Fringe Festival Reviews #6 : Tango in the Dark, Leila Roils the Seas

two dancers Tango in the Dark. Fringe for All 2023. Photo Cindy Lopez.

Tango In the Dark

Forget Christmas in July. Tango in the Dark is Valentine’s Day in June! Erin and Alex (Alexander Richardson and Erin Scott-Kafadar) wed tango and ballet into a romantic spectacle of high lifts, high drama, and high elegance. There’s fire between them and unfailing trust too. Alex is slightly more subtle than Erin, whose feats of flexibility and skill are highlighted as she spins around him and is raised up or dipped. It’s a great generosity to share the stage in such a way that each piece delights the audience with what is most awe-invoking. I love their touches of humour and the film noir narrative of having them meet for a clandestine dance. The music highlights this hazy ambiance with Leonard Cohen’s Blue Raincoat, Edward Satie, and a jazz rendition of Fever. They even dance to a poem. Costume changes and shoe changes are quick, and each one brings a new variation to the theme, but the whole shows feels as if one has entered another world where dance is the language. This is the second time I’ve seen them perform and both times have felt like I’m getting away with something by seeing these talented dancers at the Fringe. Everyone in the audience knows this a class act is meant for a world tour in sell out halls.

Tango in the Dark is at La Chapelle on June 16 (20:30), 17 (18:00), and 18 (15:30). Tickets HERE.

Leila Roils the Seas

Leila has grown up in Canada, but her Buddhist grandmother’s long coma has brought her to Taiwan to say goodbye. While it isn’t culture shock, Leila’s Taiwanese family hold very different values, including how to handle grandma’s impending death. While Leila spends her days tending to her grandmother’s bed-bound body, her family goes about regular life which seems to entail a lot of vaping and drinking. Leila’s ally is the spirit of her grandmother who begs Leila to unplug the machinery so she can die and be reborn in the Western Paradise, a land of bliss beside the Buddha Amitabha. Leila, though, is western and she doesn’t buy into her grandmother’s belief system, especially requests not to cry at her death.

The excellent script is closely observed and nuanced enough to avoid any black and white treatment of differing belief systems, and how immigrants can find themselves pulled between them. At the same time, the belief systems themselves are not dogmatically presented, but humanly taken up and interpreted as living and flexible parts of life. It’s a careful and authentic treatment of a young woman’s challenge and her relationship to her family. What makes it especially strong is the humour and creativity. The grandmother is both a loving and strong willed persona, not at all like a stereotypical one-dimensional phantom spirit. I especially liked nods to cultural traditions like the Chinese opera style opening and the use of Qigong.

While there’s a few things to tweak, this glimpse into another person and culture’s experience with the end of life is touching and speaks to universals about family dynamics and love.

Leila Roils the Seas is at La Chapelle on June 15 (22:00), 16 (15:45), 17 (19:45), and 18 (12:15). Tickets HERE.

The Montreal Fringe Festival continues until June 18. Tickets for all shows available HERE.

Check out our list of Fringe Festival Picks and reviews of HeartBeast, Lungs, Personal/Universal, CaughtWho, Me?,  Field Zoology 101I Know You Are But What Am IExit 20:20, CivilizedLush WanderingsA Mystic’s Journey, and Tales of the Rise of the Fallen.

About Rachel Levine

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