Fringe Factory Review #7

Le Grand-Guignol Sur La Prairie

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Maybe it was because it was late, maybe it was because I was tired, maybe it was because I had a long week, but Le Grand-Guignol Sur La Prairie just didn’t cut it for me.  The venue held a lot of promise:  A space above Ragpickers, which is an excellent spot to locate vintage costumes, if you’re into that sort of thing.  In fact, the antique surroundings and the cramped seating arrangements lent themselves almost perfectly to the performance at hand.

It was unfortunate, though, that most of the actors did not live up to the full potential of their surroundings.  The play presented several horror sketches throughout the 75 minute performance, most of which featured very similar characters.  Even more unfortunate was the execution of most of the characters.  They were portrayed in rather drab terms, with the exception of the one actor who wore glasses… he showed skill and potential (don’t know his name).  And another actor showed much potential, but perhaps not as much skill.

The plot of each story in and of itself was okay, but like I already say, the execution was mediocre.  I wouldn’t say this is one to avoid… actually I was surprised it was sold out… but I definitely wouldn’t put it on the “Must See” list either.  I, for one, will not be going to bed dreading the horrors I saw nor laughing at the comedic performance (unlike last night).

Here’s my rating:

502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svgfactory half   2.5 / 5 factories

Fringe Factory Review #6

Les Miserable Old Guys

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The play, Les Miserable Old Guys, is a sweet and endearing play about two old neighbours who share a fence, a friendship and a conversation.  The story is quaint… about love, loss and loss of mind.  For those regular theatre and movie goers, the play is a bit too reminiscent of Grumpy Old Men and/or a Prairie Theatre Exchange afternoon play.  Yet, it’s certainly not Jack Lemmon and Walter Mattau who take the stage.  Okay, for a Fringe play, the two actors do an okay job…. One does a bit better than the other.  The crotchety old man plays the part nicely, but his counterpart seemed somewhat awkward with his lines at moments.

All in all, the story presented is entertaining enough.  The themes of love, loss and friendship are peppered with an appropriate amount of comedy.  The grumpy counterpart does a good job of using his messy back lane as an easy excuse for not dealing with his wife’s recent death.  However, as the conversation unfolds, his neighbour subtly forces him to confront his loss, along with his deepest fears.  This is accomplished in a semi-humourous manner.

If you’re looking for something to slot in between a few Fringe plays, this would be an ideal pick.

Here’s my rating:

502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg  3 / 5 factories

Fringe Factory Review #5

Sound & Fury’s “Vaganza!”

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One word:  Hillarious!!

If you’re looking for non-stop laughter, this is the one to see.  The actors had the crowd warmed up with some pre-play interaction and it was a laugh-a-minute from then on.

The play, Vaganza, is a spoof on 1940’s or early 50’s film noir detective stories.  Each actor skillfully plays a set of ridiculously stereotypical characters.  The dialogue is just as zany, with a good level of audience interaction.  Their play on words is astute and when it’s not, it’s meant not to be.

There were times during the play when I couldn’t tell if they were ad-libbing or if it was pre-scripted.  I talked it over with my friend afterwards and we both agreed that the entire content of the play must have been pre-scripted, but it was so well rehearsed that it looked ad-libbed at some points.  It was just that good.

Many of the jokes are somewhat crude and overtly sexual in nature, so if that type of thing offends you, steer clear.  Otherwise, this is definitely one worth seeing if you’re wanting a great laugh.

Highly recommended!

Here’s my rating:

502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svgfactory half  4.5 / 5 factories

Fringe Factory Review #4

52 Pick Up

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I had a feeling 52 Pick Up would be good considering it was co-directed by TJ Dawe & Rita Bozi.  At last year’s Fringe, TJ Dawe wrote, directed and/or starred in literally too many plays to list… and most of the ones I saw were quite good.

The play chronicals the relationship between two lovers, played by Gemma Wilcox and Sam Elmore.  But this is no ordinary, tired, linear romance story.  No, the play begins with the characters emerging on stage and throwing a deck of cards up into the air.  They then proceed to pick up a card, call it out (e.g. five of hearts), and then they announce the name of the scene.  You see, each card corresponds to a scene.  And each scene gives you a snippet into their relationship.  Slowly, as they pick up cards, the audience gets to see the full picture of their love life.

Not only did Wilcox and Elmore never miss a beat… a feat considering neither knew what scene was coming up next!  But their chemistry on-stage drew the audience into each scene.  While some scenes appeared to be better thought out than others (I guess it’s hard being original for a who 52 snippets), the way the story was revealed to the audience was a delight to watch.

This one is definitely worth the walk to the Forks venue!

Here’s my rating:

502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svgfactory half  4.5 / 5 factories

Fringe Factory Review #3

Virtual Solitaire

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The play, Virtual Solitaire, promised to be a “one-man virtuosic tour de force exploring themes of technology and isolation.”  I should have read this closer before I went to see this play.

When I entered the theatre, I was greeted with a man laying on the stage perfectly still.  This was a full 10 minutes before the performance started.  When it did begin, it took my some time to become accustomed to the language.  The play is set in the future and is in the genre of cyberpunk.  It somewhat reminded me of my old Sega Genesis game Shadowrun.

Anyways, returning to the play… the main character is a “VR junkie” who makes his living by selling his skills and emotions to develop characters in games.  His current task has him fleshing out roles for a crime/mystery game, but something has gone terribly wrong…

There is only one actor who plays all the characters and Darren Boquist does a phenomenal job.  His ability to quickly, and I mean quickly (sometimes from one second to the next), switch from character to character is amazing.

I thought the plot was alright; not great, just alright.  But then again, cyberpunk really wouldn’t be my first choice for a play, book, movie, game, etc.  If cyberpunk is your thing, then I bet you’ll enjoy the play.  Apparently Boquist is in two other Fringe plays this year.  Unfortunately, I forget the names of them, but I plan on looking them up because of his acting abilities.

Here’s my rating:

502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg  3 / 5 factories

Fringe Factory Review #2

Are You Priest Enough?

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The premise for Are You Priest Enough? sounded promising enough:  “SEX, LUST, POWER.  And a hot Nun?”  The picture featured on the write-up (and above) also evoked a goodly (godly?) sense of comedy.  However, the actual play fell somewhat short of expectations.

The story – an individual who is working his way through the Seminary to become a Priest – is a good one.  The actor, Bob Legare, manages to incorporate many typical and stereotypical Catholic ideas and ideals throughout his telling of the tale.  The story is really an introspection of what the character confronts in his own mind during is call to the Seminary, his time spent in the Seminary and ultimately his call to Priesthood.  Legare manages to have fun with some of the Catholic dogma, but does so in a fairly respectful way.  In order to fully enjoy this play, you don’t have to be Catholic, but a rudimentary understanding of Catholicism would be helpful.

The story is spiced up with Legare breaking out into song throughout the performance.  His singing is mediocre, at best, but the campiness of it seems to fit with the overall story… so I guess it works.  Legare’s acting is also on the same level.  There were several times during the play where it felt like he was needlessly restraining himself.  A bit more exaggeration in his presentation would have gone a long way.

If you’re looking for a somewhat humourous, somewhat insightful play about the trials and tribulations of going through the Catholic Seminary, then this play is for you.  If not… (you know the rest).

Here’s my rating:

502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg  3 / 5 factories

Fringe Factory Review #1

Jem Rolls’ Leastest Flops

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This is the fourth occasion that I’ve had to experience the poetry of Jem Rolls.  His poetic stylings are as interesting as the subject matter he talks about.  Jem is able to switch from slow to fast intonation at the drop of a hat, making for a truly delightful feast for the ears.

Most of his poems deal with subtle and not-so-subtle observations on everyday life, as well as some deeper philosophical considerations thrown in for good measure.  Last year, for instance, he examined the many trappings of that modern day cultural phenomena – The Mall… “Bless them all; bless the mall.”  He has also touched on topics such as British history (“We Won!”), social awkwardness (“Clanger Man”), package holidays, etc., etc.

This year, the handbill promised a reprise “of some of his most unhated material.  Supposedly.”  Having seen Jem for the past three years, I did recognize many of the poems performed.  I think some of them were even updated.  However, I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I saw him for four years in a row now or the fact that he was presenting older poetry… and was thus a bit more relaxed/lax, but it seemed to me that Jem didn’t have the same level of punchiness as in previous years.  I did attend on opening night, so maybe as  the week progresses, his delivery will improve.

That said, if you haven’t seen Jem before, I highly recommend it.  Even if you’re not a big fan of poetry, you’ll probably end up liking Jem.  His performance is not of the stuffy-coffee-house-with-jazz-muzak-playing-in-the-background variety (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  If you’ve seen him before and are a fan, his performance is still worth catching.

Here’s my rating:

502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svg502px-Factory_svgfactory half  3.5 / 5 factories