Reviewer: Roger Wayne Eberle


xBroken Turtle Productions
Roller Derby Saved My Soul by Nancy Kenny

Performance Dates 5,6,8,12-14 September, 2014 at False Creek Gym

Performer Nancy Kenny

Nancy Kenny is a canny performer.  Prior to suiting up for her roller derby training/competition session during this production, she endears herself to her audience by adopting the persona of Amy, an under-achieving geeky girl who gets her kicks by eating popcorn and watching old Buffy episodes, aligning her alter-ego with pop culture heroines like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Wars own Princess Leia.

If Nancy Kenny as Amy the geeky self-conscious kid is mostly endearing, Nancy Kenny as her overbearing, in-your-face provocative sister Jane the roller derby star is a kick ass dynamo-hummer queen of the ring kind of laugh riot.  The humour is often graphic, locker room, name-that-roller-derby dame kind of humour (especially the inside jokes).  But it is just as often an all too real sisterly competition kind of gag-fest—both on and off the track.

I found myself thinking that I’d probably laugh louder and longer if I were a woman, but the guys in the crowd heaved their fair share of heavy and hearty guffaws as well.  It was extremely impressive to see Ms. Kenny cruising around the False Creek Gym roller derby ring at top speed on her skates, carrying on her routine without missing a beat.  Falls, pratfalls alike were handled with deft dexterity, with even the false moves looking uncoordinated in the most naturally coordinated manner.  In the final analysis, Roller Derby Saved My Soul shows how heroism can appear in unexpected places—sometimes only after you have perfected the fine art of ‘shitting in the woods’ (a skating strategy that has to be seen to be appreciated!).  It’s not hard to see why this play might find its way onto the short list for the pick of the Fringe.  It is clearly a crowd favourite; and although laugh-for-laugh I’ve seen better, it was still well worth the long drive we took to see Ms. Kenny lace up her skates.



xCrooked Teeth Theatre
Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Performance Dates 4, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14 September at The Cultch Lab Theatre

Performers Nicolas Taggart, Hannah Rose Brearley, James Dolby, Julia Fox, Madlen Scot, Kallie Jean Sorensen, eremy O’Driscoll

To say that the Crooked Teeth Theatre production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is ambitious is an understatement.  What works particularly well with this production (covering most of the entire play in just over 1-1/2 hr) is the often seamless fluidity with which one scene segues almost effortlessly into another.  This version is a modern adaptation, and it will probably not please most traditionalists (if traditionalists are found at the Fringe!).

Hannah Rose Brearley portrays Lady Macbeth with energetic torpor as a bit of a lush, tipsy and altogether too offhandedly flippant throughout the entire regicide sequence (“…what made them drunk has made me bold” is spoken as she drinks from a flask).   The witches (James Dolby, Julia Fox, Madlen Scot) make memorable appearances as dark-hearted drug addicts who do double duty as interns in the insane asylum in which Macbeth is initially given electro-shock treatment on a gurney.

This is certainly the most erotic Macbeth I have ever seen.  Lady Macbeth does not even get through the reading of Macbeth’s letter outlining how the weird ‘sisters’ prophecies were coming true before her libidinous husband—the would-be king who is played with a kind of brute animal magnetism by Nicolas Taggart—lifts her off her ‘couch’ and proceeds to sensuously manhandle her.  This provocative soft-porn approach to character development continues throughout the build-up to the murder, and is then later taken up near the end of the play in a surprising twist by Kallie Jean Sorensen’s Princess Malcolm (that’s right—Malcolm is female in this version) as she aims her full sensual thrust at Jeremy O’Driscoll’s Macduff in order to determine just how loyal he really is to Scotland.  Even when her Lady Macbeth is dissembling towards suicide, Brearley is still being ‘massaged’ by Taggart’s emotionally-dependent Macbeth: the physical connection between these two lovers is what congeals their conjugality and codependency, no matter what the context.


xAenigma Theatre
Zoo Story by Edward Albee

Performance Dates 4, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14 September at The Cultch Lab Theatre

Performers Scott Button and Tom Stevens

Some people give a lot of lip service to love without really even knowing what it is.  Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story suggests there is more to love than meets the 'die'.  This intense, often macabre play is set in New York’s Central Park.  Two total strangers strike up a conversation.  Peter has come to divert himself with a little reading.  Jerry has come from the zoo.  Though he looks to escape the confines of his own caging philosophies, his rambling rhetorical discourse just masks a grim sort of ultimate hidden agenda.

The musical preamble is an apt prelude:  as the audience files in, songs like the Five Man Electrical Band’s “Signs,” the Beatles “Eleanor Rigby,” and Paul Simon’s “Sounds of Silence” set a tone of alienation that runs like a thread through this gritty, ingenious play. Director Tanya Mathivanan humbly acknowledges her good fortune in having two such excellent actors as Scott Button and Tom Stevens to play the respective roles of Peter and Jerry, but she deserves high praise for the many striking ways in which she achieves so delicate a fluidity of both pacing and intensity.  There is a voluble vitality, at once palpable, personal and provocatively mute that lies at the back of the inexorable narrative archetypical in-your-face plotline in the sand that Jerry daringly crosses.

Button’s buttoned-down Peter is the perfect foil for Stevens’ jeremiad-Jerry.  Throughout Jerry’s increasingly manic ramblings, and especially during his unbelievably long ‘Jerry and the Dog’ monologue, Buttons adeptly portrays several degrees of appalling disdain that gradually veers towards disgust.Stevens’ Jerry is a beautiful horror story.  Just when it appears his loneliness and isolation gives way to psychosis, he wraps up the audience tightly into his tragi-comic world and takes them on an intimate journey from heaven through hell and back to the park, where life as they know it is about to come to a very harried halt.



xThe Progressive Polygamists & Pump Trolley
Industry: The Food Must Go by Pippa Mackie and Nik Bunting

Performance Dates 6 - 14 September at Edible Canada, Granville Island

Performers Pippa Mackie, Lauren Jackson and Nik Bunting

The Food Must Go Out is a searing comedic exposé of life behind the scenes in a high-end restaurant.  This insider’s portrait is both a culinary cut-up and a wanton confessional of waitressing joys, woes, trials and tributes.  Pippa Mackie, Lauren Jackson, and Nik Bunting have decades of experience in the restaurant industry, and they inject more than ample servings of hilarity, off-colour shenanigans and far-from-tame physical comedy into this must-see performance. 

The capacity crowd on opening night ate up their acting like the divine dizzy delicacy it was—a send-up that soars and sizzles!  It doesn’t hurt either that the show takes place in the Edible Canada Bistro after hours, with drinks available from the bar during the show. The show runs the gamut from raucous and raunchy sex-crazed chefs-on-the-spot spoofs to the hang-over-shift-from-hell where the ‘hang-over’ is hilariously personified and engages the audience in participatory “orders,” and then on to candid straight-from-the-heart sharing sessions in which the waitresses and the chef take turns baring their soul to the audience in an open and moving manner. 

This show really has it all.  It is heartfelt and sincere; it is satiric and inventive and unique; and it is a comedy that will leave you laughing long after the last customer is given the bum’s rush just before closing time crescendos the star trio into a spread-eagle wine-induced collapse.There is a blind-folded wine identification contest, and there are plenty of the best of- and worst of- case scenarios.  My wife was amused to learn that her favorite drink order is a waitress’s nightmare—hot water and lemon. Much of the musical accompaniment was low-key hi-fi, but it was also used to terrific comedic effect: particularly Little River Band’s “Lonesome Loser”—poor Pippa!  Seriously, though: Lauren Jackson, Pippa Mackie, and Nik Bunting have a Fringe hit on their hands.



Best Picture by Kurt Fitzpatriick

Performance Dates 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13 September at Havana Theatre

Performers Tara Travis, Jon Paterson, and Kurt Fitzpatrick

Best Picture is the work of a triumphant triumvirate: Jon Paterson, Kurt Fitzpatrick, and Tara Travis team up to earn critical accolades and audience acclaim as they put a comedic spin on sequences from all the academy award winners ever to earn top honours in the history of the Academy. This triple-threat of a troupe is eleven-tenths wit, eleven-tenths hilarity, and eleven-tenths intelligence: in other words, they are an over the top frenzy of non-stop energetic comedy.

Not everyone will have seen all of the close to 90 best picture winners, but that didn’t stop the audience on the night we went from laughing out loud at all of the antics, shenanigans and downright clever writing as these three excellent improvisational actors played all the parts, segueing from one movie lampoon seamlessly into another with ease and finesse.

It is impossible to adequately express the full range of these actor’s zaniness, but suffice to say they don’t shy away from political commentary and thorny issues such as racism and homophobia, to name a couple; nor do they refrain from touching on those obligatory questions we have all asked about whether some years’ best should have perhaps been given to one of the other ostensibly abler contenders.

Kurt Fitzpatrick does double duty as an actor and the show’s writer; he does wonderful things with satire, and the dialogue is inventive and intelligent. Whether it is singing or sending up a movie by imitating actors and mimicking to exaggerate their eccentricities as with Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man or the mumbling nonsense of Marlon Brando in The Godfather, Paterson, Fitzpatrick and Travis are clearly in their element and working at the top of their game. Best Picture is surely a contender for the Best of the Fringe this year.



the frank theatre company
The Masks of Oscar Wilde by Shaul Ezer, C.E. Gatchalian

Performance Dates 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 14 September 2014, at the Revue Stage

Performers Sean Harris Oliver, Tamara McCarthy

From the early days of children’s stories like The Happy Prince to the latter days of philosophical meanderings in De Profundis, this production portrays the life and times of Oscar Wilde with tenderness, compassion, and sensitivity. There are dramatic flourishes as parts of The Importance of Being Earnest are enacted with humour and vitality; and there are intensely theatrical moments as the courtroom drama of Oscar Wilde’s trial is relived.

Sean Harris Oliver acts as a Wilde scholar whose lectures are impudently interrupted by his fellow thespian Tamara McCarthy, who adds colour and depth to the performance. She also adds layers to the Wilde mythos and engages the audience at many times during the production.

The portrayal of speeches and dialogue were helped immeasurably through the efforts of dialect coaches Adam Henderson and Laura Jaszcz. Apart from the minimalist set design, this performance adds dimension and considerable depth to any generalist audience’s appreciation and understanding of the life and times of Oscar Wilde.
Mr. Oliver gives a reasonably competent performance, but Ms. McCarthy is a stand-out! There is certainly enough dramatic tension and biographical material to make this a meaningful play to watch, and if the lecture format is somewhat dry, Ms. McCarthy’s personal anecdotal flourishes add a great deal of colour. Although it might work better if there were actual slides instead of just imaginary slides, it also might distract viewers from the dramatic portrayal of these characters.

It must be said that a play like this, while often profound and frequently significant, cannot begin to apprehend the complete breadth of Wilde’s contribution to literature. For example, The Happy Prince is only one of his many short stories that finds its way into this production, and although many of his plays are mentioned, only one is treated at length. Nevertheless, it affords a savory taste of this literary genius, and leaves a not altogether dissatisfying aftertaste.


The Elegant Ladies Collective
by Leslie Stark

Performances 4, 6, 8, 10, 13 September 2014, at The Playground

Eidola is a uniquely interactive dramatic experience that provokes its audience to reflect upon how women are viewed in society. Just over twenty people form the capacity crowd for each performance, and they are divided into groups of three; each group is led into the playground by one of the fairies from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Then the group is introduced one-by-one to several of Shakespeare’s leading ladies from his major plays.

Each character is trapped in time and space, searching for expression and recognition beyond their roles. At the turning on of a light, the character comes to life and begins an enactment of key features of her respective roles, and as the dramatic enactment proceeds the audience is left feeling sympathetic towards the character.

By the time we had gotten around to all of the characters, the sun had gone down, and each of the audience members was given a flashlight and we were instructed to go round and shine the light on the actors, and to enliven and interact with all of the characters again.

The final phase of the performance was a liberation phase. After a brief challenge, the entire audience went around to all of the characters, one-by-one, and we were led in a chorus of singing to liberate these actors from their bondage and enslavement to limiting ideals and roles. We were encouraged to think of women as more than the mere sum of their parts. The experience was refreshing and challenging. It was a unique method of breaking down stereotypes and moving beyond the specific role-limitations that characters often inhabit. This is a thoroughly engaging performance.


© 2014 Roger Wayne Eberle