2014 Edmonton Fringe Review: Sundogs

is what happens when a clever idea for a premise is squandered.

From the first ghastly bit of green light hitting our protagonist Holly (this is actually the name of the lead actress, the character's name is said a few too many times for my liking, and I'm ignoring it out of protest -- also, she looks more like a Holly anyways) we're looking due to delve into the big setup for the play: aliens in Leduc!

(as an aside, if any aliens do land in Leduc, you should take them to Airways first, give them a proper taste of our planet)

The play eschews linear storytelling, and is broken up into two parts, which keep intersecting to reveal more of the story: at first, Holly is confronted by a local cop who wants to know what happened. Something clearly out of the ordinary happened here, was it related to Holly's (unseen) house guest? Next, we travel back in time to see Holly meeting up with a journalist-cum-author who wants to do an expose on the house guest, apparently a fairly well respected scientist and academic who suffered an alien encounter and retreats to Holly's farm to get away from it all. Did the aliens follow him?

What happens next is a bit of a schizophrenic hodgepodge where we see the cop and Holly doing a lot of yelling at each other, and Holly and the author traveling the woods to try and reproduce the close encounter (and getting into a couple close encounters of their own, wink wink nudge nudge). What you don't get a lot of is the sense either in the before-the-incident scenes or the after-the-incident scenes of dread. That the police are investigating Holly and the houseguest certainly hints that something happened, but what? There's a lot of confrontation in the police scenes, but not a lot of sense of agenda: Holly is acting a little bit suspicious, but definitely not enough that there's much legal basis for the inevitable search warrant that lays everything bare. In the budding romance and exploring prequel scenes, there's never much tone indicating that there are alien events afoot, or even strange human-centric endeavors.

What Sundogs is forced to rely on is Holly Cinnamon's acting chops: they're quite good here, the last time we saw Holly she was dressed sexy on a pickup truck (the promo photos for this play, sadly,feature the truck but not the skin), but this play puts her centre stage and gives her a lot more to do, if not a lot more to work with. She does a very good job though as playing the hurt and vulnerable girl who has a tough inner strength and resolve that makes her formidable enough to spend half the play holding her own against a cop who all but said "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you", but also capable of forming a strong bond with the author, which seemed to vanish the moment an event made it clear there was no story. Their final telephone conversation was nicely acted and technically pulled off well, just had not much for substance behind it.

I won't spoil the ending for you here, but the final fate of the houseguest was a bit of a letdown: I suppose subconsciously the playwright knew this...maybe that's why the scenes didn't have any tension of incoming doom? Because at the heart, there wasn't one?

Final word: A strong central character is important, but its a shame if there's nothing for her to play off of.

(for more reviews of the 2014 Edmonton Fringe, click here)