May, 2015 / Author: Meg Crane

What do you think of the shows you’ve seen at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival this year? Send us your review and we’ll post it below.

Back in Black

It is clear to see why skit comedy champions Hot Thespian Action are perennial Winnipeg Fringe Festival favourites. They’ve earned their following and continue to prove that Winnipeg has some talented and funny people. They are not banking on their reputation alone; a newly paired down cast of Jane, Garth, Shannon and Ryan offer up a nothing but brand new material during this years show. Many of the skits are right on the mark, showing off physical comedy that is witty in its capacity to paint a picture without props and without costumes. Such was the case with the show openers “enter the dragon” and “don’t forget,” which are highly imaginative sketches. These are intermixed with sketches that also serve as a welcomed, if not unique, social commentary. Allowing the sketches to be contemporarily relevant. Reflecting and not just laughing is a tricky game to play, but not all reflections is about the evils of women trafficking; Hot Thespian Action are capable of a wide breath of thought provoking subjects. For example, much of the male loving audience was left woundering  whatever happened to teen heartthrob JTT. Similarly, I was thankful to Garth for rekindling the possibility of my falling in love with a Centor by pointing out that I was looking for his “love” at the wrong place. Its not necessary to be of the same generation as these thespians to understand the comey, but it will help you understand the mindset that led to their jokes and will definitely help identify with some of the references.

With shows almost every night, Back in Black should find its way on your Fringe list of shows to see. But with sold out shows every night, show up early. On my scale of “go” or “don’t go” this is as safe a “go” as any show the Winnipeg Fringe has to offer.

The Biggest Little Child Star

This show gets off to a confusing start. While the scene changes are seamless, it’s difficult to figure out who each character is and a couple are not properly introduced at all. A series of scenes at a drug rehab facility can easily be mistaken for the main character escaping into her head to meditate until near the end.

Despite this, the character’s quirky personalities and slow development draw the audience’s attention past some of the confusing parts. The three actors were incredible; believably acting, singing and dancing their parts, leaving the audience wishing the play went on longer and hoping for a sequel at next year’s Fringe.

The Bar Scene

The love triangle at work is cliche, but it works. Watching the four characters try to navigate their complicated relationships was as entertaining and confusing as it is in real life.

The show brought up important feminist issues, like women feeling obligated to thank men for paying physically, who should pick who up and women using their bodies to make money. However, there were some points when some obvious issues could have been brought up. When one of the men shames the other by calling him a girl, it would have been a great time to challenge the gender binary and gender rolls. However, our feminist character lets it go.

Not going deep enough may be more a reflection on the character than the play itself, but it would have been more interesting to see a stronger character in the scene.

All in all, is a show worth seeing and a playwright worth keeping an eye on.

Subway Stations of the Cross

If you are seeking a poetry piece, this might be the one for you. But you don’t need to be a spoken word aficionado to enjoy it. Ins Choi skillfully frames his bold, beautifully rhythmic and playful word play with storytelling. In fact, the whole piece starts casually in what seems like an effortless connection between the performer and the audience. His warm voice and charming demeanour make him instantly likeable. The storytelling is chuckle-out-loud-esque. Combined, this becomes a cleverly crafted style that allows Choi to punch hard when offering his poetry. It all builds up to one last poème that is realistically more a believable performance piece than anything else; a moment that reveals that Choi is well learned in the craft of poetry just as much as he is in the craft of theatre.

I don’t prescribe to the star ranking system. My system is go or don’t go. Subway Stations of the Cross strongly falls under the “go” category; and judging from the reaction of the audience I shared a performance with, they would agree.

Hot Pink Bits

If you’re looking for a lap dance or tits in your face, a new vibrator or a few glow-in-the-dark condoms, this is the show for you. If you’re not too keen on acting out a scene from a porn or stripping for the audience, maybe just tuck yourself in the back.

Penny Ashton stumbled over some lines, but she giggled through it in a way that added a bit of charm to the show. Audience interaction, acknowledgement of reactions and sexy gifts make this a different kind of Fringe show. Plus, there’s the fact that it’s jam-packed with information about the sex industry.

If you’re one of the groups Ashton mentions that is fetishized (such as people with disabilities), this show might be uncomfortable at times.

Be prepared to fake an orgasm if you’re headed to Hot Pink Bits.

Inescapable

This show gets off to an annoying start. The two characters, being looped over the same moment in time, continue to play the moment over and over. Each time there is some development, though not much at first and the audience might be snoring through the first few rounds.

But, as it gets going and the audience gets more information, each do-over is more enticing. The actors were brilliant. Though appearing exhausted and their losing voices nearing the end, it added to the urgency of what was going on in the scene.

Warning: The Purple Room is HOT! Dress appropriately and bring cash for refreshments.

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