

She utters “Sweep it under the carpet” like a catch-phrase at least a couple of dozen times throughout the 50-minute show. To most of us, the idiom suggests ignoring the problem at this time, but the performer frequently continues to labour the same point. From someone with as much authorship credentials as Mason-John, I found the writing, particularly the comic writing disappointing. I sensed that this is a work in progress. Perhaps with less emphasis on pro-gay one-liners and more on story-telling there might just be a kernel for a full-blown professional show here.

© 2010 John Jane

Miracle in Rwanda

Performance Dates 9, 10, 15, 16, 17 & 18 (3 shows) September at Pacific Theatre

Performer Leslie Lewis Sword

This powerful play recounts the remarkable true story of Immaculee Ilibagiza and her incredible survival during the 1994 horrific massacre of one million Tutsis by the merciless Hutu Tribe in Rwanda. The stage props are simple. The pictures of Immaculee’s family adorning one wall and a single three by four foot white square signify the hidden bathroom of a local pastor’s home. Here Immaculee` Ilibagiza with seven other Tutsis women secretly hid and incredibly stayed alive for ninety-one days. Leslie Lewis Sword’s graceful transitions and portrayal of her colourful characters; Immaculee Ilibagiza, her father, the compassionate Hutu Pastor, the arrogant Hutu Chief, the hostile shrieking of the Hutu tribe and the man who murdered her family were nothing short of captivating.

Graciously enhancing Ms. Sword's phenomenal performance was her resonating angelic voice and magnificent tribal songs flowing through the theatre. A well deserved standing ovation was given to the performer for her outstanding and powerful one woman performance. This empowering, passionate, yet haunting play Miracle in Rwanda, (written by Leslie Lewis Sword and co-created by Edward Vilga); is without a doubt a definite must-see as it passes through Vancouver.

© 2010 Anita York

A Day in the Life of Miss Hiccup

Performance Dates 9, 11, 13, 15, 16 & 19 September at Performance Works

Performer Yanomi Shoshinz

Try, if you will, to imagine for a moment what Sesame Street might look like if the writers of Sesame Street were under the influence of banned substances. This might give you a vague sense of what to expect from A Day in the Life of Miss Hiccup. Here is a unique and unpredicable show that will appeal to adults and children alike. Me, I fell in love with it.

From the moment our heroine crab-walks her way onto the stage, it is impossible to take your eyes off of her. A surreal vision in her yellow dress, red gloves, shiny magenta glasses and silk flower wig, Miss Hiccup is adorable, mischievous, and full of surprises. She sings (sort of), dances, and goofs around with a hypnotic charm that leaves you afraid to blink in case you miss something.

Ms. Shoshinz is an impressive talent. Her musical and comic timing are impeccable, and her eyes -- with their huge fake eyelashes -- are fantastically expressive. Miss Hiccup carries you breathlessly along on the simple adventures of her manically choreographed and soundtracked day, and the hour flies. This is physical comedy at its most brilliant and fun, and the show left me with a jaw that ached from laughing.

© 2010 Stephanie Dodd

Wicked Shorts

Performance Dates 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 & 19 September at Wicked Cafe

Performers Guy Christie and Elizabeth Kirkland

Wicked Shorts, directed by Marisa Smith, is a series of four short, two-character plays that take place in a coffee shop. The show itself is performed in Wicked Cafe, an actual coffee shop, and every inch of the setting is used. The show opens with the comedy Matador Love, by Morwyn Brebner, about a blind date between a seemingly poorly matched couple. The second part, Rendez-Vous, by Kathleen Oliver, is a sweet meditation on a waiter's role and thoughts when serving couples on Friday night dates. You'll Probably Come Back, by Christopher Cook, moves into heavier territory with a dramatic reunion scene. And finally, Monsters in the Closet, by Seth Soulstein, brings back the laughs with the confession of a dark secret.

I don't think I can recommend this show enough. Despite their length, all four parts emotionally engage the audience with the characters almost immediately. Elizabeth Kirkland and Guy Christie as the leads are a delight from start to finish. Both are brilliantly expressive and energetic, and it was fantastic to watch them manufacture comedy and emotion, at times without saying a word. Clever writing and dialogue are on their side, with an excellent selection of works, and they make the most of them, giving a performance that successfully takes turns at hilarity, pensiveness, pathos and the ridiculous. This was probably the best-spent hour of my weekend.

© 2010 Stephanie Dodd

Shadows in Bloom

Performance Dates 9, 12, 14, 15, 18 & 19 September at Waterfront Theatre

Performer Gemma Wilcox

Gemma Wilcox’s one-woman show The Honeymoon Period Is Officially Over was a huge success at last year’s Vancouver Fringe. She is back again this year with Shadows in Bloom. It’s a less developed sequel, but every bit as entertaining. She is once again on her own, traipsing barefoot across a bare stage, with neither props, nor costume changes. Central character 30-year-old Sandra has left the comfort zone of her north England home town and followed her well meaning, but quixotic sax-playing boyfriend to London. It doesn’t help that his bratty daughter Louise and old school chum Kate are presenting hindrances.

Ms Wilcox, a natural mimic, plays around a dozen characters, both animate and inanimate, including a pair of house plants: Kevin the calla lily and Pierre the sunflower. To make it easy for the audience she separates the three principal characters with a different regional (British) accent. Wilcox’s singular performance is greater than the sum of the production’s parts.

© 2010 John Jane

Capital, Alice

Performance Dates 9, 11, 12, 16, 16 & 19 September at Studio 16

Performer Anoushka Ratnarajah, Emily Griffiths and Lau Sequins

The Fringe Festival is often about innovative theatre and affording an opportunity for emerging talent. This Lucid Dream Production’s Capital, Alice certainly fits into the latter, but fails in its attempt to be ground-breaking. It uses the well-worn story-telling technique of presenting a socio-political observation through a children’s story. In an arcane revision of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice, bored and weary of folding jeans, falls asleep in the department store in which she works. While catching some ZZZs she experiences a nightmarish encounter with a myriad of bizarre characters that offer some flawed conspectus about consumerism.

While much of the dialogue is smart and witty, the physical comedy seems improvised and indulgent. Of the three performers, only Anoushka Ratnarajah is able to make it feel natural. For some obscure reason all three actors take a turn at playing Alice causing the production to descend into a form of théâtre de l'absurd. During Ratnarajah’s stint as Alice she likened a scene to a “bad Tim Burton movie.” I’ve never seen a bad Tim Burton movie, but it surely couldn’t be more annoying than this.

© 2010 John Jane


Performance Dates 10, 11, 12, 14, 17 & 18 September at False Creek Gym

Performers Alice Nelson and Jacqueline Russell

Alice Nelson has been one of the poster girls for this year’s Fringe (just check out the cover of this week’s Georgia Strait). In Raunch with partner Jacqueline Russell, she draws inspiration from Ariel Levy’s pro-feminism essay Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Nelson and Russell offer a humourous, and at times a hard-hitting analysis of the raunch phenomenon and its effect on society. They place as much (perhaps even more) blame on women, especially those proponents of “lipstick feminism” who proffer the theory that sexual attraction is empowerment; thus resulting in the backward progress of women’s liberation.

A weighty issue indeed! Fortunately, this pair of talented comic performers never really takes themselves seriously, getting as many laughs from men in the audience as women. Among some of the “raunchiest” aspects that receive their brand of laconic humour are: breast augmentation, the HooterTM restaurant franchise, Girls Gone WildTM and hip hop culture. According to Nelson and Russell, “Hotness” is the corporate model used to sell everything in America. Of course they’re preaching mostly to the already converted. With the creators slick use of multi-media, puppets and comedy, this show could be adapted as a teaching tool and taken into high schools.

© 2010 John Jane

Stretch Dog

Performance Dates 9, 10, 11(5pm & 11pm), 14, 15, 16, 17 & 18 September at Pacific Theatre

Performer Robert Olguin

A lot of actors do television commercials; for many it’s their ‘bread n’ butter’ between regular gigs. For a few, appearing in a badly conceived commercial can be a humiliating experience and even result in the actor not getting serious work for a long time after it’s no longer seen. Stretch Dog is Robert Olguin’s semi-biographical account of an actor’s reluctance to act in a commercial for a super-size hot dog in which he is obliged to dress-up as a ketchup bottle.

For roughly three-quarters of the 45-minute show the audience is allowed to eavesdrop on an intense conversation between a luckless actor, played by Olguin, and his pragmatic agent Marty, who is neither seen, nor heard. The actor’s problem is that he has become a new father at the same time that his career is in the doldrums – and he needs money. Olguin’s single-handed dialogue occasionally degenerates into a rant; at other times, he delivers graphical anecdotes of life-changing incidents that are simultaneously hilarious and poignant. At one point, he describes in explicit detail being stuck in traffic with a first date listening to Led Zeppelin’s When the Levee Breaks on the radio, when he is unanticipatedly struck by a severe bout of Montezuma’s revenge.

Pacific Theatre has arguably the best lighting system of any small venue in Vancouver. Director Michael Wipf used it to some advantage in amplifying the drama of this compelling piece of theatre

© 2010 John Jane