Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

12 fringe reviews saturday july 19

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ACTION FIGURE

Chris Kauffman

Tom Hendry Warehouse (Venue 6), to July 27

 

THIS whimsical tale of a Star Wars-obsessed mechanic who dreams of being a famous comedian-chef is awash in Jedi jokes and Darth humour.

Paolo's search for stardom takes him on an epic journey after he rescues an abandoned goldfish, only to be jilted when it makes a play for freedom. Luckily, the farce is with American Chris Kauffman as he mimes, puns and sings his way to a revelation that will change his life in this 60-minute charmer. 'Ö'Ö'Ö �

-- Pat St. Germain

 

2 RUBY KNOCKERS, 1 JADED DICK: A DIRK DARROW INVESTIGATION

Sideshow A GoGo

Son of Warehouse (Venue 5), to July 27

 

THE jokes come hard and fast as a runaway bullet train on steroids in this psychic-detective caper from Australian-American Tim Motley.

Hard-boiled dick Dirk Darrow is on the trail of a dangerous dame after a bank heist, but the pun-packed plot takes a backseat in this blend of standup comedy, prestidigitation and medium-boiled psychic shenanigans.

Amazing card tricks, mind games and groaners galore add up to 60 minutes of pure entertainment, or more depending on the pace of audience participation. Hang on to your hats -- and pencils. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö �

-- Pat St. Germain

 

THE TWO-STEP

Cheep Art

Planetarium Auditorium (Venue 10), to July 27

 

IN her one-woman show debut, Seattle's Christine Longé brings us Edith, a woman ahead of her time. Edith leaves her life as a '60s housewife and mother to enter a second marriage for love and freedom. Along this path, with her soulmate Eddie, Edith dances (and even sings) her way around the world. Travelling everywhere from Saudi Arabia to Ho Chi Minh City, her life and love take flight.

Longé's sweet and amiable presence goes the distance in this 50-minute show, drawing audiences in with her warmth and humanity. As with any brand-new work, there are some bumps along the road -- at times the language creeps on a dangerous path towards artifice and Longé's rendition of a French torch song lingers too long in the middle of the show. But in the end, Longé makes The Two-Step a trip worth taking. 'Ö'Ö'Ö 1/2

-- Barb Stewart

 

EXPIRATION DATE

SunsetGun Productions

Rachel Browne Theatre (Venue 8) to July 27

 

AS Oscar Wilde observed, dying is easy, comedy is hard. So Minneapolis writer-performer Candy Simmons hedges her bets and doesn't risk injecting too much comedic content into this dead-serious take on one woman coming to terms with a medically proclaimed death sentence.

Lucille Barker is just 35 when she gets the news and Simmons, assuming additional roles of Lucille's long-dead mother, a sardonic brother and a caring doctor, explores the bitter and the sweet of Lucille's difficult journey. Simmons incorporates a scary X-ray visual and even a bit of droll choreography into the mix but does not lard the downbeat material with any gratuitous feel-good-ery.

The script is somewhat over-written but it is so ably performed, the hour running time passes quickly, if not, by necessity, painlessly. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Randall King

 

GODSPELL

Winnipeg Studio Theatre

PTE Mainstage (Venue 16), to July 27

 

Does a folk-rock musical staged in a relatively small theatre need a headset microphone on every singer? Many of us who treasure Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak's Godspell would say no. This youthful production is well-sung, exuberant and has effective moments. But it's over-busy, over-broad and over-loud, blasting away with almost no dramatic subtlety or intimacy (and too much microphone crackle). The gentle whimsy and hippie innocence of the 1971 original are lost.

The 90-minute show is based on biblical teachings, but the cluttered set has no clear intention and fails to create a sacred theatrical space. The choreography mainly consists of strung-together boppy moves that are perhaps intentionally cheesy, but in Day by Day are unforgivably inappropriate. (The Bump? Seriously?)

Preppy-looking Robert Piche, a fine singer, is miscast as Jesus. He lacks the requisite charisma, gravitas and otherness. Overall, while numbers such as All For the Best and By My Side come off reasonably well, there's a lack of depth here that will disappoint many fans of the flower-child classic. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Alison Mayes

 

THE TiBERT KITCHEN PARTY!

TiBert le Voyageur

School of Contemporary Dancers (Kids Venue), to July 26

 

BEING a children's entertainer requires a certain level of fearlessness and TiBert the Voyageur has it in spades. During his high-energy, 45-minute musical storytelling extravaganza, he effortlessly shares the stage with as many kids as want to participate. Encouraging active imagination, TiBert has them acting as woodworkers, blacksmiths and even mice during his stories of the voyageur life, both at Fort Gibraltar and on their monumental cross-Canadian canoe treks.

You don't need to be bilingual to appreciate or participate in the show, but kids will most likely pick up a word or two of French. The highlight is the Kitchen Party, where TiBert and his young assistants compose a lively voyageur jig using a loop pedal and a canvas sack full of musical instruments.

Young children will find this show irresistible and even the adults may find themselves paddling along the rivers of their imaginations. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Ben Wiebe

 

THE COCK WHISPERER: A LOVE STORY

Colette Kendall

MTC Up the Alley (Venue 2), to July 27

 

COLETTE Kendall -- the funnywoman behind fringe hits Tippi Seagram's Happy Hour and Who's Afraid of Tippi Seagram? -- makes a lot of penis jokes in the cheekily titled Cock Whisperer: A Love Story, her impressive dildo close at hand. But she's also crafted a fun, frothy (sorry) coming-of-age memoir that's ultimately tender and touching.

Like protagonist of a Judy Blume novel, Kendall is navigating her adolescence in the '70s, her sexuality awakened by a boy in a Black Sabbath T-shirt her parents loathed and for whom she valiantly attempts a striptease to The Hustle. She's an engaging storyteller and a great physical comedian -- and she's not afraid to get heavy when she needs to. When she details the abusive nine-year marriage she lost herself in, becoming a cloistered housewife/sex slave she didn't recognize, your heart breaks for her.

While the show has great energy, some of the jokes could use an update; some veer dangerously close to the kind of dated Cosmopolitan material Kendall is attempting to send up. That said, one joke involving a certain Canadian politician's face made this reviewer snort-laugh. 'Ö'Ö'Ö 1/2

-- Jen Zoratti

 

MAKING BELIEVE

Edge of Make Believe

School of Contemporary Dancers (Kids Venue), to July 26

 

IMAGINE your odd bachelor uncle comes to your house with hand puppets and flashlights and for the next 60 minutes tells you a convoluted version of Little Red Riding Hood featuring a boy named Kyle, a wizard grandpa and, in place of the wolf, a Moose named Monty (a Jersey wiseguy). Wait, there's more.

Vancouver's Jason T. Broadfoot practically demands participation from his audience. When the obviously dangerous Monty the Moose shows up, a firefly buzzes around screaming "stranger danger!" like an overwrought Jiminy Cricket. Kyle asks, "Should I talk to this guy?" Most children know the right answer, but, lucky for Broadfoot, there's one in every crowd. "Yes? I like the way you think, kid!"

The show is not unsalvageable. Torque up the camp, put a two-gin minimum in the audience and you might have a pretty good midnight fringe show, something akin to Laugh-In's wonderfully exuberant Alan Sues doing Uncle Al the Kiddies' Pal. But for the kids? In the words of Monty the Moose: Fuggedaboudit. 'Ö 1/2

-- Wendy King

 

LUDWIG & LOHENGRIN

Kyall Rakoz

Son of Warehouse (Venue 5), to July 26

 

A ROYAL dreamer, a calculating composer and castles in the air make for enchanting storytelling in Calgary writer-performer Kyall Rakoz's inspired take on the life and sudden death of Bavaria's King Ludwig II.

A white sheet, paper swans and a few shadow puppets are all Rakoz needs to bring the 60-minute dramedy to vivid life. Playing multiple characters, he recounts the story of Ludwig's lonely childhood and reign from several perspectives. Characters disagree on questions surrounding the "mad king's" sanity and sexuality, but it seems his love for Richard Wagner and his opera Lohengrin sealed his fate. A soulful, saucy mystery for the ages, this one hits the sweet spot. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö �

-- Pat St. Germain

 

FOURPLAY

Run Ragged Company

MTC Up the Alley (Venue 2), to July 26

 

EVERYTHING you need to know about Dale Watts' FourPlay can be gleaned from its title: pun-happy dad jokes abound in this hit-and-miss collection of four short plays.

The first three are almost identical in tone and pace. Hot Air and Cold Tofu has a cable-TV reporter (Arden Pruden) trying to get a usable quote from an eccentric environmentalist (Dave Pruden). Reading Between the Lies sees a double-speaking politician (Dave) go toe-to-toe with a left-wing activist (Jennifer Quinn) at a university forum. In His Next Failed Marriage, a thick-skulled chauvinist (Dave) seeks council from a bartender (Quinn). In all three, the woman is forced to patiently teach the man a Very Special Lesson about being a decent human being in exchanges that are more trying than funny.

The final sketch, however, is downright heartwarming. In 'Til Deaf Do us Part (groan) Watts and Quinn play an elderly couple who are a little hard of hearing. But underneath the tired, misheard gags is a sweet little rumination on getting older and the tough choices that come along with it. 'Ö'Ö/2

-- Jen Zoratti

 

THE WAR AND PEACE SHOW

Peaceniks Inc., Winnipeg

WAG -- Muriel Richardson Auditorium (Venue 12), to July 27

 

HALF the hippie audience was singing along with the Peter, Paul and Mary song that welcomed us into the WAG auditorium, so I braced myself for some overly earnest preaching at this show sponsored by Project Peacemakers. Instead, we got a series of off-kilter, inventive and often profane vignettes written and performed by a who's who of fringe veterans. It starts strong with war being PowerPoint pitch in a corporate corner office and ends even better with a funny skit written by TJ Dawe that sees fine local performers Andrew Cecon, Heather Russell and Alissa Watson sell their fringe integrity to Enbridge.

A couple of the shorties didn't quite have the jam, including the Pussy Riot song that's tricky to follow. But the performers are clearly having fun, especially Cecon, who gets to be both a booty-shaking Russian and a slimy oil exec over the course of 75 minutes. Best of all, there's a sweetie at the end, if you sell out too. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Mary Agnes Welch

 

CAWS & EFFECT

Mind of a Snail Puppet Co.

MTC Up the Alley (Venue 2), until July 27

 

THIS new shadow theatre production from Vancouver's mighty Mind of a Snail Puppet Co. -- the brains behind the fringe hit Against Gravity -- is a beautifully wrought environmental cautionary tale, told from a crow's eye view.

Through layered cut-paper projections, puppetry, masks and original score, Chloé Ziner and Jessica Gabriel create a whimsical live-action storybook that's mesmerizing. In their hands, craft materials become enterprising earthworms and beating crows wings and starry galaxies and post-apocalyptic cityscapes strewn with garbage. The ingenuity and artistry on display is breathtaking. (The show is also expertly choreographed; Gabriel and Ziner, engaged in a kind of pas de deux, execute their intricate projections without tripping over each other or distracting from the show.)

Caws & Effect is a good story lovingly told. It's amazing what magic can be created with two overhead projectors and a little imagination. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

-- Jen Zoratti

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2014 A28

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