Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

fringe 3rd of 10 reviews

  • Print


Monster Theatre

Son of Warehouse (Venue 5), to July 27

BLENDING stories from his own life as an artist with facts and conjecture on the death of landmark Canadian painter Tom Thomson, visually impaired actor/writer/painter Bruce Horak is an amiable and intrepid entertainer. Assassinating Thomson is a loose narrative layering Horak's own stories -- from the power of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain or inspiring visually impaired youth -- and those of Thomson and the Group of Seven he inspired.

But if you're looking for an in-depth exploration of Thomson's life and art, this really only whets the appetite. Although the fabric of Horak's own tales could be woven more tightly to that of his Thomson narrative, his warmth and humanity capture our collective imaginations with a flick of his paintbrush.

Remarkably, Horak shares these tales -- real or imagined -- all while painting a live audience portrait. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Barb Stewart


A Vagrant Theatre

Cinematheque (Venue 7), to July 27

AUDIENCE participation is a key element in this kinetic comedy, and doubtless it's acres of fun when there are more than six people in the room. As rejected screenwriter Bertie Weber, Toronto-based performer Mikaela Dyke enlists a hero from the front row when she has an opportunity to make an impromptu pitch for an epic movie. With a bag full of rudimentary props, she runs through the story at a furious pace, calling upon the audience to supply sound effects and play extras in a big action scene. The movie plot loses something in the frenetic translation, but this adventure is about the journey, not the destination. At times, it borders on condescending for adults, but Epic Pitch would make a great kids show. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Pat St. Germain


Zero Zero One One

John Hirsch Mainstage (Venue 1), to July 27

HIGH Commodore Kajules Teraflop (Craig Bednar) leads a group of devoted "techoccultists" who live by the motto "Life is technology, technology is life." Dressed in pope-like garb, Teraflop preaches about the wonders of computers and all the gizmos and gadgets that help our lives run better, but warns against the demons disguised as pornography and spam that bombard us daily.

There are a few laughs and some interesting observations scattered throughout this hour-long comedy, but the show short-circuits when Teraflop starts fighting the demons. The use of video and music in this local production is impressive, but most of the battle scenes with Lilithium (Aimee Siple) and her minions for control of the Technosphere seem like a bunch of friends goofing off and trying to make each other crack up. For the rest of us, hitting the escape button is a better option. 'Ö'Ö

-- Rob Williams


Parking Lots Improv

Cinematheque (Venue 7), to July 27

THE improv gods are fickle. Sometimes they smile on performers, and sometimes they laugh out loud. While a couple of the five likable young men in Winnipeg's Parking Lots Improv hit the ground running, most had to work hard for the funny in their opening fringe performance. Luckily, they hit their stride midstream, spinning a fractured tale set in an ice-cream parlour into a mildly perverse take on cults, hot-fudge hangovers and hotdogs of happiness. There were a few false steps along the way, but ultimately, this comedy was worth the trip. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Pat St. Germain


Birthmark Productions

Shaw Performing Arts Centre/MTYP (Venue 9), to July 28

RONALD George Moore has performed at the fringe for 20 years. Maybe that's why he apparently skipped the tech rehearsal...

Indeed, most of the opening-night laughs came from too-short power cables, misbehaving microphones and malfunctioning projectors.

To his credit, Moore managed to work many into the act. Otherwise, the set consisted of his various parody songs (chosen by audience members by spinning a wheel labelled with the titles) and a few skits on video. Moore plunged along, constantly asking the booth tech how much time he had left and bellowing out the songs in that loud, painful style you can hear for free in any drunken karaoke bar. Sure, there were a few flashes of brilliance (his Gord Downie impersonation is undeniably hysterical) and the song lyrics were clever and skewered their targets accurately, but overall the show appeared sloppy and thrown together, and Moore appeared genuinely exhausted by the end.

For Moore fans only -- or hit the beer tent first. 'Ö'Ö

-- Janice Sawka


Theatre Howl

Asper Centre, U of W (Venue 13), to July 28

MATCHSTICK is an odd folk musical that lulls its audience with a light fairy tale about a young foreign woman that suddenly, near its conclusion, runs into one of the most infamous moments in American history. No one will see this coming (no spoiler here) and the abrupt change in tone is almost too wrenching, as if another show, a more serious one, has been tacked on.

Written by Saskatoon's Nathan Howe, who performs with Lauren Holfeuer, the ambitious 75-minute musical is loaded with impressive songs and presentational flourishes that exceed expectations of a fringe show. The sets are created by overhead projections of drawings, while a clothesline is hung with photos of faces that the performer can stand behind to portray other characters. The rootsy folk songs are so good you might be buying the CD after the show.

What is most admirable about Matchstick is that Howe and Holfeuer are fearless in veering to the theatrical fringe -- and isn't that the reason we have a fringe festival in the first place? 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Kevin Prokosh


Concrete Drops

WAG (Venue 12), to July 28

IN this surreal domestic comedy, a nameless couple awakes to a marital malaise that threatens to swallow up their relationship.

Ontario-based fringe veteran Martin Dockery, the playwright, is a husband who can't get out of bed, while his wife frets for ages about what to wear. When the pyjamas-wearing pair spar about their desires, attractive fantasy characters appear: Mr. Flex-It for her and Miss Swiss for him.

Dockery and his co-star Vanessa Quesnelle are appealing performers who excel with the sparkling banter and exhibit an effortless chemistry.

There is a Waiting for Godot quality to The Pit as the couple attempts to avoid falling into the abyss of tedium that makes husbands and wives blind to each other's virtues. It's an interesting premise but needs more focusing to become fully satisfying. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

-- Kevin Prokosh


Elephant and Peanut

Alloway Hall (Venue 4), to July 27

A MAN wakes up trapped in the belly of a whale along with the audience, a supply of stale crackers and two books, Moby Dick and Don Quixote, which he reads over and over again. "You can call me Ishmael," he says and then adds that "Jonah" would also do.

What follows for the next not-always-clear 30 minutes -- not the hour that was posted as the show length in Ottawa -- is our barefoot hero talking about being marooned, not only in an aquatic mammal but the breakup with his girlfriend that leaves him feeling at sea. Mixed in are scenes from the two literary classics in which Texan playwright/actor Jeb L. West plays Don Quixote with a hubcap on his head, while his squire Sancho Panza is a hand puppet.

West is a likable stage presence, his set is evocative and his sea shanties are enjoyable, but he seems to be tilting at windmills in trying to pull all his stories together into something that will float. 'Ö'Ö1/2

-- Kevin Prokosh


Funky Belt

WAG (Venue 12), to July 26

TORONTO sketch comedy duo Brie Watson and Erin Rodgers present an hour of material that is enthusiastically performed but is at best ho-hum and mainstream, and at worst not all that funny.

One bit involves a woman griping about her boring boyfriend, he of the same 18 pairs of pants, whose idea of excitement is a two-week holiday in Sudbury. "It's like I'm dating plain yogurt," she grumbles.

The final straw is when she thinks she is about to be proposed to but instead is offered his beloved coleslaw. Ba-dum-bum.

All the sketches seen in Montreal, from the one about cupcake wars between crime bosses to another about annoying caf© waitresses, serve up harmless, low-impact comedy that lacks any edge or offbeat perspective. 'Ö'Ö

-- Kevin Prokosh


Studio 320 (Venue 15), to July 27

DON'T get too comfortable when you nestle into your seats for this one-hander starring city actor Murray Farnell as liar Henry Tom Gallery II.

The awkward humour begins before a word is uttered, as Gallery struggles with being in the spotlight. He literally sweats over his shaky public speaking skills and his, ahem, issues with his parents. Just mentioning his father, Henry Tom Gallery I, turns him into a nervous Nellie.

Farnell's rubber-limbed physical ability and his sometimes-queasy interaction with the audience is a highlight early on in this Daniel MacIvor monologue. The intensity ebbs as Henry arrives at its conclusion, though. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Alan Small


The Business Company

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

IMPROV duo and real-life couple Lucy Hill and Daniel Maslany undertake no small task creating an improv show from scratch with only two people. Thankfully, the young Regina pair is brimming with energy and enthusiasm, even with a small audience.

Unfortunately, all the enthusiasm and energy in the world can't make improv hit the mark every time. As with any improvisation, there are great moments and not-so-great moments in a show, but these two need more experience to pull off a full 60 minutes on their own.

There are some laughs to be had, but rarely do things crystallize into that point where improv transforms the moment into magic for both performers and audience. With time and experience these two are sure to find that moment. 'Ö'Ö1/2

-- Barb Stewart


Sound & Fury

West End Cultural Centre (Venue 31), to July 27

BACK at the fringe for its ninth year, this L.A.-based trio continues with its genre parodies, this time sending up Hitchcock movies. Part standup comedy, part improv, part clever wordplay -- some scripted, some surprising even the actors -- Hitchcocked is full of energy and fun, exactly what's expected from this troupe, even if it's a bit undisciplined and messy at times.

Clever use of multimedia has Hitchcock himself open the comedy, just as he did with his TV series. Richard Maritzer's very good Cary Grant accent keeps the Hitchcock theme going, along with references to birds, train rides and Mount Rushmore. Multimedia is used again to keep a rear window central to the action.

Audience participation hits a peak here with an audience member cast in a small role, so if that's not your cup of tea, keep your head down during the amusing pre-show chat. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

-- Julie Carl


May & Alia

Son of Warehouse (Venue 5), to July 27

YOU don't have to know Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan's morally dubious 1879 musical, to smile at two Australians' slapstick spoof of "like, the greatest show ev-er."

Behind the show's sketches -- the moustache duel, orphan/often confusion -- is an obvious love on the part of the actors, Alia Vryens and May Jasper, for performing not just with G&S, but with each other. That love wouldn't have got them through the hour, however, if they didn't lean on some very timely, fun audience interaction.

There's enough broad acting, weak moments and predictable jokes (plus an extended exit) to keep the show from really cooking. There's also more than enough quick wit, clever gags and solid singing to send the audience out into street still chuckling and humming the tunes. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Matt TenBruggencate

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 A28

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Andrew Ladd talks about his injury

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose flies towards the sun near the Perimeter Highway North and Main St Monday afternoon – See Day 10 for Bryksa’s 30 goose project - May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Winnipeg Free Press 090528 STAND UP...(Weather) One to oversee the pecking order, a pack of pelican's fishes the eddies under the Red River control structure at Lockport Thursday morning......

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google