Stage a Revolution: Day 7

The food at the Fringe has been disappointing so far this year – Funky Pickle’s booth is nowhere to be seen, and the vendors we have visited on site have not been very good. Mack’s mini doughnuts were a little sad, and sweet potato fries from The Punky Potato only resembled its namesake in colour.

As a result, we’ve been hitting up Whyte Ave for sustenance – Fat Franks, and on Wednesday, the take-out window at Origin India. We both had a butter chicken wrap ($8.95, including a can of pop). The naan is, dare I say, the best in the city, and contained within was some rice, red peppers, and saucy butter chicken. Mack was impressed with the ingenious bag it was contained in, to help avoid sauce-on-clothes contact. I wished for some fresh herbs, and maybe some more prominent onion goodness, but as a whole the wrap made for a pretty good quick meal.

Butter Chicken Wrap from Origin India

Having taken the day off, I started off day 7 of the Fringe solo. My first show that day was Unsolicited Mail, portrayed as a love story between a listless man who mails spam for a living and an anonymous phone sex operator. Between the two main actors, Fiona Morris’s low-key, laid-back emotion felt far more genuine; Fred Krysko’s frantic, climactic breakdown seemed forced and over-the-top. And though the message of resounding loneliness in a world dominated by sensational stories and personal distance was relatable ( a world where Krysko’s character worked alongside another person for three years but did not get to know one another), something just didn’t click.

Thankfully, my day would get better – Space, a Panties Production featuring Jocelyn Ahlf (one of my favourites), Belinda Cornish and Mark Meer was light, fun fare that hit the spot. About a trio of women sent to explore the possibility of other life in the galaxy, there were a multitude of hilarious one-liners and the perfect role for Meer to once again steal the show. He played an android with human aspirations not unlike his character in Salon of the Talking Turk, with a mechanical laugh that almost always set the audience off (“my fleshy colleagues”, heh). Kristen Padayas, who I had seen but didn’t stand out in The Addelpated Nixie, was actually quite well-cast, and revelled in her role of the naive crew member. See Space if you’re looking for a non-committal, but entertaining show.

I met up with Mack for our final production of the day – Totem Figures by the one-of-a-kind TJ Dawe. I typically avoid one-person shows because they are so hit-or-miss, but Dawe is the one exception to that rule. On Wednesday, he didn’t disappoint. Totem Figures is Dawe’s bio, a play about the influential figures and myths in his life where he ponders the question – “who would be on your personal Mt. Rushmore?” Artfully written, seemingly unrelated anecdotes were woven together to form a rich tapestry of learning and experience. As always, his delivery – demonstrative of his expertise in manipulating the rhythms of the English language – swathes the audience in that magical feeling only achieved when watching someone very good at their craft. I do hope he returns to next year’s Fringe.

Two more plays to go!

The Big Kahuna: Day 4

My Sunday began with the third instalment of Maggie-Now. I hadn’t seen either of the two previous parts at the last two Fringes, but I remembered the stellar reviews, and vowed to see what the hype was all about this year. The summary on the back of the program neatly caught me up on what I missed, though even without the background, one would be able to stumble right into the story without difficulty. Part 3 focuses on the disappearance of Maggie-Now’s husband, Claude, and the affect of his absence on the family unit. There was nothing ground-breaking about the show, but there doesn’t have to be for a solid, enjoyable production. I loved the simple staging (plain wooden chairs supplied the backbone of the audience’s imagination), and Kendra Connor as the titular character was a vision. My only criticism was the rather abrupt ending (so much so that it took the audience a few seconds to take the cue for applause), likely an arbitrary one to ensure that Part 4 could stand alone as well. If not for my upcoming trip to Vancouver, I would definitely be returning to the venue to find out what would become of Maggie-Now and her family.

Afterwards, I sauntered over to B-Scene Studios (an awkwardly-arranged BYOV) to wait in line for TJ Dawe’s first Edmonton Fringe show in four years, Maxim & Cosmo. I loved him in Canadian Bartender in Butlin’s, the only show of his I have ever seen. For someone who prefers group productions, it surprised even me that I enjoyed Dawe’s standup shtick as much as I did. Maxim & Cosmo is Dawe’s diatribe on gender stereotypes, expectations and fears. As I hoped, his performance was witty, insightful and intelligent. If insuring body parts are the norm these days, Dawe should buy insurance for his tongue – his lightening quick delivery keeps audiences on their feet, listening for the next pun or joke around the corner. Seemingly tailor-made for the Fringe, Dawe’s relatable observations about life make the hour vanish into a cloud of laughter, self-reflection and appreciation for his inherent talent.

My last show of the day was one of two wild cards this year. The program description for Sylvie sounded interesting, but unlike most of my other picks, I had no knowledge of the company, director, writer or actors involved. As such, this play about a chance meeting between a naïve Canadian and a homeless man in Edinburgh turned out to be a nice little surprise. I was immediately drawn to Elisa Benzer’s energy, and her character Anna’s willingness to jump (sometimes recklessly) into new experiences. As a writer, Anna had a tendency to see everyone as a character, including this poor street soul. Their connection and unlikely friendship, supplemented by flashbacks into her homeless companion’s life, and Anna’s struggle to maintain her devotion to a loving boyfriend back home, made for an interesting seventy five minutes. My only quibble was with the uneven lighting, but that could be excused given the student/recent graduate status of everyone involved. Not pretending to be more than what it is, Sylvie provides an intriguing lens into a moment when two divergent paths crossed.