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Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012: Part V

Vancouver Fringe Festival Part V: Reviews by ARL

10) Home Free

11) God is a Scottish Drag Queen

Home Free (running time 55 mins)
Written by Lanford Wilson
Directed by Brian Cochrane

Venue: Carousel Theatre
Still  to come
Fri, Sep 14, 7:00
Sat, Sep 15, 10:30
Sun, Sep 16, 6:45

Home Free has long been a favorite of scene study classes, partly because it features two young adults (and therefore covers the correct age range of many people in scene study classes), and partly because both of those young adults are struggling with issues of mental imbalance, manipulation, and fear. While the play is somewhat ambiguous (is their mother dead or living in Hoboken?) siblings Lawrence (Jason Clift) and Joanna (Maryanne Renzetti) know that together they have created the baby (or litter of kittens) inside Joanna's blossoming belly. The play is both unhappy and uncomfortable, but Clift and Renzetti manage to add a sweetness to their characters, even as they bite.

The play opens with Lawrence giving a lecture on the Pleiades to two imaginary "children". However, once Joanna returns from her adventure of going to the grocery store, it quickly becomes evident who the leader of this little family is. She controls the schedule of when they may open the surprise box and when they go to bed. She raises Lawrence's anxiety by referencing Ms Pruneface, the landlord, whenever she is losing an argument. She withholds her favors from Lawrence, or makes so much noise while he tries to work, that she always gets her way. That is, until the end, when the most important request she has ever made of Lawrence goes unfulfilled due to his inability to leave the house and his belief that the imaginary Edna can truly have an effect on the world outside their door.

The play is heartbreaking and both Clift and Renzetti give sympathetic performances. While Joanna may come across as manipulative and angry, Renzetti doesn't lose sight of Joanna's very real fear of giving birth and being homeless. When the siblings get lost in a world of their own creation, the strong connection between the actors allows for much play, and joy within the play. That they have "children" of either sex who take the brunt of the blame for mistakes or act as vessels of redirected anger, make us fearful for the child these two have actually conceived. And when, in the final moments, Lawrence is paralyzed by the idea of leaving home his immobility is as understandable as it is sad.

Given that I have seen scenes from this play in countless classes (classes that always push for strong, perhaps outrageous, choices), I felt that both Clift and Renzetti had a lovely understated quality. Flashes of anger or moments when mental instability is most evident, did not feel forced or over the top. And Joanna's final realization that she will probably not get the help she needs from Lawrence offers a quiet implosion to the drama rather than a melodramatic, impassioned end. I'm looking forward to more from this young company and its bold performers.

Reviewed by ARL

GL's View: While I really appreciated the work of the two actors, Clift and Renzetti, my overall reaction to the script was "what the heck?" I can see how it would appeal to an acting class but as a play, it did not make me want to search out other works by Lanford Wilson.  Neither of the characters really aroused my sympathy in any way and the outcome was predictable from early on. That being said, I thought the actors were great and the set was very well designed. They fitted a lot into a very small playing space, and yet no set piece or prop was superfluous. Overall they did a good job with what- for me at any rate - is not a particularly appealing play.

God is a Scottish Drag Queen (running time 75 mins)

Created and performed by Mike Delamont
Venue: Performance Works, Granville Island
Still to Come:
Fri, Sep 14, 6:45

Although I was raised as an atheist, I can honestly say that I love this Scottish God. In fact, I enjoyed Delamont's performance so much during the Neanderthal Festival that I dragged my loved ones to see it again at the Fringe. Even with a repetition of much of the material, this show offered great laughs once again. Delamont is so comfortable in his interaction with the audience that it is evident he has spent a lot of time touring the show across Canada. His ad libbing and moments of self-deprecation were particularly intriguing having just seen the show less than a month ago, and he did have me laughing my hardest quite a few times last night.

There are two minor criticisms that came up in discussion with my family after the show: first, while Delamont often either berates or praises the audience when they 'ooohh' about certain material, his jokes can go much further if he really wants to push the offensive envelope - much of the work seems "safe", not what you'd expect from a cross-dressing God; second, Delamont keeps the jokes on a fairly superficial level and doesn't take the opportunity to go for depth. His joke about "fags" (cigarettes) being dirty and bad for humanity is funny, but it is dismissive of the reality inherent in his play on words -- okay, yes, he tells us that as God he loves homosexuals, but he doesn't undercut the humour or acknowledge that many homosexuals are actually accused of being "dirty" and "bad for humanity", which has serious repercussions for many people. I don't want his comedy act to turn into a moral lesson or be anything other than its entertaining self, but he does seem to miss the chance to take things to a deeper level, and therefore the potential to have any lasting effect on his audience.

Reviewed by ARL.

GL: Here I concur with ARL. Delafont is very funny, and had me laughing aloud  a lot - not a common thing for me. But I thought he could have got away with deeper digging into the subjects he tackles. As one who noted the fact that the F--- word is used something like 150 times in Mamet's 1984 play, the frequently staged Glengarry Glen Ross, I think the F-Bomb really doesn't bother today's audiences. It requires a lot more than that to shock them, even when it's used by "God."

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 by Jo Ledingham of:

Underbelly

See Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012 Part III for reviews of:

Alpha
Breaking Velocity
Grey Matter

See Vancouver Fringe Festival  Part IV for reviews of:

Gadfly
Till Death Do We Part
Romance