A Woman’s Guide to Peeing Outside
2 stars / 5
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. With a title like this, the urge to let out a stream of potty puns is tough to hold back. May as well go with the flow.
In choosing this comedic vehicle (vessel?), Holly M. Brinkman at least gets marks for cheek.
She has also chosen a relatable hook. The friend who accompanied me to this show was intrigued, having memories of her time as a student in Sweden when it seemed everyone – male and female – thought nothing of using the alleys as urinals.
We had a few laughs and groans post-show swapping worst-moments-in-peeing stories. So you see, it’s a conversation-starter.
Brinkman’s show is part stand-up comedy, part story-telling. She intersperses coming-of-age tales from her life, of yearnings and heartbreak, with select readings from her guidebook. Who knew there could be so much technical complexity in tinkling?
Her boldest moment — involving an explicit diagram — drew the biggest laugh of the evening.
But on the whole, the show itself feels like the recommended garment in one of Brinkman’s how-to chapters — involving lots of contortions for little apparent purpose.
Yes, there are empowerment metaphors here. But the personal stories, while touching, are unremarkable. By the end, what little narrative momentum there had been seems to peter out.
Should you go? If you can’t resist the humour in being female and peeing outdoors. Then again, maybe hold out for something more compelling.
— Kathy Fitzpatrick
The Alice Principle
2 stars / 5
This mishmash of different children’s stories and fairytale elements starts off slow, and unfortunately never really rises to any great heights.
It’s a clever idea — Goldie (Goldilocks), Red (Little Red Riding Hood) and Alice (of the Wonderland variety) come together to tell a story about how they all meet and become friends. But that cleverness is simply not well executed. There isn’t a lot of chemistry between the main three actresses, and the delivery of lines felt stilted.
The cast does a good job of engaging with their target child audience, drawing them into the show at key moments to scare off wolves and bears. And credit to Madelin Abrey (Goldie) for at least trying to draw in the kids in the audience where she could. But if the biggest laughs during the 45-minute show came from the couple of fart jokes, that’s not a great sign.
Let’s be clear — there are moments of excellence that make themselves known throughout this show (Hangry the eighth dwarf is just plain funny). But those moments feel lost in a play that can’t decide on a moral or a clear direction.
The cast had to work very, very hard for the laughs that it got. It’s a fine show for kids, and your children will probably enjoy what they see. Just be aware there are probably better options out along Broadway to occupy the little ones.
— Matt Olson
The Romeo Project
4 stars / 5
The Romeo Project proves that at the Fringe, bigger can equate to better — because that 18-person cast is one of the biggest in recent memory on a Fringe stage, but also one of the best.
A group of ne’er-do-well kids in high school learning about Romeo and Juliet as a class sets the stage for moments of knee-slapping high school hijinks and jaw-dropping drama. The staging was exceptional — the desks made for a plethora of malleable set pieces — and the large cast flowed seamlessly from jaded high school students to famous characters in Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy.
The blending of high school and fair Verona is handled magnificently, and the lines blur back and forth with a deft wit throughout the show. And it was the acting that elevates this from just another Fringe show to brilliant theatre: Peace Akintade’s Tybalt and Neil Visvanathan’s Mercutio were stellar, and Kylen Rioux was a magnificent Romeo. But Paige Francoeur stole the show with a powerful, heart-wrenching portrayal of Juliet that belonged on a much larger stage than the Fringe offers.
No show is perfect, and it has to be noted that some of the most spectacular moments came in the performances of Shakespeare’s writing instead of the original material. It’s longer than the listed 70-minute run time, and the longer the show runs the more Shakespeare and less high school it becomes.
But the acting is so spectacular you won’t notice the time fly by.
— Matt Olson
Imagination Station: The Watermelon of Despair
3 stars / 5
The Watermelon of Despair is a feel-good show intended to instill self-confidence in kids. The plot is sometimes a little tough to follow; a boy is upset after breaking his father’s special plate while washing the dishes, and another character unleashes an evil watermelon on a spaceship and its crew. Exactly how those things are connected remains unclear to me.
Although the script could be tighter and the acting could be more polished, the handful of children in attendance on Friday afternoon didn’t seem to mind. They laughed throughout the play, appearing to truly enjoy the moments of audience participation. The wicked watermelon puppet was also a fun highlight, as were the two cute puppets with wings, pink and green hair and huge eyes.
This show is intended for young children, but there are messages that will resonate with adults. The dialogue dives into emotions such as anger and fear and, of course, despair, and the six cast members encourage kids to deal with their feelings in healthy ways. Audience members were even asked to throw small pompoms in the venue; this represented letting go of one’s problems.
The overall theme is that while we all make mistakes, we should still believe in ourselves. “I can do it” is a repeated phrase. No matter your age, you will leave the Fringe with a bit more spring in your step after watching this earnest, uplifting play about doing — and feeling — good.
— Shannon Boklaschuk
4 stars / 5
It’s Complicated is a cleverly written, well-acted show that uses satire to examine norms, traditions and stereotypes, prompting audience members to reflect on the society we live in, what we value and how we relate to other people.
Through a series of vignettes, the four cast members — Andrew Fosseneuve, Kyla Bettin, Cathrine Shorkey and Angie Fehr — tackle contemporary topics, including gender relations, political correctness, the right to have control over one’s own body, and the state of the news industry and the medical system.
The show has many funny moments, but the writers often use humour as a tool to dig toward deeper meaning. Most people will find at least some of the material relevant; as a mom of two, I couldn’t help but wince during a scene when an eloquent job seeker, who is also a mother, is passed over for a much less qualified, but childless, applicant. When the mother becomes justifiably upset, her emotions are dismissed as “hormones.”
The writers of this play — Sage H. Dent, Kaylyn Bull and Julia Macpherson — should be commended for creating a script that is engaging, smart, thought-provoking and funny. That is not an easy feat. To me, the show felt shorter than its 50-ish minutes — and that’s a good thing.
So, with all that is wrong in the world, is there any hope left? Has everything gone wrong? Should we even look for anything good out there? The answers, of course, are complicated.
— Shannon Boklaschuk
Monica vs. the Internet: Tales of a Social Justice Warrior
5 stars / 5
Monica Ogden does not want to be called brave.
She is honest, frank and shares the experiences of three-generations of women in her family. She’s been to hell and back, survived physical abuse, harassment by trolls in the comment section of her YouTube channel, lives with chronic pain and endometriosis.
Ogden is of Filipino and English ancestry and a second-generation Canadian, who as with her mother before her, was subjected to bigotry by other kids at school. Her storytelling is captivating and at times brings in some humour.
Against the backdrop of selections of the demeaning comments she’s received, she speaks about the inter-generational trauma that her grandmother, mother and herself have experienced, in real life.
This is a show to be watched this is an opportunity to hear a voice that is often not heard in the mainstream. Hearing Monica’s voice speak her truth was well worth it.
— Thia James
4 stars / 5
Fourteen-year-old Frida arrives in Saskatchewan with her family, political refugees from Venezuela. It turns out they bring a lot of baggage, not just the suitcase Frida pulls when she first walks on stage.
Playwright and actor Yulissa Campos packs a lot into an hour. As Frida navigates her passage into womanhood, she must also find her way through a complicated maze of issues — some expected, others darker and more obscure.
Layered on all of this are Frida’s struggles for self-acceptance. A twist of fate leads her to connect in spirit with the revered Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, who becomes young Frida’s inspiration and guide.
Campos tells this complex and moving story through the deft use of screen-projected images, sound and a few cleverly chosen stage props. She moves seamlessly and convincingly from humour to pathos.
The only flaws in this well-crafted show have to do with dialogue and delivery. Campos weaves in several lines spoken in Spanish, which is fine in creating character and context, but this device may have been overused, leaving the audience struggling to keep up.
And although her rapid pace of speaking is also part of who Frida is, it makes it hard to catch everything that’s said. She could slow it down a tad.
Still, this is a deeply relevant story, told with passion and artistry. A multiplicity of people are bound to see themselves in Campos’ characters — and not just the newly arrived to this country.
— Kathy Fitzpatrick
Rabbit Stew: Uncensored
3 stars / 5
Let’s be totally clear about one thing: Ben Price is a consummate performer.
And his combination show of magic and “sideshow” — practical tricks and stunts — was terribly entertaining. Considering he remained terribly entertaining while in a full suit in the ungodly-hot Grace Westminster Church (pun intended) during one of the warmest days of the year and in front of a small audience is no small feat.
Price’s tricks in Rabbit Stew were all well-executed, and he did a great job adding humour and drawing in the crowd. But as good as his execution was, there wasn’t anything shockingly new in this routine. There were not any tricks that were particularly unique (though his little Instagram stunt was very nicely done) — what is unique for Price is his easygoing charisma.
As far as magic shows go, there was plenty to like — there were a lot of tricks that received gasps from the audience. If you’re a fan of this kind of entertainment, you won’t be disappointed by what you see. You may, however, be wishing for something more as you leave the venue.
All things told, it’s a strongly entertaining way to spend an hour out at the Fringe, and Price’s wit is worth the price of admission.
— Matt Olson
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