Culture & Conversation

Byron’s Top Picks –Sight Unseen!

June is busting out ahead of schedule and all theatre eyes are on the annual Montreal St. Ambrose Fringe.  Surely the 23rd coming is at hand..and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, now slouches toward the Plateau to be born? (Apologies to the late great W. B. Yeats.)

Having previewed/reviewed all 22 previous incarnations of the Fringe, I have a good feeling of what rough beasts may appeal. (As usual, I do not include many fine dance or French shows as I am not qualified to judge those categories as they deserve.)

Six of proven mettle

Teaching Shakespeare: Keir Cutler vies with Jem Rolls (below) as being the oldest or tallest of the regular Fringe performers. His popular “teaching” series began at the 9th coming in 1999 with this revived Teaching Shakespeare and led to his Teaching Detroit. Witchcraft, Beethoven and and other monologues across Canada , culminating in his 2011 duologue Teaching Hamlet with the amazing Brett Watson (below also).

Jem Rolls Attacks the Silence: UK-based Jem Rolls vies with Keir Cutler as being the oldest or tallest of the regular Fringe performers, Hi motor mouth delivery of social hypocrisies is a delight to see each year. Silence,mate, ain’t gotta chance.

Angel’s Share: Billed as about “grief, absolution, revelation and Scotch whisky,” it features two of Montreal’s best actors, veteran Chip Chuipka and rising star Stefanie Buxton. Set in Scotland.

Cross My Heart: Talented local playwrights Alexandria Haber and Ned Cox collaborate again in a screwball romantic comedy with a twist. They have wrangled star actors Brett Watson and Paula Costain to play the heart-felt couple.

Horrible Things: Upstate New York born but Montrealer by preference, comedian DeAnne Smith works hard for her money but gives free candy to the audience. Award winning in Australia and Edinburgh as well as at our Just for Laughs fest, she is joined here by “depraved musician” Leighland Beckman.

The Rendez-Vous Galant: Kim Marin Haglund has toured the world with Cirque Eloise and Cirque de Soleil. She now appears in her first solo show as a  weaver of “jazz, drink, high jinks and circus.” She claims to be inspired by Tallulah Bankhead and Dorothy Parker so there are bound to be some grande dame riffs and biting witticisms in her character as “Hedy LaDerringdo.”

Six more with likely promise

Around Miss Julie:  Theatre luminary Harry Standjofski was hired by five young Concordia theatre grads in this new company to write a play with three dynamic female roles. What would misogynist August Strindberg, author of the classic Miss Julie, think of all this?

Terminal C: Kim Nelson, who co starred with Johanna Nutter and other fine actors in “Good People” at the Centaur, here joins Tamara Richards of South Africa in a play about two strangers trapped in an empty room.

Verbal Diarrhea: Storyteller extraordinaire Gerard Harris, who will be in Zoofest 2013 sub titles this show” Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Bomb at Love.” If you missed him on CBC’s “Wiretap,” catch him here.

2 For Tea: From England comes this physical comedy duo, James & Jamesy. Sit in front if you want to be selected to join them onstage and sit in back if you are stage shy. It helps if you bring your own teacup. The craziest tea party since Alice met the Mad Hatter.

Elvis is Water:  Those who missed the rollicking one night Chubby Checker reprise at the Rialto on May 18 with the real Chubby,72, can still get their rock `n roll fix with this Elvis musical about the King, who would have been 78 this year This not an impersonation, but the story of the young Elvis.

Urge for Going:  What Canadian doesn’t love Joni Mitchell? Carey Anderson, a lanky 12 year old masters a multidisciplinary puppet play inspired by Joni’s songs. Set in Saskatoon, this show has been described as a “country musical masterpiece.”


Eleven others with interesting subjects so I’m holding my breath

Sins of the Mother:  Five women cope with intergenerational alcoholism.

Beat the Percentages: Mitt Romney runs for office in Canada.

The Lazaret: In 2026, a new virus baffles the medical community.

Love in the Time of Time Machines: Sci Fi Best of Fest in Frigid New York.

The Voice of Wisdom:  Solar Temple suicides in 1994 Quebec.

The Sky is Exploding: On The Spot comedy trouper Rena Hundert is fast paced.

Leviathon:  Toronto Sex-T-Rex is back with a sci fi  fight against an omnipotent A.I.

Four from Australia… Zack to the Future… The Birdman… Fire in the Meth Lab… The Misery Factory…

Well, there’s 23 rough beasts for the 23rd coming. Most are about 60 minutes.

Most individual tickets are $10 plus $2 service charge. Best deal is to buy a six pack for $55 or a 10 pack for $85. Get the essential 52 page free program at the Beer Tent on St Laurent corner Rachel. The theatre portion of the 3 week Fest runs June 14 to or 514-849-FEST.

Rover contributer Byron Toben has covered the Montreal Fringe in each of its 22 years, for The Downtowner, his own Daily Playlet and The SeniorTimes.


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