In review: Fr!nge

Hawkapella

Laurier’s a cappella group opened the night, showing off the members’ vocal talent, though the performance failed to fully engage the audience right off the bat. Instrument-free renditions of both Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and Beyonce’s “Ego” were delivered by the group.

The co-ed singing group, clad in black, demonstrated their ability to create pleasant-sounding harmonies, while keeping the beat with rhythmic snapping.

The group will also be performing on Valentine’s Day.


Murder by Midnight

Directed by: Luke Dotto

Written by: Jeff Goode

Produced by: Lauren Vastano-Beltrano

In this ten-minute murder mystery play written by Jeff Goode and produced by Lauren Vastano-Beltrano, Dick Piston (Luke Dotto) is enlisted to solve a crime reported to him by a woman in nothing but a towel (Keegan Chambers).

The cast creatively toyed with typical crime-drama and film noir characteristics. The self-reflexivity of the genre was amusing, the recurring “novelty egg timer” joke received laughs and the speedy dialogue kept viewers paying attention.

Though entertaining, certain parts of the play seemed a little too overacted and the production as a whole could have benefited from the performances being reined in a bit at times. The amusing plot twist at the end was an unexpected, but funny, way to bring the one-act to a close.


The Nightshift

Written, directed & produced by: Mike McMurran

The only film submission at this year’s Fr!nge, The Nightshift was written, directed and produced by Mike McMurran.

Short in length, the movie tells the story of two employees (played by Kenny Mak and Lisa Sondergaard) working a late night shift in a restaurant with a gruesome past.

Before leaving for the night, their manager tells them a tale about a series of murders that had taken place years ago in the very same restaurant. In a bizarre twist, employees Billy and Laurie get transported back in time and relive the horrific murders from the past.

The cast wasn’t particularly impressive, though they managed to carry the movie through to the end.

The film provided a few frightening moments with its grisly murder scenes, though the plot was ultimately too confusingly played out for the twists to have any real impact on the audience.


The One

Written & Directed by: Taryn Parrish

Stage Manager: Jocelyn Smith

The final piece before the intermission really got the crowd engaged, as the theatre erupted in laughter throughout most of Taryn Parrish’s one-act play The One.

Set in the living room of roommates Kyle, Steve and Brent (played by Kevin Hatch, Wade Thompson and Nathaniel Andrew), hilarity ensues when Kyle returns home from a date with a girl that he determinedly believes is “the one.”

Hatch delivered one of the most animated performances of the evening, raving ecstatically about his dream girl — who it was later revealed wore cargo pants under her dress and wrote awful poetry by plagiarizing pop songs, all while sporting a furby tattoo. An example of said poetry? An exact replica of “Safety Dance.”

The script was hysterically funny, and Thompson and Andrew provided the perfect sarcastic foils to the over-enthusiastically giddy Hatch, making it one of the most entertaining segments of the night.

If that wasn’t enough, the cast members took their bows as “Safety Dance” played. Awesome.


Sports Bar

Written & directed by: Jennilee Hodgson

Stage Manager: Kate Cooper

Definitely the low point of the evening, the performances delivered in Sports Bar left the audience uninterested and restless.

What was in reality probably a 15-minute play seemed to drag on for an eternity of boring, badly written and acted scenes. The play tells the story of a failing sports bar, whose disgruntled employees seek revenge against their shady manager Shirley Baxton.

The dialogue was awkwardly worded and painful to listen to at times — though this could have been because it was in place to fuel the meandering and ridiculous plot. A larger-than-necessary cast of bar employees played out an attack on Baxton, which was portrayed as shadow figures behind screens.

Although this effect hinted at a creative idea, it wasn’t carried out particularly well, as audience members not sitting directly in the middle of the theatre had to awkwardly view actors sticking out from behind the lit screens.

Transitions between scenes were haphazardly organized, adding an almost welcome distraction from the action of the play. Regardless of how individual audience members interpreted the show, it is clear that Sports Bar sparked discussion. Just not the good kind.


Brouhaha

Written & directed by: Wade Thompson

Stage Manager: Taryn Parrish

This absurdly entertaining one-act from writer and director Wade Thompson shone the spotlight on a collection of quirky characters waiting at a bus stop.

The clever script revolved around a mysterious character named Thomas, who the audience never gets to meet. The frustratingly witty banter between characters who were equally hilarious and infuriating provided laughs throughout the duration of the one-act play.

The action opened with actors Shawn Trask and Travis Herron, who delivered two of the strongest performances of the night. Timing and pacing were executed near perfectly, contributing to a production that was genuinely entertaining, if a bit obscure for some viewers. The remaining cast members each completed their acting positions with skill, while Thompson and Kevin Hatch each added the role of puppeteer to their Fr!nge resume.

The two puppets provided even further comic relief, as did an ever-changing bus stop sign — though both of these components were able to provide laughs without becoming gimmicky.

Channeling absurdist experts like Beckett and Monty Python, Brouhaha was an excellent ending to 2011’s Fr!nge Festival.

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