How do you decide? Dartboard? Oracles? Names you know? Names you don’t? Word of mouth? Pick one place and watch everything there and then move on? Follow the herd? Avoid the herd? Meticulous scheduling (there are those who manage to get to every show)? Random accident?
With 22 venues and over 8 shows in each, the Fringe Festival easily offers over 150 different production over a less than two week period. It ain’t easy to pick.
The opening party/launch Fringe for All provides a two minute sampler of the shows, but it runs long and it’s only locals who get the chance to make their pitch. On better nights, I make it to the end. Not this one. I made it to intermission and abandoned my co-reviewer Lyla McQueen Shah to carry on without me.
After watching many Fringes, I have my favorites, the ones who have a show every festival and never/rarely disappoint. There are shows I am partial to and shows that will never connect with me no matter how good their content. Some shows it depends on the day. I am always deeply impressed by newcomers who embody the essence of the event in all its amoebic presence. There is no way to know who or what will be the talk of the Fringe, the show that surprised everyone with its pathos, its humour, its absurdity, its sheer Fringe-iness.
Fringe is a state of mind.
On that note, here are ten picks of what I recommend you see. Before that, though, I am going to mention the ones that everyone will recommend you see. I don’t really see the point in pointing out what you already know. Jon Bennett: Aussie Rules (Playing with Men) is a one-man and a power-point whose shows get better with every reincarnation. Aussie Rules was here in Montreal and it’ll be worth seeing how it has evolved since (Petit Campus. Tickets HERE). Love and Pasties, Miss S. will be Holly Gauthier Frankel’s farewell to Miss Sugarpuss. Eight shows and a costume auction. You can read my interview with her HERE and see for yourself why this burlesque drama-noir will be one to catch (Theatre St Catherine, Tickets HERE). Captain Aurora II: A Superhero Musical Sequel conquered the Fringe last year with sold out show after sold out show. I waited hours only to be disappointed… TWICE (lesson learned, wait for the Centaur to pick these up in the off season). I finally saw the musical at the Centaur and it was fun and campy. Everyone is already buzzing about the sequel (La Chapelle, Tickets HERE). Finally, Star Trek the Discovery is the ultimate moment of fandom culture, an homage to the show that defined more or less what I think space should be like. Prime directives and all that stuff. The show is free (so tip the Fringe generously at this one) (La Chapelle,Tickets HERE)
Okay, on to the ones that may not be as obvious. And these are in no particular order.
The Mysteries of the Unseen World of the Clavis Argentum
You’ve heard of the Scottish play. This is the Latin-titled play. Based on H.P. Lovecraft, I’d be seeing this show even if my own lovely theatre critic Angela Potvin wasn’t in it, even if they didn’t have an excellent Fringe-For-All two-minute slot with a naked horned beast on stage and some guy die after starting to smoke, and even if it didn’t promise to combine burlesque, magic, and music. Weird might be the best word used to describe this creepy/horror mash, but I’m just psyched to see what this one looks like. Theatre St Catherine (264 St Catherine E). $10. Tickets HERE. Angela’s dispatches: #1, #2, #3, #4.
A Perfect Picture
A Perfect Picture was the ultimate in tease. It’s around 7:30 p.m. at the Fringe For All, and I’m hungry because I haven’t had dinner and that was a mistake. Laurent McCuaig-Pitre gets on stage wearing a hooded cape and flaps his arms. “I’m a vulture,” he says. Then he tells us that pizza delivery is coming. Delivery people walk through Cafe Campus, dropping boxes on the tables, and we’re told not to open them. Seriously, I am ready to dig in. I don’t care what this show is about, he won me over. Just say when. And then… we’re told to open up. Oh, screw that. It’s a few photocopies of a photograph of a starving African child and a vulture inside. This little ruse infuriated me, but it also got my attention. If the show matches the ingenuity of this stunt, you’ll be glad to see it. At the MAI (3680 Jeanne Mance). $10/8. Tickets HERE.
Nisha Coleman’s show didn’t make the actual Fringe publication, but thanks to a last minute drop out, she’s on with her one woman solo show. At the Fringe For All, Coleman removed layers of clothes about six times while pantomiming moments of her life before making the profound statement, “Is it better to be loved for who you are not than rejected for who you are.” I interviewed the author, street-performing violinist, actress HERE and could have asked her another few hours worth of questions. I’m sure her storytelling piece will be just as fascinating. At La Chapelle (3700 St Dominique). $10/8. Tickets HERE.
Sex-T-Rex will awe in whatever high energy show they undertake. The Wild West. Video Games. This time, it’s the apocalypse. Ever clever, ever creative, ever hysterical, I’m down for this one with bells on. They promise a story of a man and his dog who most overcome cannibals, mutants, and warlords on the quest for peace and a better life. I read The Road and I’ve seen Mad Max… I’m sure Sex-T-Rex’s version is funnier. At Theatre St. Catherine (264 St Catherine E). $10/12. Tickets HERE.
I didn’t catch Maxine “Molly Scallywag” Segalowitz at the Fringe For All, but anything this woman does is gold. Her face. Just her face alone is a vehicle for comedy. How do I know this? I saw a video of her at a Bouge d’Ici fundraiser which was an extreme close up. I have also seen her scream “Wow” and “Oh My God!” while doing downward dog in a pair of stripper heels. Describing it doesn’t do it justice. At Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur E). $12/10. Tickets HERE.
ATM The Musical
Alain Mercieca writes writes it. I’ll see it. There’s always the right blend of cynicism, social commentary, absurdity in his plays to capture contemporary life as it is felt, rather than how it might actually exist. Impressionism, I suppose, as opposed to realism. But, instead of Monet’s Water Lillies, imagine a sumo wrestler on a unicycle with Magic Carpet Ride playing. Something like that. At Theatre St. Catherine (264 St. Catherine). $10 . Tickets HERE.
Beavers. Canada’s beloved symbol. Beaver dams. Better construction than most buildings in Quebec. At the Fringe For All, these two ladies and their beaver puppets convinced me that this show is going to bring puppetry joy to your heart. At Montreal Improv Theatre (3697 St Laruent). $10/8. Tickets HERE.
Ready to feel slightly uncomfortable, perhaps prod your own definition of sexual ethics? If nerdfucker is anything like Cameryn Moore’s prior shows, it will be a brutally honest confessional that challenges and titilates. Moore has made sex positivity her life and lives her philosophy. This show promises to focus on how smart boys are not always nice boys. At Mainline Theatre (3997 St Laurent). $12. Tickets HERE.
Once upon a time I read a book, “Why Men Love Bitches,” and I’m quite sure that my friends and I were convinced of its veracity. I’m not sure how long we kept up our bitchiness, though. Some forever, others maybe not. Jessica Rae’s one woman show will teach you how to be a bitch. Among other pieces of advice offered, “I don’t want my eyelashes to flutter, I want them to flap.” She also had a giant cat face on stage with her. At Black Theatre Workshop Studio (3680 Jeanne Mance). $8. Tickets HERE.
Does Not Play Well With Others
Again, based on a prior show (Baker’s Dozen: 12 Angry Puppets), I’m convinced that Adam Francis’ Does Not Play Well With Others will be worth seeing. Then I realize that Kira Hall of Paleoncology is in this too. All around, I know this will be slick. The puppet comedy is about two public television puppeteers who go head-to-head when a network scandal rocks the network. At MAI (3680 Jeanne Mance). $10/12. Tickets HERE.
The Montreal Fringe Festival is on now. A few whows start at Off Fringe venues on May 31 and most start June 9 and continue to run until June 19. Tickets and info HERE.