September 1, 2015

Hamlet: A Very Palpable Hit by Kimberley Johnston

Are you suffering from a Hamletian dilemma about whether to go or not to go to ACT ( a community theatre)’s latest Shakespearean offering?  You should most decidedly go.

Director Terry Pratt’s vision of Hamlet is a very palpable hit. The show portrayed choices I had never seen but were exceedingly fun to watch. Pratt, who wrote this version and directed, cut the script extensively but people unfamiliar with the text would not have noticed. The nearly three-hour show held the attention of two very young girls on opening night. The girls seemed very saddened when at the end, spoiler alert, nearly everyone dies.

People who are familiar with ACT’s previous Shakespearean offerings are aware the show takes place out of doors in Stratford and audiences are led from scene to scene around Robert Cotton Park. They may be surprised to learn, however, that the entirety of this year’s play is being performed by only eight actors.
A lot was asked from the performers and they delivered ten-fold. They worked incredibly well together and were all given the opportunity to shine in at least one scene where their raw talents and energies could be showcased, no matter how many parts they played.
Sara McCarthy and Keir Malone, who each played four different parts, were entertaining in all of their roles. I loved McCarthy most as Gravedigger 1. She held nothing back belting out a tune (written by Pratt) whilst digging up skulls. Malone’s acting and physical agility was best demonstrated in his portrayal as Laertes, both when his sister Ophelia was found drowned and during the fencing scene with Hamlet.
T. Noah J. Nazim as Hamlet was exciting to watch. His madness (whether there was method in it or not) was captivating. This was Nazim’s first experience with ACT. I’m anxious to see him in more theatre in the future.
Lindsay Gillis’s ACT debut as Ophelia (Hamlet’s love interest) was breathtaking. Her final  scene exposed  the audience to her amazing singing voice as sweet Ophelia loses touch with reality. Especially poignant was when she picks reeds from the Stratford shoreline and passes them out, believing them to be various flowers.
ACT veterans Ashley Clark, Richard Haines and Catherine MacDonald were stellar as ever in their roles. Gordon Cobb as Polonius was the highlight for me. Cobb mastered the verbose speeches of the king’s advisor and demonstrated some excellent physical comedy, especially with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Malone and McCarthy respectively, I think).
Cobb’s portrayal of Polonius made me ask questions of Hamlet that I never thought to ask before, such as: Was Polonius aware of Claudius’s betrayal in killing Hamlet’s father? Nazim’s most  hilarious moment was as he pulled Polonius’s lifeless body behind the gazebo.
In a production of this magnitude and with so many moving parts, it takes a talented crew to make the cast look this good. McCarthy underwent several challenging costume changes, I would think, in the curtained gazebo that doubled as Queen Gertrude’s bed chamber and the final resting place of Polonius. The costumes, hair and makeup were on point, as was everything to do with this production, from the music arrangements to the mobility cart driver.
It will be difficult for ACT to top this play next year, but I sincerely hope they try.
August 15, 2015

Rope’s End Review by PL Holden

In a hopeless romantic tale like something inspired by a foreign film, Mark Fraser (who made his directorial debut at The Victoria Playhouse in last seasons The Best Brothers) sculpted a play written by prominent playwright Douglas Bowie where the lines of reality are blurred & spontaneity is rampant. There are flashbacks, fantasies, & something for the part of us that always wanted to explore what might’ve been.

Star & producer Jody Racicot (who teaches acting at Holland College School of Performing Arts & appeared in Confederations Centre’s Cinderella, in another role where checking your ego at the door was a prerequisite, as evil stepmother Putrid Von Farfrompoopin) & the lovely Johanna Nutter (who is no stranger to Victoria Playhouse, dedicating this performance to her friend & mentor Erskine Smith) are a splendid pair. Their characters are played at high and low points in life as well as young and old in multiple locations on a charming symmetrical set design (excellent work by scenic design: W. Scott MacConnell, production stage manager: Kevin MacLeod, rehearsal stage manager: Emilie Cassini, Light & Sound tech: David Nicholson, & scenic carpenter/stage techs: Jonathan Smith & Ron Quesnel).

Racicot plays Toby, who is a loveable film critic on a mission. Toby is also a self-proclaimed failure, representing the loss of all hope, putting himself in a pretty difficult situation as a last ditch effort to have some meaning in his empty life. Early on, he sometimes looks like a bombing stand-up comedian on that stage as he laments about his chances with the apple of his eye, Marisa (played of course by Nutter). At one point I actually hoped for his sake that some sort of act of divine intervention might time warp us back to the beginning of the show & give this poor fool a clean slate.

Believe it or not though, his character’s downward spiral into Bummerville actually works in his favor, fostering a very high level of genuine pity from the audience giving him the undisputed title of underdog. It’s a safe bet that a technique like this would be discouraged for television as the audience would be tempted to change the channel, whereas in live theatre, 5-10 minutes of drab is quite forgivable when you look at the bigger picture of forming an emotional connection like this.

by @PLHoldenIn Set2 the inside jokes build & the unexpected twists continue. It’s a relationship that is built on enjoying each others personality instead of the usually superficial reasons that draw couples together. There are certainly some lessons to be learned from this show, most notably about self-esteem. A self-deprecating joke here & there will definitely put people at ease, no argument there. That said, too many displays of belittlement on one’s own behalf turn into self-loathing & just because you’re the one getting made fun of, although we have a hard time adimitiing it, it’s still bullying. Not to get too personal, but I often wonder if in my own mind this is happening at too high of a rate.

Another example of imaginative theatre in PEI, Rope’s End isn’t afraid to deal with awkward stuff & I think that couples who enjoy a good laugh & crave the unexpected will love this romantic comedy!

August 9, 2015

Blindness: To Laugh or Not to Laugh By Cindy Lapeña

 
photos by Cindy

photos by Cindy

I was able to catch a performance of Blindness: A Dark Comedy, a play by Mariève MacGregor, one of several performances in this year’s Charlottetown Fringe Festival. For those who are not familiar with the Fringe Festival, it is a frenzied weekend of one-act plays and one-person shows that have audiences running all over the downtown area with barely 20 minutes in between performances to get to the next venue. Or you can get a schedule ahead of the weekend and plan your 4 days so that you can leisurely stroll to the ones you want to see beginning at 5 p.m. and straggling home around 11 or midnight. Each show is staged at different times on each day of the festival, so it’s quite possible to catch all of them within the earlier hours of the evening. More risqué topics, however, are restricted to much later hours. All performances are free entrance with donations recommended.

Back to the play. Blindness is a biographical piece based on the playwright’s actual experience of blindness from an unusual condition whereby the body produces too much blood, causing it to leak into the retina, which prevents a person from seeing. There was humour, no doubt, as the dialogue made light of a variety of situations encountered by blind people and how others can be oblivious to it or not know how to deal with it. More than just humour, though, the play was extremely enlightening in that it explained a great deal about the condition and the situation from first-hand experience. Something like Helen Keller’s autobiographical stories, but with fun. I have to admit that, while I did find the humour funny and the monologues informative, it was an awkward kind of funny–which was the general feeling I also got from the audience, who seemed unsure whether to laugh or not at times. It’s pretty much like when we make jokes about disabilities, race, and cultures. Political correctness and politeness keeps us from making jokes that might be seen as offensive especially if we aren’t the ones with the condition/race/culture. It’s okay for the Irish to make fun of the Irish, but if anyone else does it, it becomes offensive. In that vein, it might have been perfectly all right for the playwright to make light of her condition, but I thought the audience was not too sure if it was all right for them to laugh at her situation. I guess that’s where the dark comedy part comes in.

 
As for the skill levels, one has to remember that the Fringe Festival is just so called because the works are by budding artists, novices, or amateurs if you will. The acting was decent, not bad for a troupe that was put together in a few short weeks. However, I could not get a feeling of passion or conviction from the troupe as a whole. I think the funniest characters were those interpreted by Andrea Filion, until she dove into a monologue. The problem with performing in an open space, is that the space drowns the characters. Even if I was sitting in the first row, I could not feel enough tension holding the ensemble together, nor was there enough projection, so that the acting was not big enough to magnetize the audience.
 
The fact that the main character had three characters playing her psyche, was, I think, not exploited enough. The psyches could be a more powerful vehicle for the comedy. I believe their presence and lines should have been more closely integrated with the main character, instead of being relegated to passively watching her in the background most of the time. There was also quite a bit of monologue, which was really explaining details of procedures or the affliction, which tended to drag. It is a prolixity that could have been avoided by involving the psyche more. Don’t get me wrong, but unless a monologue is as powerful as Hamlet’s delivered as engagingly as Kenneth Branagh would, then don’t do the monologue. Those monologues could have been improved by breaking up the information into bits of dialogue involving the psyche so that they sounded less like lectures and more like a person struggling with coping with her fears and situation.
 
by Cindy Lapeña

Cindy Lapeña 2012

I have to say that one of the most brilliant choices was in the original music. To set everything to a jazzy beat provided by Justin Amador and Charlotte Large with those couple of folksy gospel song-like choruses by Tony Reddin at the beginning and end really set the tone for the comedy. If the pacing and acting had followed that jazz beat throughout, it would have been a great performance. In fact, I would have liked more music interspersed with the dialogue and a more active part of the performance, particularly since some bars were finished before they could even be appreciated. I’m just imagining involving the musicians in the dialogue by making them parts or voices of the psyche.

 
I would certainly like to see this play developed more and performed to wider audiences, because of its educational value. Here’s hoping that someone will pick up the sponsorship to bring this play all over PEI and elsewhere.  
July 24, 2015

The Island Fringe Festival 2015 is Just Around the Corner!

This Year’s Line-up

The Island Fringe may be turning four years old, but it’s very mature for its age. This year, Festival shows take a step towards heavier themes like sex, existentialism and, darkest of all, romantic films. That’s just a taste from the 4th annual Island Fringe Festival, running August 6-9, 2015.

The Festival kicks off with the triumphant return of Scribbler Skeletons: Shameless Readings of Childhood Writings, an addicting foray into the embarrassing and endearing childhood diaries, blogs, and letters of our younger selves. Come laugh and cringe with the Fringe at Marc’s Lounge on August 5 at 8pm.

The shows begin on August 6 and continue through August 9, with eight performances daily at various venues across the city. The Island Fringe is thrilled to welcome performers from New York City, Washington DC, Toronto & PEI.

An Island Affair from Charlottetown features a cast of twelve (the largest of the Festival) in a world-premiere burlesque-style variety show with a contemporary twist, featuring a live jazz band.

Returning to PEI after last year’s sold-out Fringe hit Happy, Nicholas Browne brings his cast of seven from NYC with Because You’re Not, a dramedy that follows its protagonist through love, loss, and his painful yet hilariously tenuous grip on reality.

Four solo performances will grace this year’s Festival. An Incomplete (Sex) Education from Washington DC takes a unique look at the American public school approach to this tricky subject.

Toronto’s Jessica Fitzpatrick tugs at our heartstrings in Cupidity, an endearing comedy about one woman’s obsession with romantic films.

Also hailing from Toronto, Reverie Theatre’s Once You’ve Found It tells the story of a man’s desire to do one last thing for his grandmother: live a happy life. Through alternate worlds created by the playwright, the audience is taken on a journey through reality and make-believe.

Last year, local Laura K. Bird looked back on how her front shaped her life. In Busted 2: The Sagging Continues, the sequel to the 2014 Fringe hit Busted: A Mammoir, she looks down the road to the future & still can’t see her toes.

Two more Charlottetown productions fill this year’s Island Fringe lineup. Small Talk follows the story of two women named Jane. Set in a morgue, this dark comedy explores the relationship between Jane and Jane as they discover that they may have more in common than a mutual dislike for Coronation Street.

Another local dark comedy, Blindness, A Dark Comedy is an existential dance comedy that looks into what it is to go blind. Through interpretive dance and the occasional jazzhands, the show’s heroine shows that going blind doesn’t have to leave you in a dark place.

All Island Fringe shows are admission by donation, with donations going directly to the participating artists. Have no fear! The Fringe still features fun for the whole family! As part of the expanded 2015 edition of the Festival, the Fringe will be hosting “Fringe in the Park”: free, family-friendly events in Rochford Square from 2-4pm, each day of the festival.

On Thursday, August 6 the Fringe will host an eco-friendly celebration complete with free yoga classes, a clothing swap and healthy treats.

On Friday, August 7 “Comic Sans” comes to life: a superhero-inspired event where folks can dress up as their favourite comic book heroes, draw their own comics, and even take part in a superhero obstacle course.

On Saturday, August 8 the Fringe will host a garden party, so be sure to wear your best sunhat and gloves!

Sunday, August 9 features a Country Jamboree, complete with a free country dance class and live music.

For those who are night owls, the Fringe will be hosting “Fringe After Dark” events at Merchantman’s Next Door Lounge from 11pm-1am, August 6-8. The Fringe wraps up with our annual closing party and Fringe awards at the Haviland Club on Sunday, August 9.

The 2015 Island Fringe Festival is sponsored in part by the City of Charlottetown and the Charlottetown Tourism Accommodation levy.

For a detailed schedule of performances visit http://www.islandfringe.com or pick up a Fringe program, distributed at various locations in Charlottetown.

For more information contact:

Josh Coles – Communications Coordinator (902) 316-3030 josh@joshcoles.com

Sarah Segal-Lazar –  Festival Director  (514) 266-1931  islandfringe@gmail.com

2015 Island Fringe Festival May Contain Adult Themes: Viewer Discretion is Advised

Pre-FRINGE Binge!

The 2015 Island FRINGE Festival may be two weeks away, but the party’s already started!

Before the shows get under way, we’re hosting fantastic events leading up to August 6!

Fringe CRAWL! (An Island Fringe FUNdraiser) Saturday, July 25th / 7:30pm
The Island Fringe Festival is all grown up and is heading off to college! Join us on July 25th for Fringe Frosh, the sequel to Fringe Prom. The night begins at 7:30pm with a Fringe CRAWL (and free ice cream!) Participants make their way around the city, stopping at Friends-of-the-Fringe establishments along the way, with drink specials and pop-up Fringe events at every venue. The night culminates at The Haviland Club at 10pm with a dance party like only the Fringe can do.

$10 admission (and a free t-shirt!) To sign up for the Crawl, go to http://bit.ly/1O4Iim5

Not the crawling type? Just head to the Haviland for 10pm and party like you’re a Freshman!

SCRIBBLER SKELETONS: Shameless Readings of Childhood Writing 
Wednesday, August 5th / 8pm/ Marc’s Lounge
Come laugh (and cringe) with the FRINGE, featuring some well-known Islanders reading the hilarious, ridiculous, and angst-ridden writing from their childhood years. Expect everything from love notes to bad poetry, silly stories to diary entries… and a whole lot more!

Want to read something of your own? Sign up at http://bit.ly/1NLhHufAnd make sure to check out the entire 2015 Island Fringe Festival line-up! www.islandfringe.com

Once You’ve Found It – Overcoming the darkness within ourselves.

Once You’ve Found It is an original exploration of the self. Bruce, our hero, has been thrown into the darkest parts of himself and must find a way to happiness. With the help of the memory of his grandmother, Bruce traverses through different realities to overcome his strongest adversary, himself.

Through the use of mask, puppetry, and media we are brought into the inner reality of the hero giving greater insight as to why he cannot be open with his new found love. Though he endeavours to find the courage to admit his emotions, his rival relishes his struggle and works to keep him in the dark.

This is Reverie Theatre’s debut feature production. Founder, Donovan Jackson, started the company out of the need to create works that reflected his own nature in daydreaming and being in multiple realities. Kevin Kashani, director, is debuting his skills in direction and adding his outside eye to establishing the different worlds.

http://www.facebook.com/reverietheatre

The Kirk of St. James (35 Fitzroy St.)  August 68:00pm, 77:00pm, 85:00pm, & 97:00pm Tickets: $10

Ch’An Press Presents AN INCOMPLETE (SEX) EDUCATION

The Culinary Institute, 4 Sydney Street on August 6th @ 8pm, 7th @ 5pm, 8th @ 8pm,& 9th @ 4pm Tickets: by donation

Info: http://www.islandfringe.com/ & http://ch-anpress.com

UNIQUE STORYTELLING EXPERIENCE WITH ART OBJECTS & EROTIC DESSERT

Ch’An Press presents An Incomplete (Sex) Education, running at The Culinary Institute in the 2015 Island Fringe Festival. This show, written and performed by Irene Chan is a unique storytelling experience of five short humorous stories of her early experience of sex education. These stories are accompanied with striking visual handmade sculptural objects: a knitted garden; a flat leaf that becomes a flower, that is worn as a skirt and is a form of book arts; and erotic dessert that is served to the audience. Ms. Chan is a first generation Chinese American and these stories tell of her attempting to learn about American culture all while having first “lessons” of sexual politics when she was six to twelve in the 1970s San Francisco Public School system.

Irene Chan, Ch’an Press is a multidisciplinary artist who makes and integrates her own objects and book arts into her performances. She creates work that is process, experience, and identity in print media and works with printmaking, papermaking, photography, book arts, installation art with performance. Her artist books and works on paper have been exhibited internationally and held in 70 public collections. Ms. Chan, through Ch’An (ch’ ahn) Press has self-published prints and 30 limited-edition artist books to date. She is the recipient of grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Arts Council, Maryland State Arts Council, Washington D.C. Commission of the Arts and Humanities, fellowships to 13 artist residencies, and has exhibited and performed in 76 venues in the last ten years. Irene Chan is an Associate Professor in the departments of Visual Arts and Asian Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA.

An Incomplete (Sex) Education is a unique storytelling experience. Short humorous stories are told about one woman’s early experience of sex education. Come travel back in time with her and hear personal first lessons of sexual politics when she was six to twelve. Along the way, feast your eyes on a garden of delights pollinating as a leaf grows into a flower, a skirt, and a book all while nibbling on erotic dessert. “Visually striking, performative, funny, and well crafted…Irene Chan brings her skills as a multimodal conceptual artist to bear in this multi-sensory experience…” EdgeMediaNetwork, Atlanta. For adult audiences. Ticket price: donation. More information at http://www.islandfringe.com.

%d bloggers like this: