Being at Home with Claude
Being at Home with Claude follows an investigator’s interrogation of a young, male prostitute in Montreal after he turns himself in for murder. The investigator (Lorne Hiro) is typically hardboiled, and Hiro’s portrayal of the stereotype often leaves something to be desired. But while his physical acting is terrific, what should be his most torrential moments fall flat, and come off as overly-rehearsed and forced. The play’s redeeming factor is Yves, the murderer (Ryan Fisher) who steals the show with his exquisite performance. His quiet cockiness, authentic expressions and dynamism set him apart, and he ends the show with a strong closing monologue. AC
Big in Germany
In Big in Germany, two best friends strive for musical fame and after finding popularity in Germany, struggle to do the same in Canada. The lead characters (Michael Young and playwright Rob Slaerno) are both charismatic and enigmatic, and their boisterous humour is infectious as they navigate fame and, startlingly, the porn industry. Brad Hampton, as the director of a porn company, is surprisingly hilarious. Though completely outrageous, he is also completely impossible to resist. Many of these jokes would be lost on anyone not familiar with Torontonian or Canadian culture, that poke fun at George Brown, Etobicoke, and a particular film entitled “Debbie Does the Danforth.” While Salerno wove the topic of homosexuality into the play, it often came off awkwardly. Despite this, the story had a moving, yet still comedic, and surefire audience pleasing ending. AC
The Carnegie Hall Show!
The Carnegie Hall Show! doesn’t deserve the exclamation mark at the end of its title. This cringe-worthy attempt at satirical improv does elicit a few relief-induced laughs, but largely just confounds a bitterly awkward audience.
What the comedy lacks in wit and technical prowess, it makes up for in self-deprecation. The show is fraught with moments of agonizing silence in which the comedy troupe, featuring Matt Baram, Naomi Snieckus, Ron Pederson, and Chris Gibbs, stare at each other blankly while making snide comments about one another to the audience.
From its crudely unfunny musical acts to its celebration of pancakes (the audience’s thematic choice of the evening) the show is reminiscent of a group of unpopular teenagers making‘tea-bagging’ jokes in the high school’s talent show in an attempt to warrant some attention from neglectful parents. While each performer is vaguely charismatic in their own right, (with the exception, perhaps, of the robot-like Naomi Snieckus) the show’s disjointed and confusing comedy suffers from a breakdown of communication between performers, and is filled with awkward silences, nervous babbling and ill-advised off-colour jokes. EK
Evelyn Reese’s Walking Tour
How strange to be confronted by Evelyn Reese (Susan Fischer) in the Honest Ed’s alley. Dressed in thrift-store business casual, with grotesque makeup, and a cigarette smeared with lipstick, she is such an extreme depiction of a certain kind of middle-age self-delusion and the absence of a fourth-wall takes a little getting used to. Ostensibly an Annex sightseeing expedition, Reese’s tour really becomes a series of rambling anecdotes about failed marriages and relationships – many of which were with closeted “poofters.” Not all of Fischer/Reese’s one-liners are exactly fresh (“I think Gordon Lightfoot is our greatest natural resource”), but Fischer is impressively committed to her character, quick with hecklers and very funny when striking up conversations with bemused passers-by. The unpredictability of where, exactly, Reese is going to take the audience gives the show a real charge, and the startled reactions of Annex coffee-shop patrons are at least as funny as the show itself. WS
Evelyn Reese’s Walking Tour accommodates fifteen audience members. The Getaway, which is set almost entirely in a van with a brief stop at Tim Horton’s, accommodates five. The line between spectator and participant in shows like these is so blurred that perhaps they qualify as an entirely different art form. Audience members who arrive early enough to score one of The Getaway’s limited number of tickets play the hostages of two bickering lovers who have just ineptly attempted to rob the Fringe Festival. A show this intimate faces the almost impossible challenge of realism, but Denise Mader and Bruce Hunter are good enough actors to pull it off (even if Mader’s insane aspiring actress is a tad heavy-handed), and the story is impressively choreographed to develop around the city. This is a funny and entertaining show, but conventional criticism seems hardly applicable: it is, first and foremost, an experience. WS
Chris Craddock, the writer and performer of Public Speaking delivers a nearly seamless one-man performance, transitioning from a homeless giant, a Chinatown gangster, a hard-boiled cop, a sex-addicted rich girl and a motivational speaker with ease and meticulously understated choreography. Set only with a double-sided chair and well-executed lighting cues, the minimalistic show relies heavily on Craddock’s charisma.
Luckily, Craddock is mesmerizing. The show begins with Craddock posing as a motivational speaker addressing the audience, and through a disjointed series of monologues he creates a compelling character study and crime drama in a matter of minutes. The characters ride on the edge of caricature, but Craddock’s unrelenting energy and commanding stage presence is both surprising and moving. Craddock plays with emotional subtly and a masterfully layered plot, executing a rare ability to never demonize a character in what could be considered a simple crime drama. EK