BAD GIRLS: DANGEROUS CURVES
Winnipeg Art Gallery (Venue 12), to July 28
IN this series of dramatic sketches these girls are not bad in the Mae West sense. And that's not good.
The Calgary quintet -- who also perform in fringe comedy Sunny Side Up -- present a quartet of campfire tales in which girls and women do bad things in an extremely earnest fashion.
An unhinged housewife chats up a twitchy stranger. A creepy female stalker's histrionics lead to an obvious conclusion. A ghost haunts a bride for what seems like an eternity. And a trio of naughty schoolgirls play a bizarre, sexually charged game that would be hilarious if they just ramped up the camp in a finale that comes tantalizingly close to so-bad-it's-good status. 'Ö'Ö
-- Pat St. Germain
VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE
Planetarium Auditorium (Venue 10), to July 29
VERNUS, an elderly, pants-up-to-here gentleman, wants to buy a birthday gift for his granddaughter. Sounds simple, but it's a feat of epic perseverance through the small cruelties of a world not built for seniors. Ottawa writer and performer Ken Godmere creates a riveting physical portrait of old age, and he does so almost wordlessly because no one -- except, tellingly, his granddaughter -- ever seems to let Vernus get a word in edgewise.
The one-man show is funny in parts, with sharp and evocative sound effects and pacing that falls just short of tedious -- which makes sense, because the everyday act of going to the ATM becomes, for Vernus, a Sisyphean task. The toy store episode gets a little muddled, but overall, this is delightful and sad. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
-- Mary Agnes Welch
MTC Up the Alley (Venue 2), to July 29
NEW York's Elizabeth Blue, facing the stark
possibility that the feeling she is destined for greatness might be misguided, dives into the dark night of the soul and scrounges up some really funny, if hard, truths about herself in this one-woman show.
With a stalled career and no romance in sight, Blue manages to get herself invited to spend a week with a Native American shaman in California in the hope that he will reveal her purpose in life. With a strong sense of irony and a dose of self-deprecating humour, Blue shares her misadventures in the work of seeking her authentic self. What she finds out is that enlightenment isn't as easy as Oprah makes it look on television, although it is way funnier. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
-- Wendy Burke
TEMPLE OF KHAOS: A MYTHIC COMEDY
Playhouse Studio (Venue 3), to July 28
IT'S the end of the world as we know it -- or, perhaps, as a trio of confused survivors might know it some 10,000 years from now, as they share their reflections on what on Earth and in the heavens went wrong. Toronto performers Kristian Reimer, Daniel Nimmo and Amy J. Lester offer a wildly energetic and loosely scripted tale of a primordial god, Khaos, a huckster-ish Oracle, a naïve young King of the World and the evil temptress who seduces him and ruins it all. They're clever, fast on their feet and funny, but some gags drag on too long and others just peter out. Even something as chaotic as the end of everything could use a bit more structure. 'Ö'Ö'Ö-- Brad Oswald
ALMOST AN EVENING
Tom Hendry Warehouse (Venue 6), to July 28
ALMOST an Evening actually provides quite an evening. Several powerhouse performances from this Winnipeg troupe bring life to a collection of writings by Ethan Coen, Academy Award winner and co-creator of Fargo and The Big Lebowski.
The seven playlets, loosely tied together with the theme of hell, have the mark of a Coen brother: they're funny without trying. Unfortunately, the evening starts with the weakest piece by far -- good performances, bad play -- then builds to a crescendo with a debate between duelling gods: one a judgemental god, the other a loving god. The cast, especially William Jordan, uses an array of accents to great effect. Photographer James Van Niekerk's storytelling through slideshows adds a surprising element. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
-- Julie Carl