Fringe Reviews, Part 2

The following reviews are the completely subjective (and possibly ill-informed) opinions of the specific writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish. Once again, today’s reviewer is Kuan Foo.

tumblr_noxr8tqBfc1uwdr7co1_1280“In space, no one can see you stink-eye…”

Mars – A few years ago, I walked into a show called Giant Invisible Robot not knowing anything about it and experienced one of those fantastic Fringe moments where you immediately want to tell everyone you know to go see the show. Since then I have seen two other shows by Jayson McDonald and been equally blown away by both the easy virtuosity of his performances and his literate, thought-provoking but accessible writing. So I was very curious to see what a Jayson McDonald play would be like without Jayson MacDonald actually in it. Well, the answer is: “pretty darn good!” Like much of McDonald’s other work, what seems at first like a series of high concept comedy sketches (“Temperamentally mismatched Astronauts are trapped together in space” “Chipper father and irritated daughter go on a loooong road trip”), gradually knits together into a coherent narrative of surprising poignancy and power. This, of course, would not work without the deft and truthful performances of Valerie Cotic and Mark Nocent to navigate the tonal twists and turns and to ground this space mission in down-to-earth human emotion. So please, everyone, go and see this show! 4.5/5

Edgar Allan – 11-year-old Edgar Allan (Katie Hartman) is so extravagantly, over-the-top, diabolical that if he could grow a moustache he would likely spend most of his time twirling it. His ambition to be the most outstanding boy at his boarding school appears to be proceeding without a hitch until he runs into his nemesis, also called Edgar Allan (Nick Ryan), a shy classmate who cannot speak above a whisper. (You know how when you have a really flamboyant character and a really deadpan character, how the deadpan character often ends up stealing the show? Well it sort of happens here.) What transpires next is part Gothic horror, part absurdist comedy and part ukulele opera (seriously) that draws from several of the stories of that other famous Edgar Allan. A solid, enjoyable production but not surprisingly will likely appeal most to fans of quirky musicals, Edward Gorey cartoons and, of course, Edgar Allan Poe. 3/5

Nashville Hurricane – One day we may discover that Chase Padgett is a lousy plumber or that he doesn’t know how to convert a 7-10 split. Until that day, we can simply stew in the unfairness that so much talent was placed into one person. I mean, it is apparently not enough that he is a gifted actor with a flair for vocal mimicry, that he can sing like an aging blues man, play guitar like a virtuoso in a variety of styles, and has the comedic timing of … well … a comedian; he also creates fantastic shows that feature all of these aforementioned abilities in their best light. In Nashville Hurricane, as in his previous Fringe hit 6 Guitars, he plays multiple characters: Henry, an introverted, synesthetic guitar prodigy; Henry’s foul-mouthed, irresponsible mother; his charismatic, unscrupulous manager; and a disillusioned, elderly musician who takes Henry under his wing. In lesser hands, some of the characters he inhabits could be caricatures, but Padgett has such an obvious affection for his creations that he never condescends and he manages to find the heart in even the most despicable of them. And did I mention he is a kick-ass guitar player? At some point you just have to surrender to the Nashville Hurricane, let the virtuosity of the performance wash over you and let this force of nature propel you up to your feet in rapturous applause. 5/5


Fringe Reviews, Part 1

Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the specific writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish. Today’s featured reviewer is Kuan Foo.

In writing reviews, I hope to be able to give you an idea of what the show is like so that you have some additional information on how best to spend your time and money on the over 700 performances at this year’s Fringe. My completely subjective rating system is as follows:

5/5 Transcendent. I will likely be talking about this show for years to come and steal from it shamelessly.

4/5 Excellent. A top-notch production that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.

3/5 Good. A solid production that may not necessarily be my thing but is still enjoyable particularly if you are a fan of the artist or the genre.

2/5 Fair. Has some good points but needs a bit more work. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

1/5 Disappointing. Friends and family only.

0/5 Uhhhh. Would not recommend unless you can get in free and then only to analyze what went wrong.

Martin DockeryThe Exclusion Zone with Martin Dockery

The Exclusion Zone – This is the third Martin Dockery show I’ve seen at the Fringe and if there is such a thing as a sure thing at the festival, he is it. His two-hander, Moonlight After Midnight, was probably my favourite show at the 2014 Fringe. This year, he’s back in his more familiar guise as a solo storyteller. The Exclusion Zone is a hyperactive travelogue through the irradiated zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but it is also an exploration of one of Dockery’s favourite authors, Geoff Dyer, and Dyer’s book about one of his favourite movies, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and how that movie can be a metaphor for Chernobyl as well as for both Dyer and Dockery’s creative processes. If that sounds convoluted, then you are starting to get an idea of Dockery’s circular and multilayered storytelling. Charismatic, thought provoking and frequently very, very funny. 4/5

The Birdmann in Momentous Timing – Part stand-up comedy, part deliberately-inept vaudeville act and part poignant observation on love and the passage of time, The Birdmann in Momentous Timing is somewhat hampered by a meandering structure and a weak through-line so it never quite lives up the surreal promise of its title. Still, Trent Baumann (the titular Birdmann) is an appealing performer who lobs his one-liners with such a relaxed, amiable smile that it sometimes takes a second or two to register how witty and well-crafted they are. The audience we saw it with was roaring with laughter by the end. 2.5/5