Sweating in the Pool: A Very Fringey Tuesday

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After taking Monday off to do a stand up show (and missing My Exploding Family at 10:45 because I thought it was at 11:45. I showed up and tried to get tickets to a show that had already ended. The most surprising thing is that this is the first time this has happened to me at this Fest), I ventured to see as many shows as possible on Tuesday evening, which by my calculations is four (my calculations are usually inexact).

I started off by going to Let’s Start a Country at Mainline theatre. Trouble is, Let’s Start a Country is playing at Bain St-Michel. I discovered this after I got my ticket at Mainline Theatre, and the lovely volunteer at the door asked me if I’d seen Let’s Start a Country.

“Isn’t this Let’s Start a Country?” I asked.

This was the second show in a row I’d messed up the time/location. Seeing all these shows (and drinking all these beers) is obviously destroying my spacial/temporal sense of orientation.. Get it together Gandell! Why is there no iPhone app for this festival (seriously, why is there no iPhone app for this festival?). I hopped on my bike and raced north toward Bain St-Michel, wondering if it was me or the world who was at fault for this series of mixups (hint: it was me).

I made my way into the stiflingly hot pool a mere five minutes late. Not bad.

Let’s Start a Country is a comedy by local comics Gerard Harris and Asaf Gerchak where by the two of them conduct the creation of a sovereign nation based on suggestions from the audience. With the crowd’s help, they create a flag, laws, and customs for this new country. Harris and Gerchak are funny, seasoned performers, and much of the humour in this show depends on their ability to improvise witty banter with crowd members. They’re pretty good at crowd control, so most of this works. Interspersed with their repartee are mock news reports and other short bits, which they pull off with varying levels of success, I thought. This is a light piece of comedic theatre, and the audience seemed to be having a good time. The improvisational element demands that the entire show is pretty loose, which works to the performers advantage at certain moments, and less so at others. There were a bit too many local gags for my taste (really local gags. Much of the humour was based around the two blocks around the theatre), but this was, overall, a fun diversion based on an original idea.

 

 

 

 

Next I biked down to the Montreal Improv Theatre for Peter n’ Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel. In it, sketch comedy duo Chris Wilson and Peter Carlone are searching for a peaceful night’s sleep when they find themselves stalked by an insane motel manager. Every part of this show was amazing. Wilson and Carlone are masters of physical comedy, and the show is already worth just it to see them creating a detailed world around them and slamming straight into it. Add to that a diverse and nuanced cast of characters that they morph in and out of, a story that is complete with cinematic highs and lows, and some outstanding comedic set pieces, and you have an absolute powerhouse of a show. I’m not sure how much of their show is improvised (at least some of it has to be) or how much of the show evolves from night to night, but they frequently move back and forth between the universe they are creating, and the one they find themselves in (on stage, in a theatre, being watched by people). The dynamic between these two forces is at the core of improvisation, and these guys exploit this grey area with a ton of style and intensity. One of the funniest and best shows I’ve attended this year. A must see.

 

The hits came on coming with God is a Scottish Drag Queen, on solo comedy tour de force from comic Mike Delamont. One large Scottish man on stage dressed in a floral woman’s suit, some projected photographs, a few clips of songs, and 75 minutes of nonstop laughter. The house was packed for this one, owing no doubt to the ton of deserved good buzz this show has been getting, and the laughs were loud and constant. Delamont is fucking hilarious as he plays the role of God, who is not shy to point out the stupid and ridiculous things that we, his creations, do on a daily basis. At one point he laments not stopping evolution at monkeys, and laughs at those of us who think that we are the “final draft” in his evolutionary manuscript. The humour was honest, sincere, and absolutely brilliant. The range of topics Delamont cuts down is pretty large, making this show feel like a real comedic journey. To top it all off, Delamont ended his show with a heartwarming genuine thank you to the audience for paying attention to him for an hour a bit. He was genuinely moved, and showed a vulnerability on stage that only comes with extreme confidence in one’s abilities. Another must see, absolutely, for sure.

 

I rounded out the evening with A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Evil, a nine person, four act play written and directed by up and comer Lorne Svarc. The play is about a Supervillain grad school, where different evil geniuses discuss their thesis, plot ways to take out of the world, fall in love, fuck, and scream at each other (a lot). Some of the acting was a little rough around the edges, but overall, I enjoyed this piece. The script was snappy and smart, the characters were well developed, and there was no shortage of characters getting pissed off and yelling at other characters, which is important. Drama! For an hour and a half production, I found myself engaged almost the whole time, and there were more than a few really funny lines. Standout performances included Peter Zylbergold as the mad scientist, and Ian Poe Kerr as a spoiled, sex-obsessed, somewhat depressed supervillain in gold tights. Svarc might have considered shaving off one or two characters and fifteen or twenty minutes, but on the whole, this play worked quite nicely. Funny, intelligent, and original.

 

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