Archives for September 2019


Vancouver Fringe 2019: Fool Muun Komming!

In the last minutes of Fool Muun Komming!, Sam Kruger allows himself to be vulnerable. Earlier would have been better. 

I’m a fan of eccentricity but a show in which virtually all the performer offers is his own zaniness is kind of like a meal in which the sole ingredient is … I don’t know … marshmallows.

In Sam Kruger’s monologue, he plays a space alien who comes to Earth because he’s picked up a random text that says something like, “Where are you? I’m in the food court. I need you.”

That’s a great premise, but Fool Muun Komming! is short on both structure and content. For ninety-nine point nine percent of it, Kruger’s alien just riffs on psychedelic absurdities. He relates a dream about a three-way with Mahatma Gandhi and David Bowie, for instance. And, in another sequence, when Bowie cums. his orgasm projects a cartoon onto the alien’s face in which a pair of lovers try to scale his nose.

This might sound more interesting than it actually is. The material in Fool Muun Komming! is almost entirely solipsistic: it’s about the alien’s fantasies and the alien’s relationship to himself. There is an underlying romantic yearning in some of the material, but Kruger reveals that longing so tentatively and with so little external focus that nothing adds up and nothing really matters.

Kruger is talented. He moves well — he embodies a saucy gazelle at one point — and his imagination is undeniably rich. It’s frustrating though, that, with all of these gifts, he’s spinning his wheels in material that’s so self-referential.

At the Waterfront Theatre on September 7 (6:35 p.m.), 9 (10:35 p.m.), 10 (7:15p.m.), 12 (5:00 p.m.), 14 (12:45 p.m.), and 15 (8:00 p.m.) Tickets

This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.


Vancouver Fringe 2019: Crazy for Dick Tricks

With Dick Tricks, playfulness saves the day. Now there’s a sentence.

Tim Motley isn’t reinventing magic with Crazy for Dick Tricks, but he is practising it with a lot of charm.

Some of the formats are familiar: a series of “failed” attempts at mindreading come together in a big finish, for instance. There are too many magic scarves and a stunt involving scissors and cards only kind of worked at the show I attended.

But other tricks are more impressive and, in character as film noir hero Dirk Darrow, Motley is winningly playful with the audience. He has fun with the genre, too, describing a set of eyes “as piercing as headlights on a foggy night on a road to nowhere.”


At the Waterfront Theatre on September 5 (8:30 p.m.), 7 (1:15 p.m.), 8 (9:10 p.m.), 12 (6:45 p.m.), 14 (6:00 p.m.), and 15 (3:00 p.m.) Tickets

This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.


Vancouver Fringe 2019: Scaredy Cat

In Scaredy Cat, Carlyn Rhamey gently mocks her fears.

Solo performer Carlyn Rhamey has charm to burn: she engages easily and confidently with her audience, inviting everybody in and capitalising on the liveness of the event.

But, in Scaredy Cat, most of the stories that she tells about her own fearfulness aren’t as engaging as she is. I mean, they’re okay and sometimes they even acquire a little weight — like when she introduces us to a client named Bob who has a mental handicap of some kind (she’s in a caregiving position with him) and he helps her to overcome her dread of haunted houses.

But the arc in which she faces a fear and overcomes it gets repetitive. And only once in the show did I get a genuine sense of trepidation. For the most part, Rhamey is so busy making fun of herself — “I can be such a baby!” — that she makes her material feel unimportant.

In The Nest on September 6 (5:00 p.m.), 8 (7:45 p.m.), 9 (10:30 p.m.), 12 (6:45 p.m.), 13 (8:30 p.m.) and 14 (3:00 p.m.) Tickets

This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.


Dissection of a Mixed Heritage Woman

Nyla Carpentier figures her cheekbones came from Tahltan Territory and wonders if her hands come from France.

Writer and solo performer Nyla Carpentier is charming: playful, friendly, and relaxed.

And she can dance. In Dissection of a Indian Aboriginal First Nation Full-Blood Status Non-Status Halfbreed Métis Rez Urban Mixed Heritage Woman, Carpentier explores her French, Scottish, and Indigenous roots and, along the way, she club dances, step dances, and — in the highlight of the show for me — shawl dances. Carpentier spinning, with the long ribbons on her shawl flying, is an almost hallucinatory image.

But her script is rambling. There’s no central story and, as Carpentier pieces the bits of her heritage together, it takes her an hour to ask why she’d have to choose between identifying as white or Indigenous. If you’ve heard this question before — or variations on the theme — you already know the answer.



At the Revue Stage on September 6 (8:45 p.m.), 7 (10:00 p.m.), 8 (1:45 p.m.), and 10 (7:30 p.m.) Tickets

This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.


Vancouver Fringe 2019: Diagnose This!

Donna Kay Yarborough turns from comedian to crusader in Diagnose This!

Diagnose This! feels like two shows. I prefer the second.

In the first, writer and performer Donna Kay Yarborough regales us with stories based on her experience as a standardized medical patient (an actor who pretends to be a patient to help train healthcare students).

Yarborough is an engaging performer, which is a good thing because her material is only so-so. When a neurology student is testing her skin sensation and explains that she “going to feel a little prick”, I don’t find the double entendre hilarious.

But, late in the show, Yarborough gets into her own harrowing experience of the US medical system. This turns into a passionate and compelling rallying cry in defence of socialized medicine. Yes to that.



At the False Creek Gym on September 7 (1:00 p.m.), 8 (9:15 p.m.), 9 (8:45 p.m.), 12 (6:45 p.m.), 14 (5:35 p.m.), and 15 (2:45 p.m.) Tickets

This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.


Vancouver Fringe 2019: Ingénue

Ingénue promises to tell a story but doesn’t deliver — on that front at least. (Photo of Melanie Gall from Melanie Gall Presents)

Melanie Gall can sing, but she doesn’t know how to tell a story, so what starts out as a recital with some great insider dish devolves into a recital with narrative interruptions.

The program promises an exploration of the relationship between Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin, who was the bigger star in the 1930s. Gall clearly establishes Durbin’s importance as a cultural icon: fan letters from soldiers in WWII movingly situate her as an ideal of innocence and kindness. But the script’s central conceit — that a reporter from The New York Times is interviewing Durbin about her relationship with Garland shortly after Garland’s death — doesn’t hold: this show is about Durbin; Garland is barely mentioned and the supposed friendship between the two women is only superficially developed.

No other relationships are credibly established either. When one of Durbin’s marriages breaks up, Gall sings Frank Loesser’s lonely “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year”, but Gall has given us zero reason to invest in that marriage so its failure means nothing.

Still, there’s the voice. Gall has a rich, crystalline soprano and, when she sang Luigi Arditi’s “Il Bacio”, I got goosebumps.

At the Firehall Arts Centre on September 6 (6:30 p.m.), 8 (6:30 p.m.), 9 (5:00 p.m.), 13 (11:00 p.m.), 14 (2:15 p.m.), and 15 (5:30 p.m.) Tickets

This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.


Vancouver Fringe 2019 In Ireland We Rented a Car from Criminals

This show needs artistic GPS. (Photo of Lauren Allen and Nathan Coppens by Judith Schulz)

The story is about an American couple traveling in Ireland but, stylistically, this show has no idea where it’s going.

Central characters Tom and Mary, who are married and middle-aged, rent a car and search County Clare for Mary’s ancestors in the graveyards and famine pits (mass burial sites) that bear witness to the potato famine. So there’s a road trip — and a history lesson: Tom and Mary stop at a number of significant sites, which allows playwright Rod Macpherson to trot out historical context.

Beyond that, things get weird. Tom is desperate to fuck Mary, who regards sex as a chore. This is played for comedy, but it’s not funny, partly because it’s coarse and repetitive, but also because Nathan Coppens, who’s playing Tom and a number of other characters, is overacting so hard he’s flirting with cardiac arrest.

And then there’s the narrative thread, also supposedly comic (mostly), about Aidan, the shady rent-a-car guy.

These attempts at humour undercut the famine material so thoroughly that, when Mary bursts into tears a couple of times, you start looking around for the other crocodiles.

At Performance Works on September 7 (1:35 p.m.), 8 (5:30 p.m.), 10 (5:00 p.m.), 11 (9:00 p.m.), and 14 (6:45 p.m.) NOTE: The September 5 performance has been cancelled. Tickets

This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.


publicity image for Destiny, USA

Don’t let the humility of Destiny, USA fool you: this is what sophistication looks like.

Because it’s humble and autobiographical, some people might ignore Destiny, USA, but that would be a huge mistake: it’s one of the most skilful and moving shows I’ve ever seen at the Fringe.

Laura Anne Harris is the sole live performer in this production of her script. In her story, it’s 2016 and she has followed her husband Chris to Syracuse, New York, where he is pursuing a PhD. Astonishingly, Donald Trump has just been elected President of the United States.

Harris weaves together three threads: her relationship with Chris, her mom’s illness and death back in Canada, and her job as a relay operator for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Harris makes simple and effective use of technology: in some starkly poetic passages, for instance, her lyrics appear on a screen — sometimes with blank spaces that get filled in as she speaks, sometimes with significant words that disappear or repeat.

Her work as a relay operator gave her extraordinary access to her clients’ lives, which she has fictionalized here to protect their anonymity. In one of the most moving passages, a deaf woman of colour engages Harris to make a call to a suicide hotline. There’s a lot to this: race, disability, and the cruelty of capitalism — as well as the resilience of the caller and kindness of the call-centre worker. Tamyka Bullen, who plays the suicidal woman on video, is extraordinary. She takes her time. It feels like documentary.

Ultimately, it’s the compassion of Destiny, USA that makes it so shattering. We’re all mortal. In times like these, small gestures of kindness redefine the world.

In The Nest on September 7 (6:45 p.m.), 9 (8:45 p.m.), 10 (7:45 P.M.), 12 (5:00 p.m.), 14 (1:15 p.m.), and 15 (8:45 p.m.) Tickets

This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.

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