Review from the Fringe #1

Editor’s Note: Don Street has a new author, reviewing Fringe Shows. Rob’s been to Fringe shows since he was a small boy and he lives on Donald, so he meets the strenuous qualifications to become our Senior Reviewer. You’ll have to excuse the prose, though, as he works for the gubment.

Rating System

Keeping in theme with the rest of this blog, I’ve developed the following rating system to rate the plays I see.  As you can probably tell, I either enlisted child labour to draw the pictures for this system or I drew them myself… I’ll let you guess.

A note of caution about the system:  Please don’t read too much into the modes of transport I’ve chosen.  In no way am I implying that light rail is better than roads with bike lanes or any other such hierarchy; this is all in good fun!

A note of caution about the reviewer:  While I’ve enjoyed attending the Fringe for about 15 years, I’ve never written reviews before and I certainly do not claim to be an expert in any way, shape or form.  Actually, I can’t draw, I’ve never written a review before… I’m not sure why Mike asked me to do this.  Oh wait, I do live on Donald Street.  It’s either that or Mike’s desperate for content! Hope you enjoy the reviews!

How, exactly, does this professional rating system work you ask?  Well, steer clear of roads and roads with bike lanes.  Bus rapid transit might be good, if that’s your genre.  Light rail transit and subways will get you to where you want to go.  If you see a monorail anywhere, hop aboard for a ride like you’ve never experienced before!

Without further ado, all aboard for the first reviews.

Jem Steamrolls Over One of Society’s Favourite Constructs:  The Mall

By using the mall as fodder, Jem Rolls:  How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Mall provides biting social commentary on society’s obsession with consumerism, conformism and our quest to show progress over previous generations.  During a particular poignant moment in the performance, Jem ponders aloud how future civilizations will perceive us.  He believes they will ask why we had to use everything up, why we had to do it so fast and why we couldn’t leave some for them.  He juxtaposes this with what we represent to civilizations of the past:  We are the culmination of the hopes, dreams, aspirations and hard work of everyone that came before us.  Makes you feel kind of humble.

I had the opportunity to see Jem perform on two other occasions.  While this particular performance is perhaps slightly less poetic, opting for a bit more prose, the topic is decidedly less philosophical/esoteric and more sociological, meaning most audience members will be able to personally identify with the experiences so eloquently described.  Think of the last time you were in the grocery store, walking down aisle after aisle after aisle, watching the boxes, tubes, bins, cans and tubs go by.  Jem is able to paint a literary picture of scenarios like this one much better than this reviewer.

For his ability to make you stop and contemplate our larger role in this thing we call life, while making it enjoyable to listen to, I give Jem Rolls a Subway.

    The Subway – It will take you to an interesting destination, with a smooth ride along the way to boot!  In fact, the journey is half the fun.

Free Press Review – 4 stars
CBC Review – 5 aces

Prairie Fizzle

The play  Prairie Fire Presents… The Follies  gets off to an odd start with a dancer dressed in a flowing red costume spinning around in circles to music.  At first, I was somewhat mesmerized by the movements of the actress, but after several minutes of essentially the same move my head was also starting to spin.

After another short skit, the actress takes a moment to explain what follies are.  The audience is told that follies are a series of unconnected acts meant to entertain.  The play certainly achieved the unconnected part.  That is not to say the play doesn’t have potential, though.  The premise behind several scenes, notably the 50’s housewife and the dance audition, was fine, but the execution was somewhat lacking.

I think one of my friends summed it up best when she quipped, “The play would have been more interesting with the addition of lasers and if those lasers were attached to sharks, it would have been pure gold!”  While sharks with laser beams attached to their heads would be great, simply tightening up the execution of this play would help tremendously.

Given that the play has much potential, but lacks in terms of execution, I find it difficult to assign a rating to it.  Therefore, I have invented a new rating just for this act:  The Trolley.

The Trolley – It is quant and will take you somewhere.  But the trip will be slow and boring at times.  If you’ve got some extra time and this is your sort of thing, you might want to pay the fare and enjoy the ride.  Otherwise, I recommend you find some more exciting mode of transport.

CBC Review – not yet rated

A Family Room that Definitely Isn’t Kid-Friendly!

As Mike pointed out in his post, Susan Fischer is back in town presenting Evelyn Reese’s Family Room.  I had the opportunity to see Evelyn perform two years ago and I would rate that performance as one of the best Fringe shows I have ever seen!  While this performance wasn’t quite at the same calibre as the first time ’round, Susan delivers a solid set.

If political incorrectness makes you squirm, stay away from this play.  Nothing is off limits as Evelyn takes aim at banning perfume in the office, people who get upset over the death of a pet and receiving a New Kids on the Block tape for your birthday.  The play is devoted to recounting tales about Evelyn’s family think alcoholic mother who cheats on her father with the school principal and a father who has managed to miss all of her birthdays and her friends, who are just like family to her.  Audience members who saw Susan’s performance two years ago will be treated to the re-appearance of such familiar characters as Reynold Evelyn’s gay, or poufter as she puts it, friend who drags her along to a class for people with low self-esteem who are addicted to being doormats where she is promptly shown the door for “offering advice”  and her co-worker Dorothy “Dot” MacKay who marries one of her former boyfriends after Evelyn “loosened the lid” on his sexual prowess, thank you very much.

For Susan’s zany portrayal of Evelyn, a whack of oddball stories and a string of off the wall jokes that leave you thinking, “I shouldn’t be laughing so hard at this!!”, I rate this play a Subway.

  The Subway – You will meet many interesting and crazy characters as you whiz by scenery that is out of the ordinary.

CBC Review – 4 aces


12 responses to “Review from the Fringe #1

  1. Hooray! My first blog entry. I’m off to the grocery store now. Wish me luck.

  2. I was shocked, shocked, that the Free Press gave Jem 4 out of 5 stars this year. From my perspective, this poem was his masterpiece.

    The Mall, as the end of history, “not utopia, but myopia” was well conceived. Jem points out that while Persian Emperors never had banquets as bountiful as the modern mall and while cavemen would be in awe of our wealth, that future humans will not have it as good as us because of what we are doing to the environment. Self-evident to some, perhaps. But, the envious cries of future humans complaining of our waste certainly rang powerfully in my mind.

  3. By the way, I won tickets on CBC radio for Evelyn Reese!!

  4. In the Free Press’ defence, Jem didn’t get a “Monorail” from me. It was an excellent performance, but not close enough to perfection for such a prestigious rating. Although, I have a feeling that the Free Press doesn’t have a strict rating scale like mine!

    I’d definitely go to see Evelyn again! Again, not a “Monorail” performance, but a firm “Subway”!

  5. I’d consider myself a frequent fringer (possibly because I bought a frequent fringer ticket…), and so far there are 2 I would definitely recommend: “Hands Off” by the group Hot Thespian Action, is a collection of short skits with hilarious punchlines and perfect timing. “Paper Jack” by Title Pending Productions, is more of folktale story with great acting and haunting melodies. I’m still browsing through shows, but those are the two best I’ve seen so far…

  6. Pingback: Review from the Fringe #2 « Don Street Blog

  7. Thanks for the recommendations J.Cricket. Both plays look quite interesting.

    Too many plays, too little time!

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