Sunday, June 29, 2014

Don't Just Stand There Toronto! Plan to See Some Fringe Theatre!

Well boys and girls, it's that time of year again.  The giant sign is up on the side of the Bathurst Street Theatre. A Fringe program sits on my desk full of tantalizing theatrical possibilities.

There are clean sheets and towels and late-night snacks laid in for my Fringe billet and me.  On Wednesday, the eleven-day extravaganza begins.

Of all the weeks in my theatre calendar, the ones with FRINGE written on them remain my favourites.

The anticipation, whether I'm mounting a production or just watching, is delicious. I love a three show day that ends in the beer tent on a warm night, chatting with friends, comparing notes on what we've seen and catching up with each other.

I won't get to as many shows as I'd like to.  I never do.

As the festival opens, here is a list of a few things ( in no particular order)  I plan to try and make it to and why I think they're work considering.

WHO KILLED GERTRUDE CRUMP?  West Coast-based Monster Theatre doesn't come east of Winnipeg very often. Tara Travis is a wonderful performer of great charm, skill and invention and she's brought puppets for grown-ups, which is one of her fortes.  This will be a treat.

SLUT:  I've seen parts of Erin Thompson's show in development and it was provocative, in all the best ways.  Thompson is a good actress  and I want to see where she goes with this material.

GOLD FEVER:  The last Keystone Theatre production I saw was a delight and I seldom get to see this kind of physical theatre.

FANTASTIC EXTRAVAGANCE:  Steady State did HATCH! which I really enjoyed and Clyde Whitham is in this, which is always a reason for me to put my bum in a seat.

JEM ROLLS:  ONE MAN TRAFFIC JAM:  Jem is Fringe royalty and the advance press from Ottawa on this show was very good.

PETER AND CHRIS at the SORT of OK CORRAL:  At some point, you're going to need a laugh.  These guys can deliver the comedy goods and they won't offend your mom.

ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL:  Nancy Kenny is a smart writer and this show had great buzz in Edmonton and Ottawa.

THE TROJAN WOMEN:  New theatre school grads take on Greeks.  This kind of thing always makes me nervous and excited.

NO CHANCE IN HELL:  It's a new musical.  I thought the plot sounded charming. Susan Wesson is in it and that woman can sing.  Besides, I like musicals.  Sue me.

RED HEADED STEPCHILD & AMUSEMENT:  Johnnie Walker reprises his hit.  I missed it the last time. Now's my chance.

PUNCH UP:  More high-octane dramedy from the prolific Kat Sandler and the Theatre Brouhaha crew.  I loved HELP YOURSELF and hope to check this out.

PARALLEL PLAY:  Well-known comedy writer Elvira Kurt teams up with Megan Falenbock in a sketch comedy about love, work and parenting.  A good bet for a night out with that exhausted mommy-blogger in your life.

THE DARK FANTASTIC:  Martin Dockerty consistently 5 stars and sells out across the country. Friends who saw this in Winnipeg last year loved it.

THE DEVIL'S CIRCUS:  A puppet company from Winnipeg adapts Orpheus and Eurydice using Bunraku puppets and 19th century trick marionettes.  I'm so there!

So this is my short-list before the festival starts.  I haven't covered any dance or site-specific here, but I do plan to see some of that work as well.  Oh yes, and my billet is here from Montreal with BARD FICTION described as "Shakespeare meets Tarantino".  Now that sounds like a Fringe adventure!

In case you were wondering: I've seen shows in the past two weeks, but near or at the end of their runs.

Dance goddess Louise Lecavalier gave a mesmerizing and bravura performance in her choreographic debut, SO BLUE at the end of LUMINATO, marred only by the fact that latecomers arrived 20 minutes into an 80 minute show of arresting intensity and tromped down to their seats near the front, in the middle of a row, with two flustered, flash-light wielding ushers in tow.

I won't have that problem next week.  The Fringe does not admit latecomers. LUMINATO might want to consider adopting the same policy, or at least making sure late patrons know they'll sit, quietly at the back, if there's room or watch the performance on television in the lobby.  Those two patrons certainly behaved as if they were watching TV at home, with nary a care for the performers or the hundreds of people they disturbed with their disruptive entrance.

I also saw a very solid independent production of JULIUS CAESAR by the ENDEAN Collective with a 15 member, all-female cast.  It was skillfully and intelligently directed by Jennifer Parr and well performed.  The tale of a state collapsing into civil unrest after the murder of a dictator felt ripped from the headlines. The Red Sandcastle Theatre was packed and that was heartening as the company got little press and had a very limited publicity budget.

I know that's the case for most Fringe performers.  Merde to all the staff, volunteers and performers as they prepare for the festival opening.  I look very forward to seeing what delights await.

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