Fringe: Day 4

Four winners and a stinker

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It was hot, hot, hot in Halifax on Sunday and hot, hot, hotter in some of the un-air-conditioned fringe venues, but with one exception, the plays were riveting enough to make it totally worth a little discomfort.

In fact, Michael McPhee’s Whiteout actually sent a few welcome chills down my spine. It’s a spooky ghost story that takes place in a remote cabin where five friends have gathered for laughter and good times. The set-up is lovely—-actors Rhys Bevan-John, Annie Valentina, Pasha Ebrahimi, Ann Doyle and Mathew Lumley capture perfectly the hostility and camaraderie that exist among old friends. (Lumley does an especially funny turn as the stoner fuck-up in the crowd.) The tension-building in the second part of the play is very effective, and while I did feel that the twist at the end was revealed in a too sudden and expository manner, I’d still highly recommend this as a great example of entertaining fringe theatre.

And the same can be said bi-coastal actor (born in Newfoundland, transplanted to Vancouver) Dolores Drake’s From Away. This one-woman show treads familiar fringe ground with its one-woman format and story of family and home. However, Drake is a riveting actress and talented writer who has created a well-crafted theatrical journey. In her quest to return her father’s ashes to out port Newfoundland and to discover more about her long-dead mother, she encounters a family secret that shakes her to the core. Drake brings to life the inhabitants of the village and narrates her journey with language that is both lucid and poetic. Sometimes sad, but mostly funny, add From Away to your “you’ll be glad you saw it” list.

Ick. Ick. Ick. Dr. Fuckingstein explains (love, desire and the brain) is the kind shit that makes you wish you could rewind time and reclaim the hour you wasted. Disgusting and for the most part nonsensical, this lecture-style show plays like a disturbing rant by a disturbed individual. I left.

Fortunately, long-time fringe participants Saints Alive! were up next with their production of the song cycle Edges. This youth theatre society attracts talented young singers and actors and this slightly edgy show definitely showed off their skills.The company knows how to stage a performance like this—-the pacing was brisk, the songs were illuminated with a nice theatricality and the performers (Matthew Beasant, Sarah Slemko, Taylor Long and Danielle Wilson) all have great voices and presence. Bravo!

The buzz on Dr. Brown Becaves has made for sell-out audiences with good reason. This is a tear-streamingly funny show is unlike any you’ve ever seen. Audience members spend an hour in the hot seat being manipulated by a mostly non-verbal Dr. Becaves…and they love it. This comic has the sex appeal of a crazy, fuzzy Joaquin Phoenix (The girls behind me we’re all but throwing their panties) and the mesmerizing eyes of a prophet . Funny and filthy, this guy is Mr. Bean on steroids and Viagra. Two shows left. Just try to get a ticket.

For shows times and locations visit www.atlanticfringe.ca

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