Over its 36-year tenure, the Edmonton Fringe Festival has become a flagship event for the capital region.
What I love about the Fringe is that it’s accessible to a broad audience from tiny munchkins to seniors. With 220 shows in production, the choice is huge.
And the price-point of each ticket, ranging from $7 to $13 per show is so low, virtually anyone can afford a ticket.
Grab a few friends and slip down to Old Strathcona for a night of fun. Fringe shows run until Sunday, Aug. 27.
The Spark: A Hero Takes Charge
Accidental Humour Co.
8712 – 109 St.
More than once during a viewing of The Spark: A Hero Takes Charge I wondered how the cast kept from breaking out into laughter.
The crowd certainly had no hesitation cracking up non-stop throughout this superhero spoof that brought back memories of Batman.
Accidental Humour Co. is a favourite at the Edmonton Fringe creating original, multi-media, action packed satires and farces. What sets them apart from most other companies is their flawless approach to blending live theatre with pre-recorded film sequences.
Real time actors on stage interact with pre-recorded film scenes. But the genuine skill and timing takes place as performers exit the stage and immediately appear on a screen or vice versa.
The Spark has a delightful cartoonish patina, and by incorporating a film technique the 65-minute production evokes a cinematic quality that would be impossible to achieve otherwise.
In The Spark, the mild-mannered Maddy Martin (Jayce McKenzie), a research engineer working for AMP ELECTRC, aims to make her mark with her latest project. However, in a freakish accident (what other kind is there in superhero tales) she develops the power of telekinesis.
Three other characters help trigger additional destruction: Henri (Willie Banfield), a brown-nosing, credit-stealing boss; AMP CEO (Samara Von Rad), a ruthless titan of industry, and Mr. Baker (Cody Porter), an overly cautious janitor.
Not only does the plucky Maddy have a dual identity, but there is also more than meets the eye to the others. As revelations slowly peel away, tensions rise and beautifully choreographed ninja-style fight scenes make a stand.
Kudos to former St. Albert actor Cliff Kelly for guiding this mash-up into a polished production.
As an aside, Neil LeGrandeur, the Arden Theatre’s professional programming presenter and a company core member, makes a cameo appearance.
For a show that powers your funny bone, check out The Spark.
Cool Air Rentals
Trinity Anglican Church
10037 – 84 Ave.
Kid-Libs is basically an improv created by children for children, and it’s an opportunity for them to allow their imaginations to run wild.
Each day of the Fringe, different improvisers rotate on stage creating a new, never-before-told story.
The day I saw it, St. Albert actor-improvisers Josh Languedoc and T.J. Eggleston led a motley crew of junior improvisers through a couple of warm-up games before creating an on-the-spot action-adventure-fantasy with robots.
In the newly created magical land of Platoria, the four main characters were Crazy Cookoo, Monster Snookie Poo, Bob the Robot and Ratsboton, the sidekick.
Did I mention children in the audience suggested the names?
Once characters were chosen, Languedoc narrated a loose story while the four junior improvisers acted it out. And Eggleston filled in the blanks as assorted characters including a prickly cactus, a hidden lair and a broken wooden house.
Yes, even in improvised scenarios evil overruns the land and heroes must fight to reclaim their freedom.
The improvisers’ nutty twists and turns keep the crowd interested and on edge – especially the 10-year-old crowd that were eager to participate and burst out into ripples of laughter throughout the show.
The Sunset Syndrome
Lucky Wench Productions
Auditorium at Campus Saint-Jean
8406 – 91 St. (Rue Marie Anne Gaboury)
Alzheimer’s and dementia are frightening and emotionally painful to all involved – both the patient and family.
In The Sunset Syndrome Emily watches her husband Samuel fight a losing battle with dementia. They have been married for 60 years. Not only is Emily losing her husband, but also the life she created with him.
A few years after Samuel’s passing, she too is diagnosed with dementia. Struggling with the difficult decision of how she wants to lead her remaining months, Emily reflects on the highlights of her life.
Playwright Alison Neuman has crafted a sensitive, yet heart-wrenching story about the realities of our senior citizens.
However, it is Peg Young as Emily and Andy Northrup as Samuel that breathe life into this gentle portrayal of two made-for-each-other partners who have lived a full life and are undeserving of the anguish dementia brings.
This production is full of heart, yet thanks to former St. Albert actor Catherine Wenschlag’s artful direction, it never becomes mawkish or overly sentimental.
Dementia is something we all fear – the loss of our memories and who we are.
The Sunset Syndrome doles out the sad and harsh realities seniors face every day while capturing a touching human quality we are sometimes afraid of losing.
The Sinner’s Club
Cubic Centipede Productions
Academy at King Edward
8525 – 101 St.
There’s no shortage of blood and vomit in The Sinner’s Club.
The 85-minute show throws together horror’s stock characters – a flaky hostess having a party, a robotic-speaking cop, a foxy bombshell, a couple of wacky neighbours, a vengeful sorceress disguised as a long-lost friend and a demon summoned from hell.
On the night of Patty Swan’s party, a police officer comes knocking on the door and announces her boyfriend was just killed in a car crash. While debating whether to hold off on the festivities, some friends come crashing in and monopolize the conversation.
One of the friends is Matilda, an old friend of Patty’s bent on revenge for a cruel trick Patty played on her six years ago. Once everyone is thrown together, Matilda summons a demon and the bloodletting starts in earnest.
Although the plot rambles at times and on occasion appears to lose focus, there is a very definite message about the inhumanity of man.
What stands out is the actors’ raw energy in creating memorable characters. St. Albert actor Lauren Boyd makes chills run down your spine as Matilda, the spooky sorceress and Kieran Murphy as partygoer Jonas Higgins devolves from a tough-guy to a quivering mass of jelly.
Jeff Punyi pulls out a few unexpected twists from his actor’s toolkit as the Monopoly-loving, slightly psychotic Marty while Dylan Rosychuk draws the biggest laughs from the sartorially correct demon that yanks out tongues for a snack.
There is evil madness afoot. Make what you will of it.