In a show of Rover writer solidarity, the following Fringe reviews will continue to use Alex Woolcott’s rating system of ampersands-as-stars. After all, there’s enough chaos playing out around town. High time for a little order and continuity. Though in one case, zero ampersands will be necessary. No matter: another show has earned far more than four. Which is which? Read on.
Shades of Grey – &&&
A loving homage to The Twilight Zone, Shades of Grey delights simply because it keeps things simple. Over the course of an hour and fifteen minutes, the audience is treated to three tales in which the actors, clad entirely in black and white (makeup included) bring the spirit of the cult classic series to life. Katie Stanfield, as a mouse-voiced criminal and self-righteous Chancellor, brings versatility and strong comedic timing to her roles, while Francis J Martins should get special recognition at this year’s Frankie awards for his imitation of Rod Serling as The Smoking Man. In a festival full of surprises, this is one show that delivers exactly what it promises, no more and no less.
The Duck Wife – &&&&
Even those with little love for contemporary dance will be drawn into this exuberant interpretation of an Inuit myth about a husband who quests after his mate when she is shunned for not fitting in. The choreography is fantastically inventive. The costumes are funky. The agile cast of dancers all take on multiple roles with zeal. Even the on-stage band takes a break from performing the soundtrack to get in on the action. You can’t really blame them. This is a fun frolic right down to the last detail. Bring the kids or bring a date—Duck enchants.
Meteor – &
It would be easy to say Meteor “fell flat” or “crashed and burned,” but it really only missed the mark. This three-man improv show features the considerable talents of Marc Rowland, Sean Michaels and BJ Walsh in a tale about the survivors of an end-of-the-world scenario. Sadly, during Saturday’s performance, they were out of sync, constantly dropping each other’s ideas and unable to deliver more than occasional laughs. Every performance is different and it’s entirely possible that these gents were just having an off day, but that doesn’t really make up for the hour we spent watching the dull, pig-rearing inhabitants of the Town of Great Cheese. Great guys, hit-and-miss show.
Blind to Happiness -
That’s right, zero ampersands. Harsh? Hardly. Writer/actor Tim C. Murphy disguises his morbid, condescending show as an uplifting ode to a former co-worker when in truth, it’s the most self-aggrandizing hour of drek this reviewer has ever had the misfortune of sitting through. The program lays it all bare—”Couks” is a impersonation of said co-worker fictionalized to suit Murphy’s vision of an inspiring underdog. Only he paints an intentionally pathetic portrait of his “friend” in the opening scene—he’s awkward and under-educated! And an alcoholic on the verge of developing diabetes! And possibly mentally handicapped! And suicidal!—and then proceeds to invent other characters around him (also suicidal) who only stop whining about their depression to remind the audience how they can “choose to be happier.” It’s the theatrical equivalent of being brow-beaten by someone who tells you be grateful that they’re taking breaks in-between blows. Neither funny nor endearing, Blind lives up to its title in its determination to strip theatre-going of any ounce of joy. Save your money and save yourselves.
Phone Whore – &&&& (+&&&&)
There isn’t praise high enough for Phone Whore. Cameryn Moore’s one-woman, semi-autobiographical look into the life of a phone sex worker is frank, funny, brave, unsettling and even moving. Moore gives her audience exactly what they came for with steamy, one-sided re-enactments of calls with randy clients. But rather than stretch the material to comical extremes, she subtly shifts her focus to the societal expectations and primal longings that drive us all to fantasize in the first place. Moore’s calm, casual, nonjudgmental approach makes this by far the most intimate and insightful theatre experience you’re likely to have, in more ways than one. Plus, the script is as tight as you could hope for, steadily building momentum until it reaches a climax that’ll leave you speechless. See it, and see it now.
Uncalled For Presents Hypnogogic Logic – &&&&
Fringe regulars will know what they’re getting themselves into with Uncalled For—a four-man, high energy, rapid-fire progression of digressions into topics both humorous and abstract. Only this time, they’re all centered around the dream state known as the hypnogogic. It’s all really just an excuse to ask long-winded hypothetical what-if questions, enjoy a wine tasting and, of course, indulge in occasional bouts of bi-curiosity. Only, now that Dan Jeannotte has called into question the legitimacy of the ampersand, this entire review might be meaningless….
So go check out some shows and decide for yourself. Full Fringe schedule and details are available on www.montrealfringe.ca. And if you find yourself at You and Me and Me and You and they ask the audience to suggest an occasion, don’t shout out “a bris!” Because they’ve already done a bat mitzva. And that would be embarrassing.