2016 Fringe Off To
Five theatre shows worth looking into
By Byron Toben
The theatre portion of the 2016 St. Ambrose Fringe festival is off to a fine start, judging by the five productions we managed to see on June 9 and 10.
Love And Pasties, Miss S.
Love And Pasties, Miss S. was packed to capacity. And no wonder. Combining the local popularity of Holly Gauthier-Frankel with the innovative direction of Tamara Brown and 11 other well-known technical consultants listed on the front page of the program, not to mention incorporating the music of many jazz favourites is a formula bound to please.
Ms. Gauthier-Frankel, who is best known to Fringe audiences for years as her alter- ego creation, burlesque dancer Miss Sugarpuss finally decided to concentrate on her other acting and singing talents and, under the direction of Paul Van Dyck, finally “killed off” Miss Sugarpuss, who, like Rasputin, survived punching, strangulation and poisoning before requiring gunshots to the head before finally exiting… or so we thought.
In Love and Pasties, she is aided by Cynthia Brault and lawyer turned actor Amir Sam Nakhjavani, each with three supporting roles.
Oh, and did I mention, Ms G-F is the first Fringe performer I have seen since Patrick Goddard to go full frontal (albeit tastefully).
This show is a frontrunner for the Centaur Wild Side revival next winter, but just in case not, it still plays at the Théâtre Ste-Catherine on June 12, 14, 15, 16 and 18.
Captain Aurora II: A Superhero Musical Sequel
Captain Aurora II: A Superhero Musical Sequel is another strong Wild Side candidate, as was Captain Aurora I last year.
Creator-director Trevor Barrette, a John Abbott theatre grad, continues his quest to be deemed a local wunderkind. Of course, it helps to have talents like David Terriault arrange and orchestrate, as did Chris Barillaro in the original. The 75-minute show manages to include 15 songs performed by 14 actors and three musicians.
This comic book space opera continues the story, 20 years later, of the invasion on the Earth by the higher technology extra terrestrials, the A`URU, giving rise to earthen Super Heroes, constituting a league called the SkyGuard. After a 10 year respite, those damn A`aru are plotting again and a new SkyGuard must be formed.
Veteran organizer The Phantom (Buck Delaney) enlists his daughter Plug (Nikki Haggart) and they again choose Captain Aurora (Rosie Callaghan) to lead them. The hilarious Green Zinger (David Noel) zips around, a fluorescent green version of the Human Flash, to confound the bad guys.
Alas, the bad guy invaders are aided by a Quisling within, President Aria of the Earth Republic (Nadia Verrucci, who also does a bang up job as choreographer), in league with the A`uru Empress (Kendall Savage, in a double role as the captain’s sister).
The band of Luce Belanger (piano), Meiling Fong (violin) and Karine Bouchard (violoncello) create a lush sound.
Captain Aurora II: A Superhero Musical Sequel continues at Théâtre Lachapelle on June 12, 16, 18 and 19.
The above two shows are extravaganzas by Fringe standards. More numerous are one person, mostly autobiographical, efforts. Three examples follow:
Ah, the ironies of Fate. The Vermont show, I’ll Just Be Here, scheduled for Théâtre La Chapelle, turned out to not be here after all… so, lucky for us, Nisha Coleman’s waiting list revelation Self Exile was happily slotted in.
Plays concerning forced exile abound in Greek drama and Shakespeare. In modern times, only James Joyce’s one play, Exiles comes to mind. In splendid isolation, It deals with the self imposed exiling of several persons.
It is now joined by the plaintive story of Ms. Coleman, who seems to always cut herself off from others in attempting to be herself. On a bare stage — a chair and four boxes, each containing a different selection of her tom boyish outfits — she describes her attempts at fitting in, culminating in a talent for the violin.
This instrument proves her salvation, when, stranded in Paris, she is able to survive as a street performer. This is even more fully described in her recent book, Busker, which, in the spirit of the moment, I bought a copy of and was pleased to see it bore the endorsement of local literary star Claire Holden Rothman, who is better at evaluating literary selections than… is it I or me? Anyway, it proved to be a good read indeed.
The Paris sequences put me in mind of the New York accordionist/singer who told a similar story at the Montreal Fringe at the now closed Museum of Just for Laughs in… was it in 2008? Help — any one remember her name?
Although Ms. Coleman is shortish and slightish, begetting a waif like appearance, her highish voice projects surprisingly well and you can actually understand each word, which accounts for her growing popularity in the local story telling scene. Oh, yes, good body movement enhances… as she states in the show, though not a jock, she is athletic.
Self Exile continues at Théâtre La Chapelle on June 12, 17, 18 and 19.
A Personal Growth
Alyssa Kostello’s solo is staged on an even barer stage… just a chair. However, her immediately likeable appearance and personality dismiss the need for props and costumes. This serves her in good stead as her story involves the serious recent confrontation with stage four cancer… in her case Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
I immediately bonded with this as my beloved mother, Molly, perished from this disease quite some years ago. Happily for Ms Kostello, it is a form of cancer with a high rate of survival today — 90% compared to 10% back in the day.
Nevertheless, this high rate does not eliminate the larger problems of difficult support from a small and far-flung family and the smaller irritants like urinating while attached to an IV pole.
Despite the seriousness of the subject, fellow Sagittarian Ms Kostello manages to inject some humour into her litany. This is made easier by her background in the arts community of Vancouver, where she has essayed playwriting and acting.
Still a shade weak from her convalescence, she has not yet memorized her own script, relying on a loose-leaf binder. However, this potential distraction is soon ignored by the audience. Sincerity, a pleasant disposition and a winning smile go a long way.
This atypical show (Is anything at a Fringe typical?) is highly recommended.
A Personal Growth continues at the Montreal Improv Theatre on June 12,13, 16, 18 and 19.
Science, Love And Revolution
London, UK seems to be a hot bed of slam poetry these days. Montreal Fringers are well acquainted with regular jem rolls over the years (his current GET LOST to be reviewed in future). Now comes his fellow Edinburgh Fringe regular David Lee Morgan with a similar deep voice and rapidfire delivery as well as a wide-ranging subject matter.
While both eschew even chairs on a bare stage, Mr Morgan does carry his soprano saxophone for musical punctuation. This instrument, straight like a clarinet or oboe, seems more akin to the human voice than the curved tenor, alto and other saxes.
He quickened my attention by beginning, as I often have, by quoting Matthew (of Gospel fame) that “in the beginning, was the WORD”. Right on!
But Mr Morgan goes further. Tiger’s teeth, in his description, are the precursor to words (interject here cries and growls) that evolve into sounds like Dada and Mama and thence into family, tribe, clan, nation, we, them, war, church, money, Mao, etc.
The list goes on. I ended up buying his book après to reread all the permutations of that tiger’s teeth. (Note to Fringe performers who also write books. I am an easy mark).
Not sure yet if that tiger is Blake’s who is still burning bright in the forest of the night but you get the picture that this poet’s repertoire is reminiscent of Alan Ginsberg’s Howl which he has indeed performed as well. Although I am more disposed more to the wry, world-weary soundings of Ferlinghetti (who published Howl) or even the Dr Suessian strains of our local performance poetry genius Cat Kidd, I enjoy the call to action of the more muscular Morgan.
A query on genre classification in general: where do spoken word, performance poetry, poetic prose, prosey poetry, chant or song differentiate? Labels are useful, but in the final analysis, good is good, whatever the demarcation of category.
Conclusion, this show is good. Try to see it even in a sometimes overwhelming Fringe program.
Science, Love and Revolution continues at the MAI on June 12, 15, 18 and 19.
For Fringe times and other info, consult the free paper program or go to 2016.montrealfringe.ca or call 514 849-FEST (3378).
Feature image: scene from Captain Aurora II: A Superhero Musical Sequel – Joseph Ste-Marie
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club