2010 Edmonton Fringe Review Day 3

I have a fairly airtight "no fags" rule that has turned out to not only be extremely popular but an excellent way of avoiding bad material. Though Caligula: The Musical certainly violates the sodomist ban in the first thirty seconds of orgy material, it turns out to be okay. Like the grand films of old, Caligula's uranist tendencies are the gateway to a whole realm of immoral and frightening behavior which ultimately sees him killed. It's from the finest Shakespearean traditon in that regard. The play is about the historical Roman figure, but more precisely its in the spirit of the 1979 Malcolm McDowell film.

Caligula (Evan Terlesky) wants to be Caesar: not only will he be the absolute ruler of Rome that he and his army boy-toy Macro (Chad Carlson) feel is his destiny, but he'll finally get the chance to bed his own sister (Alyssa Billingsley). (If you thought Cruel Intentions had too much brother-sister love you'll have this work) The news that his grandfather Tiberius (Mikolai Witschl) wishes to see him on a remote island just fits perfectly into his plans. Though Tiberius warns him against it, Caligula kills his grandfather to take the throne, and then all the fun begins. Well, except for everybody around him. After making his soldier fairy into the head of the Praetorian Guard, Caligula instantly implicates him in the murder and drives him to suicide. From there, his proclamations get more and more irrational as it turns out there is a group of Tiberius loyalists anxious to put ineffectual Hacker-esque uncle Claudius (Brendan Fraser) under the laurels.

I would be lament if I didn't stress that this was not the play to bring kids or the squeamish to: in addition to an opening song likely titled "Pussy (That's What I Want)", at one point Caligula finally gets sex with his sister while simultaneously having her raped by his horse. And this is shown. Be warned.

The songs are relatively well done, though Alyssa Billingsley's voice is far too loud and piercing compared to the rest of the cast: some lyrics were completely unintelligible as her voice cut out any sounds with elocution coming from the rest of the cast. One musical issue I had was that the play opened with a 4-6 minute long piano solo by Brendan Fraser, which was perhaps a little unnecessary. The pacing is fairly quick, and while the runtime goes by generally smoothly there isn't all that much great dialog. Near the end Caligula bursts into a song arguing that his thirsting and lust for power would occur to anybody placed in the situation, though not only is this not borne out by what we've seen of Tiberius himself but we never see Caligula acting "like anybody else". He's a sick and depraved individual when we first encounter him and he hasn't really "arced" throughout the play: the only arc to speak of is Drusilla (the sister), who starts off just as depraved as him and lusting after her brother only to later see the error in her ways and end her life in sadness when horse rape was more important to him than her sweet sweet luscious touch.

There's really only one mystery in this play I don't get: Kristen Omerzu (last seen in Lutheran church ceremonies) plays both Gemellus (Claudius's younger brother, who he also sexually molests) and an anonymous concubine. As Gemellus she's put in lose clothes and made to look like a pre-pubescent boy. As the concubine she's in loincloth panties and a bra. In the former she (properly) gives all appearances of being totally flat chested. In the bra we see that her rack is huge. Where the hell does it go??

Sometimes when you leave a building you think to yourself "this was a shitty play". If you go to see Sh!tshow you can declare this whether you liked the play or not. Its all about shit, or at least that's how it bills itself.

What it really is when you get there is a set of skits about bathroom related topics. Skat takes centre stage, though urine and masturbation make appearances as well. Actors Ben McIvor, Will Mitchell, Amber Muller, and Liz Rodriguez take us through a variety of issues regarding the bathroom (though the largest issue, lid up or down, is only briefly referenced and no acknowledgment is made of the obvious choice that the lid is left in place by whoever last used it). Where the work does best is when it sticks to its oeuvre, namely staying on the topic of shit. The choose your own adventure segment is fairly good, as are the "Taco King" and "maybe its just a fart" gags. Will Mitchell's powerpoint talk into categories of feces is fairly entertaining as well. Where Sh!tshow falls apart like a Type 2 after its been out in the sun too long is in the non-dung aspects of the play. While watching Muller and Rodriguez catfight and later intimately maneuver around in bra and panties in a Brazilian wax sequence is best described as awesome (Rodriguez had those protuding nipples going for her while Muller's rack is frankly obscene in its massivity, hence my linking to her Facebook profile above), McIvor and Muller are in a 3-segment and overly dramatic and excruciatingly painful skit about a positive pregnancy test or seven. The masturbation segment was neither funny nor insightful. In the end, Sh!tshow is a solid but hardly fiber-filled exploration into the bowel. For probably the best example of this sort of piece and what should have been the inspiration for the play, let's just leave it all up to the masters, okay?

Sometimes a fictional work moves into an exotic location to provide a sense of newness. Sometimes this is done for seemingly no reason and it almost never becomes a plot point, while at other times the exotic locale is entirely essential for the story at hand. Its Raining in Barcelona is a prime example of the former. At no point in the play does Barcelona become critical to the plot, which is odd since the setting is brought up in the title. While there's a couple Europeans in the work, the play wouldn't have been much different had the play stayed in Saskatoon. Lali (Leora Joy Godden) is a call girl who's best client David (Alan Long) isn't interested so much in sex as reading her quotations and trying to expand her mind: while admittedly getting her half naked or some such thing. David's interests partially coincide with the world-wise playboy image her boyfriend Carlos (Jeffrey Pufahl) likes to project: he quizzes her on quotations as well. As David learns of Carlos, emotions run strong, arguments ensue, all that usual love triangle stuff. While the writing isn't bad, the plot doesn't progress all that well and the actors are not entirely throwing all of themselves into the parts. Long's David is just the right mix of everyday Joe and slightly perverted guy pretending to be everyday Joe the rest of his life, but Lali seems to have a veil of uncaring paled over everything she does. When the female role has to carry the entire piece, its a shame when it fails to click.

It's Raining in Barcelona has its own website, though, so you can see the trailer and see for yourself.