2014 Vancouver International Fringe Festival

Kirchmann Productions
Deranged Dating

Performance Dates 7, 9, 10, 13 & 14 September 2014 at the Revue Stage

Performer Shirley Kirchmann

Reviewer John Jane

Shirley Kirchmann’s one-woman show fits somewhere between comedy club and unstructured monologue. She steps onto the stage in character, dressed in a pink housecoat and hair rollers, speaking in a thick Afrikaans accent. It was a pity that Kirchmann, a thirty-five-year-old (her claim) South African, ceded her “Auntie” character so quickly - it was one of the high points.

Kirchmann is a highly visual stand up comedian, who this time turns her brand of misandry on the men she has dated. Seeing her act you would have to believe that she has experienced every ‘bad date’ conceivable, but you would also have to consider that she might be just as culpable as her dates for these dating misadventures.

The show is certainly funny and the venue suits her in-your-face style. I did notice that women in the audience outnumbered men by about three-to-one, and the women laughed a lot louder than their male counterparts. No doubt many recognised some of their own dating experiences in the performer’s routine.

Battery Jacks
Slumming by Barbara Ellison

Performance Dates 6, 7, 9, 11, 13 & 14 September 2014 at Studio 16

Performers Sharon Crandall, Terri Anne Taylor

Reviewer John Jane

At first sight, Grace looks every bit the mildly neurotic street person who is setting out a temporary home down an East Vancouver cul-de-sac. She obviously has had much better days than the one she is currently experiencing. When she runs up against Britney, a larger-than-life, half Native, half Irish sex worker, a turf war ensues. However, after the initial altercation the two women realise that it’s easier to share than to fight.

Grace is trying to maintain some degree of privacy in a public area, while Britney just needs to turn a few more tricks so that she can get the bus to Kelowna to see her daughter in foster care. When the normally street-wise Britney is waylaid and raped, it’s Grace that provides sustenance and good will.

Sharon Crandall delivers an exceptionally nuanced performance as Grace the ‘fish out of water’ living on the street. Terri Anne Taylor gets most of the laughs – and there are quite a few, as the hapless Britney. Playwright Barbara Ellison also directs and does a creditable job. The sixty-minute run time seemed all too short.

Poiema Productions
Anatolia Speaks by Kenneth Brown

Performance Dates 7, 9, 12 & 14 September 2014 at Studio 1398

Performer Candice Fiorentina

Reviewer John Jane

Anatolia Speaks is Candice Fiorentina’s tour-de-force one woman show that turns an ESL class presentation into an inspirational immigrant story. Edmonton-based writer Kenneth Brown has crafted a pièce de théâtre that is both whimsical and moving. But it’s Fiorentino that delivers a compelling performance of Anatolia’s personal version of the multiethnic strife within Bosnia that eventually brings her to a new life in Edmonton.

The classroom scenario generates a certain ersatz quality in the production. As Anatolia, Fiorentina accepts questions from mock classmates that interrupt the flow of her discourse spoken in a thick Slavic accent. A couple of times throughout the show the actor breaks into “You are my sunshine” - a song she learned from a Canadian soldier in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

While the character of Anatolia transform from humourist to heroine, she’s not given to sentimentality. She possesses a sincere gratitude for her job at Superstore and the opportunity to add English to the six languages she already speaks.

I’ll be surprised if this show isn’t included in the “Pick of the Fringe.”

Artists Collective
Dirty Old Woman
by Loretta Seto

Performance Dates 6, 7, 9, 11, 13 & 14 September 2014 at Studio 16

Performer McFarlen, Robert Salvador, Emmelia Gordon and Alison Kelly

Reviewer John Jane

Nina isn’t really dirty, nor is she old – more like middle-age. But she is a woman with a normal healthy sex drive. So, when she finds herself alone after a divorce from her marriage of thirty plus years, she decides to try her luck with internet dating. She gets lined up with three guys just north of her own age that don’t fit well with her own lifestyle. When Nina meets Gerry, a handsome thirty-something dance instructor, she stops seeing herself as old. Unfortunately, her disapproving daughter Liza does her best to put the kibosh on the relationship, while her best friend Diane reveres her as a new cougar.

Susinn McFarlen offers a poignant, nuanced performance as Nina. She gets great support from a talented cast that make the show thought-provoking as well as funny. Full marks to director Lynna Goldhar Smith, who maintains an even pace through the show’s sixty minutes.

The Chariot Cities by Harrison Mooney

Performance Dates 6, 9, 11, 12 & 14 September 2014 at the Revue Stage

Performers Jeff Gladstone, Alison Lynne Ward, Steven Greenfield, Christopher King and Shantini Klaassen

Reviewer John Jane

The Chariot Cities is a 75-minute musical drama about a dysfunctional musical family over a period of thirty years with flashback scenes. The show’s narrative is helped by Bryan Binnema’s half dozen catchy folk-pop tunes that range from being mildly humourous (No Bleeding on the Bus) to deeply poignant (You Let Me Down), though hindered by weak dialogue.

Jeff Gladstone is stellar as family patriarch Jack Stackhouse, the archetypical talented loser. Alison Lynne Ward is solid as the sweet-voiced folkie and Jack’s devoted spouse. Shantini Klaassen and Steven Greenfield do a decent job of the couple’s adult offspring.

At times, the writing is hard-hitting and works quite well; other times it appears disjointed and awkward. The numerous scenes lack continuity, sometimes spaced apart by a few hours, while other times spaced by several years.

Despite being a decade in the making, The Chariot Cities still needs further development, at least with the dialogue.

© 2014 John Jane