Reviews from Fringefest, June 18, 2011
The Ottawa Citizen – June 19, 2011
by Patrick Langston
Last Gig of Lenny Breau
At Royal Oak Laurier, Saturday, June 18
Yes, there was his drug use, restlessness and eventual murder. But the late Canadian guitar legend Lenny Breau was, above all else, a musician, and that’s the focus of this fine show by Vancouver’s Colin Godbout. A masterful guitarist himself, when Godbout finger picks tunes from Breau’s catalogue you’d swear they’re both in the room playing at once. Breau, found dead in a Los Angeles swimming pool in 1984, mixed jazz, country, flamenco and more; Godbout does the same in depicting Breau at his last gig, slipping tunes by Merle Travis, John Coltrane and Breau himself into the blend. Godbout also explores the idea that Nashville guitar great Chet Atkins, Breau’s mentor, put far too much pressure on his younger colleague by insisting he was the “great white hope of the guitar,” pressure that contributed to Breau’s retreat into personal mayhem. Breau’s biography needs more fleshing out, and Godbout is more musician than actor, but for now the guitar tells us most of what we need to know.
At Studio Léonard-Beaulne, Saturday, June 18
Gather five psychiatric patients for their weekly group therapy session, have their shrink mysteriously murdered, and then add a couple of cops to investigate the crime. Result: a play that pretty much flatlines from the get-go. Alana Kainz’s script, potentially interesting and intended to be darkly comic, trips itself up by using stereotypical characters (Susan, a girl who can’t say no to men; Jack, a phobic nerd), bad jokes (“She has more troubles than Donald Trump on a windy day”) and a predictable plotline (did one of these neurotic patients do the doc in?). Kainz knows the horrors that unchecked mental illness can produce: her first husband, CJOH-TV newscaster Brian Smith, was gunned down by a paranoid schizophrenic man in 1995. But she doesn’t incorporate nearly enough reality into her script to make it engaging. Paul Dervis directs the show which features, among others, an overacting Jerome Bourgault as the damaged Len and a funny Charlie Ebbs as the narcissistic Antoine.
Question Period The Musical!
At Alumni Auditorium, Saturday, June 18
Whatever it lacks in acting, musical and production finesse, this sprawling Ottawa creation almost makes up for in spiritedness and determination to show its audience a good time. Eric Kendrick plays Finn Opatowskopoulos, an idealistic neophyte MP devoted to eradicating poverty. Stiff-armed by reality – the show is rife with opportunistic politicians, do-nothing senators and demanding constituents – Finn tries to remain true to himself although that eventually traps him in a politico-moral quagmire. Along the way, the musical spoofs musicals, spotlights a budget speech by a finance minister with hip-hop aspirations, and makes it clear that this is a show by well-meaning but under-rehearsed and directed performers. The musical, which turns out to be a vigorous call to civic engagement by all Canadians, takes pot shots at all political stripes, although Stephen Harper’s Conservatives loom especially large in the crosshairs.