The Fringe has come and gone, taking its actors and props and carnival fare with it. Last week, I reviewed the first play I saw at this year’s festivities. Now, I will talk of three others, though it’s a bit late for anyone to see them.
- Grace in Exile—How in the hell was this rated PG?
Grace in Exile was the story of a girl—the titular Grace—who joins the circus to escape from her abusive preacher father. During her stay, her experiences and time spent with Madame Rose the fortune-teller change her as she begins to see that the circus isn’t the magical place she thought it was.
The play featured a combination of traditional acting and Japanese Butoh to tell not only Grace’s story, but some of Rose’s as well. The acting was excellent, and the choreography was very clear when it came to the play’s Butoh segments. It wasn’t hard to figure out what kind of struggles the dances were trying to convey. The acting was also excellent.
However, the subject matter was another story. Though having received a PG rating, I would not have taken a kid to see it. Hell, I wouldn’t have taken some older people to see it. The subject matter was very uncomfortable most of the time. One scene will forever be burned into my mind. Two clowns, accompanied by jaunty carnival music, make balloon flowers and fill a wine bottle with castor oil. Then they cheerfully go to visit one of the carnival’s stars, who has fallen pregnant. Gifting her with the flowers, they attempt to give her the bottle as well, which she refuses. The music then stops…as they proceed to force the castor oil down her throat to induce a miscarriage. Then the music starts up and they shake hands like a comedy duo while she choking and sobbing on the ground.
Overall, I felt the play was too short for the subject it was trying to convey. At about an hour long, I think the play could have easily been twice that. It would have felt less rush, and the ending might not have been so unsatisfying for me.
- A Series of Grisly Murders at the Lonsdale Record Shop—Murder, Mayhem, and Not-Great-Comedy.
The last play I saw this year was one of murder and music. Mr. Lonsdale owns the titular record shop, while in the meantime he tries to create the next musical sensation. It’s during one of his nightly experimentations that he accidently discovers a combination of notes that kills anyone who hears them (he is unaffected due to an incident that took some of his hearing). Though his first uses of the note are accidental, he begins to use them for more nefarious purposes, goaded on by a love-stricken employee.
The play had an interesting plot and was well-paced, but I didn’t get a good sense of atmosphere from it. It was supposed to take place during the 1920s, but almost none of the dialogue made me feel like I’d been transported back in time. There were plenty of jokes, and the audience laughed quite a bit, but I didn’t find much to chuckle at. Most of the characters were extremely unlikeable, particularly Lonsdale. The actors in this production weren’t the consummate professionals of the other shows I saw, but they weren’t half bad.
The play itself was a little slow, at least until the zombies showed up. However, unlike Grace in Exile, Lonsdale’s ending left me far more satisfied.
- Mr & Mrs. Alexander: Sideshows and Psychics—Tied for my Best in Show.
I literally cannot choose between this play and Dirk Darrow for my favourite production this year. Mr. & Mrs. Alexander was, primarily, a magic show, detailing the last performance of the titular magician couple’s career. We learn how they met, and are treated to magic, mind-reading, and wit galore, before a big twist ending.
The play was largely entertaining. The Alexanders were presented as grand folk of the theatre. Their exuberance was intoxicating, and their wit sharp. Little glimpses of them as a couple (Particularly the bit where Mrs. Alexander is trying to bend a fork with her mind, at her husband’s assistance and doesn’t take it seriously…at first) are both sweet and funny. There was wonderful chemistry between the characters. The show required audience participation, which included a delightful couple who couldn’t remember if they’d been married for 29 years or 30, and a woman so eager to participate, that she was willing to get a little too close to the Alexanders’ hand-shattering possum trap.
Though there wasn’t much for plot, the show managed to pull off a grand twist at the end. The final show for the Alexanders was due to the impending arrival of a child. Yet, at the very end, Mr. Alexander steals a valuable necklace from an official’s wife and makes off with it after his wife gets her hand caught by the possum trap. Abandoned by her husband, people rally to donate to Mrs. Alexander and her unborn child. A few weeks later, Mrs. Alexander and a hearty, Victorian-era sum of $2000 vanishes.
Years later, in another place, Mr. & Mrs. Montgomery prepare for their final show…
There was some great talent at the Fringe this year. I’m hoping next year will be just as grand.