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Gasping for Air


Review by Linda Wigmore

Rob MacDonald’s in it. That should be enough of a review to get people out to The Guild to see Sketch 22 this summer. Yes, MacDonald is that funny. But there are other reasons that make season five the one to see. This is my favourite show yet, I’ve seen it twice and I’m going for a third time.

Sketch 22 is a mix of live comedy sketches and previously filmed footage shown on the big screen in between the live sequences. The whole thing moves along at a great clip and the end came too soon for my liking, even though the show runs over two hours, including intermission. There are no repeat sketches from previous years, this is all fresh and new.

There is one new cast member, Lennie MacPherson, replacing Harmony Wagner. It was sad seeing Wagner leave, but MacPherson is a great replacement. Rounding out the cast are Graham Putnam (arguably the second funniest man on PEI, if he is to be believed), Dennis Trainor, (by now a grizzled old character actor) and perpetual straight man Andrew Sprague.

Now, I cringed when I heard about Anne 2008, the initiative to bring on even more mass media hysteria over the red-headed monster, but Sketch 22 gives Anne a whole new look and feel, most notably in “Trans Anne.” There is some “local” humour here, not as much as in previous seasons, but you probably don’t need to get the references to get the jokes. And there is much universal humour here. My favourite sketch, starring Rob MacDonald and Graham Putnam, “Pavlov’s audience,” had people laughing until they cried, gasping for air. And in “Oldies he says” the cast managed to get honest to god tears out of people.

Due to the fast-paced nature of the show, the sets are minimal, but the production values are upped greatly for the video footage, and I believe these could be pieced together to make a TV show better than most of the sketch comedy shows now on the air. There’s less shock humour here than in previous shows, and while I have nothing against shock humour, I feel that it’s a sad day when the shock is replacing the funny. The cast and writers have done well to combine the shock and the funny this year, especially in “Special Needs” and “Joey’s Birthday Blowout.” Oh you will be shocked, but you will laugh as well.

So what are you waiting for? Go on and get those tickets booked. They’ve been playing to packed houses, and you’ll want to get a good seat. Did I mention Rob MacDonald’s in it?



Review by Linda Wigmore

Enemies, a theatrical improv soap opera, at the Arts Guild, ran over three consecutive Mondays in August. Co-created and co-produced by Laurie Murphy and Jason Rogerson, Enemies had its first three-week run last year. Sean McQuaid directed both summers. I didn’t see Enemies last year, but there was so much buzz around the performance of Graham Putnam in the first three episodes that I couldn’t wait to see it this year. I was also very excited about the new cast (Putnam was the only original cast member left). He was joined by theater veterans Rob MacDonald and Nancy McLure, as well as relative newcomers Carly Martin and Joey Weale.

McLure and MacDonald had their work cut out for them keeping up with the energy and unfailing commitment to character of the younger actors ( all three had dual roles). Putnam played Dr. Shelley Lugosi and his clone, Dolly. Martin played twins Britney and Drew McClintock, a bonkers porn star and a rookie cop, respectively. Weale was Lugosi’s lawyer/peon, Dwight Stanfield, and Charlie Angel. The cast was rounded out with McLure as Lady Cordelia de Montmorency, MacDonald as Reverend Ernest Gelding and Troy the blowup doll as himself.

In the beginning of Episode seven, Dr. Shelley Lugosi is in prison for the murder of his clone Dolly. The prison scenes are a delightful sendup of the Silence of the Lambs, with Putnam as Hannibal Lecter as Lugosi. He receives a visit from Drew McClintock, who is investigating a serial killer known only as Diana the Huntress. Lady Cordelia is in town to campaign for the reverend Ernest Gelding, founder and leader of the Presbycatholics, who is running for premier of PEI. She visits Shelley, an old school chum and sex partner, apparently, even though they haven’t seen each other since grade seven. The plot just twists and twists. Dolly is reanimated and he and Shelley have a sexual reunion. Charlie Angel, Lady C’s boytoy and secret agent, runs into Britney, who he used to make porn movies with. And in what was probably the most memorable scene of the entire three episodes, Dwight, finding himself alone with Troy, uses him as a stand-in for Lugosi. He then declares his admiration for Lugosi before impersonating Lugosi through Troy, who expresses his mutual love and appreciation of Dwight. Joey Weale as Dwight Stanfield as Troy as Graham Putnam as Shelley Lugosi as Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. Brilliant. My head hurts.

Special appearances were also made by local scenesters such as David Weale, Andrew Sprague and Dylan Miller. These cameos allowed the creators to throw a serial killer into the mix without losing key players. It was pretty funny seeing these people invited up on stage only to be killed, although Sprague at least got to have a political debate with Gelding and Lugosi before being disposed of.

I had to keep reminding myself that I was watching improv. I haven’t seen anything like it since the tragic demise of Fourplay. Or maybe it was more like a Christopher Guest movie. The advantage of the Enemies format over theater sports-style improv is the chance for the performers to develop the characters over the course of the rehearsal period and throughout the play’s run. Character development was greatly aided by costumes, and in particular, the wigs worn by Britney, Charlie and Lugosi, to great effect. The wigs were practically characters themselves. Credit for costumes and wigs goes to Emily Hanlin, and if she doesn’t get a freakin’ Tony or something, there’s no justice in the world.

The sets were simple but effective. Before the play even began I had a good idea that I was in for a treat after checking out the programs by Laura O’Brien, with additional graphics by Chloe Cork, containing ads for Cordy’s Cordial ( do you like bright red drinks that #?@* you up?) and Dr. Shelley Labs (if you’ve got something in your sockets, you can hock it at: I mean, when’s the last time you read a review of a program?

I’m not sure exactly how one directs an improv soap opera, but whatever Sean McQuaid did, it worked and he is to be commended for it. Several of the characters had theme songs which introduced them each time they came on stage. Mildly amusing at first, this soon grew annoying and distracting, in several instances noticeably breaking the performer’s concentration. A minor quibble.

There were great moments too numerous to mention. I will mention a favorite one for each actor: Lady Cordelia, revealing her true emotional depth and sexual proclivity, bites her knuckle upon the death of Sprague and wails “But he was so cute!” Britney, in her manic state, forced into small talk with Charlie Angel, pulls on the toes of her bright red tights until they stick out several inches from her feet, explaining, “It makes my legs look longer.” Dolly, coached by Dwight Stanfield to impersonate Lugosi at his annual Reconstructive surgery and Tupperware Party, falls down and explains, as he was coached to do, “Sorry, I am drunk or not feeling well.” Dwight, after losing his contact lens more than once in spite of the fact that he was wearing glasses, takes off his glasses, pokes his finger through the empty frame and admits, “I don’t really need these.” And the repressed Reverend Gelding finally exorcizes Troy, although modesty and obscenity laws prevent me from explaining how on these pages.

To conclude. If you can read this, and you like to laugh, watch for Enemies, episodes 4, 5 and 6, the lost episodes.

Stages of Creation

Nigel Roe

Creative Spark
by Ivy Wigmore

A tree, a house, a home, 2002, mixed media on artboard, a home by Nigel RoeNigel Roe tells his students in the Graphic Design program at Holland College that there are three stages in the creation of art. The first stage is thought, as the artist develops the idea of what he or she wants to achieve. The second stage involves looking at all the sources available to inform that idea, such as other art and media, and the external world. According to Roe, only after these two stages have been completed is the artist ready to begin the third stage, the physical act of creation.

In Roe's recent exhibit at the Confederation Centre, Land Over Time, the three stages of creation are manifest in the selected pieces. The compelling questions and musings that motivate him are evident in the notes written on many of the pieces as he paints. Roe says that these are a part of a running commentary that he keeps up while he works. Although this could be described as talking to himself, it is also a dialog with the subject at hand. For example, notes on The big tree, now the big tower ruminate over the way that the tree's dominant place in landscape is usurped by the cell tower. Pieces in the show are clearly informed by external sources: technology; the natural world; each other. The physical creation is all but demonstrated: we see that layers of paint have been added here and removed there, thoughts jotted down here, and scribbled over there.

Insatiably curious, Roe takes in all the information he can, from all the sources available, and lets it all burble away beneath the surface. From this subconscious brew, the most compelling subjects arise and, eventually, result in physical realization.

Asked to describe the processes between concept and realization, Roe delineates the stages of development for The gate, which he calls his "least favorite" piece in the show. The gate is somber, its dark and murky colours a marked contrast to vibrant blues and greens around it. In fact, The gate was intended to be part of a series with two other pieces, Blue intrusion in the landscape and Promontory, barrier, both of which are bright-coloured and evocative of a sunlit beach, despite their underlying conflict. In comparison to these, The gate evokes some seaside industrial construction. Roe says that he worked on the three paintings concurrently, and that The gate, like the other two, was quite light to begin with. But the lightness didn't work for him; Roe found himself scraping successively deeper through the light layers. As he approached the dark paint beneath all that lightness, Roe realized that The gate was intended to be dark.

Much of Roe's work features shifting surfaces: layers added and subtracted, words scribbled over images, erased and scribbled over. In essence, the viewer is given access to the artist's processes, and is thus privy to the stages of creation.

This is the first of a series of articles in which Ivy Wigmore talks to Island visual artists about what motivates theircreativity.

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