Plays of the week

Atlantic Fringe Festival scouts Johnston Farrow and Graham Pilsworth seek out some of the local offerings at this year’s event and find much goodness.

3 Dogs BarkingSeptember 9 at the Khyber Turret, 1588 Barrington, 9:45pm, $9

This charged drama is set in a dingy Newfoundland police interview room undergoing renovations (and thereby missing an evidence-recording video camera). The issue at hand is the true nature of a murder confession offered up by a minor league repeat offender of public mischief capers. The twist? The arresting police officer and an examining psychiatrist believe the confession to be false. The actors are Marty Burt in a bravura turn as the troubled and troubling rowdyman prisoner; Kelly Peck, skilfully convincing as a young, old-school detective constable and Gordon Patrick White as the psychiatrist, sharp and crisp as an expert as set in his methods as the hardman police officer is in his. With these disparate and incendiary elements together in a claustrophobic, confined space, something’s bound to explode. Well worth the finding out. GP

CagedSeptember 8 (9pm) and 10 (6:45pm) at the Khyber Ballroom, 1588 Barrington, $5

A short piece to sink your teeth into, Caged succeeds in using metaphors, music and dance to portray a tale of life, nature and non-conformity. Based on a screenplay from her original short story, kudos goes to writer/co-director Caitlin Pilsworth—who is, coincidentally, daughter of Coast contributor Graham—for sharp dialogue that does just enough to pull the crowd in. A sparse set design allows performances by Shawn Duggan, Lisa Snow and co-director Tara Patriquin room to reach full potential. The theme is never discussed: is it about finding one’s true self? About consumer culture’s soul-sapping effect? Trying and failing to fit into societal norms? Existentialist in its message, Caged works well because it allows audience members to come to their own conclusions. JF

The Consumer ExperimentSeptember 8 (7pm), 9 (9:30pm) and 10 (5:30pm) at DANSpace, 1531 Grafton, $6

Sometimes a choreographer has the savvy to bring into existence dramas through informative movement. Skills that are unique to one theatrical form, under the tag team direction of imagination and wit, can effortlessly transfer to another. In The Consumer Experiment, you can see this at work and working well. Jennifer Spicer, who choreographed this rewarding and accomplished dance piece (astonishingly, her first long-form creation), and dance partner Melissa Page-Webster offer up a wonderful, often funny, take on how consumerism imprisons us. This lithe duo underscores this truism by punctuating scenes with frozen poses and blank stares of haute couture store window mannequins. How more empty can a logo-driven, sex-sells, corporate-branded lifestyle be? The Consumer Experiment is a smart, sexy, sensual and sharply witty go-see. GP

Lear’s DaughtersSeptember 8 (6:30pm) and 9 (5:15pm and 10pm) at SubRosa, 5680 Spring Garden, $6

One of several fine productions to recommend is the exciting drama Lear’s Daughters. In this clever play, Brit playwright Elaine Feinstein imagines just what transformed three plucky little sisters, so full of personal promise and joie de vivre, into a trio of scorned and sour women “made of hollow metal” that so ruthlessly bedevilled their addled father, the benighted King Lear. In this prequel to Shakespeare’s crazed-lion-in-winter tragedy, actors Sarah Jane Blenkhorn, Andrea Dymond, Keelin Jack (dynamic in four roles), Andrea Norwood and Andria Wilson, stylishly directed by Michael McPhee, show an astonishing characterization range which, as the narrative arc ratchets down the drama’s kinetic action to its fearsome resolution, makes that conclusion all the more powerful, heartbreaking and rightfully disturbing. Lear’s Daughters is not to be missed. GP

The Slasher PlaySeptember 9 (5pm) and 10 (3:30pm) at Neptune Studio, 1593 Argyle, $6

Produced by Right Pro Productions, creators of the well-received 2005 Fringe fave The Play of the Living Dead, The Slasher Play may not be the best executed play at this year’s festival, but it’s one of the most fun. Written by Isaac Thompson and Terry Drisdelle, The Slasher Play tells the story of a group of bored, hormonal, teenaged stereotypes who take a trip to a secluded cabin to partake in some grad night revelry, only to discover they’re being stalked by a monster of the night! The dialogue tackles John Hughes as well as Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street with tongue firmly in cheek. Although it takes way too long to get to the good stuff —eviscerations, dismemberments, beheadings—and some jokes drag, there are enough laughs and plenty of gore to keep the crowd interested. JF

The Atlantic Fringe Festival continues to September 10.

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