Fringe Festival Capsule Reviews

Montreal Fringe Festival 2017. Cafe Campus. Photo Rachel Levine CarMa. Pu Pu Platter Productions Montreal Fringe Festival 2017. Cafe Campus. Photo Rachel Levine

Things Drugs Taught Me

Nisha Coleman and Jeff Gandell are not-misses in the storytelling scene. They are also not-misses performing together. The two of them swap stories about a subject that is usually best summed up as “you had to be there.” In their competent hands, though, “being there” is not necessary, but you will probably wish you were. None of their adventures with recreational pharmaceuticals are of the Harold and Kumar variety, but they do get kicked off trains and participate in McGill medical studies. The learning experiences are not moralizing, but personal a-ha moments about what matters. There is a common thread that coming-down is hard. The structure of this show with its smooth story-swaps and the way each plays different characters in the other’s stories is perfection.

Give Things Drug Taught Me a try at Mission Santa Cruz (60 Rachel W) on June 13 (18:00), 14 (21:45), 16 (19:30), 17 (23:00), and 18 (19:00).


Johanna Nutter could sneeze and I’d check out the show. This creative, talented lady presents a work-in-progress, Oscar, about the short stories of Oscar Wilde. Wilde is about as gruesome and gloomy as the Grimm Brothers when it comes to princes, talking animals, matchstick girls, and death. Nutter brings the stories to life with flea market props and costumes as she recites several in story-telling hour for adults. She makes great use of the space and gets the audience in on things. Don’t get too attached to the chairs! Never one to shy away from her family, she gets her mother in on the act as a co-storyteller. Nutter is magnetic, but the show doesn’t yet feel cohesive with an opening that seems like the start of an entirely different production.

Oscar is at the Espace Freestanding Room (4324 ST. Laurent #300) on June 10 (23:00), 11 (17:00), 14 (23:00), 16 (21:00), and 17 (23:00).

Illustrated Lady

The hype is real. Sophie Post Croteau tattoos herself onstage using a drawing from the audience. I saw her get a cheese. What will you see? In this one-woman storytelling show, Croteau explains the background stories behind some of her tattoos and also her fascination with tattoos more generally. She challenges common assumptions about being a tattooed lady, especially the idea that there is some kind of deep psychological problem behind them. Just like a cigar, sometimes a tattoo is just a tattoo. She also talks about how some tattoos come to take on new meaning over time, such as why keeping the name of an ex on your body can be empowering. The show is very intimate, but never inappropriate. Croteau manages to be both illusive and revealing at the same time, which is quite the feat.

Draw your own conclusions about Illustrated Lady at Pompette (4128 St Laurent) on June 10 (21:00), 16 (23:00), 17 (19:00), and 18 (12:00).

CarMa: A Road-Trip to the Other Side of Reason

A neurotic but hippy-dippy mother, Candida, takes her two children on a cross-country car trip through a snowstorm to see her sick and possibly dying mother. Daughter Vistachiara offers sarcasm and teenage angst. Velato, the son, is goofily good natured. They encounter a hotel clerk with a laughing problem, and of course, Candida’s strange family — sisters Gonaregan, the self-identified doctor and dog-obsessed Cordeligi, who are in a “fight” over Moribonda’s property. There is some serious acting chops in the cast — Leigh Ann Taylor (Candida) and Tamara Richards (Goneregan) are well-established and they provide some of the most commendable aspects of this production with their grasp of how to make things comedic. The overall production is fairly uneven, as the script itself doesn’t know whether to be sweet or sarcastic, comedy or drama. Some of the jokes are super, like Moribunda announcing “There’s always a tunnel at the end of the light,” but other times they just seem out-of-place. The characters are partially named for King Lear’s daughters (Cordelia, Regan, Goneril), but also sound uncomfortably like venereal diseases (Candida, Gonorrhea).

Catch CarMa at Mission Santa Cruz (60 Rachel W) on June 12 (22:00), 14 (19:00), 16 (23:30), 17 (18:15), and 18 (20:45).

Leave the Therapy Take the Cannoli

An ensemble cast offers this comedy in which a restauranteur, Vittorio, and his family go to a therapist to resolve the problem of passing the family business onto the next generation. Vittorio has spent 40 years without a vacation building up a successful business. His son Sal and his French Canadian wife, Janet, are ready to put more of themselves into the business instead of having children. Meanwhile, the other brother just wants his parents to support his acting career, creating Vampire Julius Caesar. The therapist uses popular techniques like I-statements and role playing. Lots of ethnic humour, some of it obvious, some of it handled well. The script is somewhat redundant and predictable for a play whose theme comes from the  juxtaposition between what is expected and what actually is.

Check your head at Leave the Therapy, Take the Cannoli at Mission Santa Cruz (60 Rachel W) on June 13 (19:45), 15 (21:30), 16 (18:00), 17 (21:30), and 18 (15:45).

About Rachel Levine

Rachel Levine is the big cheese around here. Contact: Website | More Posts