Sunday, July 10, 2016

Really wrapping up the Fringe 2016

I sort of jumped the gun with that previous post, but I was probably thinking that there wasn't too much point in going on and on about how great the remaining shows were since there were so few tickets left.  But that still didn't give me a space to provide my response to the plays.  So I'll take that opportunity now.

As mentioned already, I wasn't that taken by Scenes from Plays I Never Wrote, though the driving concept behind it is good.  I will use my next post (or next, next post) to spend some time going over my core writing projects and pondering whether they "deserve" to be finished, and how much time I will then take trying to get them staged.  I have this crazy idea that I will explode out of nowhere with 4 or 5 plays ready to go.

I was quite disappointed that I couldn't get out to Arsenal Toronto easily, since that had been part of the plan.  However, there is no Kitchener GO service at all on weekends, and the replacement bus doesn't make the same stops.  So the alternative was to pay extra to take the UP Express or to leave work a bit early at some point this summer (the show was extended through Aug. 13, so I have time).  What kills me is that the GO train would take 10-15 minutes, but the TTC would be almost 40.  This is the reason that people don't really think about GO within Toronto itself.  It has been set up as an entirely suburban service, though the GO RER concept (perhaps with slightly lowered fares if Toronto foots part of the bill) could radically change the way people think about travel, particularly in Riverdale.  It might be like having our own Metra Electric Line.  At any rate, I'll go another time, and instead I stayed a bit longer at work and struggled with the terrible copy machine.

I left around 4:45 and headed up to Bloor and Bathurst.  I grabbed a piece of banana bread from the great bakery inside the TTC station (definitely worth checking out) and watched sympathetically as they dealt with a homeless guy trying to get some food, as well as the coffee they gave him.  I do not have the personality to deal with those kinds of requests, and it is just as well I do not have to be an urban merchant...

Even though they had taken rain out of the forecast this morning, it started raining, which didn't entirely surprise me, but it made it less fun to stand around, waiting for the Fringe Shed show (Let's Travel in Time).  I have never done a shed show, but it is pretty hilarious.  They pack 10-12 people into a shed and put on a show, which kind of takes intimate theatre to a whole 'nother level.  It's a hoot, and it's all over in 20 minutes, then they reset and do the show again.  There are 3 more shows today (Sun.) starting at 7.  The rain had slowed down considerably after the show, so I wandered down Bloor looking for a place to grab a very quick dinner.  This stretch of Bloor has turned to Korea Town, and I didn't really want Korean food, but I found a place that did Korean/Thai, though my entree was Buddha's Delight, and it looked like a Chinese dish, which was fine.

Anyway, I made it to the bar where Shakespeare Bash'D was doing Comedy of Errors.  I'm glad I got there a bit early, since the earlier you are, the closer you are to the action, though they do come out into the aisle and do some acting there.  The conceit is fairly clever.  The actors are in the midst of a post-show wrap party when all of a sudden a group of interlopers (us) turns up with tickets to an additional performance.  They have sent all the costumes back and the props.  They only have a door, and whatever costumes they can scrounge from the lost and found.  On top of that, two of the actors have ostensibly headed over to Tarragon to catch another Fringe show and have their phones off.  That means that the actors playing the twins Antipholus and Dromio play both parts, with only minor costume changes to tell them apart (like a blue or orange scarf).  This has been done by other companies, since there is only the moment at the very end when they are all on at the same time, and it worked out reasonably well.

I knew I had seen the actor who plays the captive who kicks off the play (and turns out to be the long-lost father), but it took me a few minutes to place him. He had the role of the middle aged man in Port Authority, which I saw back in March. While his role starts off a bit too loud and jokey (blokey?), he also has the lines that stuck with me the longest, about how he is talking to his wife about losing this job (which wasn't rightfully his in the first place) and his son comes over and starts playing with his ear, and he sort of wonders that he still has this affection from his family, at a point when he doesn't feel he deserves it at all.  (That's my gloss on it anyway.)  While I don't feel I have ever let my family down on those grounds, I still am astounded at how much affection my son sends my way (and I should cherish it more).

Anyway, it was quite a good production.  Compared to the High Park production last year it was just a bit more manic though there was less slapstick violence (a positive for me).  I was a bit less moved by Egeon and Emilia.  Not that they weren't in fact moving, but the High Park production felt a bit more "real."  Also, while Antipholus seducing his "sister-in-law" Luciana was pretty hot, it was amped up just a bit more in the High Park version, though I suspect this production cut a few of the lines.  They definitely cut out a few of the jokes around Dromio and his kitchen wench, for example.

All in all, it was a fine production, and there is one show left in the run tonight, though I suspect tickets are sold out, but there are supposed to be a few (10?) left at the door.

Tonight, I am off to see The Unending.  It's almost the end of the run, though there is a show at 7 and at 9:15.  The reviews have been positive (also here), so there are probably not going to be too many spare tickets.  But you never know.

It was a good Fringe for sure, and we'll see what next year brings.  Perhaps I will enter the lottery again, which would change the entire festival for me.  I'd probably have to take these two weeks as vacation much to the chagrin of my family.  I'll ponder these options and more in my post "Justify Your Production."

Update (7/10 9 pm)  I'm back from The Unending.  I enjoyed it, or rather was impressed by it, since all 3 pieces are fairly painful pieces about adultery and its consequences.  The Stringberg piece is particularly uncomfortable, since one woman does all the talking (first conciliatory and then accusatory) while the other reacts but silently.  She laughs one time but otherwise just sort of takes in what the other is saying.  This was another very small space, tighter than the basement of Campbell House, though bigger than the shed, fortunately.  They gave us shot glasses of lemonade, which was nice, though larger glasses would have been helpful, particularly to carry us through the next station (of the cross, as it were).

We then moved into a garage with 3 people suspended in a post-apocalpytic frieze to hear them do Beckett's Play.  I was actually reminded a bit of the way Fornes' 3 was done in a strange space last year, though in that case the costumes were from a bright yet shallow future, and it was Mud that felt grimy.  More than anything it reminded me of Not I done last year at Canadian stage, though I didn't care for their interpretation and thought it was reviewed far too leniently.  This was much, much better.  They ran through Play twice, slightly faster the second time, but the words could actually be understood.  It was hot, and the guy next to me had had enough.  He sort of slumped over in his seat.  I think he would have broken out of the garage had they done a third go-around.

We then moved into a truly lovely garden space (perhaps made of two people's backyards -- it was more along the lines of what I thought the Majlis Art Garden would look like).  They also fed us a bit of cake.  Then a woman appeared and started cleaning up from a birthday party.  Eventually another woman turned up, obviously uninvited, and the play started in earnest.  I quickly realized that this was the silent woman from the Strindberg play, and then after a closer look, I realized that the first woman was the one that had talked so much.  So this was quite the reversal, riffing off the Strindberg play in that the woman who had the affair was the one given so much voice.  And it reminded me of how relentlessly shallow this generation is (though I suppose the actors were just on the edge between Gen X and Gen Y).  There were a few modern twists (stalking people on Facebook, podcasts, open marriages, secret lesbianism), but this part of the play just didn't measure up to the Strindberg, which is basically what I expected from the beginning.  Still, it was a very good production as a whole.

What totally blew me away when I saw the program (handed out at the very end) is that the 3 actors were in all 3 parts.  So they must have been on bikes or something to beat us to each location and then put on the horrid makeup for the Beckett piece and then take it off and put back on a normal face for the final piece.  That was really quite amazing.  I have to give them a lot of credit.  So I'm definitely glad I caught that.

Anyway, it looks like they added one Founder's choice show for Bright Lights, but surprisingly it wasn't picked for Best of the Fringe.  (The two site specific plays weren't either, though that doesn't surprise me.)  For some reason the sketch comedy seems to have triumphed in Best of this year.  That basically covers Tonight's Cancelled and Everything Else is Sold Out and to a lesser extent Dance Animal: Toronto.  They did pick Churchill's Far Away, but I think I will pass on that.  I did consider going to Blind to Happiness, so there is a small chance I would check that out on the 22nd or 23rd, but probably not.  I think I am Fringe'd out for the summer.  Also, I find the trip up to North York a bit exhausting.

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