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Reviews from Fringefest, June 17, 2011

by Patrick Gauthier

June 17, 2011

The Ottawa Citizen - June 18, 2011
by Patrick Langston

Every Story Ever Told
Monster Theatre
At Arts Court Theatre

Ryan Gladstone is a very funny man. He’s also talented: he has to be, to try telling every famous story ever written – from the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh to War and Peace to Rocky (including the five sequels) – in a single hour. George Orwell’s Animal Farm takes about 10 seconds, Romeo and Juliet less. That leaves more time, maybe a whole minute or more, for big numbers like Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung. Heck, he even squeezes in a semi-improvised tale based on audience suggestions. Friday night, when he debuted his new show, that improvisation with input from a sold-out audience had something to do with alien romance, chocolate and a plot to destroy Earth. Gladstone has the energy of a hyperactive youngster and the nerve of a stand-up comic, and it’s hard to tell whether he or the audience is having more fun. Even the rough edges of his brand-new show (on Friday, he consulted a cheat sheet more than once) fit his gonzo performance style. The show’s destined to be a fringe favourite.

Old Legends
Bio-Punk Productions
At Arts Court Library

This confused and inert one-woman show finds Emma Godmere playing a young woman who confronts a family secret and learns to forgive those who have unwittingly injured her – or something like that. James Fitzgerald’s script tries to do far too much, cobbling together multiple narratives along with snatches of music and dance in a storytelling format. The central motif is a Maritimes ghost tale, but, at least in this production, it’s a ghost story almost devoid of tension. Fitzgerald also directed the show: not the wisest move since he seems not to have the requisite distance from his script to make something of it or to show Godmere, who’s in over her head, a reason for actually being on stage. Billed as a dark comedy, the show is neither.

Live From the Belly of a Whale
Mi Casa Theatre
At Saint Paul’s Eastern United Church

What stories did you create as a kid to help you manage the world? Were you a dragon-slayer? An hypnotically beautiful princess? And, now an adult, what stories help you navigate a smaller but no less puzzling world? Nicolas Di Gaetano and Emily Pearlman, the creative duo at the heart of Ottawa’s Mi Casa Theatre, invite us to ponder such questions – along with simply reveling in their fantastical style of theatre – in this new work in progress. Using a homemade armoire as the major set piece and enclosing the audience in a rough-hewn space like a child would make for a living room performance, Di Gaetano and Pearlman do what they do best: evoke memories, fragile hope, visions of fantasy and reality, and a profound sadness as they unveil a story about two young siblings. They also make some pretty good whale noises and sing original tunes. Is the new show as good as Countries Shaped Like Stars, their fringe hit of two years ago? It hasn’t yet found that same degree of lightness to buoy up the heavy stuff, but it’s well on its way.

Fringe festival tickets and information: 613-232-6162, ottawafringe.com.

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