Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Best Picture
RibbitRePublic (Jersey City, N.J.), Studio Léonard-Beaulne
It’s a near-breathless sprint, but they get it done: Jon Paterson, Kurt Fitzpatrick and Rachel Kent lampoon every Best Picture Oscar winner ever (80, if you’re counting) by enacting a mashed up excerpt or at least injecting a title into the show’s brisk dialogue. Part of the fun is guessing the name of the movie, say, How Green Was My Valley (1941) or Ordinary People (1980), before it’s spoken. Equally entertaining is how the trio segues from one film to the next or chucks a couple of movies into the verbal Mixmaster so that The Hunchback of Notre Dame suddenly appears aboard the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty (you do know the connection between the two films, don’t you?). The show sometimes bogs down under its own cleverness, but it still manages to emerge as the kind of bright-eyed performance with zero social value that you’d find only at a fringe festival.

Grade 8
Up From The Roots (Ajax, Ont.), ODD Box
When Dwayne Morgan performed, on Father’s Day Sunday, his moving and articulate show about being a single parent, he was wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of singer Kenny Rogers of The Gambler fame. Which, if you have offspring, you’ll know is wholly appropriate: Children, and thus your ability to parent them wisely, are the biggest gamble one can take. Morgan, one gathers, laid his bets well. A Canadian Spoken Word Champion, he tells his own story of raising his daughter, now twelve years old, after the death of his wife. Honest, intimate, delivered with the rhythm of poetry and occasionally quickening into rhyme, Morgan’s show covers all the bases, from his daughter’s wanting him to remarry to his explaining sex to her. There’s nothing fancy here, just the story of a man trying to be human in a world that’s at once dangerous and sweet. So far, he’s a winner.

  • A Tension to Detail
    That’s Enough Drama (London, U.K.), La Nouvelle Scène
    Storytellers, not unexpectedly, tell stories. The frenetic Gerard Harris does that too, but cautions us to remember that there’s no particular reason to trust the teller or, by extension, what we’re about to hear. Warning or not, slipping wholeheartedly into Harris’s comic world is not just rewarding, but inevitable as he cascades through his autobiography from birth (which he does agree he could not possibly remember) to childhood and adult romances to his propensity for self-abuse to the night he discovered how to cook lobsters. The show takes a few minutes to hit its stride, but when it does it’s like a British version of a Texas tornado with Harris bouncing agitatedly on his chair, raging abruptly across the stage, spinning off in a direction that appears improvised, but couldn’t be. Relating at one point a bizarre moment in a yoga class, Harris recalls asking himself: “Is this real or is someone writing it? And really, what’s the difference?” Precisely.

    The Ottawa Fringe Festival continues until June 26. Tickets/information: Box offices and venues, 613-232-6162, ottawafringe