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Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012: Part IV

 Fringe Festival Part IV. Reviews by GL and ARL.

8) Gadfly: Sam Steiner Dodges the Draft by Rebecca Steiner

9) Till Death Do We Part:

10) Romance by David Mamet

Gadfly: Sam Steiner Dodges the Draft (running time 60 mins)
Created by Rebecca Steiner & Theatre of the Beat
Venue: Revue Stage, Granville Island
Still to come:
Thu, Sep 13, 8:35
Sat, Sep 15, 7:15

The preshow beat of Credence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary  and the Rolling Stones' I Can't Get no Satisfaction set the time back in the 60's when America was embroiled overseas in the Vietnam War and in the fight for civil-rights at home. Like many college-age students, Sam Steiner (John Wideman) was rebelling against just about everything from the religious beliefs and the strict rules of his Mennonite culture, to the Army Draft Board's definition of Conscientious Objector. Enrolling at the Mennonite school, Goshen College, he meets fellow students Sue (Kimberlee Walker), Carol (Rebecca Steiner) and Tom (Benjamin Wert). These three actors play several roles as Sam's story moves through encounters with the draft board, time hiding out in Chicago, and finally journeying to Canada.

Although in a way this was a not uncommon tale of youthful rebellion, for a Mennonite youth to develop atheist beliefs is quite some rebellion, and set against the aspect of conscientious objection against fighting and the Vietnam War, made for a very interesting story. The multiple roles were performed well by all the cast.  The simple set - a table, stacking boxes, a briefcase - was used creatively to change the scene locations and each item,  or costume change carried the story forward very effectively.

This production was very well done and it is well worth catching one of the remaining performances.

Till Death Do We Part: The Six Wives of Henry VIII (running time 75 mins)

Created and directed by Ryan Gladstone
Performed by Tara Travis
Venue: CBC Studio 700, 700 Hamilton Street
Still to come:
Fri, Sep 14, 6:00
Sat, Sep 15, 7:30
Sun, Sep 16, 2:15

This piece was absolutely a tour de force and one of my favorite Fringe shows so far. The script is hilarious, and Tara Travis is absolutely amazing as she plays all six of the dead wives of Henry VIII simultaneously. Dressed in a white nightgown, she first appears as The Spaniard queen, Catherine of Aragon; next in quick succession we meet Anne Boleyn or rather her Head; the Prudish Jane Seymour (whom I rather liked - prude or not!); the Ugly German, Anne of Cleves; the Slutty Kathryn Howard; and the reluctant wife, the Widow Katharine Parr.

The premise is that all six arrive on dying, in a sort of  holding station for heaven where they will wait until the death of their husband, Henry. At that time only one can enter heaven at the side of the king. But who has the greater  claim? And the plot unfolds in a clever series of twists and turns until we find out the answer. No plot spoilers here.

But all I can say is I walked out after the show with my rarely given highly articulate expression of awe bursting forth:

"WOW" and "WOW" again.    There are three more shows. Don't miss this one.

Romance (running time 75 mins)

Written by David Mamet
Venue: CBC Studio 700, 700 Hamilton Street
Still to come:
Thu, Sep 13, 10:00
Sat, Sep 15, 1:30
Sat, Sep 15, 9:30.

And just when I thought things could not get much better,  the cast of Romance proved me wrong. Admittedly they started with a script from a master playwright, Mamet, but they embodied this difficult material with grace and humour. Centered around the trial of the chiropractor defendant (Bert Steinmanis), the play allows Mamet to riff on many of his favorite (and politically incorrect) topics such as religion and politics. It is often wincingly ugly. The play is populated by (morally) ugly, hypocritical people whose goals are generally self-serving and motivated by deep-seated hatreds.

In a play of standout performances, the Judge was the one to watch. Moving on a downward spiral towards a drug-induced confession, Brian Hinson managed to keep his performance contained despite the fact that the audience roared with laughter on almost all of his lines. With the smallest turn of head or eye roll, Bailiff Jose Os also delivered an understated but hilarious performance. David C Jones as the Prosecutor was delightful in his succinct maliciousness and all encompassing frustration (no one wonders why his mother helped his lover to betray him), but his boyfriend Bernard (Wolfgang Schmidt) seemed to be playing "gay" rather than just letting his natural charm carry him through. A solid performance by Chris Robson as the Defense Attorney and the extremely fast pace of the show provides an inkling into the deliberate and strong guidance offered by director Adam Henderson.

I first saw Romance in Toronto in 2006, at a time when the frequent use of the F- word still jarred. I loved the show at the time, laughing as much as cringing as every possible kind of prejudice was skewered by Mamet's acerbic text. This Vancouver Fringe production was tight and cohesive, and had the audience almost falling in the aisles from the opening lines to the curtain call. 

An excellent show and another "don't miss" production. There are three shows left in this run - go see it.

See Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012 for reviews of:

More Power to Your Knitting,Nell!
The Abyss Burrow
Ne Me Quitte Pas

See Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012. Part II for review of

Underbelly

See Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012 Part III for reviews of:

Alpha
Breaking Velocity
Grey Matter