2010 Edmonton Fringe Review Day 5

Ah, the open road. Themes centered around the topic of our love affair with automobiles are highly prominent in Drive, one of the more unique shows you will encounter at this year's Edmonton Fringe Festival.

For one, Drive takes place outside, at a skating rink behind Catalyst Theatre. In it, a variety of automobiles and traffic signs litter the lawn and the actors themselves are the ushers who take your ticket and hand you your program. It opens up with some interpretive dance...heavy on the interpretive: the actors move about in a creepy robotic fashion, which I suppose is to remind us that despite our aforementioned vehicular lovin', they are just pieces of mere equipment. A similarly planned 'traffic jam' routine also is completely lifeless and uninteresting. Fortunately, the real interpretive dance stuff is all gotten over with relatively quickly, and the performers start talking and performing skits and only dancing a bit to keep their ballet membership cards active.

Some of the skits are pretty good: while there is a bit of sexual overtone to some of the monologues about the car, the winner by far has to be where a girl treats her old Nissan pickup as a person, near-tears demanding more and more experimental surgeries for little or no benefit at huge financial cost which the doctor (mechanic) is fighting her over. It's a slightly sobering look that we are so desperate to hold onto our old favorite vehicle even when no medical ethicist on the planet would allow us to treat our grandmother in this way.

Along with cars as family members and cars as sex objects, the big philosophical point about cars is that they are in fact political statements: the teenager skipping away from home is perhaps the best example of this. The car exists in a large part (its hard to remember with the GM and Chrysler bailouts) as a giant 'fuck you' to controlling governments. I would have greatly preferred to see more along these lines.

Drive is a surprisingly enjoyable bit of ballet, though an outdoor fringe show is fraught with risks: this year in the form of mosquitoes in overdrive for the first half of of the festival and thick acrid BC smoke in the second half. You may recognize the poster, featuring red-haired beauty Holly Cinnamon looking deliciously smoking in high heels sprawled inside a pickup truck. I'm here to warn you that until the final number the entire cast is in mechanics coveralls. Even then, only Tessa Stamp and Julia Wong look impressive in their outfits. For all the talk of cars as sex objects, they forgot that hot ballet dancers can be sex objects too.

Drive features the aforementioned Cinnamon, Tessa Stamp, and Facebook-privacy-obsessed Anastasia Maywood, Kelsie "Whedonverse" Acton, David Son, and Julia Wong. At the finale, they all board a car to the tune of various automobile-related music. Yet as they drove off, they missed the chance to play one of the greats...

Riding along in my automobile
My baby beside me at the wheel