FIELD ZOOLOGY 101

Shawn O’Hara is my new Fringe hero. He created or helped to create two of my favourite Fringe shows: Field Zoology 101 and Fake Ghost Tours. (See that review below.)

In Field Zoology 101, O’Hara becomes lecturer Dr. Brad Gooseberry. And you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth—when he describes the African elephant as “the dick-faced jungle cow”, for instance, or shows us the basilisk, “which is what the bullfrog becomes when it experiences its first blood moon.”

This comedy is all about absurdity and surprise. And O’Hara torques it with his low-key, deadpan delivery—smouldering with lust when he describes the sensuous curves of the rock python.

Formally, he keeps changing things up, including with the super clever use of an overhead projector.

O’Hara even slips in a head-twisting environmentalist message. Elephants, he tells us, are repositories of human suffering—so they really wantto die.

At the Revue Stage on September 6 (6:45 p.m.), 8 (8:15 p.m.), 11 (5:15 p.m.), 13 (10:15 p.m.), 14 (6:45 p.m.), and 16 (noon). Tickets > Colin Thomas (This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.)

 

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AWKWARD HUG

The medium, as they say, is the message and the medium in the moving and masterful Awkward Hug is writer and solo performer Cory Thibert.

Thibert looks like a wary Prince Charming. Athletic and a fan of screamo bands, he seems to be a guy’s guy. And, at times, he is so emotionally transparent that you can see straight into his heart.

This tension between containment and expressiveness is also what drives Thibert’s telling of his true-life story. In Awkward Hug, he explores his relationship with his parents, both of whom live with disabilities. Thibert’s mom and dad didn’t raise him with much of an emotional vocabulary, it seems, but he is aware of the obstacles and injustices they suffer. He loves his parents furiously, but how can he express it?

There’s a moment that distils some of this complexity. Thibert is walking with his mom when she falls. He hesitates to help her. A gym goon rushes in and scoops her to her feet. That guy judges Thibert and Thibert questions himself. But he’s also pissed with the guy: Thibert’s mom may have felt humiliated by the Samaratin’s intervention. So our hero ties himself into a good old knot.

I don’t want to give too much away but, when that knot finally came undone, so did I.

With the help of dramaturg TJ Dawe, Thibert has crafted very satisfying prose. Images—of pets and parents and responsibilities—accumulate and echo like musical motifs.

In director Linnea Gwiazda’s minimalist production, the stage is bare. A microphone stand appears at one point. A square of light evokes a small room.

This one’s the real thing. Go see it.

At The Cultch Historic Theatre on September 7 (8:35 p.m.), 8 (10 p.m.), 9 (1:45 p.m.), 12 (9:45 p.m.), 14 (5 p.m.), and 15 (3:45 p.m.) Tickets > Colin Thomas(This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.)

 

Sign up—free!—for Colin Thomas’s FRESH SHEET and get daily reviews from the Vancouver Fringe. (During the regular season, FRESH SHEET is stuffed with the world’s most fascinating theatre news. Here’s a taste.)

 And, because theatre needs informed, independent criticism if it’s going to thrive, check out Colin’s Patreon campaign. (It takes a village to feed a critic.)

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