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
*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
This clever piece by Gemma Wilcox takes you into the life of a woman surprised by a road trip mapped out for her by none other than her recently deceased mother. Her company on this solo trip includes her talking dog, her talking caravan, and 20 other distinct and opinionated characters that Wilcox single handedly brings to life with expertise, humour, and infectious energy.
In fact, it’s her vivacious energy that makes this one woman show impossible to look away from. Be prepared for audience interaction, supernatural objects, and just a ton of reasons to laugh. Mixed up in these many funny moments are a few solid, serious ones that really slow the plot down to the point you truly feel for Wilcox’s alter ego as she makes her journey.
I also have to commend Wilcox on her projection. I was seated at the back of the theatre and could hear each and every word spoken clearly. My only criticism in the sound department is that the songs used to break up the scenes were various degrees of too loud, and as someone who wears a hearing aid, I found it abrasive.
All in all Wilcox is a gem, and judging by the standing ovation she received, my fellow audience members felt the same way.
Magical Mystery Detour is playing at Studio 1398 September 6 - 16 as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Elizabeth Goode
Absolute Magic was definitely magical. Keith Brown did everything right, his magic was believable, funny, and engaging. If you enjoy magic or you are looking for a good show to take your kids to, I would recommend this one. Keith has been doing magic for over 10 years and he has performed in over 22 countries. His passing resemblance to Harry Potter (although Keith is proclaimed to be hotter) makes it seem even more likely that he might make you levitate, or at least confuse you by reading your mind.
Absolute Magic by Keith Brown is playing at Studio 1398 September 6 - 16 as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Annina Engelbrecht
My video review above addresses the trigger warnings for this show. Be aware of topics such as child sexual and physical abuse, abuse denial, and acts of violence such as yelling, throwing things, and overall family trauma.
Carriage opens with Evelyn Lynden preparing for her daughter’s wedding. Her daughter in law, Grace, and son, Daniel, enter and the dynamic is made clear immediately. Evelyn does not like or respect Grace and dotes on Daniel. She consistently undercuts Grace in a variety of subtle and direct ways. Grace, played by the playwright Elise McRae, swallows her reactions out of consideration or her husband. The affection between the two characters is beautiful and sweet, the way they touch each other and lean into one and other communicates that these two have been together a very long time, we find out later they were high school sweethearts. Lucy, the bride to be enters with her fiancé, Simon, and the drama begins.
What follows is 60 minutes of vulnerable, raw and highly emotional content. Almost every relationship in the small group is blown wide open, and not every one gets put back together.
Technically this play was exceptional. The stage is well utilized, very basic stage props are used, lighting is consistent, the acting is really allowed to speak for itself. The play is beautifully written and executed. The actors have taken the time to craft their interconnected relationships in a way that they feel completely authentic. The action comes together in a way that is so believable it is possible to forget you are watching a performance. Kudos to McRae for tackling such a poignant topic with such aplomb.
~ reviewed by Brieanna Fiander
Trigger warning: sexual assault/abuse, rape
Redemption is a one-man show, written and performed by James Walter Charleston (also known as Jim Sea, his stage name). I was one of six people who caught his performance on a rainy Sunday night at the 2018 Vancouver Fringe (although, in my video I state there were three of us, which is incorrect).
Charleston cites his wife’s death and his own history with abuse as inspirations for this show. It aims to end rape culture by making a case for prevention and recovery, and centers around three characters - the offender, his therapist, and a bureaucrat - which Charleston portrays with the ease and ability of a seasoned performer. Indeed, this is a topic that he is quite passionate about bringing attention to, as well as, it seemed to me, a deeply cathartic journey for him.
As a woman, I was concerned that a man would try to present as an authority, rather than an ally, concerning the issue of women’s sexual safety (a fear that was, for the most part, assuaged). I also found it problematic that a white man would portray an African American woman (why?). With Redemption, I feel like Charleston is coming from a well-intentioned place. But I was left feeling conflicted about some of his choices.
Redemption by Breaking the Cycle Films Ltd is playing 6 - 16 September at Studio 1398 as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Reija Jean
Written by Jeff Leard and Sydney Hayduk, Angels & Aliens attempts to critically examine some of humanity's biggest questions. In this production they tackle religion, politics, environmental destruction, war, and awkward roommate sex. Leard and Hayduck offer an energetic and polished performance as well as a pleasantly critical and creative perspective on the human condition. This production consisted of three separate but related narratives, which Leard and Hayduck transitioned through neatly and effectively maintaining high energy levels throughout. Overall, a wonderful and entertaining piece of theatre.
Questions I am left with: I am interested in perspectives of people coming from a variety of backgrounds and belief systems and how they might respond to the narrative of this piece, as well as the critical stance Lead and Hayduck take against certain aspects of religion and politics.
Angels & Aliens by Peachy Keen Productions/Active Salad Productions is playing at Studio 1398 from the 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Madisen Steele
Click "read more" for the full video transcript.
Die Hard: the Musical-ish is another tight show from the people who previously brought the Hunger Games Musical Trilogy to the Fringe in years passed.
One of the cleverest aspects of this production is that they acknowledge at the outset that it’s rather ridiculous to be mounting a production of Die Hard on the kind of shoestring budget and barebones theatre space of Fringe. They deal with this by seemingly having writer, director, and producer, Mark Vandenberg talk to the audience directly, breaking the 4th wall, and basically explaining that they don’t have the budget to properly mount Die Hard: the Musical, explaining their hopes and ambitions for the show, and asking the audience for money to make these dreams come true. The show is punctuated by these very funny explanations of what they ‘would do’ if they had the budget.
This show is overall well-written and well-performed. It embraces it’s absurdity and has a lot of fun. The songs are overall strong, except for the first and last numbers, which are the weakest, and could easily be cut or parred down. They cleverly used hits from the 1980’s, with changed lyrics, so that thematically, as well as substantively, it held together.
Although sparse, the costumes and props were well-used. Even though most of the actors and actresses played multiple roles, it was always clear where we were and who was who (except in the opening number, which was confusing). I especially enjoyed the trio who played the 4 German terrorists, who really embraced the absurdity of the show and provided thorough laughs.
While I thoroughly enjoyed this show, I found the beginning to be somewhat unclear, and seemed to require knowledge of the source material. Similarly, I found the multiple epilogues of the ending to drag an otherwise tight show. Mr. Vandenberg may want to consider transitioning at the hilarious “I guess that means everything’s okay now” line right into the ensemble number “We’re Not Kidding”.
Overall, a delightful show, even for those who dislike musicals. You won’t be able to keep yourself from being swept up by the charm and hilarity of this ensemble.
Die Hard: the Musical-ish by District 13 Presents is playing at Studio 1398 on Granville Island 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Vanessa Marshall
Click "read more" for the full video transcript.
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