VANCOUVER FRINGE 2022: Summer Teeth

publicity photo for Summer TeethPlaywright Bill Marchant’s Summer Teeth is an odd assemblage. It starts with one of the most riveting monologues I’ve heard in ages. The givens are that we’re in a post-plague near-future somewhere along the Pitt River in what seems to be a rural community. At least it was a community. The only survivors are sisters Gin and Esme, and a guy named Harry who scavenges for the three of them. In the opening monologue, Esme mourns the death of Stefanie Norton (Snort), for whom she felt (an unconsummated) love. Marchant’s language is biblical — from a rough Bible. Here’s Esme on men: “Dirty claws and teeth on all of ‘em, Mom said.” And on knowing Snort: “Every part of me is altered, unsettled, never to be the same again.” If you love language, you’ll love this speech. Actor Jess Smith goes a tiny bit over the top sometimes, but she brings such passion to the language, such deep engagement with its imagery that I was smitten with her. Then the play flips into a scene between Gin and Harry. Harry wants to fuck Gin. She says no, but she teases him. With Gin in control, the dynamic is very Miss Julie: lots of repetitive, sadomasochistic push-me-pull-you that bored me. RJ Fetherstonhaugh does a fine job with Harry’s blunt butchness, but Deborah Simons (Gin) seems to be floating above the text, adopting an attitude more than inhabiting the specifics of the images and moments. In the final panel of the triptych, Esme returns for a scene with Gin. It’s great to have Smith’s Esme back onstage and there’s a surprising plot turn, but there isn’t enough accumulation in the piece to make the ending satisfying. Still, I’m a fan of Marchant’s use of words and his willingness to experiment with form.

At the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Remaining performances at the Waterfront Theatre: September 12, 10:30 pm; September 13, 7:00 pm; September 16, 1:00 pm; September 17, 2:45 pm; September 18, 8:20 pm. Tickets

 

VANCOUVER FRINGE 2022: The Disney Delusion

promo image for The Disney DelusionIt starts off charmingly. In The Disney Delusion, which he describes as “an (unfortunately) true story”, playwright and solo performer Leif Oleson-Cormack describes a romantic misadventure from 2008. Although he had an MFA in playwriting by that time, he had never been laid, partly, he explains, because he lacked the language to understand himself: “I’m bisexual but that had not been invented yet. We just got it for men a couple of weeks ago.” His dilemma (feeling like a fraud with both men and women) is interesting. And you can’t help but feel for Leif when he admits falling for a hunk named Arthur. (Arthur would make out with Leif about every three months and, shortly after that, show up with a new boyfriend. The guy’s a dick. A user. Who hasn’t fallen for one of those?) Undeterred, Leif plans a Disneyland vacation with Arthur. But, as the two characters flew south, so did my interest in their story. It gets sordid — and its viewpoint gets messy. Before they get to Disneyland, Leif and Arthur hit West Hollywood, where, to make Arthur jealous, Leif makes out with two other guys. Then, Leif tells us, when those guys proceed to touch his body, he feels violated — and he was violated. I think Leif was 22 at the time and the two guys were, by his estimation, over 55. So: power imbalance. The guy Leif calls Eyebrow Man has gotten Leif drunk and Leif is making drunk decisions. But there’s an uncomfortable disjuncture: at the same time he’s asserting his past victimhood, present-day Leif is presenting the situation as fundamentally comic and entertaining. There’s an attitude of “I know, right? Wild! Hilarious!” And, as Leif freely admits and uses for comic effect, young Leif was manipulative in his own right: he choreographed his romantic Disney date with Arthur down to the second — and, not that he owed them sex; that’s a whole other issue — he also used the guys he made out with. In a repeated ageist swipe, Leif also ridicules them for their age. It’s mean. Present-day Leif understands that he was naïve; he doesn’t seem to understand that he was also a big of a user, a bit of a dick. So I lost interest in him. Sure, you can be clueless at 22. But I expect more insight from storytelling that takes place 14 years after the events.

At the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Remaining performances at Performance Works: September 11, 3:00 pm; September 12, 7:00 pm; September 13, 4:45 pm; September 15, 7:00 pm; September 17, 1:00 pm. Tickets

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