By Paul Gessell
SOMETIMES THE SEX IS GOOD
There is always gratuitous sex, sly politics and considerable angst. Some of it is hilarious and some of it is just plain dreadful. We’re discussing, of course, the annual Ottawa Fringe Festival currently playing in several downtown venues until June 26.
Here, from a weekend of fringing, are five mini-reviews in descending order of likeability. For details about time and place, visit the website. (Much of the fringe is centred around Arts Court, where you can catch three art exhibitions at the Ottawa Art Gallery that perfectly complement the weird and wonderful theatrics: Alex Wyse’s Monty-Python-like sculptures, neon landscapes by Joyce Devlin, and Diane Woodward’s renderings of what must surely be some Indian swami’s acid trip.)
Live from the Belly of a Whale
Most of the action takes place inside a wardrobe. Needless to say, this involves some very creating staging. There is music, hilarity, sadness, and a brother-sister tale that is more mood than substance yet is great entertainment. The two actors, Emily Pearlman and Nicolas Di Gaetano of Ottawa’s Mi Casa Theatre, are cult heroes for their massive fringe hit two years ago, Countries Shaped Like Stars. Come early to get a seat.
F***ing Stephen Harper
Conservatives, especially Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, will not be laughing at this one-man show from Toronto’s Rob Salerno. But everyone else will. The monologue is all about homophobia among Conservative MPs. Salerno does get preachy at times and he shamelessly plugs the souvenir book, T-shirts and buttons he wants to sell. But, hey, this is the fringe; excess is expected. Again, come early to snag a ticket. It will also be performed at the Wakefield Piggyback Fringe June 24-26.
This very grim play, with painfully morbid dance numbers, is about the sexual slavery of women from Africa and Eastern Europe. It has potential to graduate to a mainstream stage, but it needs considerable work. Beverley Wolfe, however, is superb as the wisecracking nun.
Think of this one-woman show as lite beer. It quenches your thirst, sort of, but offers no buzz. And you don’t want seconds. There is a convoluted story about family secrets. There are even hints at ghostly activities. But none of these plotlines are fully developed or all that interesting. This playlet definitely needs more work.
The Wet Dream Catcher
The title is the best part of this self-indulgent offering, which one fellow attendee was overheard to dismiss as an X-rated Romper Room. A clownish figure, with hand puppets and squishy toys, acts like he is addressing children yet talks endlessly about very adult things. Who knew sex could be so boring? Not funny. Not clever. Not worth attending.