Montreal Fringe Festival
is your arty oyster
Get your #Fringebuzz on at the most eclectic arts festival in town, the 28th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
By Janis Kirshner
The St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival , one of the most anticipated and attended festivals of the Montreal summer season, is the place to be if discovery and entertainment is what gets you out of the house. This bilingual festival features lauded returning artists as well as first-timers, including local Montreal companies, companies from the rest of Canada, and performers from all over the world.
One of the most anticipated and attended festivals of the Montreal summer season…
The Fringe circuit now encompasses cities everywhere, and Montreal is one of the favourites for artists with its welcoming atmosphere and joie de vivre. Most events take place around St-Laurent Blvd, all 700 of them! You have so much to choose from, it can be overwhelming. In 18 venues as well as an outdoor tent, take your pick from theatre, dance, music, stand-up comedy, sketch comedy, special events, parties, and permutations of a combination of any of the above, the Montreal Fringe is your arty oyster. Below are a few shows that are worth the #Fringebuzz.
Settle This Thing by Bick/Antzis is really fun and smart; it’s also educational. The chemistry married couple Drew and Tamara have is palpable and they are utterly likeable on stage.
The piece is beautifully crafted and actually uses a fair amount of ‘science’ to explain love, relationships, parenting, marriage, how to handle in-laws, etc. They in effect are giving a scientific(ish) relationship seminar; a how-to as it were so that you too can learn the tips and tricks for a perfectly satisfactory marriage.
Audience members are also given paddles to vote with, to help the couple solve Unresolvables™. These are arguments that Bick/Antzis just can’t find a common ground on, so they crowdsource the answer, asking audience members to weigh in to help resolve their disputes.
They started doing this on YouTube a number of years ago and it proved very popular. Whichever way the audience votes, they will abide by it. At the show I attended, I just couldn’t believe that the audience was in favour of Drew being encouraged to wear his multiple-key set on a chain on his belt loop, ALL THE TIME. He let us know that if we sent him our house key, he’d make sure to always have it on him in case we were locked out… There are different Unresolvables™ on offer at each show. The couple have amazing street cred—they are comedy writers/directors recently from LA, having fled to Canada just before Trump took office. USA’s loss is Canada’s gain.
I was delighted to see that Brave New Production’s Buyer & Cellar was back as part of the Fringe Festival. It’s not often we get to see an off-Broadway script at the Fringe. I first saw this charming show last August as part of Pride Week for an all-too-brief 3-day run. It is a professional, polished show, with an odd but true premise. Donald Rees gives a solid performance as an out of work actor who answers a job posting for a job in a mall. However, this is no ordinary shopping plaza—these are shops in the basement of megastar Barbra Streisand! I know—right?! Though a fun, escapist comedy, there’s some meat under the story. Though much focus is on the things in our lives, we realize it’s the people we are close to that are most important. This intimate show is a treat. Keep an eye out for Brave New Productions—celebrating 15 years producing theatre in Montreal.
The Shylock Project, from Syracuse NY, is back this year with Kafka’s Metamorphosis (The Many-Legged Musical) and it is every bit as wonderful, weird and wild as you might be thinking… The story is clever and the language delicious, the performers squash it with their singing and creativity, and on top of it all, you feel smart, they play with heart, and it, with all the fun, is true art. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
This is professional Fringe and a must-see show. Daddy issues. That would be the two-word description of the piece. Specifically, this is Franz Kafka’s relationship with his father and his realization that all his writing expresses what he couldn’t say to the senior Kafka face to face.
Feeling like the lowest of the low, Franz narrates the story weaving his life with that of Gregor Samsa, who wakes up one morning transformed into a cockroach. Using simple set pieces, the cast manages to convey so much, and with puppets and black light in the mix, you are transported. I was riveted to the story. I smiled to the often tongue-in-cheek antics and the rhyming (… in a pickle of a dilemma now that Gregor has an antenna). And I was moved with the idea of the deeper metamorphosis at the end. Kudos to all, especially to the uber-personable Matt Chiorini, the mastermind behind the show. Added to all the wordplay, Chiorini really gets the musical form. He wrote the book, music and lyrics; directed; plays the guitar; and plays the role of Father. You don’t get more ‘many-legged’ than that.
Other Montreal Fringe shows I enjoyed: Bang-on character development and writing from James McGee’s unhinged DJ in SCUM-FM; The committed comedy teamwork from Betch a Sketch; the always uniquely creative physical comedy and great multi-genre performances from award-winning Sex T-Rex’s Crime after Crime (after Crime); and Glam Gam Production’s Greasy: A Lesbian Love Story, a company with inventiveness, spirit and heart—if you’re ready to step outside the box, walk far away from it, or throw it out altogether, this is the show for you.
When it comes right down to it, just a pick a show or two (top price $10, plus $2.50 service charge) and take a chance. Bonus—100% of box-office sales get returned to the artists (the service charge goes to the government).
More information at the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Featured image: Sex T-Rex – Crime after Crime (after Crime)
Read also: Byron’s top Fringe picks sight unseen 2018
Janis Kirshner is a respected theatre publicist. She was also co-founder of TITTERS (a female sketch comedy duo) and has co-written and performed numerous hit shows at a number of Fringe Festivals including Montreal, Halifax and Seattle, as well as the Vancouver Int’l Comedy Festival. Janis spent years on the radio as a traffic reporter, entertainment reviewer, and host of open-line talk shows.