Fringe Festival Reviews #3: A Perfect Picture, Bizarro Obscure, Messy Bitch, and more

BIzarro Obscure. Photo Rachel Levine BIzarro Obscure. Photo Rachel Levine

A Perfect Picture

A Perfect Picture. Fringe For All 2016. Photo Rachel Levine

A Perfect Picture. Fringe For All 2016. Photo Rachel Levine

The picture of a vulture about to prey on a starving baby in the Sudan in 1993, raises all kinds of moral questions. The play which examines the life of Kevin Carter, the Pulitzer prize-winning photographer, stashed these questions somewhere in the background. Laurent McCuaig-Pitre has found a very compelling subject, and he is a really fine actor, the problem is that he has left everything in the script, often including (and this is a playwriting “NO NO”) a telephone conversation with his mother about her domestic activities. The issues that photojournalists (and all other journalists face), is what are they willing to sacrifice in order to get the story. War correspondents are in particular jeopardy, because they may be “shooting” the bodies which have just been shot dead, instead of saving a life. Where does professional compulsion end and humanity take over? These are dramatic and compelling issues, and the playwright did skim over them, but his obsession with Carter’s best friend who dies in the field, and his conversations with voices off stage (another OH NO!) distracted from what was potentially a really fine piece of the theatre. Len Richman chose to direct this play all on one level which was easy, but visually monotonous. The vulture might have been perched of a table or stool and been much more visually compelling. There were some truly fine moments in the acting and one wished there had been a stronger dramaturgic hand guiding the script. One can choose not to leave things in the “kitchen sink” and instead “to kill ones darlings” — about forty minutes worth of darlings. If you have the time, this is still an interesting play at the Fringe. — Anna Fuerstenberg

A Perfect Picture is at the MAI (3680 Jeanne Mance). $12/10. June 13 @ 18, June 14 @ 23:30, June 17 @ 21:45, June 18 @ 16:30. Tickets HERE.

Messy Bitch

Jessica Rae in Messy Bitch. Fringe For All 2016. Photo Rachel Levine

Jessica Rae in Messy Bitch. Fringe For All 2016. Photo Rachel Levine

Good girls who say yes to everything eld up miserable. What kind of things do good girls end up doing? Cooking for the entire extended family including a grandma with gout and making sure to cater to those with gluten-free options. Enduring unwanted microaggressions when out and about for that dance and drink that goes all night. Jessica Rae’s Messy Bitch is more than just about reclaiming one’s space, identity, and right to exist, it’s about doing it with ravishing desire. Rae goes from an opening monologue identifying the problems of not being a bitch, to several vignettes in which she increasingly embraces her bitchiness. I greatly enjoyed this show, though it was far too short and could have mined this topic even deeper. I’d like to see more of that bitchiness in action. The uncomfortable first-night audience wanted so badly to laugh at the well written script, but weren’t ready to embrace the message. Bitchiness takes time. — Rachel Levine

Messy Bitch is at MAI/Black Theatre Workshop (3680 Jeanne Mance). $10. June 11 @ 16, June 13 @ 19:45. June 15 @ 23, June 17 @ 23:59, June 18 @ 16:15, and June 19 @ 22. Tickets HERE.

Bizarro Obscure

BIzarro Obscure. Photo Rachel Levine

BIzarro Obscure. Photo Rachel Levine

A lost wallet threw my Fringe schedule out of whack and I ended up at this piece by pure chance. I was double lucky — got my wallet back thanks to the good people of Montreal and the pleasure of seeing these two talented ladies on a heroic adventure. Jujube is assigned the task of being an “Elijah” to 10 year old Daniel who loves to dance and must avoid becoming a lost soul. Daniel made the “mistake” of dancing to Lady Gaga better than she can (and wow can he dance!). He has since become targeted and shunned by his classmates. Jujube convinces best friend/co-performer Janis to join her on an inter-dimensional journey that puts them in contact with a collection of strageoids who have embraced being themselves. While the plot wasn’t all that tight, each character met along the way was lovable, especially the two main characters. I kept waiting for them to become to saccharine, and each time, they pulled away from that gooey edge at the right moment with the right line. Bizarro Obscure has a highly imaginative script with enough self-awareness of its own flaws not to take itself too seriously. The great singing, absolute spot on timing, considered costume scheme, and charismatic performers elevate this quirky show. It’s the kind of show that the Fringe is made for. Though, I wonder if it is still too soon to recreate Beetlejuice’s most famous dance number? — Rachel Levine

Bizarro Obscure is at Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur E). $12/11. June 11 @ 21:45, June 12 @ 14:15, June 15 @ 23:15, June 16 @ 16:30, June 17 @ 20. Tickets HERE.

Sexpectations

Sexpectations. Maxine Segalowitz. Photo Rachel Levine

Sexpectations. Maxine Segalowitz. Photo Rachel Levine

Short n’ sweet, my current favorite performance artist Maxime Segalowitz “Molly Scallywag” uses dance and mixed media to explore the idea of sexual expectations. I think. This is art, so interpret at will. To my mind, the unifying feature is the utilization of words, movements, clothes, and make-up, which Segalowitz turns into tools for a deconstruction of hyper-sexuality. For example, platform stilettos that only have a place in a pole dancer’s wardrobe and a voiceover of a woman promising she’ll make the fantasy happen are props in a movement piece where Segalowtiz stumbles about the floor in splits and ankle bending steps, unable to stand. The organization of the work goes from the most sexual and least intimate to the least sexual and most intimate, with Segalowitz breaking the final barrier — conversation. I’ve seen variations of a few of these pieces in other venues before, so this provided me a chance to see the evolution or just reinterpretation of Segalowitz’ work. Overall, Sexpectations might be a little bit out there for some — and not because it is risqué, but because it is not literal. To those who like abstraction and enjoy seeing how contemporary dance is less about form and more about expression, this is going to be a chance to relive that three-day art party in a Berlin squat that you so badly want to remember. — Rachel Levine

Sexpectations plays at Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur E.). $12/10. June 12 @ 17:45, June 14 @ 22, June 17 @ 23:30, June 18 @ 16, June 19 @ 19. Tickets HERE.

Does Not Play Well With Others

I’m still thinking about this one, having seen its opening in the coveted 12 a.m. slot. Two beloved puppeteers of the Fringe circuit (Adam Francis Proulx and Kira Hall) join forces for a two-hander about a Canadian children’s television show upended by a sex scandal. The two are the life force behind Bae (Proulx) and Oomph (Hall), a beloved puppetry act that has enjoyed five years complimenting Mr. Kegelschitz’ children’s program. On screen, the puppets mesh, off-screen the puppeteers don’t. Although I wouldn’t call them enemies or even frenemies, Proulx’ sarcastic, self-absorbed character grates against Hall’s neurotic, health-conscious, pill-popping Catherine. The stress of the scandal and its changes is of concern to the network and the two are made to spend time talking over Skype to a counselor who has them sock puppet their anxiety and anger at their offending colleague as well as each other. There are so many excellent things in this show. In terms of production values, Does Not Play Well with Others and the show within the show (Mr. Kegelschitz’ production, the channel surfing of news clips) is a polished, professional piece. It’s fascinating to see the off-stage lives of puppeteers, from techniques for warming up to the plague of wrist cramps and shoulder injuries. I love the glimpse into the experience of being a puppeteer — the physicality of acting with one’s voice, the love felt for the puppets themselves, the importance and scarcity of good paying work, the difficulty of being a comedian and a writer and a choreographer all at once. The show also explores the strain of being part of a duo after many years of daily collaboration and how to outsiders, the performer is not seen as an individual, but as a pair. Another significant point addressed is how the outside lives of those in children’s television is subject to extreme scrutiny; they are held to super-human standards at all times. With Jian Ghomeshi’s trial still fresh in mind, it is fascinating to see a representation of television performers impacted by scandal. I found myself wondering if the experiences depicted on stage matched the reality of people who worked at CBC. There is so much to unpack in this show without even mentioning the fine dialogue and the subtlety of acting about acting. That said, I also found the show harsher than necessary. First night jitters? I’m not sure. It’s a theory, but I think puppeteers feel the need to overcompensate for the cutesy associations of their art by being edgy and/or vulgar when given the chance (spot a reference to Bae and Oomph in Mr. Kegelschitz’ final monologue — it’s funny and not at the same time). I think the biggest problem is that the puppeteers aren’t the most likable of people — their flaws are fine, but they both need some warmth to make us care that the stakes of losing this gig isn’t just about two talented outlanders being out of work. — Rachel Levine

Does Not Play Well With Others is at the MAI (3680 Jeanne Mance). $12/10. June 12 @ 8 p.m., June 14 @ 18 p.m., June 16 @ 22:15, June 18 @ 1 p.m., June 19 @ 6:30 p.m. Tickets HERE.

The Montreal Fringe Festival continues until June 19. For information see HERE. 

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