Nanaimo’s annual fringe theatre festival offered a wide variety of plays in its opening weekend.
News Bulletin reporters Melissa Fryer and Rachel Stern caught all eight shows and share how they saw each one. The festival continues Thursday to Sunday (Aug. 23-26).
Fear Factor: Canine Edition
John Grady has great energy – the kind that draws attention and elicits empathy for his story.
That story is Fear Factor: Canine Edition, a beautiful monologue about the unconditional love he felt for his dog, Abby, – and the love and loyalty he received in return.
Grady recounts their adventures in dog yoga and rehabilitation of sick and injured hospital patients and contrasts that with his human interaction and relationships.
Although Grady held nothing in his hands and his only costume was his impeccably tailored suit, his description through intonation and movement brought Abby to life.
You could see the soft black fur and her inquisitive eyes. You could feel her happiness and her pain.
Grady tells a lovely story that anyone with a heart will relate to.
– Melissa Fryer
The Cult of Brother XII
Child of a Hoodlum Productions
Based on Nanaimo’s favourite cult legend, the musical recounts the last days of Brother XII’s reign, using a fictional trio of reporters to help uncover the truth by going undercover.
The Brother XII legend is nothing short of a storyteller’s dream, complete with religious fanaticism, fraud, infidelity and a mysterious woman with a whip.
The original songs and dances were ably performed by the cast of local actors, who took their legendary characters over the top to make a memorable show.
Major highlight: Bill Miner as Brother XII’s psychiatrist. It’s slightly gratuitous but most definitely hilarious.
– Melissa Fryer
Chaos and the Cosmos
Ross is awaiting the return of the inter-dimensional Great Ones. His sister, Sharon, just thinks he’s crazy.
The two share a typical sibling love-hate relationship. I couldn’t stop laughing at the brilliant quips between the two actors, with Sharon calling Ross an ‘idiot’ and Ross spouting off about the Great Ones’ love of elevator music and enchiladas.
Yet, behind the joviality a deeper struggle lingers.
Ross is content working at the gas station, after leaving his engineering job. He’s carefully planning for the return of the Great Ones while spreading word about them on his blog, when his life is impacted by his sister’s return home.
Sharon harbours insecurities and is unhappy about how her life turned out. As Sharon continues to try and convince her brother the Great Ones are a delusion, she starts to realize more about her own inner turmoil.
The chemistry between the two actors was great and this is a play I’d see again just to leave the theatre high on laughs.
– Rachel Stern
That was it? Cardboard Robot ended too early, but maybe that was the point.
The play leaves it to the audience to form whatever conclusion their imaginations can create.
Nick, a secluded scientist, builds a robot in his basement. His only other companion is a mail carrier, Bernadette, who delivers parts. The witty banter between Nick and his creation keeps the audience entertained. But between the light hearted laughs Bernadette bares her soul and shares the story of visiting her mother.
Nick tackles the dilemma of deciding how much intelligence his robot will possess. He teaches his creation, Isaac X, perhaps a name chosen as a homage to the renowned science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, every scrap of knowledge he has. Eventually Nick’s wisdom of the world is exhausted and he must make a choice about Isaac’s existence.
During the play I was slightly distracted by the near millisecond echo of the hidden actor doing Isaac’s voice, which was rebroadcast with computer enhancements.
But the minor diversion didn’t take too much away from the amusing conversations between Nick and Isaac.