~ video review by Karen Flynn
WRITTEN REVIEW BY KAREN ROLLER:
Jon Bennett’s How I Learned to Hug is a fast paced story of Jon’s trials and tribulations with love starting with grade school and including losing his virginity. But don’t worry he takes time to breathe.. and to run.. run so far away. With a few visual aids such as a projection screen and a pink satin dress he shares his most embarrassing moments including his horrible tattoo while he manages to incorporate references to his other project Pretending Things are a Cock. I think anyone who has loved and lost can relate to this piece and Bennett helps us realize that it’s okay to laugh at yourself and move on. Engaging, humorous and vulnerable he is a great storyteller and worth seeing.
~ written review by Karen Roller
Precious Little has been described as a play about a pregnant 42-year-old lesbian, who has, until now, put her career ahead of her desire to have a family.
...I hate that description. It assumes that a woman who is pregnant after 40 must explain herself. Indeed, the protagonist, Brodie (played by Sara Andrina Brown), spends a lot of time explaining herself. In the genetic counselling office, she clarifies that, as a lesbian, she used a donor, and that, yes, she is aware of the risks for a woman her age. Both age and communication are themes that intertwine. The three women actors are themselves different ages, with varying backgrounds and experiences, playing characters who span generations. Brodie, a linguist, is having an affair with a younger grad student, while studying the lost language of an older immigrant woman. Amidst all this, Brodie forms a profound connection with a gorilla at the zoo.
Precious Little forces us to confront the ways we use language to belittle, to patronize and to disguise what we mean. Brodie, as a character, is utterly unlikeable (a testament to skillful writing, directing and acting). She is callous and unkind to her young lover, and uses her academic status as a weapon or shield. But her armour is also her humanity.
Precious Little is a strange play that asks tough questions about the world. In the end, we don’t necessarily have the answers. But we might be a little closer to understanding one another.
~ reviewed by Reija Jean Roberts
I also forgot to mention that the big part of the show is he's a clown, the way he moves, and acts, it's very much like a clown. But instead of a red nose, or any nose, he wears a red suit, which is how he makes a distinction between the two characters he embodies, by taking off the hood or taking off part of the red suit. It's also a unique way of presenting clowning and the 2 characters. It's my favourite thing about the costume.
Red Bastard: Lie with Me is playing 6 - 16 September at Performance Works as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Michelle WIlliams
This show before going I assumed it would be like most of the other magic shows, they show their tricks and do a big finale at the end, and possibly do a trick that has something to do with rabbits (because of the the title) and be super amazing and knock my socks off.
After watching the show, it was more or less what I thought it was but better. There was a lot of wit, sass and quick comments on how the audience should react to a trick, which worked well, when trying to get the audience lively and energetic. I thoroughly enjoyed Ben’s sass throughout the show, as the audience wasn’t super big or wouldn't catch the end of a trick or where to clap, so his sassy comments really helped and were quite funny for me. I enjoy some sass. There was a trick in which he uses a prop that relates to the show, but best to see it than have me spoil the fun. His layout of set and props was obvious but still kept secrets and hidden treasures which played an important role when wanting to show his next trick. I loved the pre-show music, that added to the tongue in cheek effect, as the pre-show music was The Muppets, doing covers, and making snide comments on the people watching, and what’s going throughout the show, like Statler and Waldorf.
The downside was the lack of audience members and the audience wanting to participate, which can end a show if the artist doesn’t bring all the energy to the room. It takes a lot of effort to keep the audience interested even when they weren’t interested in the first place, or slightly unsure of how to act. Ben was almost there but at times it dropped when the trick wasn’t clear enough. Overall I enjoyed and hope he gains more audiences.
Ben Price Magic Presents Rabbit Stew is playing at Studio 16 September 6 - 16, as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Michelle Williams
Created - and recreated for every performance - by Jennifer Pielak and Peter Abando. Inside Voices was conceived by the two main performers as well as the Production Manager Alison Chisholm.
This is Improv on steroids as the performers create each performance anew based upon the "inside voices" that drive their responses, their actions, and spoken and sung dialogue. The premise of the piece is: "what happens if these inside voices were all let out to play as they wished."
Abando is a marvellous pianist who provides the moment-to-moment sound track throughout the show. Pielak is the one who provides most of the movement and spoken and sung words. (I am curious to know more about how the two communicate and influence each other as they focus on their internal dialogues.) Pielak becomes very child-like and playful through the hour long performance. Abando and the piano are props for her as much as they are cast members. The performers are both well trained, excellent actors and musicians and clearly know their craft.
I found myself anticipating 'something' even while knowing that each performance would be unique and completely improvised. It must be habit, but once I settled into the flow and let go of expectation the play became joyful and almost meditative. I recommend it for anyone interested in improv. For those who need structure, story arc, and narrative this will not likely work for you.
Inside Voices is playing at the Firehall Arts Centre 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Evelyn McKelvie
What would happen if your Air BnB guest showed up for the night and then never left again? When saving the farm calls for a modern approach, a couple at odds finds themselves hosting an odd-ball and things get funny fast.
Cado is the work of 19-year old playwright Ian Kuiken, and is performed by a cast of (mostly) young actors who are participants in G.R.A.F.F.I.T.I., the Fringe’s youth mentorship program. What Kuiken lacks in sophistication, he makes up in hilarious characters, fast-shooting dialogue, and perfectly timed poignant moments that are just long enough to drive his larger message home.
The cast is strong, and does a great job. It seems like perhaps one or two stage cues were missed, but hey, on opening night even the seasoned pros have their slips. After all, that’s what live theatre is all about, isn’t it?
Featuring themes around sex and weed culture, this play is perfectly rated at 14+.
Liz’s note: The play is called “Cado” and is performed by G.R.A.F.F.I.T.I. - Green Room At Fringe Festival… Is The Initials. It was performed at Havana Theatre as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Elizabeth Goode
One Step at a Time is a fun, playful, and entertaining way to get to know the writer and actor of this one-man show, James Melcher. Melcher’s stage persona is warm and inviting – I found myself completely enfolded and engrossed in his stories about growing up, learning, meditating, and making choices. I feel like I came out learning from Melcher’s self-reflection and self-discoveries. For example, I love the way he describes and contextualizes opportunities to make choices and will try to apply this to my own life: making a decision as an opportunity to stop, commit, and learn something, regardless of the outcome of the decision.
Sonja’s Favourite Bits:
Missed the Mark for Sonja:
One Step at a Time is playing at Studio 1398 September 6 - 16 as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Sonja Cvoric
Martin Dockery is a story-teller from Brooklyn NY. His show is entertaining and uplifting. It is both hilarious and heart-breaking and in one short hour, this show will take you on a journey. It was played to a full house at the Waterfront Theatre and got a standing ovation at the end!
Dockery is well known on the Fringe circuit and extremely well liked. Now I understand why. Unlike Banned in the USA, which I saw earlier this Fringe, Martin Dockery: Delirium is a well-crafted, dramatically told story with an arc - a beginning, a middle, and an end, and Dockery pulls it together for his audience thereby creating an experience that engages, entertains, and uplifts his followers. The energy he pours into every syllable of the show and the show is remarkable.
The central idea of the show is ... well, it's your basic riff on the mystery of life, love and death and it is all inspired by his grandfather's book on entomology.
This show is for anyone; I can't think of anyone who shouldn't see it. (I don't recall any bad words.) Go and enjoy and look for more from Martin Dockery at future Fringe festivals.
~ reviewed by Evelyn McKelvie
*Trigger Warnings for This Show* - Sexual assault, violence against women, slut-shaming
Although Box of Freedom claims to be a comedy-centered production, the show itself proved to be anything but. Dealing with serious and triggering content, Box of Freedom seemed to brush off its own graphic portrayal of sexual assault and violence as a way to build intensity in the plot. The true depth and seriousness of this show's content was not demonstrated by the cast, who, through forced tears seemed unable to sink in to the emotion that they were so energetically attempting to portray. The narrative itself, which appeared to switch back and forth between timelines, lacked clarity and cohesion and was more perplexing than it was entertaining.
Box of Freedom is a bold attempt at navigating the complexities of a refugee crisis, violence towards women, sexual assault, along with a number of other intense and harrowing subjects. The potential of this production is undeniable, and it is a brave pursuit to engage these ideas on stage. Unfortunately, once the Box of Freedom has been unpacked, its contents inevitably fall short.
Box of Freedom is playing at Studio 1398 September 6 - 16 as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Madisen Steele
Viktor Barkar of Vancouver Puppet Theatre has some really beautiful puppets. This show really made me wish I was a kid again so I could sit on the mat in the front of the marionette stage and experience the show as it is meant to be experienced. As an adult, I had to settle for sitting on a slightly uncomfortable chair, craning my head to see the floor of the small part of the stage that was being utilized.
Baba Yaga and the Black Flower is a fairy tale for children. It is simple and short and good eventually triumphs over evil. Viktor Barkar the puppeteer does all the voices with a joy and dedication that it utterly charming. I wanted more spookiness, like the online trailer suggested. Maybe there is an atmospheric puppet movie in the future? Now THAT will get me squealing like an excited child!
If you're an adult who likes puppets, likes me, you'll likely get a kick out of this show, but it's better to go with kids and to experience the magic vicariously through them.
Baba Yaga and the Black Flower by Vancouver Puppet Theatre is playing at the False Creek Gym 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Danielle Benzon
Overcome Stage Fright and find confidence in your unique voice.