Your Guide to FRINGE Fest 2013

The Link Reviews FRINGE Offerings

Top off your night at 13th Hour part of FRINGE After Dark.

The 23rd edition of the St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival is currently in full party mode, so grab a program and Fringe away!

This year’s festival takes over the night (and day) with FRINGE After Dark, including an Indie Montreal FRINGE music series, free events at FRINGE Park including a Pop Montreal curated musical lineup, FRINGE Park Tunes, and take-your-kids-to-FRINGE day, Kids FRINGE .

Happy Fringing!

13th Hour: Glitches and Gags
Elysha del Giusto Enos

They brought back the money wheel. That’s the first thing a die-hard 13th Hour-lover will notice about the latest incarnation of Fringe’s late-night variety show.

The 1 a.m. show is a free sampling of fringe performances, each followed by a spin of the wheel and its random challenge to the audience and performers. The performances are distilled two-minute tidbits and the wheel includes things like “slow motion bar fight” and the infamous 11-second dance party (although, no, the classic 13th Hour theme song, Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon” is not resurfacing as the dance party track).

Holding the night together are hosts from various Fringe shows and the Montreal indie theatre family. The only thing causing a blip is a bit of a tech problem. The first night, the 1 a.m. show only started around 1:30 a.m. because there were so many issues, and on the second night, one performer’s dance number was majorly sidetracked by a skipping soundtrack throughout his performance.

13th hour / Until June 22 / 1:00 a.m. / Cabaret du Mile End (5240 Parc Ave.) / Free

Around Miss Julie is presented by Hopegrown Productions, a company made up of Concordia theatre grads.

Around Miss Julie Gets the Part
Alejandra Melian-Morse

With a mission to bring more dynamic female roles to the stage, Hopegrown Productions showed promise in the pre-fringe hype, even managing to making it onto The Main’s list of Top 10 Fringe Picks .

The play by Harry Standjofski does not disappoint. The team is successful not only in the performance itself, but in achieving their much discussed mission. All four characters carry a complexity that is apparent on many different levels. Though dealing with issues of love and loss, the women of Around Miss Julie go much deeper, bringing out the harsh realities of finding one’s footing in the theatre world.

Even putting the unique female characters aside, the play is of immense quality. Based on August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, the script weaves its way in and out of the classic and mirrors the two plays seamlessly.

Delivered with seemingly effortless humour and energy, Around Miss Julie has its audience doubled over with laughter. With such a strong cast and a brilliant script, the play is definitely one worth seeing at the wonderfully intimate Club Español.

Around Miss Julie / Until June 23 / Club Español (4388 St. Laurent Blvd.) / $10 (students) $12 (general)

The Corner Café: A Serving of Montreal, pour emporter
Saturn de los Angeles

Take a slip of velouté and a slice of life’s oddities.

You step inside your neighbourhood coffee shop and pass by an odd-looking vagabond munching on her last morsel of crisps, a cynical janitor who keeps nagging his anxious co-worker for a raise and a timid bookworm lady getting heckled by her tomboyish lesbian roommate—and little do they realize they all know each other to some degree.

Quite a scene to witness when you’re drinking your double-double on a Monday morning.

The Corner Café reflects the contemporary urban life in our city, cohesively blending all of the quirks that define the polarities of today’s youth—the timid and obnoxious, the hard-working and lazy, the queer and straight, the nerdy and dumbed down, the serious and carefree, the winners and losers… You get the idea. This diverse cast of characters juggle and struggle between odd duties and personal lives to make ends meet, to make it big and pursue their dreams, to discover what the future they want to see.

This semi-bilingual stage production directed by Julie Racine and a cast of creative stage actors from Annonymous_Artists is oddly addicting and painstakingly funny. Watching each scene hits a nerve as you find yourself realizing halfway through that you may know someone who’s been in a similar situation as the characters.

The Corner Café is funny. Oddly dysfunctional. It is a microcosm of our daily busy 20-something lives—served with an extra shot of caffeine on the side.

The Corner Café / Until June 23 / Club Español (4388 St. Laurent Blvd.) / $12

Elvis is Water is produced by Scotty’s Boys Productions from Chelsea, Qc.

Elvis is Water: More Than Blue Suede Shoes
Saturn de los Angeles

Grand spanking ‘50s hairdo? Check. Obligatory squeal-invoking hip thrusts? Check. Kick-ass guitars? And the music? Well you just might want to blink your eyes, probably twice.

This musical about young Elvis in his early recording days at Sun Records is also a story of how we’ve all been influenced Elvis in some form. In the words of stage performer John Burns, we’re the fish swimming along in Elvis’ ocean of imagination and his dreams of everyone getting along and having a good time.

The musical is written and directed by Katherine Sandford with the skillful vocal range of Burns who mind-blowingly wears multiple hats—shifting between himself and Elvis, accompanied with his troupe of talented musicians such as Deborah Thomson on piano, Joe Hawkins on electric git-fiddle and Denis Drouin on upright bass.

The interesting part of this show is not just the musical interludes, but also the random fun facts about him. Who knew that “Heartbreak Hotel”—a song about suicide—would be his ticket to perpetual stardom? For the music geek in me growing up listening to Elvis with my dad, it’s heart-warming, nostalgic and cathartic personal experience seeing that onstage energy come alive.

Elvis is Water is not an invitation to an immersive musical experience of yesteryear, nor just a story of a nobody who just loves to sing. This is also a story of a human being who wants to share his love appreciation for the quintessential King of Rock and Roll.

Elvis is Water / Until June 22 / Cabaret du Mile End (5240 Parc Ave.) / $8 (students) $12 (general)

Fire in the Meth Lab: A New Level of Comic Storytelling
Alejandra Melian-Morse

Maybe it was the Australian accent, but I was consumed by Jon Bennett’s Fire in the Meth Lab from the get go. The first thing that caught my attention was the haphazard set, which consisted of an old arm chair, a board game, a coat rack, and other items that hinted at sentimentality and the past.

Slightly out of place in this compilation was an ironing board. The collection of chemicals and tubes that covered the top of the board did not bring to mind images of someone ironing shirts in the morning, but rather a more sinister memory.

In a few words, the show is about the addiction to meth that eventually lands Bennett’s brother in jail, but that synopsis doesn’t even come close to doing the show justice. What Bennett tells is not a story about a meth addiction, it’s an exploration of childhood memories, good and bad, and a search for the reason behind his brother’s troubles.

With such a dark theme, the rare sombre moment maintains the sincerity of the story—yet, impossible as it seems, the show is delivered in the form of a brilliantly interactive, unexpected and fun comedy.

At its core, Fire in the Meth Lab is a story about brothers, and Bennett delivered it with all the resentment, frustration, love and pride that comes with any honest depiction of family.

Fire in the Meth Lab / Until June 22 / Cabaret du Mile End (5240 Parc Ave.) / $10 (students) $12 (general)

Holy Tranity!: A Subjective Historical Lens into the ‘80s Queer Experience
Saturn de los Angeles

So a trans diva, a timid dude and a husky pilot walk into a bar…

There’s Jude, a 20-something timid young lad from the prairies who runs away from home. He searches for a new life in the city and auditions to be a male stripper.

After a near-disastrous encounter with Gracie, the extravagant transgender singing diva who commands the cabaret stage with her singing prowess, the innocent Jude is reborn into Santo$, a bombshell gay stripper sought and desired by many of his clients.

Welcome to 1987. It was an interesting time to be “out” and to be at the Rainbow Lounge.

Holy Tranity! walks spectators through the struggles of gay life in the 1980s by transforming Café Cléopâtre into a makeshift stage. There’s a certain energy of decades past that makes this cabaret bar on the edge of St. Laurent Blvd. a righteously fitting place for this musical stage play. You could almost argue that it’s pseudo-historical.

A humorous drama about living it up in Montreal’s party scene, the show touches on issues like teen homelessness, reconciling with religious ties and drug addictions.

Combined with intervals of musical performances by the wonderful Gracie and you’ve got a show that’s akin to a red velvet cake. And yes, you can eat it and have seconds too.

Holy Tranity! was written and produced by the founder of Montreal’s LGBT pride festival DIVERS/CITÉ Puelo Deir, directed by Concordia theatre grad David di Giovanni and starring Concordia theatre student Antonio Bavaro as Gracie.

This show is billed as “a dirty love song to the gay ‘80s.” It’s more than a love song; it’s an ode, a reminder that we’ve made it far in this long adventure to be ourselves, and to find ourselves—and this ride isn’t over yet.

Holy Tranity! / Until June 23 / Café Cleopatra (1230 St. Laurent Blvd.) / $12

Jess Salomon: Obsession is a one-woman comedienne production by Jess For Laughs, based in Montreal.

Jess Salomon: Obsession; What You Can’t Live Without
Alejandra Melian-Morse

I imagine being a UN war crimes lawyer requires a strong sense of humour. For Jess Salomon, though, it became less about staying sane than entering into the completely insane world of comedy. Her need to take things all the way —to the point of obsession, fuelled this particularly drastic career change.

Salomon discusses a few of her different obsessions, ranging from Days of Our Lives actor Jack Deveraux to her iPhone. Although I might be a little young to share her Deveraux crush, the majority of her obsessions are so relatable I felt sheepishly guilty behind my laughs. (What do you care if I just snuck a tweet? And my love affair with tequila is none of your business!)

Through talk of her relationship within the show, Salomon guides the audience through the hilarious discovery of her bisexuality.

Like all good comedians, Salomon discusses serious things, like the influence of social media over our lives, with the shield of humour. Obsession is a show that makes you think after you get past the laughs.

Jess Salomon: Obsession / Until June 23 / Montreal Improv (3713 St. Laurent Blvd. #202) / $9 (students) $12 (general)

Peter N’ Chris Explore Their Bodies: Prepare for trouble. Make it Double!
Elysha del Giusto Enos and Saturn de los Angeles

This hilarious duo takes physical comedy to pitch-perfect levels.

Don’t let the title of the show fool you. There’s nothing racy going on, but there’s there’s a certain brotherly charm that will leave you with a smile when you leave the theatre.

The dynamic Vancouver-based comedy pair of Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson have been performing together since 2009 and are well known in the Canadian comedy circuit having appeared in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Chicago Fringe festivals.

Peter N’ Chris is about them—personified and brought alive in many characters and forms. The pair lives together trying to deal with their own personal midlife crises.

When obnoxious jokester Peter tricks alcoholic and gullible Chris that he’ll die of liver cancer, Peter soon finds himself in deep depression and angst because his dad left him at a young age.

The only way to snap each other out of their misery is to go inside each other’s bodies. And as a side note, inside the human body happens to look a lot like the Lord of the Rings, or imagine a mash-up of Portal in a really wacky role-playing video game manner where both characters have to fight their own personified monsters.

They inject spontaneous doses of self-deprecating humor, energy and lots of random moments. The two perform dance numbers, fight sequences and of course there’s plenty of witty banter. Not to mention the random musical interludes (and by that I mean they pulled off Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” here), and several nods to pop culture too.

You soon get drawn into the their wacky story from start to end. And you better keep track of that story pretty fast. They pace from one scene to another playing an array of random characters.

It’s no wonder they’ve been the opening act at this year’s Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival and awarded best comedy performance at Just For Laughs last year.

This show is so completely entertaining that it’s good to put on any fringers’ list as a go-to palate-cleanse in case of a few duds in a row.

Peter N’ Chris Explore Their Bodies / Until June 23 / Cabaret du Mile End (5240 Parc Ave.) / $12

Pulse is presented by the Jasmyn Fyffe Dance company from Toronto.

Pulse: Letting the Music Go With the Flow
Saturn de los Angeles

A dynamic stage performance where Motown meets movement.

This 45-minute performance brings out the athletic prowess of these dancers as their collaboration tells a story of love, friendship and life, as interpreted through our well-loved Motown ‘80s beats.

With a diverse young cast from various backgrounds and cultures, Pulse is feast for the eyes as each foot, turn, jump and twirl becomes a performance “note” akin to an orchestra. Each of these dancers’ moves are synchronized, detailed and orchestrated all the way down to each beat of every track. The human interaction is as genuine and emotionally riveting as it can be.

Created and produced by Toronto-based Jasmyn Fyffe, Pulse has no script nor dialogue, but its voice comes from the emotions these dancers invoke from each other, and audience too.

Pulse / Until June 21 / Studio Multimédia (4750 Henri-Julien Ave.) / $12

Tap Me on the Shoulder: Let the Rhythm Take You Over
Saturn de los Angeles

A charming, fierce and energizing tale of empowerment and creativity, set in the spirit of rhyme.

Time-travel all the way back to Brooklyn, mid ‘90s. Erika Kate MacDonald is nearly flat-out broke and just moved into a cramped loft with some interesting new rap-enthusiast friends. There’s a boom box, a cassette tape and a few lines of rhythm and rhyme.
Who knew that the medium was all she needed to find a place to belong, even more the fact that rap was the force that was out to comfort her in good times and bad all along?

Tap Me on the Shoulder is an ear-grabbing, heart-warming, positively energizing slice-of-life journey of a queer, nerdy and white New Hampshire nobody who simply wanted to find herself in the Big Apple, and an outlet to express herself.

In this one-person stage show from New York-based troupe Pack of Others, MacDonald takes storytelling to an emotionally intimate level. Tap Me on the Shoulder allows the audience to feel excited, swayed and emotionally aroused with her on her adventure of self-discovery as she treads through adulthood.

Erika shares her dynamic sense of imagination with the audience as she uses endless strands of blue tape on the floor to illustrate the good old days of her nostalgic Brooklyn apartment where all the magic happened.

On top of that, her welcoming, commanding voice steers the pace of the presentation from one anecdote to another. It’s a part-reunion, part-class, part-one-on-one conversation with a long-lost friend.

Welcome. Sit down. Grab a chair. Take a listen. This is the story of why she’s here.

Tap Me on the Shoulder / Until June 23 / Scène Mini (4247 St. Dominique St.) / $9 (anyone wearing a denim vest, high school students) $12 (general)

Zack Adams: Zack to the Future is a product of Weeping Spoon Productions all the way from Perth, Australia.

Zack Adams: Zack to the Future; Charming but Unstable
Elysha del Giusto Enos, @elyshaenos

Zack, what are you doing?

There’s a guitar and a creepy puppet on stage, and you’re promising to take us into the not-so-distant future to check in on what Future-You is up to. The show twists and turns, and if you weren’t so damn charismatic it would sputter considerably.

But from the moment you got on stage you had the audience eating out of your hand. They loved everything you did no matter how wacky and random it may have seemed.

Zack Adams: Zack to the Future / Until June 23 / Scène Mini (4247 St. Dominique St.) / $10 (students) $12 (general)