2015 Fringe Picks: Part 3

8 Jul

It’s been an incredible festival so far and we are only half-way there! Here are yet more reviews of some top notch shows at this year’s Toronto Fringe!

 

God’s Beard! (The Only Sketch Show That Has Ever Happened)

Credit: Call Back Headshots

Credit: Call Back Headshots

Sketch troupe, Falcon Powder (comprised of Jim Annan, Scott Montgomery, and Kurt Smeaton), have been winning awards and wowing Toronto audiences for years – and now Fringe audiences finally have a chance to see what all the fuss is about. A sort of restructured ‘best-of’ of their material (I suspect the parenthetical in their title, ‘The Only Sketch Show That Has Ever Happened’, is an inside joke for their followers), God’s Beard is sketch at its best; tight writing, unique conceits, polished performances, palpable chemistry, clever blocking, smart and seamless transitions – it’s all there in spades. Unlike less seasoned troupes, Annan, Montgomery, and Smeaton all know and play off their hits well, making their characters particularly well-developed.

While Falcon Powder’s Second City origins are evident, there’s an edgier side to their material that is very much welcome. Their sketches range from chipper songs about the supernatural side-effect of having pals, to absurdist gems like a wordless bit about a trio of xylophonists and a theatre-of-the-mind scene about a plane waiting for take-off.

Those who have seen Falcon Powder before will have no problem thoroughly enjoying some material for the second time, and those who haven’t have an enormous comedic treat in store for them.

 

SwordPlay: A Play of Swords

julian_frid_seann_murray_julian_frid_kaitlin_morrow_conor_bradbury_josef_addlemanSketch/Theatre company extraordinaire, Sex-T-Rex, are back and adding to their canon of imaginative, inventive, visually arresting, and flat out hilarious homages to various tropes and genres. In past they’ve tackled sci-fi, action/adventure, and the western, and based on its title you’d be forgiven for assuming that their latest offering lampoons the blood-soaked world of Game of Thrones. There’s definitely some of that mixed in there, but in truth it is more of an ode to childhood fantasy and video games, with plenty of swashbuckling thrown in for good measure.

Performers Josef Addleman, Conor Bradbury, Julian Frid, Kaitlin Morrow, and Seann Murray each play a multitude of parts with grandiose aplomb, and director Alec Toller ensures that every gag and detail is communicated with precision and clarity.

Swordplay: A Play of Swords is a ripping yarn greatly enhanced by its creators’ almost supernatural ability to create vivid scenes in the mind’s eye using little more than some fabric and foam swords – and some poofy shirts. Not to be missed.

 

Capsule Reviews

We see a lot of excellent shows but don’t always have time to post full write-ups for everything worth catching. Here are some noteworthy Fringe offerings and our thoughts in brief:

 

Morro and Jasp do Puberty

Credit: Alex Nirta

Credit: Alex Nirta

These clown sisters played by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee (along with director Byron Laviolette) are Fringe legends (this is their ninth year at the festival) and with good reason. Their trademark chemistry, spontaneity, audience interaction, and hilarious personae are on full display in this remount of one of their greatest hits (although who’s kidding – they’ve never put on a bad show) in which the motley duo tackle the topics of menstruation, boys, sex, and awkward slow dances. If you’ve never seen Morro and Jasp before, do yourself a favour and get yourself a ticket.

Also worth noting: The duo are taking their show to the Edinburgh Fringe (not an inexpensive venture) and are crowd funding to help pay their way. Check out their Indiegogo campaign here.

 

A Man Walks into a Bar

Credit: Jon Roberts

Credit: Jon Roberts

Playwright (and co-performer) Rachel Blair’s taught and clever play starts with the telling of a joke set in a bar, but quickly evolves into a nuanced and challenging dialogue about gender and stereotypes that is guaranteed to generate conversation long after the curtain comes down. Even something as simple as a costume change manages to speak volumes.

Blair and fellow cast member Blue Bigwood-Mallin navigate the script adeptly and give affecting performances; their forced smiles eventually giving way to the true tension at the heart of the piece.

 

Lockeye & Pond in Death Killing Machine

lockjawjpg2050This piece could use a bit of tightening and perhaps a stronger directorial hand, but it’s nevertheless a delightfully goofy and unique take on the spy genre – think James Bond meets The Odd Couple. The talented cast, led by Reid Brackenbury and Eric Miinch, are clearly having a good time on stage, and that atmosphere of fun and improvisation certainly augments the audience experience.

 

My Big Fat German Puppet Show

frank-meschkuleit-compilation-shayne-grayFrank Meschkuleit’s one-man show is a remarkable feat of showmanship and puppet artistry. Meschkuleit’s plays the part of a deceptively voluminous Teutonic emcee/ringleader who draws the audience in with kindness and quirky philosophical tidbits but also keeps them at arm’s length with gentle barbs. His quick wit and prodding demeanour make him an endearing host and his presence alone would make for a worthy hour of entertainment.

But he is hardly alone; puppets ranging from a zombie magician diva to a famous physicist all make memorable musical appearances. The sheer detail of his handcrafted companions is remarkable and a testament to both his mastery and love of the craft. Magical stuff.

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