Fringe Festival Reviews # 5

Falling Awake. Photo Rachel Levine Falling Awake. Photo Rachel Levine

Bushel and Peck

At the end of Bushel and Peck, the two performers explained that they had been having trouble coming up with an appropriate description of this show, and they challenged audience members to do so. Fill in the blank, they said; Bushel and Peck is about… It’s nigh impossible. Bushel and Peck is a complete original, but it’s not about being an original. Bushel and Peck is a love story, but it’s not about love. Bushel and Peck addresses what it means to be a performer, but it’s not about performance – nothing so snobbishly meta. Does anyone remember those Martians on Sesame Street who kept discovering earth objects? “Yip yip yip yip yip… Nope nope nope nope nope…” Bushel and Peck is kind of like that, but with an ooey gooey chemistry between the performers that is just gosh darn charming. It’s like watching kittens play… Weird, perplexing, alien, yet completely adorable and hypnotic. The physicality in this show is weird yet wondrous to watch. Stephanie Morin-Robert’s background in contemporary dance and Alastair Knowles’ clown training mesh beautifully, and these two performers are perfectly matched in talent and skill. Neither one drags behind, neither one has to compensate for the other; they hold the audience’s attention together, anchored totally in the moment. Bushel and Peck is a unique, skillful, indescribable, wonderful show. Theatre is a brutal and unfair occupation – you can have all the training and experience in the world, but in the end, what makes a truly excellent performer is a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, a kind of magic. With that magic, you can make a show that really, from a logical point of view, shouldn’t work, a masterpiece. Morin-Robert and Knowles have that magic. — Lyla McQueen Shah

Bushel and Peck is at La Chapelle (3700 Saint-Dominique). $12. June 14 @ 18, June 16 @ 14:15, June 17 @ 20:15. Tickets HERE.

Thunderfoot

Thunderfoot is Aaron Malkin’s (the James half of James and Jamesy) first solo show, directed by Chloe Ziner of Mind of a Snail. This Scandinavian folktale hits that mysterious point of the emotional spectrum where you find yourself wanting to laugh and cry at precisely the same time. Like any true folktale, it lingers long after the telling is done, as if it’s never not been there, as if it’s been floating around in the collective unconscious all along, and only needed a storyteller to draw it out. Malkin and Ziner’s combined talent and willingness to play and experiment has created a show that’s deceptively simple and uncannily familiar. Audience participation is a component of many Fringe shows, to the point that it often feels tacked on, simply because it’s what’s expected. In Thunderfoot, however, the audience is an integral part of the exchange. Malkin’s twinkling eyes draw the viewer in; he looks like he could burst into laughter at any moment at a private joke between the audience and him. Malkin’s physical performance is skillful and fascinating. He seems to grow and shrink according to the character, and his smooth, impenetrable features will suddenly rearrange into whatever mask is needed. The empty stage is equally changeable in his hands; it fills with landscapes, people, and animals as he paints the story with motion, using language only to give the characters their different voices. Thunderfoot is more than a show – it’s a magic trick, an invitation to play pretend. Like Malkin himself, it shifts, before your eyes, between the incredibly large – a piece of mythos that resonates in all the deep parts of the self, and the incredibly small – just a bauble to keep your inner child satisfied for a while. It’s definitely a must-see of this year’s Fringe lineup. — Lyla McQueen Shah

Thunderfoot is at La Chapelle (3700 Saint-Dominique). $12/10. June 14 @ 19:45, June 16 @ 16, June 17 @ 18:45. Tickets HERE.

Get Lost

Jem Rolls is a performance poet whose current show, Get Lost, is a spastic ode to humanity, travel, and learning through trial and error. Embrace your cluelessness! Throw yourself into situations where you can but embarrass yourself! Do stupid things! For, as Jem says, “What’s wonderful about stupid things is that very few of them have consequences.” Jem Rolls’ spoken word performance is eminently quotable – many of his witticisms could easily be slapped on a t-shirt – but also poetic. His erratic passion is infectious – as he tells you about his misadventures in one place after another and evokes gorgeous landscapes and filthy gutters with equal relish, you just want to jump up and go on an adventure with the same clueless approach as him. He can turn even the most embarrassing tourist faux-pas or dangerously stupid decision into pure inspiration. The frantic pace of his performance is both delightful and maddening. Anecdote after anecdote speeds by so you can barely keep up with where Jem is taking you next… Malaysia? Weren’t we talking about India? What’s this about a family in Liverpool? Even the shortest attention span will be kept entertained, and the hour flies by like nothing, but sometimes the audience is left scrambling to keep up. — Lyla McQueen Shah

Get Lost is at the MAI (3680 Jeanne-Mance). $12. June 15 @ 20:30, June 17 @ 17, June 18 @ 22:15. Tickets HERE.

Captain Aurora II : A Superhero Musical Sequel A New Dawn

Comic book musical with original characters like The Phantom, Fireball, Gloom & Doom, and Rock & Diamond. Sounds awesome, right? A federation of superheroes called the Sky Guard that fights against an invasive alien species called the Aroo that plots to take over the earth. Also pretty awesome sounding, right? The actors can sing, they can act, and the music is great, not to mention there are some really creative workarounds like two tables lit by led lights that transform them from giant electronic touch pads into doors. Another check mark for awesome, yeah? Captain Aurora II, A New Dawn, isn’t as awesome as I expect. It is a polished musical, but it suffers from an important problem: convoluted plot. The story starts well. Elements from the first installment are introduced including the Marvel-film-sized cast of characters along with their abilities. I find this well-handled. However, as the story moves forward, things go awry. There are a few moments — key moments — where the situation turns from good to bad, or bad to good, and I have no idea the cause of this reversal. Or, if I do, it is a fairly weak catalyst. Some tantalizing potential plots are mentioned. For example, Dawn’s leadership of the Sky Guard is at first questioned, but it is dismissed quickly. As interesting as all the supporting characters are, most of them feel underused, particularly on the side of the baddies. I suppose it is also true for the leads; Captain Aurora doesn’t have the same presence as she did. Is it the lack of signature twirl? Finally, everyone should be miked up; every word of this witty, campy script deserves to be heard. I had trouble catching some lines and I was close to the actors. There’s plenty of self-awareness of what this show is and isn’t written into the story, and it generates a feeling of good-will for all its flaws. To its credit, not only does Captain Aurora II have a big musical feel and raises the bar on production values, but it brings us a much needed ensemble production to what otherwise is a festival of one and two-person shows. If you don’t get one of the coveted tickets, don’t fret. It’ll (probably) make an appearance at the Wildside Festival in January. Oh, oh, oh, if I don’t call out about Kendall Savage’s incredible performance, I should have my soul sent to that in-between place. — Rachel Levine

Captain Aurora II is at La Chapelle (3700 St Dominique) on June 16 @ 19:45, June 18 @ 22, and June 19 @ 12. $12. Tickets HERE.

Falling Awake

Falling Awake. Photo Rachel Levine

Falling Awake. Photo Rachel Levine

Put this one on your must-see list. Nayana Fielkov and Matthew “Poki” McCorkle hold the audience spellbound with their enchanting piece of clowning, magic, mask, shadow puppetry, and circus arts. A well conceived set, costumes, and props give coherence to the vignettes, as do two unnamed but interconnected characters. We first see the lonely Fielkov asleep in bed. With a cleverness that persists throughout the piece, the bed is not set on four legs but stands upright with a sheet hung across her body on pegs and two pillows affixed. We can see her twist and turn, her face contort in her dreams. McCorkle arrives bundled in a jacket and scarf, fighting against the wind created by her snores. Is he a wake-up fairy? a ghost? a god? He sets off her alarm, buzzes on a kazoo to generate a mosquito, and plays a water whistle to create bird sounds. When at last Fielkov wakes and stumbles to her breakfast table, we find out that he is someone she believes dead. A lost love, surely, as her moment with the coat suggests. Oh, I say no more for fear of taking away the charms of this creative and inventive act. I commend them for interweaving different styles of performance beautifully. I never find myself saying, “Oh, this is their magic bit, this is their acrobatic bit,” as if the magic tricks and acrobatics are disjoined from the rest of the piece. Kudos to the imagination that dreamed this one up. — Rachel Levine

Falling Awake is at the Mission Santa Cruz (60 Rachel W). on June 15 @ 18:15, June 16 @ 19, June 17 @ 16:15, June 18 @ 19, June 19 at 15. $12. Tickets HERE.

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