2012-08-29

Some chick named Ashley Hebert brought her boyfriend to my city and all I got was this lousy tax bill

Travel Alberta claims visit from low level celebs was a "good investment":

Travel Alberta is claiming the economic spin-off will outweigh the cost of bringing reality TV stars to the city last weekend.

The province and Edmonton Economic Development Corporation dished out about $20 thousand to have Ashley Hebert and her fiance JP Rosenbaum from the Bachlorette visit Edmonton for two days, to take in the fringe festival, visit the Art Gallery of Alberta and dine at local restaurants.
You're kidding me, right? I had heard that the Bachelorette girl and her fiancee were in Edmonton last week. I had assumed, of course, that they were just visiting. I couldn't have cared less, but the girls did seem sort of impressed that Ashley and JP had come to our little burg.

I wonder if EEDC really thinks that they, or other people around the world who heard that the couple was in town, would remain impressed considering that they had to be bribed to come out here. In fact, they had to be bribed to the tune of $5,000 per person per day just to visit? Not just that, but this visit took place during the summer, during the world's second largest Fringe Theatre Festival. Geesh, you'd think we were a better tourist destination than that. "Come to Edmonton: if you very very briefly pop in during the best possible time to check it out and are paid the cost of a new car for your troubles, it's almost worth it."

Travel Alberta actually claimed "the exposure through social media" was the huge boost. Yeah, I'm sure the snark-o-sphere known across the planet as Twitter was totally cool with this nakedly shameful and ultimately humiliating PR stunt. Especially when the positive tweets are female de-empowering ones like this:

I'm literally dying that I won't be here for this..": Bachelorette and fiancé head to Edmonton Fringe

2012 Edmonton Fringe Village of the Fringed Review: The Question

Well, I had a good fag-free run this year. Unfortunately, it all came a-crashing down around me at The Question.

I guess had I investigated I would have found the rainbow-hued logo of the production company and gotten suspicious.

So anyways, this story is about a couple of poofters (whom we shall call KindaFemmy and ExtremelyFemmy for semi-obvious reasons) who are raising the world's most unfortunate 17 year old girl. It seems this play takes place in a future (good sense implies 18+ years away, for reasons which may not be as obvious) where a mysterious man called "Dr. van der Hauk" has been performing human genetic experimentation. As the play opens, the authorities have begun to investigate his work which it has recently been revealed is a lot more extreme and less ethical than prevailing public opinion had been. And public opinion has been split.

As the play opens, Maria (the poor girl stuck being raised by a couple homos) and her friend Alyssa are going over their high school projects which seem to be revolving around Dr. van der Hauk's experimentation programs. It's sort of teased that there's a nefarious purpose to this, that the school is using these homework assignments as a method of flushing the truth out...then it's immediately dropped and never ever ever comes up again.

While the girls are talking about dancing with boys in what certainly sounds like a crude imitation of normal people's (or in this case, teenaged girls) conversations regarding sex as it would be interpreted by a flamer...which, of course, it is...KindaFemmy is concerned that ExtremelyFemmy is acting weird and down in the dumps. In a neat bit of interspacing where the upstairs and downstairs conversations alternate between "on" and "paused" the plot and its twin threads are revealed: KindaFemmy has been holding out on Maria the truth about her mother, and now it appears that ExtremelyFemmy has been holding out on the real truth about Maria's mother from KindaFemmy. It all comes to a head [thank you, ladies and gentlemen! enjoy the veal! -ed] when Maria's school project about her genetic lineage forces us to learn that van der Hauk did some fancy DNA splicing and replaced the genetic material in a woman's egg with ExtremelyFemmy's DNA, which was what the frozen sperm from KindaFemmy impregnated.

It doesn't learn, come to think of it, from an honest expressive moment between the characters (who could explain "honest expressive" to you about as much as they could explain what boobies feel like) or from an investigative scene where the pieces fall together, but rather from a YouTube video of an old news report, which sort of screamed lazy writing. It also lends itself to the logical assumption that present day is before Maria was hatched in a lab, along with perhaps the silliest plot point imaginable.

You see, crazy ol' Doc Hauk wasn't just using ExtremelyFemmy's genetic material to make him into Maria's mother, no sir Bob. In a video we learn that ExtremelyFemmy actually got the egg implanted in him and became pregnant, a plot point that not only makes no sense scientifically but in the service of the plot as well. You see, a man could only get pregnant with something called an artificial Ectopic pregnancy, which in nature is extremely dangerous. It's theoretically possible but with great risk and relatively little reward. It's certainly not the sort of thing you would do with your groundbreaking process of making a child from the genetic material of two men: not when millions of female uterii are standing by and ready to be utilized. It would be like inventing a revolutionary and expensive new propulsion system for aircraft and then testing it on an airplane that you've deliberately dropped a bomb on first. It also would remove the control from your experiment: what if Maria came out wrong? Was it because of your crazy genetic materials swap? Or your crazy male pregnancy swap?

From the story's perspective it makes no sense either: a man becoming impregnated (and then walking around in public) would be big news. Indeed, it was big news -- KindaFemmy watched it on the actual news (or an archive thereof). So why was it that this pregnancy (which must not have happened yet in "our" world or we'd remember it too) existing and being the responsibility of Dr. van der Hauk the "trigger" that told KindaFemmy about the truth? It seems from the news that he watched (and we didn't) that ExtremelyFemmy wasn't shown on screen as the pregnant man, but knowing that there was a pregnant man and that he was a van der Hauk experiment doesn't imply that ExtremelyFemmy was the man or that Maria was the offspring. But it's the reveal, and then they talk about it, so I guess it was. So KindaFemmy didn't think it was weird that during the 9 months he didn't see ExtremelyFemmy there were news reports about van der Hauk (who was ExtremelyFemmy's boss both "then" and "now") creating a pregnant man, and then came back to a newborn baby who he was told was a result of van der Hauk's experiments and would need to be regularly studied? He never pieced it together then, when it was live in front of him, but has figured it out now? I mean seriously, that's like having a loved one mysteriously disappear during their "business trip in Atlanta" on September 11th 2001, and then figuring out in 2027 -- using nothing but 2001-era 9/11 coverage -- that they were having a secret affair in New York City and she worked at Tower Two.

So anyways, the Big Truth is revealed: a large amount of drama takes place: arguments are had, Maria gets mad and moves away, KindaFemmy walks out, and ExtremelyFemmy is left with his head down sobbing as his life falls apart entirely because it turns out everybody who isn't Dr. van der Hauk's lab assistant is pretty much creeped out by his weird genetic modification research. (A minor plot point, KindaFemmy is one of these nuts worried about GMOs, which will again be a plot point for precisely 15 milliseconds and then never come up ever ever again). As it starts to look like he may have an arc, that he may have to fess up to his enthusiastic role in the birth of Maria and accept that his new life doesn't feature his fudge packing buddy and the teenaged girl to whom he's given the biggest "Kick Me" sign in human history (oh, wait, is Suri Cruise a teenager at this point?). Or he has to eat crow, admit that what he did was wrong, and beg forgiveness or repudiate the experiments. Or try to have his cake and eat it to, give an impassioned speech about how what he did was good and right and important for humanity and encourage Maria and the other sodomite to endure the initial hardship for long term benefit.

Or, alternately, he can wake up from his nightmare and find that it's Opposite Day now: Maria is totally cool that she's a genetically modified freak without even the benefit of super powers, KindaFemmy is so proud that his daughter is the result of hugely public and reviled experimentation that is about to have its finer details poured over in the media and legal system, and everybody's one big happy fake family. No, seriously, that's the ending. The characters stopped acting like real (though badly acted) people and started badly acting like implausibly fake people. And then everybody's happy at the end, hoorah!

Hey, what about the tough questions about bioethics in genetics, experimenting on human beings, extreme genetic alterations, and what it all means to individual human beings, humanity as a whole, and the human condition (and the very notion of it) in general? Ah screw it, this is just a play about sperm gurglers being happy. So what if it doesn't deliver on its promises?

This is a play where the girls, despite their youth, are better actors than the -- men? The dialogue is clunky and awful, but at least the girls interact with each other and move about the space they occupy in what can pass for realistic. The lead actors are either so uncomfortable with the material or each other that they walk around like they have a stick up their ass and are waiting to escape to the warm light of day. [the veal was delicious, wasn't it? -ed]

Final word: Can fags pretend to act like real people? That is The Question, and the answer unsurprisingly turns out to be "no".

2012-08-27

The Village of the Fringed: The 2012 Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival

(this post will remain "sticky" until August 27th. Scroll down for new content)


Well, tonight is the kickoff to this year's Fringe Festival. As always, stay tuned to Third Edge of the Sword for photos, videos, reviews, analysis, and commentary from one of Edmonton's most popular festivals.

This is the portal page for our Fringe festival coverage: feel free to bookmark this post as it will be updated with fresh content throughout the next 11 days.

For a hint of what is to come, check the 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006 portal pages.

And of course, as always when Third Edge of the Sword does the Fringe, there's one hard and fast rule:

No fags.

Day 1: First night photos have now appeared on my Facebook page

Day 2: The Saints of British Rock reviewed.

Day 3: Rerentless reviewed.

A few photos.

A review of the problems with the Fringe Festival grounds

Day 4: Reviews of both Chalie Sands: A Hockey Story and Titanic. As well, my Facebook page now contains additional photos from the opening weekend.

Day 5: Reviews of both The Day It Rained Fire and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Also posted various YouTube videos from busker shows and a Fringe walkthrough.

Day 6: Reviews of both Peter 'n Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel as well as Gametes and Gonads

Day 7: A combined review of two plays whose only redeeming feature would have been the nudity: Sexed and Bad Girls. In reality the Fringe nudity is a bit of a last gasp anyways: why would I pay $15 to go see a play where I will see a quick glance of tit (or not, as in these two plays) when I can pay $12 for cover and a drink at Diamonds and see endless tit, some of whom are interested in rubbing it in my face? Also, a review of Power: J.S Woodsworth & W.L Mackenzie King which also didn't feature any tit.

Day 8: A review of The First Canadian President of the United States and Pest Control

Day 9: A review of The Question.

A final Facebook album has been posted.

2012-08-26

2012 Edmonton Fringe Village of the Fringed Review: Pest Control

Now this is more like it.

If you're looking for a light-hearted comedy romp that just tells a simple story well, Pest Control should be right up your alley. Gordo (James Hamilton) and Henry (Cat Walsh) are a quiet couple living in a quiet home. Until they get...a mouse.

After Gordo's attempts to catch the mouse fails, Henry insists they bring in a professional exterminator: Twitch (Trent Wilkie). Twitch's rough demeanour and insistence on lethally bringing the mouse to his own brand of justice conflicts with the quiet tendencies of the couple.

Then two things drive the story forward: the Mouse (Brett Lemay) reveals to (only) Gordo that he can talk, and Henry and Twitch fall in love with each other. What ends up happening is a bit of hilarious gags (and some neat ways of incorporating the mouse-human scale differences) where Gordo tries to thwart Twitch's more and more effective traps unaware that the longer he keeps the exterminator around the more and more he's losing his wife to him.

Brett Lemay's ability to physically portray the human interactions with him is the highlight of the play. Twitch is meant to come across as this wild and crazy politically incorrect rogue who says and does crazy things as he gets the job done, but in reality he's far more tame than most of the people I know -- indeed I know a couple of Trents alone who would put this man to shame. The CBC crowd was probably in shock, I guess.

The play doesn't linger too long on any plot point for it to become stale, and yet nothing in the play feels rushed or ill-thought out. The gag with the cockroaches at the end seemed a little forced, like the 60 minute mark was approaching and the author decided its wise to cut everything short, but other than that this was a good story told well with competent performances that didn't try to get more showy than the material allowed for.

Final word: More fun than cleaning rats out of a Medicine Hat waste facility, but its too late for you to see another showing anyways.

2012-08-25

2012 Edmonton Village of the Fringed Fringe Review: The First Canadian President of the United States

Even successful political comedies are exercises in careful meticulous planning. Too much politics and too little humour can be deadly. And this is what sinks The First Canadian President of the United States. Well that and horribly sloppy writing, a bizarre senseless scenario, and writer Jem Rolls' shitty shitty politics. Okay, let's try to handle this one a single issue at a time.

There wasn't much in the line of humour in this play. It's okay, it doesn't have to be a light-hearted comedy romp. But it thought there was humour, and that's its biggest flaw. Apparently it was hoped that just name dropping people would work. She went to Preston Manning College! Hilarious, why would a University educated man who was one of the primary movers of a massive political movement that is still making international waves a quarter-century later ever get a college named after him? The left may hate Sarah Palin (for being smarter than they are, typically), but even for this crowd simply saying "President Palin" isn't that funny.

The biggest reason, of course, is that the Americans actually elected President Monkey, and may yet re-elect him. You literally can't think of a less capable name for the Presidency. Corky from Life Goes On maybe?

There was only a couple of jokes in the entire show that were worth a chuckle: when Kimberley White-White (yes, that's supposed to be her name, which was supposed to be another joke) talked about her continued success leading the Conservative Party she noted that "every election the lib-left added another party", which is hilarious of course since it's true. The crowd was silent. Maybe they're still mourning the loss of the Alberta Party? Too soon, Jem Rolls, too soon! The other joke, more of a gag, is that her husband apparently had a hobby of homemade chutney, which she got so sick of that it gave her a weird compulsion. It was worth a chuckle or too, and then got massacred to death.

The writing was fairly disjointed and unimaginative, with an apocalyptic scenario where the population of the entire world has received brain implants, and the Chinese politburo is secretly sending a software upgrade to allow another person control over the personality of everybody with them. Like one-for-one? All at once? Meh, doesn't really say. Regardless, this causes President Kimmy's trusted adviser to schedule a public appearance at the aforementioned Preston Manning College to address their graduating class, and then use the newly implemented personality override to force President White-White to deliver a speech he's written talking about her rise to power and supposedly warning the world about what is to come. Priscilla Yakielashek does a decent enough job with the physical aspects of the plot, the gyrations and awkward motions as another person takes control of her body, but most of her lines are not so much delivered as much as dropped in front of your door with a sticky note from UPS asking you to sign for it online. At various points in the show the audience wasn't entirely sure with what they were meaning to see, and whether or not we were supposed to be sympathetic or outraged or what to the plight of the protagonist.

This whole nightmare scenario is supposed to be because President White-White sold Canada out to the Chinese (by "letting corporations go unregulated" which sounds exactly what Communist Beijing is all gung-ho for), but the way this seemed to happen was with the banking system being taken over by China because they had all of our money which wasn't so much us 'selling out' to them as much as being just plain old-fashioned out-competed due to our politicians ineptitude. Meanwhile the "brain chips" seemed to be planet-wide. Did the "mass murderers Canada let police their own borders with our assistance" let their citizenry get implanted with ChiCom chips too? If they already have a U.S. workforce just making their citizens cheap trinkets, and all the money on earth running through their banks, what do they even need the chips for? Is it just for the lolz?

This segues nicely into the final problem with the play: Jem Roll's laughable political stance. It makes you yearn for the good old days when Tory's were attacked for exaggerated transgressions of the past rather than completely fraudulent ones of the future. The big example of foolishness has to come when White-White talked about the Democrats and their "silly issues and policies and plans and thinking". Did Jem Rolls, having realized that Paul Ryan was the Romney VP candidate and President Monkey is going into an election devoid of all ideas and plans and ways out of the jam that he has put America into, thought "ah fuck it" and just left it in? The Republicans are full of plans: math, ideas, concerns, solutions. What do the Democrats have? Sandra Fluke's five-mile-wide vagina? Likewise the whole "selling us out to the Chinese" bit. Sorry, which President sold nuclear secrets to China in return for illegal campaign contributions again? Which President, who looks suspiciously like a monkey, took illegal campaign contributions from China online? Which party in the United States is looking to reduce the U.S. debt which is largely held by China and which could cause the Chinese banks to force the U.S. into "double bankruptcy" as the play suggests? How many more Americans than Chinamen are helped out by American businesses getting tax cuts? See what I mean here?

This all ends up just building a sloppy foundation with far-left bends on all the support beams which ends up sending the house of card which is The First Canadian President of the United States crashing down to earth. The play thinks its scoring political points when its only showing the author's own ignorance of the facts on the ground. It thinks its being funny by lazily spouting half-jokes that were barely funny to only the most hardcore leftist before the United States electorate in 2008 showed them what a real intellectual lightweight in the highest office looks like. Finally, it wants to be telling a story about a nightmare scenario going wrong in which North America is poor, everybody has lost their individual rights, and a cadre of elites tell the people what they must do at all times.

That isn't a nighmare scenario: that's what voting for the Rub n' Tug Jack Laytons and the President Monkeys of the world will bring to us. The best way the prevent a scenario like that from happening is to elect a Canadian Prime Minister who really would slash healthcare spending, reduce the size and scope of government, and bring western public debt to a meaningful level.

Final Word:Lazy, offensive, and without redeeming merit unless you sit in the front row and get to see up Yakielashek's skirt.

2012 Edmonton Village of the Fringed Fringe Festival Review: Power: J.S Woodsworth & W.L Mackenzie King

In 1925, the Liberals found themselves with only 99 seats (this used to be considered a disaster for the party), and the Prime Minister (William "Lying" Mackenzie King) lost his seat.

Perhaps inexplicably for the modern eyes, King lost his seat and his election and just decided to continue on as Prime Minister. The problem of course is that eventually Parliament was going to get around to voting, and King was going to lose a vote of non-confidence unless he got some of the other parties on-side.

Enter J.S. Woodsworth -- leader of the Independent Labour Party (which ended up forming both the NDP and the Communist Party of Canada, not that the distinction is particularly important). Woodsworth wrote to both the Labour and Conservative leaders demanding an expansion to the welfare state in return for his support. In response, King invited Woodsworth to dinner to discuss the letter.

Which is where we come in with Power: J.S Woodsworth & W.L Mackenzie King, a play that dramatizes the meeting between the two men. Okay, that phrase isn't entirely accurate, let me try it again.

A play that uses the excuse of a meeting with the two men to lay it on thick with political propaganda. Yes, that seems more in line with what I saw.

I understand that to a certain extent the two men have to explain their histories and their circumstances to the audience in a play like this: because there's no external character who needs to have things explained to them, the two men have to act as if they've never heard of each other despite both being long-standing members in the House of Commons. This doesn't, however, excuse why each of them sounds less like a human being sitting in a meeting with each other and more like a politician out on a stump speech reading his Wikipedia page.

So that's the quick play summary. I could really just end this review right here. Whenever we see two politicians talking to each other in a mix of candour and false candour the play works, the Yes Minister trappings working very well here (it helps too that the actor playing King looks less like King and more like Sir Mark Spencer who convinced Jim Hacker to 'betray' Sir Humphrey by using discoveries of government waste as a way to further cut spending). The best line in the play comes early when Woodsworth tells King he doesn't want to force the Liberals to go against their principles: only force them to act upon them. The play falls apart when the two are less jockeying for position and more going into detail about their life experiences and what their "life's work" has been: I think the final tally was that King's "life's work" was 7 different things to Woodsworth's 3. It literally got to the point that every time King mentioned anew what he has "dedicated his whole life to" I let out a massive fart. The venue was pretty smelly by the time the play ended.

The propaganda, of course, was laid on pretty thick: the director ran for the Green Party in 2011, if that gives you a hint as to how far from reality the people backstage for this play really were. They try desperately to make Woodsworth and King's arguments relevant to the present: "the Tory always believes ________ and does ______ and always will", "industry must change to become more democratic", etc. Unfortunately for them, we don't live in 1925. We live decidedly in 2012, and the reality of the last 75 years was that the "progressive" pro-union world of these two men (Woodsworth the bigger offender here) was a disaster: an ever expanding house of cards requiring a bigger and more intrusive government to keep the whole thing afloat. The two men sneer at Meighan, but it turns out perpetually high unemployment and loss of job opportunities for young or inexperienced workers was the end result of their schemes. These 'champions' of the poor made damned sure that their ranks would ever swell (and continue, conveniently enough, to vote for them to keep the gravy train running) and that economic opportunity everywhere was lost. Obviously the NDP and the Greens never learned this lesson, which is why their second rate "brains" from Jack Layton to Elizabeth May keep peddling this bullshit on us, oblivious as the two out-of-date characters to the dangers of not only the injustices you can see but the ones you cannot: the jobs never created because of the perverse incentives of government welfare combined with the money taken from the economy in order to fund them; workers left crying for a handout because the unions have been given so much power that they force companies into diverting too many resources towards lavish spending to current employees rather than the investment that could increase their ranks; individual liberties falling by the wayside as the government continues to grow and grow sweeping aside more and more of what used to be known as the private sphere.

The two men in history are ignorant of this. The two men in the play are ignorant of this. Tragically, since the writers are also ignorant of this we end up with a polemic piece of garbage that is pushing snake oil eight decades past its expiry date. As a whole the actors do a decent job of what they are given, and the man portraying Woodsworth has his look spot on: even in some spots though the weird clunky dialogue causes them to falter as they are trying to figure out whatever the hell they are trying to say. The play runs a good 10 minutes too long, as the script runs out of gas and simply rehashes the same bits over and over again.

The best moment in the play has to be however Woodsworth being upset that he was charged for quoting the bible in public. Yeah, go ask Hugh Owens about that, you jerkwads. Again the irony in there, for all their concern about strong-arm tactics in the 1919 general strike, they certainly didn't mind union thugs in the late 20s and early 30s. It's again the limitation of only these two characters meeting: we aren't able to look back and compare this discussion with the realities of the world they (and we!) live in. The authors of this play certainly wouldn't want you to learn too much about the real legacy of King (heavy scandals that would make Jean Chretien blush, and the fact that he literally thought his dead mother talked to him from beyond the grave with the help of crystals), nor about J.S. Woodsworth either who thought that war was so horrible that it would be better to have stayed out of WWII even after he learned the fate of those living under the Nazis. History's greatest monster, as The Simpsons would call him.

Final word: About as entertaining and as fulfilling as reading a pamphlet from the Marxist-Leninist Party.

2012 Edmonton Fringe Festival Double Review: Sexed & Bad Girls & The Mystery of the Missing Nudity

I'm doing something a little different: combining two shows into a single page. I've always done this in the past, and tried to shy away from it this year.

But these two shows are intrinsically linked together by a common thread. Both come with warnings of female nudity. Both feature an all-female cast. Both don't show us so much as a goddamn nipple. On Twitter yesterday I was asked about a justifiable rape, and this has to come pretty damned close.

Our first show to discuss is Sexed: where three girls (who have names, but for obvious reasons will be described as hot brown, decent white, and fat white) pretend to give sex education relevant to the current generation of Lady Gaga-inspired women. Inexplicably, the actresses/writers (they are one and the same, so no blame can be passed off) are operating under some weird fiction that women aren't being encouraged enough to be comfortable with their bodies. Obviously they have never been at the Gas Pump on a Friday evening. Anyways, the girls try to explain how traditional sex education isn't cutting the mustard: the only gag here that works is when a couple puts a condom on a banana (as taught in class) and then start having wild unprotected sex in the theory the banana is somehow protecting them. It's about this point they break into three distinct characters to show each's sexual awakening. It's apparently the "three primary achetypes" of female sexuality, which inexplicably are "prude turned into cautious yet enthusiastic sexual creature" (Decent White), "naughty girl who spent so much time pleasing men she never paid attention to her own needs" (Hot Brown), and "girl who had a bad sexual experience and turns dyke" (Fat White). Well, all right then.

The play itself isn't so much bad, as just doesn't really go anywhere: just like the infamous Sex in the City, it doesn't do what it sets out to do and ends up just cementing everybody's pre-existing idea of what women as sexual creatures are like. Oh, and speaking of justifiable rape, it brings up the classic "soft date-rape" case: where she and him fool around, she doesn't explicitly say "yes" at every single millisecond of the sexual encounter, and then afterwords feels bad and decides that he committed a criminal act. If this is the picture of rape that they really want to push forward, I recommend that the maximum sentence for rape henceforth be a $250 fine. Likewise their (obvious) anti-life abortion message: "it's your choice, not his." This blog has torn that argument apart enough times its hardly necessary for me to do this again. Real edgy fringe theatre you folks are running!

Total nudity: Hot brown girl at one point pretends to masturbate and you briefly get a glimpse of her panties. I think I saw more underwear than that at the beer gardens...which were almost deserted.

Our second play, Bad Girls, isn't actually a play as much as four unconnected skits. It opens up with the sexiest scene you can imagine: an old housewife (complete with apron) complaining about a babysitter using vulgar language for apparently no reason complete in a Jersey accent. After a bit of very stylized dialogue, the ultimate result is a massive reset button putting both characters back into the situation in which they began, a process that was at least 3-4 minutes too long.


The second skit tells the tale of a swashbuckling pirate girl (who apparently sailes from the pirate haven of...Ireland) and her encounter with the wife of a man she...well, had some sort of situation with: by the end you've given up trying to remember which tales are true. The skit starts out entertaining enough, with the hottest member of either cast in revealing wench clothes, drinking rum (or...Irish Whiskey?) and bragging about her swordfighting skills. "Not one in 10,000 men can best my steel, and I don't see 10,000 men here". Since this is another all-girl cast, let's just all pretend we don't see the plot twist that's a-comin'. Anyways the wife (or fiancee? Seriously, I stopped trying to keep track) bests this girl amazingly easily, and then..surrenders...because of something the hottie said about her husband? And then after another bizarre change of story from hot girl, followed by another change of story from hot girl, then hot girl also surrenders? And then join forces, only they don't, only then they do because the fat wife is really a master of the Dyke Jedi arts. Hot girl is actually surprisingly good here, even if her highly stylized dialogue (are you noticing a trend?) delivered in a thick "drunk person accent" started to wear on the ears after a while. The worst is the girl who played the wife/fiancee/sapphist, whose acting was so bad and so wooden and so uninspiring that I felt like asking her if she was from Slave Lake. Again, this skit went on a good 6-7 minutes longer than it really needed to, the same lines and concepts kept getting jarred about back and forth by the end.

Our next skit was called "FUCKING SATAN" and involved the second hottest member of this cast (third overall) talking about her sexual relationship with Beelzebub. She inexplicably seems to be dominating the Dark Lord (the skit isn't called, please note, "GETTING FUCKED BY SATAN") and using and abusing his body to the extent that he's cuckolded into cleaning up the stage for the remainder of the play. This one didn't last long past its best-sell date, and did feature a decent enough looking striptease...culminating in the girl stripping down to a negligee.

In between were two burlesque-esque [that's a lot of que's there! -ed] dances. One featured old housewife chick, and the other girl from the first sketch as well, who stripped down into only her panties and no bra...only to have giant devil-faces covering her nipples and inexplicably the crotch of her panties too.

Our final skit involved two hookers offering a 2-for-1 deal in meter rhyme, and their dismissal of our housewife actress from the first skit dressed up like a man. Look we know you don't have any actual dick on your casting call folks, its okay if you dress her up as a man to have her be an ACTUAL man...there was literally no necessity in making this girl look so manish only to have her turn out to be a carpet muncher. Again the stylish dialogue (though it makes sense with the rhyming concept at least) as the girls brag about their abilities in the sack being worth $100. Really, that's all? I know the U.S. economy is in shambles, but do visiting troupes actually live in a place where a hot prostitute is worth only fifty bucks? This skit at the very least (partly because of the rhyming) had a stable energy about it, with the pacing being much more even than the other skits. As the lesbo is chased off and the hookers resume their spiel, the play ends. So four skits: two of which went way too long, and one that ended with yet another "this play contains nudity" cocktease. Most of the stories (minus the second) never really progressed anywhere. Most of the stories (minus the fourth) lost their energy at some point. Finally, most of the stories (minus the third) were absent of even the hint of nudity.

Total nudity: Hot swashbuckler showed a lot of panty -- the same girl in the 2-for-1 skit had a pair of crotchless nylons ending in some sweet sweet love nest action that was pretty nice. The Satan-fucking girl got into negligee as discussed, and you saw a braless girl showing less boob than my bra-wearing date on Thursday night was showing. At the end, many of the girls bow with the same fried-egg emblem covering their chest as was shown in the movie poster. So yes, another show with no actual nudity. Monty Python cartoons showed more than these two plays.

Final word: Don't be fooled by your Fringe program: these two chick plays make you yearn for the day when we didn't let them own property.

2012-08-24

Jim Byrne, if that is his real name, loses every argument he has with me

The Facebook coward syndrome continues.

Leftists can't win when their arguments are refuted. So they delete comments they can't handle. Like chickenshits have done throughout history.

Mostly unrelated: What's in a name?

Edmonton 2012 Village of the Fringed Fringe Review: Gametes and Gonads

The notion of sperm as dispensable foot soldiers is hardly a new idea, but I don't think anybody has taken it as far as Gametes and Gonads: a one-man show where both sides of the great battle between sperm and egg come to life and borrow a few dramatic cliches along the journey.

On one side: the military-ready sperm pilots of the left testicle. On the other, the...egg undergoing menstruation for the sake of...the...Goddess...who demands a sacrifice...to better the others?

I guess the quick thing to admit here is that there is no good metaphor for the female side of the equation: why she sheds an egg every 28 days isn't well explained in the play, and let's be frank: it doesn't make a lot of sense in real life either. The egg is almost a MacGuffin in this scenario, a goal to which the sperm must achieve. Which is why the female side of this play remains its weak point: it's really hard to find a good dramatic structure to explain all of this.

The play is billed as "Star Wars meets your genitals" and the poster even shows sperm coming after the Death Star. There's a bit of a bait-and-switch involved here though: other than a single Death Star joke and a 45-second spoof featuring a briefing led by Admiral Ackbar, there is no real Lucasfilm-inspired content. Instead, the sperm training is a basic 1950s war movie pastiche, with the training scenes and briefings providing far more screen time and drama than the actual battle.

Through it all, Jeff Leard plays a wide range of characters: not quite 473,957,155 but pretty gosh-darned close. He manages to fit in not one but two romance subplots, a Scotty character whose strong accent is strangely present in his brother, and a lot of physical depictions of what special effects would usually provide (including one very very long "deploy the collector" montage where a control panel appears and a device charges up which the crowd found hilarious and I had no idea what the hell it was supposed to represent).

Leard jumps, dives, and even somersaults into scene and character changes, and its a very impression one-man show that starts strong and doesn't end for 45 awe-inspiring minutes. The actual story isn't particularly strong (and the android-egg love story will leave you baffled and bewildered), and every once and a while the work looks like its leaving comedy aside for exploring a deeper meaning or understanding only to be thrust back into "one-eyed Jack" jokes and necrophilia humour. It works, and its funny, but the work ultimately lacks a heart. Though to be fair, there's never much coordination between the heart and the genitals.



Final word: If you want a Star Wars themed romp you'd best stay away, but Gametes and Gonads does pack a lot of spunk.

2012 Edmonton Village of the Fringed Fringe Review: Peter n' Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel

The murder mystery is one of the most reliable, practical, and effective story structures known to exist. It's spanned subgenres from the detective story to the slasher flick.

Since this is the Fringe Festival however, Peter 'n Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel turns it neatly on its head. At the very beginning, a hunchbacked little man comes out and introduces the plot...including the identity of the killer.

What struck me right away is that giving away the name of the killer isn't quite the huge faux pas the play implies it is when it opens up. You see, there's this little thing called Dramatic Irony whereby the tension is caused by the audience understanding fully a situation while the characters themselves are in the dark. In this case, Peter and Chris don't start off knowing the identify of the killer, and there is an inherent drama in such a situation.

Anyways, this just kicks off the play: Peter and Chris are driving when they suffer a serious yet oddly non-injurious car accident, and are forced to stop in at the eponymous Hungry Heart Motel, where it turns out that people are dying under mysterious circumstances. Eventually the two learn the killer's identify (okay, so the dramatic irony bit was only applicable for the opening 20 minutes or so) and the balance of the play is their wacky attempts at escaping.

Okay those same opening 20-30 minutes that actually contain the dramatic irony also turn out to be the dullest: the first half of the play serves more as a demonstration of how lead actors Chris Wilson and Peter Carlone are really really good at theatre sports and if you have a performance that requires bigger-than-life acting these are your guys. Their fourth wall breaking gags go from charming to boring remarkably fast, and the plot takes a little while getting up to speed. This play is extremely meta, and while that's the flavour of the month in a world where people actually go to watch Ted and then recommend it to friends, it doesn't register much beyond an "oooh" moment here and there.

Once the manager is openly revealed as the killer (see how I waited there?) the play actually picks up a bit, as the duo tries to escape with varying degrees of success. Clever cutting to other scenes with other characters lets us recharge a bit...and see the prolific nature of the manager's crimes as he offs a half dozen one-note characters in a couple of minutes.

Eventually he catches up to Chris, and then Peter, and just when everything looks to be at its lowest point...the actual story twist pops out of nowhere in a manner that would make Manoj Night Shyamalan feel a little guilty: a story twist that oddly is kept up as a pretense even after the play is over and Peter gives his post-play talk to the audience thanking them for coming and suggesting other Fringe plays.

As a whole the play is an entertaining enough romp: in the latter half some good physical acting takes place, and some of the "look what we can do" setup earlier pays off here. I guess when your play is that self-referential you can pull off gags like that.

Final word: You'll have a fun and entertaining stay at the Hungry Heart Motel, just be prepared for full-on-meta humour.

Michael Mann's hockey stick is a fraud

I posted earlier today on Michael Mann's Facebook page:


Let's see how long it takes the coward to delete it, as he most certainly will the post below mine. To paraphrase Malcolm Reynolds:

Looks like science ain't discovering so much as crawling away.

Update, 10:46am: And... as we suspected. The coward deleted it.

2012-08-22

A memorial to really remember Jack Layton by

Later today in Edmonton there will be a vigil planned for Jack Layton who died a year ago today.

Edmonton's two most offensive politicians will even be in attendance: Rachel Notley and Linda Duncan. The vigil will be held at Grant Notley Park.

Park? That sounds kind of boring. Notley Park is where homeless people hang out: the kind of lazy shiftless losers who the likes of Duncan and Notley love to milk for votes until the cows come home.

Surely somebody else is doing something special for Jack? Well your luck is holding up, there is!

While the boring people have their candlelight vigil in Notley Park, the real celebration of Jack Layton's life is going to be held up in the city's northeast.

Take a look!

(click on the photo to view it in its full glorious size!)

For those who want a real-life celebration of Jack Layton's achievements, here's the real website. While 6510 118 Ave may not be 787 Dundas Street, it is likely a pretty sweet massage, seeing how the gang whose numbered company owns the parlour had a previous parlour under a different numbered company at the same site a few years back that gave some damned good specials.

2012-08-21

2012 Edmonton Fringe Festival Videos

The following are the videos I've collected from the opening weekend of the Village of the Fringed International Edmonton Fringe Festival:







2012 Edmonton Village of the Fringed Fringe review: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

There's a hilarious webseries that tells the story of famous movies using bunnies. Here's them doing Star Wars: A New Hope. Well if you go to see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Fringe festival this year, you get to see the tale of America's 7th President. Based on the off-Broadway rock musical of the same name, this tale is entirely told by...

...

...

...emo kids.

This ends up being a show where the women are the ones with the smallest amount of makeup. The story shows Andrew Jackson's rise to power, and how his desire to wipe out the Spanish/British/Indians/Americans/AnyoneNotNamedAndrewJackson led him to become a general, win Florida for the Union, gain political support and the finally be elected President.

There's a lot of good stuff building up to the ascension to the Presidency: Jackson finds love and basically kills everybody else (including the crippled East Indian girl providing the narration) in order to do what he thinks is correct. He founds the Democratic Party (in one of the hilarious historical whoopsies, they reference having to fight against the Republican Party, which is funny since that party never existed during Jackson's lifetime) and rides a wave to Washington, where he's defeated under the bizarre political machinations that lead to President John Quincy Adams (who, along with Clay, van Buren, and Monroe are all portayed as fairies. And no, Slevin Klebstra, not the kind with wings).

Jackson's back in 1828 though, but his wife dies due to the agony of her husband's vetting process in the U.S. Senate (that's just how things worked back then, the play helpfully explains). As President, he tries and fails his hand at direct democracy, dealing with the National Banks, and solving the Indian Question.

The play is an odd mix: it celebrates Andrew Jackson but isn't able to accept his opinions on slavery or Indians or war, and so it tries to poo-poo it behind the scenes while having adulation for the rock star President. As the Presidency goes on, it suddenly stops, seemingly unable to let the full consequences both positive and negative be felt from his forcible removal of Indians to Okalahoma! So instead of deal with them, and force a modern audience to choose between revering this figure or reviling him, it instead chose to end. Kind of sudden, really, but after 90 minutes in the stifling hot confines of the Catalyst Theatre I really was just happy it was over. Andrew Jackson could have died flying back to his home planet on a rocket ship and I would have accepted this ending.

The performances were all solid. I'm not sure if the four conspirators of the 1824 election were all sodomites in the original show, but that was a pretty outlandish way of handling their characters here: especially for the sensitive sensitivities of a Fringe audience. The cast were all good enough at singing, they kept their physical actions up in the horrible stifling environment, and even the little kid delivered all his lines without flubs or over-hamming it...which in a show like this could push everybody right over the shark.

Final word: If its not the first part of a series of "emo kids talk 'bout U.S. history and stuff", Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson deserves your attendance if you remember to hydrate first.

2012 Edmonton Village of the Fringed Review: The Day it Rained Fire


Natural disasters are ripe material for storytellers. Typically a fictional account is used, allowing the dramatist maximum ability to shape the disaster into a way that best propels the story forward. Very rarely, it seems, does a natural disaster do the story structure "properly".

The May 14th 2011 Slave Lake fire was devastating. 30% of a town (of 7,000!) was destroyed. A province-wide fireban, the first ever, was the immediate result. Homes and businesses destroyed...and then in a final irony days afterwards the town was flooded by heavy rains, culminating in a visit from the newly crowned Prince William and his lovely bride: Pippa's sister. Did the story, however tragic, suit itself well to storytelling?

Probably not, but you'd never know it from the garbled mess that was The Day it Rained Fire.

Mike and Jay over at Redlettermedia would have loved watching this: it touches on all the problems they like to point out in movies. They key issue was one of tone. The Slave Lake fire was devastating. Firemen put their lives on the line in scenarios that experienced urban fire chiefs later declared were too risky and they would have been pulled out. Families rushed on 10 minutes notice to empty their homes of belongings, and then the two weeks of agony forced to either here from scuttlebutt or discern from news footage whether or not their house survived. There was quite possibly some very powerful scenes to be created from this. Hell, the name of the play is "The Day It Rained Fire"! This certainly implies that we as an audience are about to be treated to life in the inferno.

So instead, we see a husband get mad at his wife for using Facebook, and a wife mad at her husband for helping shingle a roof instead of panic in the living room. We see a half-hearted duel of morality of firefighting between a government official with Sustainable Resources and the embodiment of the fire. A couple of firemen crack jokes. Light-hearted romps full of easy-listening jokes, all delivered with the emotional intensity of a nine year old thanking his grandma at Mom's behest for the Xbox game when he only owns a Wii. I don't mean to say the acting is terrible in this or anything, but the acting in this is terrible. There is a single decent performance from the entire cast. When you have ham-fisted actors delivering funny lines, what ends up occurring is a giant mess when the intent was supposed to be (one would assume) sad gravitas.

The play actually opens on a weak note: the co-author is also the narrator, and he tells the story in such a jabbering disjointed tale that its hard to keep up with what's happening. In what's going to become a running theme in this work, we are told about exciting and dramatic events rather than shown them. Even when we are shown things (like one of the fire trucks getting stuck and then consumed by flames the night before everything went to hell), the narrator has to tell us about them first. No, no, build up the tension. The dry facts of the fire are recanted, and compared to a Kelowna fire that was smaller and much less in the impact of Edmontonians.

When the fire was having a "debate" with the Sustainable Resources official, I almost walked out of this one. I see from the Edmonton SUN's review that others already did, so I guess I wouldn't be sending much more of a message than that. The lines were corny, they were delivered without proper inflection, and served no purpose to the plot. If they did have to have the "communicate with fire" bit, couldn't they have used it a few other places as we saw people battling the flames? No, actually, they couldn't: only one such scene existed. Despite being badly acted, it at the very least intensified the drama a bit by showing us that volunteer firefighters didn't have anything beyond a superficial knowledge of wildfires, and this lack of knowledge left them helpless.

We actually heard a hair-raising story: firefighters placing sprinklers along Primary Highway 088 were suddenly surrounded when a crown fire swept across the highway, surrounding them in flame with burning branches collapsing upon them. The firefighters were forced to crawl through a ditch and find air pockets created when the searing heat burned the area unevenly and created convection currents and pockets of fresh air. Sounds intense, right? Well you might as well have been in the audience: this scene, like so many others, was told to us by the impacted people after the fact. Wouldn't that have been scary and impressive to witness live on stage? I sure think so, even if the play couldn't do much for effects besides red lighting and tree branches with glowsticks duct taped to them thrown from stage left.

A single scene, right at the end, got the spirit of the material right: a couple returning two weeks later to find they couldn't even recognize their old neighbourhood: fighting about the pain of rebuilding..."it's just things, we can replace those." "No we can't. The drawing Ethan did of you in Grade One that we had framed. The painting you bought on the beach on our honeymoon, the statue my aunt gave us for our anniversary. I don't want new ones. I want the old ones. I want my ones."...and the sense of loss for being unable to recognize your own home. The wife ends up walking through debris with her eyes closed, speaking out loud as she visualizes what her long-burnt home used to look like, and what used to be in there. She seemed to be the only one who could make us FEEL what was felt.

Look I know a woman who lives in Slave Lake: her house (but not her garage!) was still standing on May 16th, most of her neighbour's weren't. One of my real life friends has as one of his Facebook friends (real life friend too, for all I know) a firefighter from Slave Lake who actually has photos of him and his crew during the horrible battle to save their town...a battle they ultimately lost at great emotional cost. There are real people up there with real stories and real heartache and real sacrifice. The narrator was in tears at the end, and if you just let yourself look at photos and visualize what people during the crisis were going through you can really feel something.

What you can't feel for is the lazy acting (the doctor whose floorboard were on fire was particularly brutal, the hackneyed writing, the bad 80s sitcom husband and wife bickering, the sloppy tone, and the unimaginative pacing which fails to let the horror of the acutal crisis come alive on stage. You're really better off giving $20 to the Red Cross for the Slave Lake relief effort at this point.

Final word: This play about an out of control fire is no Backdraft. Instead, it seems to be a Firstdraft.

2012-08-20

Edmonton 2012 Village of the Fringe Review: Titanic

One hundred years ago, the Royal Mail Steamship Titanic sank beneath the waves. As the preamble to the play Titanic reminds us, two of the three most compelling storytellers of the mythos are Canadian: Governor General's award winner E.J. Pratt and preening anti-oil filmmaker James Cameron. This play recreates one of their stories.

I can't figure out which of the two girls was supposed to be Rose. I mean, Kate Jestad does have the name Kate, and she sort of looks like Kate Winslet. But Melanie Godbout is by far the hotter one, and isn't Rose supposed to be the hottest girl on the ship?

Okay, I pulled this trick earlier (and more convincingly) yesterday, didn't I? Yes, this is retelling the Pratt poem in dramatic form.

If you're interested, I can actually show you the script for the play itself. The dramatic reading follows it line for line (with the exception of the girls, particularly Jestad, who flubbed a few words). Good use with ladders as props (but very little other props or effects used, which was probably a weakness) and lots of energy from the cast as they played a variety of different characters covering a variety of emotions about the sinking.

Most of the play, as it happens, isn't even about the sinking. Like the Cameron film its all about the setup: painting pictures of the iceberg, the warnings of trouble, the busy seas, and the posh surroundings. Cameron's play took steerage, Pratt's poem took First Class.

When the iceberg hits, the fan is hit as well: the play turns to chilling as it tells the tale of the Carpathia, 60 miles away and 2/3rds of the bigger ship's size and speed, racing beyond her redline in a valiant effort to save the lives aboard the doomed vessel. The social order being mostly upheld (unlike the slanderous film version of events), boys becoming men, men becoming prisoners of their new watery grave. Finally the ship sinks, the lights go out, and while you walk away from the experience feeling profound, 1400 in the north Atlantic a century ago weren't nearly so lucky.

Final word: This play is delightful, chilling, creative, engaging, and...well, Titanic.

2012 Village of the Fringe Review: Charlie Sands: A Hockey Story review

Hello bald man, we're in the stands
It's a hockey play tonight
It tells the tale, with a thunderin' gale
Of the 1933 Toronto Maple Leafs.


Okay, so the song kind of comes off the rails on the last line. No matter, it probably would have been merely a superficial review anyways. Charlie: A hockey story is the...hockey story...of Charlie Sands, a checking offensive winger who broke into the NHL just in time for (at the time) the NHL's longest game and the Ace Bailey violence scandal.

Meanwhile, through song, storytelling, and (somewhat unwelcome) crowd participation stunts the actor/author, Jim Sands links his uncles involvement in Depression-era hockey with strife between him and his father (the Wednesday hockey game coincided with the debut of Star Trek, you see), linking it in with Shakespeare (and a common but not too likely story of the origin of the 'puck').

The play works best when Jim is retelling the stories of the 1930s-era games themselves. He paints a vivid picture about events that he never heard of or could have even seen on television, and through the eyes of rookie Charlie Sands we see a lot about the personalities and culture of the time. Jim's Foster Hewitt impersonation could use a bit of work, but whose couldn't? (Answer: Darren Dutchyshen) Names like Conn Smythe, Art Ross, and Eddie Shore are tossed around as if Sands is referring to some drinking buddies.

The personal parts of the play don't hold up quite as well, though the childhood stuff outside the classroom works better than the parts inside...and the telling of how he rediscovered hockey while busking for change in Vancouver during their horribly successful 1994 season was when the material started to run a little thin. At the end there's some attempt to link the Ace Bailey incident with Romeo and Juliet and modern conflicts about the role of violence in the game, and it may work for some but seemed a little too moralizing in a tale where men larger than life tortured their bodies for the game they loved and a nation loved them for it.

Final word: This hockey story, despite its flaws, is still the most fun you'll have with the Toronto Maple Leafs this century.

2012-08-19

Edmonton 2012 Fringe Festival photos

Since I'm away from home and don't have access to my Facebook, I thought I'd give you a few sneak peaks at photos I'll be showing online. Sorry about the smallish sizes, trying to keep the file storage requirements low.



When I first saw this tent from a distance, for a brief moment the wind make it look like it said "Jews of the Fringe".



"Heh heh...movement".


A poster for Rerentless, which has been reviewed on this very blog...










I briefly misread this as "Finding Niinima". A play about seeking out the final destination of former Edmonton Oilers defenseman Janne Niinimaa would actually be kind of awesome. Spoiler alert: the answer is Luleå Hockeyförening.


The Donair Poutine: food perfected.






Edmonton 2012 Village of the Fringe Review: Rerentless

Last night I went to see Relentless at the Edmonton Fringe Festival.

Relentless tells the magical story of Twinsen, a young Quetch from the planet Twinsun, who experiences a variety of magical adventures after escaping the clutches of the evil Dr. Funfrock (who has imprisoned the entire planet on the southern hemisphere). First he returns home, where while reuniting with his girlfriend Zoe he is attacked by Dr. Funfrock's evil clones, who arrest Zoe and[wait, wait, hold on.

Whoops, sorry folks. This is the wrong review. This was Feynman and Coulter's Love Child's old review of Relentless: Twinsen's Adventure which came out for the PC in 1994. Let me find the right one here, just give me a moment. -ed]


Rerentless tells the story of two stoner dudes [there, that's better. -ed] whose names probably were given but don't matter, who are having some money troubles. Their July rent was collected from coins at the last minute, they don't seem to have employment, and August is the month they have to "get their shit together".

So naturally they don't. When one's grandfather dies and the money well runs dry, the boys are forced to find alternative means of collecting money: made more difficult when the power runs dry. After a 3-week long video gaming marathon fails to pay the bills, the guys go from drug running to faking a porn video in the process of earning money fast. Without, you know, working.

This play is brought to you by the duo of Wes Borg and Morgan Cranny. Wes Borg is famous for being the member of Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie who hasn't died. Cranny is actually a tree scientist turned actor. Let's hope there aren't any out of control fires while he's busy fringing the various festivals this play is in!

Anyways the main characters are left to be relatively charming, play off of each other, and endure crazy fantastical situations with minimal emotional investment. The "stoner dude" is always the quick refuge for when your dramatic acting chops aren't the best, and its no surprise that its used here. It also, for the most part, works. There are a couple of rather superfluous scenes where the one character's dead grandfather comes back as a ghost to haunt him and demand hookers. The "wizened old man who turns out to be a huge perv" character has almost become stock at this point, and its used to provide a bit of a dramatic push forward for the characters who otherwise are wholly reactionary to the situation surrounding them.

While not really having a lot of jokes, the play was funny enough and entertaining enough. Your womanfolk, in particular, will probably love this: the viewing I attended was probably 60% women, and they laughed at absolutely everything either of the characters did. Basically it was a real life laugh track: at every moment the producers wanted people to laugh, whether the moment was actually funny or not, rapacious laughter commenced as if on cue. Anybody who can pull together a grainy video of the production company giving seedy payoffs to women to come in and laugh on some hidden cue, please email it to me.

On a whole though, if you want an entertaining romp that doesn't really force you to think much about the implausibility of the initial situation (unemployed in Alberta?) or consider the horrible implications that await these boys when the drug dealer uses Facebook to track them down in Kelowna and extract a painful revenge for losing $1000 worth of pot, then Rerentless is for you.

But if you want an emotional journey from a character who has to grow and change and become a man due to external forces acting upon him, I still have my CD-ROM copy or Relentless sitting in my basement you're welcome to borrow.

(by the way, if you were interested in buying the Doctors Eleven t-shirt Wes Borg's character wears in the play I have bad news: you'll have to vote to try to get it reinstated.)

Final word: If you liked Harold and Kumar at White Castle, you'll love Rerentless. Probably. I should get around to watching that movie before I make a claim like that, right?

2012-08-18

#WhattheTruck is wrong with the 2012 Edmonton Fringe Festival grounds?

I thought 2012 was the "year of the food truck". So why is there only one food truck at the Fringe festival?

I mean, isn't that supposed to be the point of the entire food truck thing: that this was a mobile restaurant that could both satisfy the cravings of the business district and also motor on down to social and cultural events. I personally think the food truck fad itself is a bit overblown (as all hipster fads tend to be), and find it hilarious that the big fans of food trucks are the same ones decrying fossil fuels being burned for fear of "global warming", but I digress.

The food truck thing is just a distillation of a larger point: the Fringe grounds themselves this year are pretty...crappy?

For the past few years, the Fringe grounds have been slowly expanding. Not as fast as the number of venues (fifty-one of the damned things this year!) but expanding nonetheless. It was starting to look like the north area would be developed more and more, with the "centre" of the grounds migrating from the south beer garden to the north beer garden (I don't count that weirdo one by the New Asian Village booth).

Yet this year it regressed: the north beer gardens now have a single food vendor (a Greek food truck that puts out decent if a bit overpriced lamb meats). The mini-food court that ran along the north side of the library parking lot is gone, replaced with a small book tent. The north stage on 85th Avenue at Calgary Trail is gone entirely, as was the little wine tent that had been setup last year. Hell, even the beads vendors have vanished from the area. Walking from the Freak Show to the Kids Fringe is now a no-mans land.

Why? It didn't have to be this way. Why couldn't they have put like 10 food trucks all along 85th Avenue where the missing stage is? "Food Truck Alley" luring people to the north part of the grounds where perhaps some el-cheapo stage could be erected. "Mini-fringe" even, where too-short-to-charge plays and skits could be acted out, possibly previews or excerpts of actual Fringe shows (past and present). I don't know, something up there.

It seems there are fewer food vendors on 83rd Avenue as well. I must say I'm quite confused by this, and as I tweeted yesterday if you're too old for the KidsFringe and too young for the beer gardens, this year's Fringe Grounds have absolutely nothing for you. A couple buskers by the Firehall, the large stage show by the Green Onion Cakes (inexplicably, these unpalatable nightmares haven't disappeared this year), and the shows on 84th Avenue. That's about it.

If Winnipeg beats us this year, they deserve to. The Fringe grounds certainly deserve more eating options than in years gone past, not fewer.

Also, on one final beer gardens note: why the hell were there lineups at the beer gardens last night? I understand if they were at capacity, but I assume they are not at capacity until all the seats are occupied...which they weren't.

If you can't put as many patrons into the beer gardens as you have chairs, why not pull the surplus number of chairs out and give us more space in? Holy hell, this should not be difficult.

2012 Edmonton Fringe Festival Village of the Fringed Review: The Saints of British Rock

The first fringe play of the year is always, frankly, a little worrying. If your week kicks off with seeing an impressively written and performed piece of work it really pumps you up for getting to see more and more of them. Even when you do eventually end up seeing a stinker or two, it doesn't dampen your enthusiasm since you knew you just had to wait for another piece o' quality.

Contrarily though, if you see a lousy play first, it makes you more than a little gun-shy...even a couple decent plays after that one and you are still left creeped out that every new ticket you purchase is another unfunny/unentertaining/unfocussed mess of live theatre you'll have to sit through.

The Saints of British Rock, tragically, fall squarely into that second category.

The gag is simple enough: legendary British rock duo "Rocco Hercules Somershire" and "Jib from Broffitts" sit down with an interviewer in 2008 to discuss their legendary career. Through musical numbers, video montages projected on a screen in the background, and a small amount of acting from the two leads, the story of a 60s British rock band's rise/fall/redemption is told.

What actually IS that story? Well, okay, this is where things get weird, disjointed, and ultimately fall apart. The plot is pretty much nonexistent. Their rise comes standard enough: a pampered rich boy leaves London and his family behind to form a rock band, meets up with a rough and tumble bass player from Broffitts (a fictional British city that is probably supposed to be Liverpool). Their fall comes...from some sort of falling out over a tiger hunt. Oh, and in the middle they travel to Camelot and rock with King Arthur and Merlin.

Wait, what?

Yeah, okay, so there's a gag in the opening videos that run before the play opens about the band travelling through time and space and apparently never aging. Along with some gag about King Arthur. As one scene recounts, while playing at Stonehenge the band ends up meeting Merlin who takes them back to meet King Arthur -- "the greatest King in the history of the world" -- who by the way is probably fictional. But I digress.

So the band ends up in 460AD, having sex with Guinevere, surviving a dragon attack, doing loads of drugs with Merlin, and basically reliving half of the plot to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure except the movie had a cheesy but existent point to it all, which this show doesn't.

The whole Camelot thing can be mistaken for what sends this play off the rails, but that's not entirely true: it's the limited plot and script focus issues which ultimately sink it: the Camelot bit was just an example: it worked fine as a 1-2 minute long gag (The Saints do so many drugs that they think they learn how to bend spacetime and travel into Britain's legendary past) but not so much when it literally takes up 60% of the running time of the piece. And the play plays it straight: the characters freak out when a magazine article claims the Merlin thing was a drug-induced fantasy being milked for publicity...but we're made to think that this entirely sensible explanation is really the asshole in the room.

So is there anything to save this mess? Well, actually there is. The musical numbers are all pretty well written and performed: Martok's theory is that a separate person was assigned to write the musical numbers. The songs are all vaguely parodic without losing their subtlety, and each song perfectly suits the moment in the story in which it is set (it's just the story bumping around with no rhyme or reason). The various performers play well together ("tight" as the lingo goes, I am led to understand) and can cover different musical styles quite well as the band's musical style actually various according to the era (1959-1973, with a possible 2008 reunion).

The concept itself was pretty sound, and the boys waxing about metaphysics and the nature of time and space is a pretty good parody of the sort of faux-thinking that the hippie movement was known for. "Are we playing the music, or is the music playing us?" Likewise the band's overt Britishness was a decent running gag: every song had to be about how they were from London. Which is in the U.K.

Also very well done (with one exception) are the video montages done on the screens behind the stage: they blend Monty Python style cartoons, live action, CGI, and photoshopped images together (again, almost) flawlessly. And like the songs, they do a very good job of telling the story (though I wouldn't have used a wizard puppet to represent Merlin at the end).

It's sort of a shame that a very talented video editor was found for this project, along with a very good songwriter and very good musicians while they couldn't be bothered to track down a decent playwright. (They even got a web editor to make their decently designed website which hasn't been updated since the Winnipeg Fringe). The Saints of British Rock is a show brimming with potential, and employing very talented people at their craft, but overplaying weak jokes, failing to have any coherent purpose or path forward, and missing opportunities left and right.

Final word: Unless you're feeling pious and a need to ritually self-flaggate yourself, you should skip the Saints.

Okay, now for the one exception: in one of the early songs the boys used their money from the "Rock and Roll Twist" to buy a "Rock and Roll Automobile" and they do a song about it while the video shows them driving their rock and roll automobile. And yes, it shows these very very very British boys driving a left-hand drive. I could barely contain my laughter. It's very very clearly not a road in Britain, and very very clearly not a British car. I thought it was kind of sad that the video editors, who showed so much promise elsewhere, didn't think to simply simulate a right-hand drive by horizontally flipping the video footage. I mean c'mon, this is a trick that 15 year olds know so that they can post copyrighted material onto YouTube. It certainly would have come in handy during a 4 minute long song of guys driving around the Vegreville area trying to pretend its Colchester.

2012-08-17

It's Hertiage Festival time in Edmonton...can I get any "Servus"?

I went to the 2012 Heritage Festival (sorry, the "Servus Heritage Festival"TM) this year. I've posted a few photos of it to my Facebook page, as well as a small sampler of what you can expect.

As for the festival itself, it's a hilarious reminder of how certain ethnic stereotypes are so spot-on.

For example, when it comes to taking your money at the Ghana pavilion, the Ghanaian ex-pats have basically no understanding of what they should be doing: you hand the girl your money and she reacts like its kryptonite and she's Supergirl. She literally dropped it at first touch like it was a potato too hot for her. Needless to say, it took a long time to get through that lineup.

Similarly, when I had me some bannock at the (west) Indian teepee actual normal tent, there was a girl who took me order. Then she called out to another girl, who got my order out of the storage tub. Finally she refused to take my money, while a wizened old man came over, looked it in confusion, and begrudgingly accepted it. Three people doing the job of one? And you say the reservations are economic basket cases? To hell with you!

Contrast this with the Taiwan tent: you never saw a lineup get moved through faster and more efficently (possibly because that ethnic group can pick and choose the professions of who mans the ticket windows: "my uncle Kim works as a petroleum engineer and would like to volunteer. Oh, and his sister who runs a Chinese restaurant wants to as...").

Well okay, you did. There was one ethnic group that had a more efficient line, whose entire operation was perfectly coordinated so as to take as much of your money as humanly possible:

The Israeli pavilion.





2012-08-07

Will It Float?

As the torrential rains return, a question for the ages...