Edmonton 2013 Fringe Review: Love, Hate, and Daryl Katz

Edmonton's finally getting its "new arena" that HBK Sports assures us we need immediately because our old arena -- built by a certain HBK Sports -- is a collapsing pile of shit despite being about a third of the age of Wrigley Field and three thousandths the age of the Sphinx. Some people are happy, some people are angry, some people are creative.

I'm not sure which category the minds behind Love, Hate, and Daryl Katz fall into, but I'm pretty sure its not the last one.

The play opens up as Daryl Katz is working on his Edmonton promotional video -- yes, DK himself exists as a character. Not just a one-note gag either, but one of the primary characters of the piece. He's got his roughly banal corporate-approved promotional video, the one you'll remember as how his bottom-placed team kept talking optimistically about the future. This leads us into a set of skits apparently taking light-hearted pokes at our city. At the end of each skit, you'll realize the joke (or on special occasion, jokes) that they wanted to tell, and then think in awe how long it took them to set it up.

Take the skit about a snotty Toronto art critic coming to see an art exhibit at the Alberta Toilet-Shaped-Deathtra--oh, that's an art gallery you say? Who knew? Anyways, the only way the critic could be lured into the Edmonton backwater is a chance to meet the elusive artist. Unfortunately the artist himself never was contacted or agreed to do this, so the art critic is about to be disappointed. In a gag straight out of Three's Company, or at least out of Three's a Crowd based on its execution, a homeless drunk gets past security, and in a panic the curator tries passing him off as the artist. The ruse is horribly easy to see through, but the critic literally doesn't see through it until just before the end, where the most realistic part of the switcheroo is taking place. The end joke is of course that the drunk really was the artist, and there's a really good arts graduate bit that would have been far more funny if this situation hadn't been going on for eight cringe-inducing minutes beforehand.

The skit where Katz' videographer and his wife have to host their snobby relations from Calgary who aren't impressed by the Talus Balls or the proposed beach at Hawreluk Park falls prey to the same problems. There are a few good gags of one-upmanship between the cities but most of the jokes aren't that funny (with one exception) and the shrill unprofessional delivery makes you hope that somebody from a cool city like Seattle or Calcutta shows up and smacks both of them around. It just keeps going on, with a bit of forced characterization thrown in (its not an analogy if you don't tie it into anything, guys), for a few jokes.

Even that seems a plus compared to the scene where Daryl Katz has to get a prostate exam. You're forced to sit threw the silly circumstance (he apparently "has to" get it because he's switching his health insurance provider which I'm sure is a concern for lots of billionaires who own their own goddamned chain of pharmacies), and watch as he tries to bribe his way out of the exam before a female nurse enthusiastically shoves her finger up his ass. Beyond the fact that the gag falls flat in front of an audience half of whom probably enjoy sticking things up their ass to begin with, it's a surprisingly mean-spirited and empty scene. The only enjoyment we're supposed to get out of this is that we watch a guy a lot of us probably don't like being humiliated in front of an audience (in the sense, I suppose, that prostate exams are extremely humiliating even though millions of men willingly sign up for them because they save our fucking lives). There isn't really a joke there, you're just supposed to like seeing a guy get his comeuppance.

Where the play really goes off the rails, and trust me the above skits were pretty off to begin with, is when the Stephen Mandel character appears. Unlike DK, whom the playwrights had no difficulty trashing, they couldn't find a single thing unkind to say about the sleazy little Jewish slumlord who blows taxpayer money on white elephant projects in order to help his buddies in the property development sector, and who has a temper shorter than the nose on somebody-other-than-his face. Mandel gets such a smooth ride in this play that President Monkey would watch this with Chris Matthews and ask him why he couldn't say such nice things as this. All Mandel gets used for is to be the setup for a lot of lame puns ("handlebars", "Mandeltory") and the briefest of -- I think? -- rips on this Make Something Edmonton campaign. I'm not sure if this play received grant money from the program (which, if so, should kill the funding for it immediately), or just thought it was awesome, or thought that it was a silly name for something they were otherwise in favour for. Instead they name-drop the program regularly and then grin at the audience. When Kevin Smith does this, we at least get the decency of something relatively straightforward where its not open to about 600 different interpretations, and the author's voice appears at some point in the production.

Love, Hate, and Daryl Katz features a couple of quickly forgettable musical numbers, uninspiring rips and gentle nudges on the city, and just for fun some anti-Diotte and pro-useless coward Don Iveson propaganda. They even manage to fit in a "Ralph Klein throws money at homeless people" joke which not only reminds us that for liberals the entire Klein era begins and ends on that day where he merely yelled at a guy for somehow still being homeless while taking advantage of provincial programs Ralph paid for, but also was highly inappropriate because RALPH KLEIN TOTALLY DIED THIS YEAR. Martok came close to heckling at that point.

We missed our chance, but you haven't missed yours. You too can go to this play and yell out "TOO SOON!" when they try passing off a third rate Ralph Klein joke as witty humour. It would probably be the most fun any attendee of this work has all fringe.

Final word: You won't love Love, Hate, and Daryl Katz but you'll probably hate it, and you'll definitely katz it. I don't even know what that means.