Standouts at Fringe Festival

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Time is running out to take part in the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. It runs until Sunday, Aug. 26. Here are a few shows that might inspire you to check out this huge, diverse theatrical festival.

For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls and Bed Bug Bossa Nova

iiii theatricals
Venue 8
Prowse Chowne Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre
8426 Gateway Blvd.
4 Stars

It’s rare to see a double feature at the Fringe, however iiii theatricals pairs two dotty 30-minute plays that keep the laughs rolling.

The first, Bed Bug Bossa Nova, is about two lusty bed bugs dancing through the sometimes awkward territory of hooking up. They’re both extremely horny, but since they face extermination, they’re fighting the clock.

It is seduction at its finest with the more experienced Bugsy (Clayton Plamondon) putting the moves on Boo (Eric Smith), a shy virgin. Both actors feed off each other’s energy producing a hilarious chemistry that just gets funnier as the play progresses.

The second piece is For Whom the Southern Bell Tolls, a frothy parody of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. Even if a theatregoer is unfamiliar with Williams’ tragedy, this production can be enjoyed as a crackpot comedy.

Amanda (Catherine Wenschlag), the central figure, is a matronly southern belle with a tart tongue camouflaged by overbearing politeness. Her sulky son Tom (Clayton Plamondon) works at a factory and dreams of travelling the world.

Amanda’s other son, Lawrence (Eric Smith), develops every illness in medical textbooks and has only one ambition in life – to expand a growing collection of glass cocktail stirrers.

Enter Ginny (Francie Goodwin-Davies), one of Tom’s co-workers from the factory. She is invited to a family supper. However, Ginny is deaf as a post and misunderstands everything.

Bed Bug Bossa Nova is a stronger production than For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls. But it’s two for the price of one. You can’t miss.

– Anna Borowiecki

 

The Great Gromboolian Plain

Jumbly Productions Amiskwaciwâskahikan
Venue 4
Academy at King Edward
8525 – 101 St.
4 Stars

Part escapist fantasy, part love story, part mystery, The Great Gromboolian Plain teleports you into a contradictory world that asks more questions than it answers.

This drama starts with Dinah (Brittany Hinse), a modern woman sitting cross-legged on a park bench staring at a Victorian scene playing out before her. She is time travelling, or claims to have that ability.

As the Victorians exit, Magellan (Matt Boisvert) strolls onto the grounds, appropriates a bench and starts reading his book.

As they chat we learn the park is really a mental institution. Dinah is institutionalized by her sister, April (Sydney Parcey). The sisters’ recently deceased father was a renowned poet and wrote a book April wishes to publish.

Dinah safely hides the book and refuses to allow April to see it. April retaliates by locking her sister in an institution until she reveals where the book is tucked away.

As Dinah and Magellan develop a relationship, it becomes obvious both have secrets. Everyone has a cryptic agenda. No one is who they say they are.

The themes of insanity, love, family, taboos and time drive the script. There’s a great deal to digest in playwright Don Nigro’s 70-minute script, however director Madeleine Stout explores all the major ideas and keeps the action moving fluidly.

Special kudos to the three actors, who, despite the absurdity of the situation, create empathetic human beings caught in a puzzling spiderweb.

– Anna Borowiecki

 

A Lesson in Brio

Teatro La Quindicina
Venue 12
Varscona Theatre
10329 – 83 Ave.
3 ½ Stars

Brio. What the heck is brio? According to the dictionary, it’s an Italian word that means “vigour, vivacity, verve.” It brings joy into our lives.

Our first introduction to brio is through social scientist Dr. Guinevere (Jenny McKillop) as she strides into the spotlight much like a confident university professor giving a lecture.

Her two actors, Mathew Hulshof and Rachel Bowron, as well as Patty (Patricia Cerra), a volunteer from the audience (also an actor), will mount a display of brio.

The fourth wall is non-existent and just like magic, we are transported to a roadside just outside Lloydminster. A bone-headed young man Ric (Hulshof) stands by a roadside after being kicked out of a car by his ex-girlfriend.

Ric is a dude who appears to live on a different plane from everyone else. Dr. Guinevere takes him under her wing and introduces him to a shy singer-songwriter-pianist (Bowron).

Stewart Lemoine’s script jumps time and place and often the audience is expected to fill in the holes.
But there are some terrific performances starting with Bowron as a singer and pianist. She creates a bohemian singer so shy her voice is barely heard. In an unforgettable stage moment, she morphs from a quiet butterfly into a sexy lounge singer who belts jazz while stretched out on a baby grand.

And Hulshof as Ric is the empathetic everyman who rises from a dark period to achieve a happy, success-filled life.

If there is anything I gleaned from A Lesson in Brio, it’s that radiating vigour brings its own rewards.

– Anna Borowiecki

 

Bushes in the Basement

50% Fruit Productions
Venue 36
La Cité Francophone
8627 – 91 St.
4 Stars

There are drag shows and then there’s Bushes in the Basement spearheaded by Zachary Parsons-Lozinski.
Highly irreverent and outrageous, no topic is taboo in this 60-minute show. Forcible confinement, child abuse, theft, incest, murder – everything is on the table.

But it’s all tongue-in-cheek. Far from being nauseating, it’s pretty darn funny.

This sex farce is a parody of V.C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic. It takes sexual innuendo as far as it can go and then some, all the while spoofing right-wing Catholic America.

Narrated by 14-year-old Cathy Dollangager (Nyala Pittel), she takes us to the day her father died tragically. Unable to support the family, Mother (Parsons-Lozinski) takes Cathy and her 17-year-old brother to live with her über rich parents.

Instead of finding wealth beyond their wildest expectations, the children are locked in the basement under the watchful eye of their evil grandmother.

A string of risqué one-liners, a salacious sock puppet and a partial striptease drives the fast-paced action. The four actors – Parsons-Lozinski, Pittel, Spenser Pasman and Corey Snidal – command the stage. But it’s Mother Dear and Grandma, dressed in drag, who truly delight and indulge.

Definitely, an 18-plus show.

– Anna Borowiecki

 

All Proceeds Go To

Innocent Operations
Venue 8
Prowse Chowne Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre
8426 Gateway Blvd.
4.5 Stars

In this increasingly complex contemporary world, the cast of All Proceeds Go To asks, “Do you need a GPS to find the moral high ground?”

Certainly, some of us are too caught up in our own First World problems to realize the overarching impact of humans on this planet. In this satirical commentary, you’ll learn all about the seven deadly sins of modern day.

But be warned, things get pretty real. You may find you’re not just laughing at the jokes, but also crying at the disappointing realities of the world.

Jake Tkaczyk, Alex Dawkins, Sarah Karpyshin and Louise Mallory are the hosts of this play that takes the form of a children’s TV show (although, definitely not child-friendly). Through song and dance, they explain today’s sins of society: excess, entitlement, plastic, self-righteousness, wealth and you.

The cast is a regular bunch of clowns, prancing across the stage dressed in flamboyant colours and poking fun at themselves and the audience. Alex Dawkins particularly stood out with her over-exaggerated interpretive dancing and dark commentary.

The entire show is a brilliant piece of conceptual art. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to laugh in the face of disaster.

– Jasmine Roy

 

Punch Up

Pretty Boy Projects
Venue 9
Telus Phone Museum
10437 – 83 Ave.
4 ½ Stars

Can comedy save a life? That’s the underlying theme in the production of playwright Kat Sandler’s Punch Up.

In a nutshell, a pathetic guy in love kidnaps the second funniest man alive to prevent the sad and depressed object of his affections from killing herself.

It’s tough to pull off a comedy show about comedy, but this one is hysterical and had more than a few people laughing with tears rolling down their cheeks.

As the lights go up, Pat (Evan Hall) is a bitter comedian drowning his sorrows in a bottle after his divorce. His ex-wife stole his best material and is riding a wave of success while he’s left doing third-rate standup in gritty clubs.

Enter Duncan (Perry Gratton), a naive goofball who has fallen in love with Brenda (Merran Carr-Wiggin), a lonely, depressed young woman determined to commit suicide.

To save his love, Duncan kidnaps Pat, chains him to typewriter in his super secret lair, and forces the comedian to write jokes that will make Brenda laugh. Better yet, Duncan tries to coerce Pat into teaching him how to be funny.

The laughs are non-stop. The script barely gives you a chance to catch your breath from one joke to another before the next one pops up. Every comedy convention is used – whoopee cushions, anecdotes, pratfalls and slapstick.

The trio of actors nails every joke and director Braydon Dowler-Coltman, a former St. Albert resident, keeps the action moving at a perfect emotional pace.

Get your tickets quickly. This is one show that will sell out quickly.

– Anna Borowiecki

 

The Real Inspector Hound

Bright Young Things
Venue 12
Varscona Theatre
1032 83 Ave
4 Stars

Tom Sheppard’s The Real Inspector Hound is a play that pulls together drama, comedy and murder mystery into a nicely packaged piece of absurdist nonsense.

Sheppard pulls a page from Shakespeare with this play within a play. Two critics, Moon and Birdboot (Mat Busby and Ashley Wright), watch the murder mystery unfold, chattering between the acts about their own personal problems. Moon is obsessed with proving his worth as a critic, while Birdboot (bored with his wife) is enamoured by the actresses in the play.

Eventually, their personal problems somehow pull them into the play they are watching, much to the audience’s amusement. Waves of laughter wash over the audience as the frenzy on stage ensues. Which actor is playing which character now? Who’s who? And where is the real Inspector Hound?! You’ll have to watch to find out.

Felicity Cunningham (Louise Lambert) and Cynthia Muldoon (Belinda Cornish) were especially well received by the audience. They have both fallen for the same man, Simon Gascoyne (Andrew MacDonald Smith), and are completely distraught over the lovers’ quarrel. Dramatically running across the stage and throwing their hands up in despair gained big laughs from the audience.

For a play that was supposed to run for 75 minutes, it ran only 60. At times, it seemed the actors were rushing through their lines. And with a script filled with upper-English vernacular, it might not have hurt to slow down a bit. However, the cast delivered a strong performance overall.

– Jasmine Roy

 

A Golden Girls Tribute: Sofie’s Wild Ride

Golden Girls Tribute
Venue 32
Billiard Club
10505 – 82 Ave.
2 ½ Stars

There are always huge expectations when a tribute to a famous pop culture group is presented. And unfortunately, some of those expectations fell flat in A Golden Girls Tribute: Sofie’s Wild Ride.

The play starts with wise-cracking Golden Gal Sophie Palermo (Nicole English) choking on food and collapsing. She comes face-to-face with God (Althea Cunningham) and is shocked to see a black female wearing the white robes.

After a few flimsy God jokes, Sophie reawakens to find her straight-arrow daughter Doralee (Ana Fassmann), best friend Brooke (Amanda LeBlanc) and the daffy Rowe (Rhonda Kozuska) standing over her.

Through a series of vignettes, God takes Sophie down memory lane to a few incidents when the peppery 83-year-old had been less than kind to her housemates.

The original Golden Girls television series worked because of the characters’ chemistry, crisp dialogue and barrier-breaking themes.

This production is short on these three important elements and misses its mark. In addition, the venue is a bar with high tables and stools crowded around a low floor.

If you’re not seated in the first two rows by the stage, your view is blocked, so make sure to grab a seat early.

– Anna Borowiecki

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About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.