The 2014 Vancouver Fringe Festival opened on Thursday Sept 4th. This event features 91 artists in more than 800 performances of over 80 shows in 11 days on Granville Island in theatre spaces and other odd sites as well as various off-island venues such as The Cultch, Studio 16, Havana and the Firehall.

One of the great aspects of the Fringe Festival is that it draws in a broad spectrum of the community, from the committed year round theatre-goer to people just checking out theatre for the first time. In one line-up I chatted to a high school girl who wants to be an actor and her friend who had never been to see a play; a senior who volunteers at just about every play and festival that she can and another senior who has season tickets to theatre, opera and the symphony. I met people who have come to Vancouver specifically for the Fringe Festival and others who discovered accidentally while exploring Granville Island, that they could catch a couple of plays. I met a lady who lives in England but visits Vancouver every  year to visit Fringe.

The second important aspect of the Fringe is that it offers something for everyone, whether you like comedy, drama, musicals, solo performers or ensembles, and reviews simply reflect the individual biases of the reviewer so see for yourself.

Here is the listing and links in sequence of the shows I have seen so far.

I really enjoyed all five of these shows, each performed by a solo actor.

 ...didn't see that coming
written and performed by Beverley Elliott
directed by Kerry Sandomirsky
musical direction by Bill Costin
Happy Good Things Productions
Performance Works, Granville Island
Remaining Shows:
Wed Sep 10 9:25 PM
Fri Sep 12 10:30 PM
Sun Sep 14 7:50 PM

A consummate professional, Beverley Elliott had her audience in the palm of her hand from the minute she walked out on to the stage.  Singing and narrating her autobiographical journey, she had me chuckling through her on-line dating 40 plus dates at the food court in the Brentwood Mall, her revelation that there was another life outside small-town Presbyterian Ontario and gigs in gay bars. Loved her show.

The Unfortunate Ruth
written and performed by Tara Travis
directed by Jim Travis
dramaturgy by Kathleen Flaherty
Sticky Fingers Productions
Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island
Remaining shows:
Wed Sep 10 9:30 PM
Fri Sep 12  5:15 PM
Sat Sep 13  4.00 PM.

The Unfortunate Ruth was developed with the support of Vancouver's Playwrights Theatre Centre. This play received the 2014 playwrights Theatre Centre and Fringe New Play prize and after seeing this show, I agree this award was well deserved. The Unfortunate Ruth was one of my favourite plays so far at this year's Fringe. In this play Travis presents a fascinating look at two alternate universes and the way one can chose to view the world.

I should preface these two reviews by saying I am more into drama and big themes than comedy, and shows that have other people rolling in the aisles don't usually make me chuckle. However, I liked both these crazy comedic shows shows although I enjoyed one much more than the other.

No Tweed Too Tight: Another Grant Canyon Mystery
written and performed by Ryan Gladstone
Monster Theatre
Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island

Remaining shows:
Mon Sep 8. 6:45 PM
Thu Sep 11 8:40 PM
Sat Sep 13 7:50 PM

The Masks of Oscar Wilde
by Shaul Ezer with C.E. Gatchalian
Dramaturged and directed by Amanda Lockitch
Matchmaker Productions in association with the frank theatre company
Revue Stage, Granville Island
Remaining shows:
Mon Sept 8  9:15 PM
Fri Sept 12 10:30 PM
Sun Sept 14 6:45 PM

Oscar Wilde, master of the epigram, might well have agreed that like Shakespeare’s great fallen hero, Othello, he had “loved not wisely but too well.” Wilde's affair with the young Lord Alfred Douglas led to his ultimate destruction  and the negation of all the fame and admiration his talent had achieved.

 

Greenland
by Nicolas Billon
Directed by Kathleen Duborg
A TigerMilk Collective Production
The Master at Granville Island
Remaining Shows:
Sept 8 - 14 at 8 PM and 9:30 PM

Earlier this year I saw Iceland by Nicolas Billon, also directed by Kathleen Duborg.  Iceland is one of the three plays that make up Billon’s award-winning trilogy published as “Fault Lines”, and in my review at the time I called Iceland a “gem of a theatrical piece.”

When I noted that Greenland, a second play of the trilogy, was being staged at the Fringe Fest and intriguingly, aboard the SS Master, a wooden hulled steam powered tug boat moored at Granville Island, this play moved to the top of my list of "to sees". As performed here, Greenland consists of three monologues centering around the deteriorating family relationships of Jonathan (Billy Marchenski),  a glaciologist who has discovered and named a new island off the coast of Greenland, his wife Judith (Lindsay Drummond) and their niece/adopted daughter, Tanya (Kirsten Sleming).

p1150103-w500-h500.jpgThree hundred and fifty kilometres within the Arctic Circle, lies the city of Tromso, our furthest north destination of this Norwegian Fjords cruise to the Arctic Circle..

At about  7 AM yesterday morning the Queen Mary 2 crossed into the Arctic Circle. I  was watching the seas from my verandah. The sky was clouded and gray-blue waters stretched out to the horizon.

There was not a ship in sight, and sadly, King Neptune did not appear from the depths in person to issue his call (as written in the Daily Programme) for “all icebergs, sea lions, narwhals,  polar bears, whales, mermaids and other creatures of the frigid north to show due deference and respect to all those bluenoses crossing over into the northern reaches” of his realm. So just like crossing the equator, I had to take the crossing of “the line” on faith. Hard for an empiricist to do.

audra-w500-h500.jpgLady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
by Lanie Robertson
Directed by Lonny Price
Circle in the Square Theatre
1633 Broadway (cross Street 50th)

aupluspiano-w500-h500.jpgNew York, NY:  In an interesting thematic confluence of  New York productions, there are three shows concurrently running that focus biographically on the lives of three music legends. On my Spring New York stopover I saw Satchmo at the Waldorf, a drama about the late great jazz trumpeter and singer, Louis Armstrong set at the time of his final performances at the Waldorf Hotel in New York.

On this trip, I have just seen Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, that traces the evolution of the musical career of King, still a vibrant and active singer, pianist and songwriter who has written more than 400 song.

Continuing the music theme of my theater picks for New York 2014,  Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill stars the luminous Audra McDonald as tragic jazz great Billie Holliday, who died of cirrhosis at the too-young age of 44 .

beautiful_2647-w500-h500.jpgBeautiful: The Carole King Musical
by Doug McGrath
Music and Lyrics by Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Director Marc Bruni
Choreographer Josh Prince
Stephen Sondheim Theater
Currently running

New York, NY.  Like the more than 25 million other fans of Carole King who bought her album Tapestry,  the songs of this album are embedded in my musical memory and I have been looking forward to seeing Beautiful: The Carole King Musical for months. But it wasn’t until I was actually in the theatre, relishing one superbly performed musical  number after another, that I realized just how many of the songs that I had danced to in high school and known only by the artists or groups that performed them, were written by King and/or Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. And the show covered only a fraction of their works.

img_1179_-_shot_4_-_money-w500-h500.jpgCymbeline
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Anita Rochon
 Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Howard Family Stage, Douglas Campbell Theatre, Vanier Park
July 4 to Sept 17, 2014

img_1435_-_money-w500-h500.jpgVancouver, BC: Cymbeline is one of the lesser known Shakespearean dramas with many characters taking on alternate identities. It is one of the few Shakespeare plays that I have never seen performed, studied or even read until now. In Cymbeline, the plot is rather convoluted and the Bard uses many of his familiar devices and characters - the poison that simulates death, disguises that are un-believably effective, lost royal heirs that are raised in poverty, the deceitful betrayer who besmirches the reputation of the virtuous heroine - and I honestly wasn’t expecting to be riveted to the stage as I am when I watch one of his great tragedies. 

But I really loved this production. Anita Rochon’s direction was crisp and incisive and this talented group of actors were able to push the limits of the multiple role casting to provide the comedic sharpness that this play needs.

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