Calgary Fringe Festival
August 3 to 11, 2012
For a theater junkie there is no better time that the Fringe Festival. For a theatre junkie who happens to be a reviewer, there is also no more exhausting a time. Seeing two plays a day for over a week straight while churning out same-day or next-day reviews, becomes something like the premiere event in the critic Olympics. But if last year is any indication, I’m not complaining. Some of the best shows I saw in 2011 were Fringe shows and I’m hopeful that this year’s crop of plays will excite me in the same way.
I choose the plays I see based on very personal and non-objective requirements. Screwball comedy exploring the gender divide? Pass. To me these are never all that original or funny. Pseudo or Post-Feminist plays that try to titillate by saying lots of dirty words to either shock or amuse? Again pass. Been there, done that. Musicals or movement pieces that self-describe as “edgy”? Yeah, um, no. If you have to tell me how cool you are, you usually aren’t.
What I do look for are plays that have interesting stories, not just punch lines. Ideas that intrigue me and draw me in regardless of the medium. Often I will choose a Fringe play based on the performer, who I know and like. Sometimes I chose a play based on the reviews it’s received from showing at other Fringe’s across Canada.
And , sometimes I score big and other times my choices turn out to be horrendous. But that’s the thing with the Fringe. With most shows being 60 minutes, one act and around $14, you actually don’t mind seeing a few stinkers if it means you get to see a few really good shows.
So, with that in mind and with my research done – here’s the list of the shows I’m seeing this year and why:
Heffner Monologues – The reviews have been spectacular. High hopes for this one.
The Bro Show –Chase Padgett put on one of my favorite shows at last year’s Fringe, 6 Guitars, and I’m happily going back for more
The Hoodwink – This solo show was written by and stars Melanee Murray, who I thoroughly enjoyed in last year’s Theatre Calgary production of To Kill A Mockingbird. In fact, she was one of the few bright spots. I’m eager to see what she does when the stage and the dialogue are all her own.
She has a Name – Brothel Trafficking in Bangkok may be a heady subject for a Fringe show, but they got my attention.
Peter n Chris – Frankly this is the type of screwball comedy I generally stay away from. But a critic friend of mine in Toronto begged me to go see it and he will owe me a beer if I don’t like it. Game on!!
Preparation Hex – Bob Brader was captivating last year in Spitting in the Face of the Devil, now he moves from abusive father stories to finding and keeping love. Will it be as intense? Looking forward to finding out.
Loon – The 2011 Best of Fest winners for Grim and Fischer are back, and I’m looking forward to what kookiness they bring to us this year.
Breathe Normally – I’ve been told by several people that these folks are must see performers. I’ve never seen them, so I want to know what all the fuss is about.
Tin Foil Dinosaur – One man comedic look at anxiety disorders that is getting great reviews from other festivals. I’m in!
Orchestrated – A music and movement show about how perspective can reveal mixed messages. I figure this will be brilliant or horrid. Stay tuned.
Push in Case of Emergency – Strangers caught in an elevator told through multi genre vignettes. Hoping this is as surreal as it sounds
So, there you have it. If you feel I’m missing something spectacular or if you see a show that you want to recommend to me, by all means drop me a note. Otherwise, check back often throughout the Fringe for reviews, recommendations and general thoughts on the quality of shows this year.