The Hamilton FRINGE, 2015 1

 

Ham'n Fringe logo       After a three-year hiatus, the editorial staff of ONTARIO ARTS REVIEW has decided to conclude its boycott, citing a positive change in the Fringe’s Directors. Every Festival demands only the highest level of professional attitude. 

A THOUSAND NATURAL SHOCKS  Hamilton Theatre Inc.
NYC- ‘Garner; Ferguson- Brown; LA- Ford; CLEVELAND- Rice; MADISON- Robinson, all recent front-page headlines about Police shootings, even Toronto had one on the TTC. But the follow-ups about what really happened or the effect on the officer usually end up buried in section two – BTF. Writer/producer Bryan Boodhoo and director Luis Arrojo scrutinize and explore the emotional effect on said police officer.Recruiting the powerhouse thespian talents of Carlos Jimenez & Annalee Flint, the audience sees the all torment and self-doubt of temporarily suspended officer ‘David’, and the difficult support efforts faced by his wife ‘Lynda’. Their poignantly strained relationship is visceral. The short but realistic Shooting Range segment carries all the intensity & potency of a Glock-9.
David’s Departmental psychologist is portrayed by Dan Sanderson whose empathy is tangible but suffers from poor vocal projection. Boodhoo ends the play on both a subtle (garden planting) and overt positivism; something one wishes actually happened or will happen in all the above actual eventsD.G.

“THE GREENING OF LIFE”
Life; present, past and future are inevitably tied. Peter (Peter Ormond), a successful, rich, honest … and dead man, looks back at and reflects on his life just after he passed away. Peter represents the Perfection to the eyes of society: he was a good husband, a caring father, donated to public institutions, went to church often and regarded his fellow humans with courtesy and respect. Leading a gold mining company seemed then like the right choice to ensure a comfortable, beautiful and easy life, with a private jet ready to serve his and his family’s any desires. Accompanied in his spiritual search by a passionate, erudite, revolted and forgiving “psychopomp” (a soul’d guide) played by Michael Nabert, Peter will now rediscover the world he left from an ecological reality standpoint. Global warming, abuse of the populations, water and energy crisis, many of those concerns are reaching a screaming tipping point and many generations will now suffer as a price to pay for the greed and selfishness of others. But what if Peter could give himself another chance? With a lot of expert details and lots of heart, the Greening of life gives us an emotional and informative tour on the challenges and hope to a better life. And green is its color. F.R.

AIR
Just breeze!   Several amazing short pieces interpreted magisterially by Trevor Copp will take you from one emotion to the other …without you hearing a word or so few during the play. Unusual and formidable form of Art, that is the Art of Mime. Copp revisits the cubic world of Marceau with a modern and highly entertaining skillset. There is something truly magical at letting your senses capture the fine details of a story through your sole sensory perception. Using our sight, the sounds, reading the body movements and facial expression we connect in a different yet very profound way with the storyteller. Two short pieces highlights: The Stupendifying Gigantism of Mr. Small and the Stag Hunter leave us equally amazed by the complexity of the task and the beauty and poetry of the stories.  Air is undeniably here-to-stay with both feet on the ground. F.R.

 BLOOM, Staircase Mainstage
The acronyms have become as familiar and as prevalent as any of today’s terminology. GAD; MDD; PTSD; ADHD & ADD are just some of the more common. Jill Kooymans has obviously put extensive research into both the writing and direction of this dramatically representative effort that discloses the symptoms and internal struggles faced by sufferers from these diverse mental maladies. It is touching, intuitive and dramatic.
. . . .   Consider the above paragraph, but as follows:-
“The acronyms have become like as familiar and like as prevalent as any of today’s terminology. GAD; MDD; PTSD; ADHD & ADD are like just some of the more common. Jill Kooymans has like obviously put extensive research into like both the writing and direction of like this dramatically representative effort that like discloses the symptoms and like internal struggles faced by sufferers like from these diverse mental maladies. It is like touching, intuitive and dramatic.
Add in enough ‘umms’ to even impress the HPO’s Sommerville and if you can handle it; Bloom is a must see. The interpretive dancing performed by Alyssa Nedich & Cameron Buttrum is sensitive and creative. Among the eight performers are two standouts: – Sarah Granger and Jack QuailD.G.

ONEYMOON:  The Staircase Café Theatre
Christel Bartelse stars in the one woman show, ONEymoon (pronounced as the number 1), with humour, wit, and sophistication.  The story line is simple and engaging.  Her fiancé jilts her the night before the wedding but she decides to go ahead with the wedding and marries herself.  The audience is asked to stand as the bride makes her entrance, the person who officiates is a member of the audience and this use of the audience continues throughout the play.  Whether it’s hyphenating her last name, creating a home and learning to cook for her partner, receiving anniversary flowers, each circumstance is innovative, creative, and funny.  The sound track choices, Leaving on a Jet Plane as she goes on her oneymoon, Sweet Caroline, add to the sense of fun.  The play was originally written in 2010 but this Hamilton Fringe Festival series was with a new script performed for the first time. After the last performance, Christel will be heading to Edinburgh and performing in their Fringe Festival.  Her talent and high-energy performance create a super-star atmosphere. A.H.

DEATH AND DATING, Mills Hardware
This is a one-woman show written and performed by Magdalena BB.  It is really about a break-up and recovery.  As a solo show, Magdalena uses different voices and phrases to effectively portray diverse personas.  The sound system also adds to the feeling of depth of character and change of scene.  Since many of the scenes took place at Spirits Bar and Grill, karaoke added another dimension to the story line.  Though this play could have been funny, it was not.  It wasn’t sad either.  It could have been an in-depth exploration of the feelings and emotions of the loss of a loved one through a break-up, divorce, or death but it stayed very much on the surface leading this audience member to conclude it was a rather shallow interpretation of some of life’s struggles.  The venue, Mills Hardware, may have been a hardware store at one time but is now an intimate space for small productions. A.H.

RICHARD LETT – SOBER BUT NEVER CLEAN, Mills Hardware
This one-man show opens with a poem. It draws the audience in immediately and introduces the material for the play.  It is autobiographical about a stand-up comic who is addicted to drugs and alcohol.  Though the material is difficult, it is presented with humour  triggering laughter not tears.  As he continues his story, he alternates between spoken word, poetry, and music.  The first music he plays is his own composition as he tells of his first experience in a treatment centre.  It gives him and other recovering addicts a sense of peace.  When he uses his singing voice, it’s dramatically effective but he should explore his higher register.  Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” gave an additional depth to the music and drama.  Lett’s material is presented with intelligence and humour and is philosophical about addiction and recovery.  He is clean and sober for five years now and in the process has recovered himself. A.H.

PANACEA,  Citadel
Haggard Bitch Productions provided no playbill, so no details. Therefore the performers are as follows: ‘guy with mustache; Redhead; guy with Marine haircut & girl with bun & nose-ring. This improv-style but obviously rehearsed & detailed effort presents short but comedically effective vignettes that reflect on the vagaries of life. Each segment is cleverly introduced as a symptom of the lead character’s psychosis.  The opening waiter/patron tipping disagreement explores both sides of the equation ending with a twist. Robbery- again with a surprise ending; a restaurant with pretentions; and biting bit (pun intended ) about the Toronto Zoo putting management on display behind the fences, all glean laughter. The gay Italian barista; guys interminably waiting for their dates and an insomniac & his sleep App are all delicious sketches, but the solo song about women called by a slang anatomical description is a little ‘over-the-top’. The actors are descriptively strong; the pace moves without appearing either hurried or dragging, and the direction scrupulous. T.G.

 KNEEL! DIAMOND DOGS, Mills Hardware
Confession: – both O.A.R. contributors T.G. & D.G. know Michael Posthumus socially & personally, so there definitely is a bias.
Most of us, especially the complex-laden kids, had a ‘Harvey”-esque or ‘Puff- the magic dragon’ character that advised and/or protected us. Posthumus had the spirit of Neil Diamond to oversee his evolving life and career. Emulation in style and philosophy follow. Posthumus’ mimicking of Diamond’s voice and presentational style are both a tribute and a talented rendering…enough so that audiences can’t refrain from sotto voce chorus-ing. Evolution must continue and the spirit of Neil morphs into the ‘70’s androgynous David Bowie. T & D are devotées of Neil, not Bowie but aware enough to recommend Kneel! Diamond Dogs by quoting “Bow wow; bow wow, WOW”

 PRINCESS of PORN  Citadel
According to the state-mandated philosophy of the fictional realm of PORN; sex cures all ills. HRH (James McDougall) is trying to convince his daughter played by Vikki Velenosi to participate with all his male subjects. Nearby Kingdom of Babble’s rulers distain such goings-on but the prince (Bryan Kling) becomes enamored with Velenosi’s ‘Pandora’. Shades of a prurient Romeo & Juliet! There’s singing with music performed by Alex Purcell. Support cast member Nima Ghomeshi is ‘Fluffer’ and his contribution is non-verbal; a cute touch. This idiom’s requisite fairy is super-hottie Breton Lalama and she’s also the almost narrator. The surprise duets are a highlight bit of theatre as is the comical parental displeasure of their offspring’s budding relationship. The plot is fanciful; the cast projects appropriate horniness and the acting very professional. The finale is….wait for it….Happily ever after!
Caveat; Avoid sitting in the first three rows.  T.G.

 ROWING  Staircase Mainstage
From 1981-86, this writer represented Eastern Canada in International yachting regattas, so the psychology of competition; aggressive endeavors and disheartening loss are tangible. Hamiltonian writer/director Aaron Jan has crafted an intense and gut-wrenching dissection of the motivations and parallels of rivalry in sport as well as life. Every aspect on-stage has ulterior motives, just as in all human activities and relationships. Even the intentions are questionable. The acting, especially the portrayals by Andrew Markowiak and his opening-scene relationship with Courtney Keir have the feel of reality. His is the pivot character and by understating the role, he’s flawless. An amazingly intense rendering of the dispirited team-member is given by Jordan Laffrenier with strong support contributed by Madeleine Brown (in a male role) and Zach Parkhurst in the skipper’s role. A remarkable addition is ex crew-member Rachel Estok whose motivation for joining the loser’s circle party is only peripherally explained but is certainly a catalyst to the plot and sub-plots. ROWING has a strong Hamiltonian attitudinal feel that is almost proprietary, the pride, the history and traditions are all overtly projected.  The direction is meticulous although the language overly scatological which may put off some folks, but to be euphemistic in this case would be self-defeating. “Fair winds, calm seas”!  D.G.

 COMMERICALS FOR HAMILTON   Staircase Mainstage
Playwright Sky Gilbert’s works are renowned for two elements, his affection for the city and an alternative lifestyle. Both comprise aspects of this effort. The idea of trying to sell the concept of Hamilton to the Lower Ossington gentrification crowd touched us personally. We read a National Post article headlined “The Secret’s Out” (Nov. 15, ’08) directly leading to our becoming Hamiltonians (or as Andrei Preda’s) P.R. flack ‘Sanders Dillingham’ prefers – “Hamilites!”. Taking on intern Duncan Rowe disturbs the business status quo      as well as the established life Dillingham has fashioned for himself.  To tell more would be a ‘spoiler’ and as every fan of Gilbert’s is aware there is usually an ironic twist to his creations.  The acting is detailed and never overdone; the direction is meticulous & well-blocked; the staging –effective. Another hit for the ‘Sky-man’. D.G.

 DER ZUG; Contemporary Gallery ‘B’
This short (20 minutes) but impacting effort is an almost gem-like science fiction tale about two sisters travelling though Germany by train. Their background hints at at-least a partial Jewish antecedent. A mechanical problem with the operation of the Eurostar causes a turnoff from the main Munich line to a spur and a morph through the time/space continuum. The writer also plays one of the sisters and differing age referrals will reflect with most mature siblings. The sounds of the train are amazingly realistic, yet are created by a young guitarist. The show packs a wallop … not recommended for anyone contemplating a trip to Angela Merkel’s homeland.  T.G.

 SCRIBE!  The Citadel
In moments of a little (& rare) modesty this writer describes himself as a ‘humble scribe’. Nolan Molfetta’s play comedically iterates the medieval journeyman/apprentice technique and the problems that can occur during the transitional period. This Humber graduates effort is polished and although occasionally slapstick, never seems amateurish. The writer/producer also portrays the experienced scribe and is a perfect foil for the shenanigans of his novice James Andreadis whose sense of timing and facial mobility underscores every humorous line and situation. Ryan Abedi’s King represents all those bosses we’ve all worked for whose ability and knowledge are far inferior to our own. Strong support from Anton Wasowicz and musician Thano Papas make this a pleasant and enjoyable Fringe entry; the concept of a journalist almost causing a war is totally farfetched. WRONG, think back on Randolph Hearst’s media empire!
Please don’t judge us other media types by what happens on stage. Journalism 101; kiddies; NOT ‘See Dick ; see Dick run…etc.  D.G.

 FORM & FIXATION  The Citadel
From the opening mutterings by Form & Fixation’s dramaturg who seemed to be texting at the same time, to the final curtain; this 2-part effort seems to consist of continual posing and posturing. Seeing a male butt constantly thrust at the audience seemed more in keeping with a horny gay looking for some prostate stimulation made this writer think more of Toronto’s notorious Oak leaf, than choreography. We could not fathom either a plot line or narrative. The dancers are obviously talented and experienced especially the long-haired brunette. His two female cohorts aren’t bad either. We must admit to sporadically dozing off, a rarity for Yrs. Truly. The 2nd episode had the actor sleeping on-stage as recorded dialogue debated.  Then some vowel recitations ??? Mayhaps that was the incentive for my snoozing. Can’t in good conscience recommend this.  D.G.

 TASTELESS  Aquarius
This group of McMaster alumnae & undergrads have crafted what they call a ‘nice’ but ‘dark’ comedy. The first adjective is an understatement. Tasteless is way more than just nice…it’s amazing. The Duarte/Kozij/Wilush effort has six proponents who both physically and theatrically portray their characters to the hilt. The plot deals with a stand-up comedian who is introduced via a TV interview and tells the audience of his plan to seek out a small town and re-invent his life. Taylor Yanke has the look and stature of just such a Seinfeld-ish character around who one can build a sit-com. All three brothers played by Zac Williams evoke the “Larry/Daryl & other brother Darrell” shtick from ‘Newhart’. The hyperbolic MD/butcher is played by Nicole Clarke and she milks the role for every comedic nuance. The character ‘Stan’ is Rowan Traynor  whose wide-open grin emulates that of TV’s Dick Martin. As Yanke’s nemesis, Claire Shingleton-Smith is as vampy yet cuddlesome as they come. Her semblance to Sacha Alexander of “Rizzoli & Isles” is more than just passing. She almost steals the show away from our hero. She and all the cast are ‘yummy’. This is a sure-fire winner. D.G.

 MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING   Aquarius
Shakespeare’s 1598 play about deceivers and manipulators is great fun to study. The puns abound even in the title (i.e. noting, written as ‘nothing’). Cleverly condensed to ninety minutes, none of the relevant details about either of the two relationships is omitted. It’s sort of a Cole’s Notes™ version and thus could be an intro to Shakespeare, school course! Modern yet not too overtly, it’s the protagonists who shine throughout. Supposedly, the pre-marital/nuptial situation between Claudio & Hero is the main focus of Shakespeare’s play, but this version emphasizes the evolutionary & metamorphic relationship of Benedick & Beatrice. As Benedick, Tyler Brent projects all the charisma and macho-ness (even the look) of a young George Clooney. His adamant denial of any interest in Laura Ellis’ “Beatrice” belies nature…she’s a “10”  -in manner, looks and even acting talent. As the elder Don, Sean Emberley is a standout as is Esther Huh in all three of her portrayals. Megan Jassen is a credible ‘Hero’ reflecting her UTM training. Strong support from Steve Siemans & Ryan Sero round out this powerhouse cast. Well-directed; fast moving and fairly true to the original; this should be a sold-out & standout Fringe entry. T.G.

 

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