Tuesday, July 12, 2005

fringe festival halftime report

brought to you by Prudential - Get a Piece of the Rock
and EF Hutton - When EF Hutton Talks, People Listen

Three down, three to go in this year's sampling of the Fringe theatre fest. Let's cut to the chase, sports fans - here's the roundup so far, in alphabetical order:

(Eye ratings based on a scale of five stars, Now on five Ns)

Confessions of a Class Clown (**** eye, NNNN Now)
The Glen Morris has a reputation for being the kiln of Fringe venues. When I volunteered a few years ago, others shuddered whenever it was mentioned, thanking their lucky stars they didn't wind up there. Given how steamy it was last night, and hearing how others had their enjoyment of shows there this year damped by the heat, would it be worth it to check anything out?

This show was worth the sauna effect.

A one-man recounting of his experiences as a school cut-up, then his experiences seeing such behaviour crop up on provincial English exams he marked, it managed to be funny and thought-provoking. I think I went to school with kids who latched onto "the system" quickly, as I don't recall many clowns in my year beyond the early grades (exceptions I can think of were embarassing funny, such as the annual public dumping of one guy's desk or my general klutziness). I sympathized with the tale of a paper where, when asked to provide a rule of grammar, a student indicated the versatility of the f-word as noun, verb, adjective and split infinitive, recalling the elementary school IQ tests that I purposely mucked around with (resulting in a second quiz from the principal when my results were odder than expected...which could lead to a future entry on my brief, less-than-happy stint as a "gifted" student in grade 5).

Energetic, but not wildly over-the-top, a good storyteller than made the hour fly by. The heat didn't get in the way...besides, it was probably worse on the stage.

I think my sister would have appreciated this show and its underlying frustrations with education.

Hip Hop 4 Dummeez (*** eye, NNNN Now)
A show with high expectations going in, thanks to the performers' track record (Job: The Musical). Met up with Nile to catch this one, where we hung out with Jess, Mark and Megan under the beer tent. Mostly we waited for water, a hot commodity on a scorcher of a Sunday.

The first disc flew by in a hurry, with its "lessons" on hip-hop linguistics. I'm resisting the urge to add "iz" to every other word. Fall-off-your-chair funny. Packed house was roaring.

The second disc wasn't as strong - the laughs continued, but not as consistently, running off the rails with a slightly sappy ending. The subplot about joining a gang despite it not being part of the group's golden rules could have been milked in funnier directions than it was.

Other than those quibbles, I enjoyed it and strongly recommend the first half.

Afterwards, I wandered off in search of dinner, which wound up being the Sunday Constitutional (TM) standard of Korean. Ran into the beer tent crowd again and we caught the Late Night at the Fringe show, featuring an interview with a Slurpee.

Oz Recalled (** eye, NN Now)
Funny story about this one: got an e-mail from an old Arts Hausian last week, Jennifer, who was coming up to the city and had some spare time to catch a Fringe show. She suggested Oz Recalled, since one of the names attached to it was the same as a guy who lived on our floor first year. Not the case, which made it easier to pull out the knives on the weaknesses of this production.

On the plus side, Dorothy was a good singer, the Tin Man had a good grasp on his character and the choreography was a-ok (helped by hot dancers). On the minus side, the world did not need an excessively rambling psychoanalytic Scarecrow, the lyrics were blandly repetitive and the plot resolution was just there.

Over on the eye boards, there's a debate going on involving the writer's deeper intentions. Any uber-deep meaning in the script didn't come across onstage - all I walked away with was don't forget the good times in your past that mattered to you (by comparison, Class Clown had my noggin working most of the night).


Coming up, as soon as out photographer unloads his camera, the Fringe House o' Cards! - JB

PS - Leave your Fringe picks and pans in the comments section - regular contribs can e-mail me if you have longer thoughts that can be used for an entry!

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