August 4 to 10, 2012
Dade Art and Design Lab
Once you’ve seen a great performer give great performance in a powerful and emotionally-raw Fringe show, should you go back for more? Will they be able to top what you’ve already seen? Or will they disappoint you and leave you wishing you’d left well enough alone?
These were all questions I asked myself as I waited for the start of Bob Brader’s new solo show Preparation Hex. It was just last year that I saw Brader give a tour de force performance in his autobiographical Spitting in the Face of the Devil, which dealt with Brader’s abusive father and his own subsequent alcoholism and other broken behaviours. (See my review of Spitting in the Face of the Devil here: http://applause-meter.com/2011/07/30/calgary-fringe-spitting-in-the-face-of-the-devil-review/) It was a hard performance to forget and one that would surely be impossible to top in intensity.
Thankfully Brader seems aware of this and instead of going head to head with himself in the gripping disturbing emotional department; he offers us a kinder gentler comedic show this time around. And while Preparation Hex may not pack the punch that his previous play did, it is by no means a less engaging experience.
The play begins with the breakup of Brader’s long term live-in relationship, detailing all the messiness that often accompanies such disentanglements. Reeling from this emotional blow, Brader retreats from the world becoming a self-described hermit. But after a year of solo wallowing, tired of being alone and realizing that isolation is no way for an actor to grow, Brader ventures out once again and begins to navigate the world of dating. Or more precisely, he navigates the world of crushing, unrequited lust, one night stands, extramarital affairs and finally true love.
In a narrative world tour of Bob’s conquests, he narrates us though all the women he encounters and the scenarios in which he meets them. Using no props but a chair to occasionally sit on, Brader details his feelings towards each one with such careful insight and flawless emotional accuracy that even though the information is given to us second hand, these female characters feel as alive to us as Bob himself.
But not all is fine and dandy in Bob’s tour of womanhood. In fact, he believes he is hexed. A string of bad luck from a painful bout of hemorrhoids, a less than kind review of his play and falling for a girl he can’t have, spirals Bob into a superstitious frenzy that involves burning dragon blood to break the spell. Hey, just because Brader can’t disturb us with parental abuse doesn’t mean he isn’t going to get a little weird on us in his comedy. Thankfully it’s just weird enough to be funny in a way that surprises us and keeps an otherwise fairly commonplace boy meets girl and suffers narrative fresh and engaging.
In the end, it’s Brader’s incredible talent for storytelling that makes this show a delight to watch. His performance is honest, his comedic timing is superb and his gift for narrative penetration into the emotional core of an idea is intoxicating to witness. This is the type of superb one man show that Fringe audiences pack houses for and no doubt Preparation Hex will be one of this year’s greatest hits.
For the guys – This is how to do a male dating comedy. Smart and wonderfully acted, you‘ll relate and laugh and keep your fingers crossed that it all works out. SEE IT
For the girls – Bob may be messed up and a dating nightmare at times, but his vulnerability will get you and you can’t help wanting the best for him. SEE IT
For the occasional theatre goer – Brader’s ability to conjure the people he talks about will almost erase the fact that this is a solo show with no props. If you are ready for a play that is just talk, you won’t get any better than this. SEE IT
For the theatre junkie – Another great performance from Brader. One that shouldn’t be missed. SEE IT