Fringe Picks: Part 3

11 Jul

Liza Live! Full disclosure: Jennifer Walls, the performer playing Liza Minnelli in this production also appears in another production affiliated with the editor of this website. Normally, we would try to avoid situations where a review may be tainted by personal interests, but we feel strongly enough about the charm and energy of this show – an opinion that was evidently shared by the audience (let’s call them an independent litmus test) – that we’ll make an exception. Walls does a wonderful impersonation, nailing the voice and mannerisms of the colourful and oft-caricatured songstress and daughter of Judy Garland. Even more remarkable, she manages to utterly humanize Minnelli (and her many vices) and still pack in a few toe tapping numbers in just over 50 minutes. There is definite room for this production to grow – brief lines like “I was told I would never walk again” beg to be expanded on.

You Won’t Be Here (Tomorrow) On paper, this drama about two disparate adult sisters who re-hash their personal history and uncover fresh secrets is very well-trodden theatrical territory, but that isn’t to say that this creative team don’t pull it off artfully and with great impact. James Fanizza’s realistic characters organically navigate the dense swath of melodrama he lays out for them, and director Carrie Adelstein’s choice to present the piece in a raw and authentically rundown loft space only heightens the grit factor. Cast members Karen Ivany and Julie Lemieux impress, delivering performances well above the Fringe standard.

I Hired a Contract Killer This adaptation of the 1990 film by Finnish auteur and cinephile favourite Aki Kaurismäki recreates the story of a working class man who, after being fired from his non-descript government job, decides to off himself with the assistance of a professional – a plan he regrets when he unexpectedly falls in love after the contract is signed. Director Bruce Pitkin does an admirable job of evoking a cinematic mood somewhere between ‘Film Noir’ and Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’ and uses the large and youthful ensemble to great effect as both narrators reciting screen direction, and as human set pieces – like a cab complete with windshield wipers. One of the few flaws: a charming but peculiar final note at stylistic odds with the rest of the piece.

Weaksauce In this earnest and achingly relatable one-man show, Sam Mullins (who some may remember from last year’s Tinfoil Dinosaur) tells the story of his first time falling in love – at the romantic hub that is hockey camp no less. Mullins is a natural performer and between his underdog-like quality and his friendly presence, he quickly has the audience completely along for the ride. Interspersed in his casual language are some great turns of phrase that leave one laughing much longer than expected. Weaksauce was a late addition to the Fringe and is not found in the print program, which is all the more reason to support this worthy show.

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