Alexander Gibson’s one-man show about the trials and tribulations of an elementary school French teacher is one of the joys of the 2014 fringe. The script, written by Gibson and Matty Burns, is intelligent, funny and socially aware. And Gibson’s performance, beginning with a breathless monologue (in rhyming couplets, no less) and continuing with a succession of comically illuminating moments, is a tour de force. The guy is a genuine charmer.
Fringe: Portable # 3 — Not Just another French Class.
An SDT Production
Arts Court Sudio
Normally, it would be enough to report that Joyride is a car wreck of a show, devoid of a modicum of true inventiveness. Trouble is, one of its co-creators is Oregon’s Chase Padgett whose wonderful Six Guitars was a highlight of the 2014 Fringe. So one expects more from him than this witless piece of sophomoric excess. Padgett’s partner in crime is an irritating bundle of mannerisms named Stacey Hallal. We first encounter her floundering about the stage like a beached whale while Padgett makes electronic sounds on a keyboard. Then she moves into the audience to portray an emotionally unstable pest who keeps disrupting Padgett’s mind-reading session. By this point, we’re discovering that the feebleness of a sketch’s set-up is rendered even more feeble by the banality of the pay-off moment. Among other treats, if you can call them that, are the sounds of copulation — pants, groans and assorted shrieks perfomed in darkness to the accompaniment of further electronic noises — and the spectacle of a slack-jawed hillbilly repeatedly botching up a televised tribute to the wonders of the rutabaga. Oh well, there’s nothing like mocking the lower orders to remind us of our own brilliance and superiority.
A Stacey Hallal Production
Arts Court Theatre
There’s a possible corpse in Martin Dockery’s absurdist play, Paco V Put To Sleep, along with an ice cream salesman in a state of existential torment, and a pair of parents whose inexplicable emergence in son Dick’s shabby apartment suggests they’re in flight from something unspeakable.
No one’s really connecting here — starting with the feckless Dick and the zombie-like Paco who are first encountered staring at an empty TV screen because they’re incapable of dealing with the problem of a busted remote. That’s not their only problem. They’re out of food, and there are hints their electricity is about to be cut off. Their conversation goes beyond the random and the pointless and the surreal. Even shared cliches of speech, and there are many of those here, become an ineffectual glue to communication. That’s also true of the other characters who eventually show up, talking over each other and past each other, while continuing to occupy their own malfunctioning limbos.
There’s Pinter here and Ionesco and Beckett, a smidgeon of N.F. Simpson, even — for anyone who knows A Delicate Balance — a significant touch of Albee. Director Dave Dawson, working with a responsive cast, creates a fine fusion of sound and silence, managing the play’s elusive rhythms and atmospherics with skill and understanding.
It’s a quirky but rewarding hour of theatre — but why oh why can’t the Fringe and Black Sheep Productions supply playgoers with a proper cast list? It’s a recurring problem with the Fringe and an annoying one.
A Black Sheep Theatre productions
Directed by Dave Dawson
Arts Court Theatre
Immolation. William Beddoes and Caitlin Corbett. Photo, Ottawa Fringe
A deeply passionate, romantic music announces a dramatic encounter between two lovers, that quickly opens the door to the world of Immortals, or vampires or any one of those indestructible mythological creatures who have been together for 5 000 years, who have been constantly reborn in a new shape, have adapted to new life and are still going strong. Their special extra-human status is played out as a long, sinister love story lived as a series of deadly, cruel rituals that cross through the most violent periods of history and give energy to their existence. In this enclosed room, humankinds most deadly moments are remembered as experiences of pure evil, only possible because these individuals are shaped by extraordinary circumstances that nothing can change. Or can it! Or more to the point, why should it? They are accountable to no one; they have no remorse, no guilt. But, is it really loves that binds them, or is it the need for ongoing vengeance, for the heightened pleasure of the sadomasochistic hunt.? The play sets up an interesting state of existence that is extra-human, where the choice of “evil “deeds becomes extremely attractive and opens up a new consciousness.
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A show with mixed messages that seemed to be carried away by itself. 2 fourteen year olds in a grade 9 class are giving a talk about the salmon population and it rapidly becomes a training session to help us survive the coming apocalypse ( word not to be spoken!) of an earth that is dying , poisoned by toxic waste, and everything else. The whole list of those who are killing the planet comes down on us as the two children “play” at dying. Natural acting is indicated by mumbling and talking too quickly but there were images to watch if one couldn’t catch all the words. A lot of theatrics, a lot of naïve childish playing, a lot of sophisticated computer work, tv influences, shadow puppets, technological support, an actress who dominates the stage with her beautiful singing voice and great stage presence, and an ending that completely subverts the message so all of it seems that we were the objects of a not so childish manipulation. It appeared that no one was in charge directing this. That might have helped.
And an audience that rose for a standing ovation??
Kitt and Jane by Kathleen Greenfield , Ingrid Hansen and Rod Peter Jr.
One good aspect of this performance was the sporadic use of the Prague inspired Black light puppet figures . They introduced the evening , appeared in certain sketches and announced a playful atmosphere which dominated the evening of non stop comic sketches . The comic timing was very good, the pace was good, the skits followed each other rapidly, the evening progressed with no pauses and a lot of the individual characters that the actors produced worked very well. In fact they all appeared to be talented comics. Of course Gélinas is one of the more talented fixtures with the Company of Fools and his work is always excellent. I There were a few simple props and a curtain, suggesting the stage set for each “act” and that was it,but it was the writing that made them stumble. The skit I liked was the one in the science lab where two scientists are trying to uncover the mystery of the man eating flower…that looks like a daffodil. Also Richard Gélinas as the hyper turbaned Calif looking for a new “wife” was deliciously perverse …somehow though a lot of it didn’t fly. The ideas were not sharp enough, the humour fell flat. Very unequal show with people who could definitely have worked with much better material.
Wunderjammer by Richard Hamphill
A production of Punchbag Playhouse
Comedy sketches with Richard Gélinas, Jordan Hancey, Gabrielle Lazarovitz and Victoria Luloff
This autobiographical comedy explaining why Alexander (Sandy) Gibson chose a career as a French teacher in elementary school has the ring of truth, even with a little hyperbole thrown in.
Despite a little gentle mockery, there is affection in his characterization of his mother. Gibson offers her a bouquet of thanks for putting him on the right road to becoming a passionate, rather than an adequate teacher, and delivers the description of life in portable #3 with highly expressive punch and energy.
Gibson has an attractive stage presence and Portable #3; Not just Another French Class is not just another navel gazer.
Well worth seeing.
Portable #3: Not Just Another French Class
By Alexander Gibson and Matty Burns
SDT Productions, Ottawa
Plays at Arts Court Theatre
Carolann Valentino is a high-energy performer, who presents an in-your-face portrait of managing a New York steak house via a series of cameos of the characters she meets along the way, while she waits for her big break in show business.
While there is no doubt about Valentino’s talent and tornado force, her decision to embarrass three men from the audience in the interactive section of the show is questionable.
Not everyone likes their humor this raw and pushy or their steaks this blue.
Burnt at the Steak
Written and performed by Carolann Valentino
Carolann Valentino Productions, New York, NY
Venue: Academic Hall
The idea behind Can’t Argue With Pussy , Rebecca Reeds and Jennifer Hayward’s stand-up comedy show, is women talking about their lives without having a club owner telling them to avoid too “feminist-ey” or “female” topics. It’s definitely a raunchy show. Poops, vaginas, sex – none of these are off-topic and I say wonderful! It’s always good to hear voices presenting new perspectives, especially in comedy, which is such a powerful story-telling tool. Unfortunately, although I applaud the idea behind the show, the material could use work. Rebecca Reeds obviously has the raw talent and storytelling ability. However, her mannerisms on stage, such as constantly pulling up her sleeves and covering her mouth, distract from the performance. Jennifer Hayward isn’t afraid to stir feathers, both with her topics of choice and demeanor on stage. Her performance, however, would greatly benefit from finished sentences. She tends to trail off at the end which is usually where the punch line of the joke is. Overall, this was a decent, though not ground breaking show. Some good ideas, but it needs work and polish.
Can’t Argue With Pussy plays at Studio Léonard-Beaulne
By Rebecca Reeds & Jennifer Hayward
By Jessica Fitzpatrick
Cupidity is a cute one-woman show about a Annie, a woman obsessed with the idea of love. She wants it and she has all sorts of ideas about exactly how she wants it unfold and feel. Never mind that all of her ideas conspire to failure, informed by romantic films and her own sometimes strange imagination. This is a cute show and Jessica Fitzpatrick is a charming performer. Although some of the jokes were too on the nose, overall, Cupidity is a fun, feel-good show. For instance, at one point, Annie informs us that her married life will unfold “like a sitcom.” This particular moment would have been funnier had she just shown us her married life being like a sitcom instead of telling us. Give the audience a bit more credit – we get things! We can make connections! However, overall, this show was quite a delight to watch and provided many a chuckle.
Plays at Arts Court Theatre
By Jessica Fitzpatrick