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Island Fringe Festival

Review by Sean McQuaid 

The Island Fringe Festival has wrapped up another successful season, faithfully attended by yours truly. How faithfully? For the second year in a row, I attended all eight shows. Limitations of time and space (pesky space-time continuum!) mean I can’t fully review all eight productions this year, though I did full-length reviews of my three favourites: The Wrestling Play, Just the Way It Is and Perk up, pianist! 

The remaining five shows embody a key trait of this year’s Fringe slate: variety, not just of style or tone or genre, but also of format. They include a site-specific theatrical drama, a talk show, a comedic monologue, a theatrical dance production and a couple of stand-up comedy sets. 

Speaking of which, Personal Philosophy is a pair of stand-up routines performed in the basement lounge of the Factory Cookhouse. Billed as “obscene, possibly vulgar,” foul-mouthed funnymen Dana Doucette and Mark McCue lived up to their hype with profane, often off-putting humour. The more confident, polished McCue got the lion’s share of the laughs with smoother delivery and funnier material, such as tales of cruelly toying with pizza delivery drivers. 

Nestled snugly at the opposite end of the classy spectrum, Grasshoppa Dance presented Ship of Dreams at the Charlottetown Firefighters Club. Described as “dance drama” and “historical poetry,” it stars Massachusetts-based dancer Maureen Shea in a series of interpretive dances accompanied by recorded voice-over readings from old journals and letters regarding past generations of her family. Partly inspired by Shea’s stepmother’s childhood on PEI, it’s a handsome show (the functional backdrop made of family letters is a nice touch) full of attractive and moving dance, despite occasional issues with pacing, audio clarity and sight lines. 

If I Were Me… I’d Know What I Want is an at least somewhat autobiographical one-woman show staged in Rochford Square, starring “Creativity and Confidence Catalyst” Pamela Ziemann talking about her 50-year journey of finding herself. She’s an appealing, animated, often amusing speaker, though little about this monologue memoir stuck with me afterward beyond her love of Alice Cooper and her resentment of milk (a.k.a. “creepy moo juice”). 

One of the more conceptually intriguing entries in this year’s festival, What’s So Funny About…? is an honest-to-gosh talk show (staged at the Startup Zone) in which local comedians interview assorted local personalities. Producer and primary host Sam MacDonald has a good idea here, though he’s not putting the best possible face on it — nervous, rambling and too often laughing at his own jokes. Co-hosts Kelly Caseley and Dylan Miller were more insightful, focused and funny during the episode I attended, stealing (and saving) the show. 

Last but far from least, The Runaway Game is a one-act play produced by Hey Ladie of Montreal, written by Leni Krivy, directed by Madie Jolliffe and starring Krivy, Sophia Metcalf and Andrew Sawyer. Staged compactly in a furnished room at the Haviland Club where the unavoidably small audience is seated inches away, it’s an intimate, playful, amusing, thoughtful and sometimes uncomfortable portrait of two troubled young women and their relationships with men and each other. 

A chronologically jumbled assemblage of dreams, anecdotes, memories and conversations that often hints at the histories, issues and situations of its characters without spelling them out, The Runaway Game is pleasantly reminiscent of David Lynch. The chemistry between Krivy and Metcalf (who gives one of the festival’s best performances) reminds me of Lynch’s Mullholland Drive, and the play as a whole reminds me of Homer Simpson’s review of Lynch’s Twin Peaks: “Brilliant! …I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.” 

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