Scratch done from scratch

Fringe Festival Review: Scratch

It's remarkably easy to put down a script and just make up what comes to mind, right?

The idea that anyone can compose, or perform something with practically no preparation and keep it fueled for 60 minutes is almost impossible; we wouldn't even be able to dream of it. Most people would prefer to just sit back and witness the life that goes in front of them but, with pizzazz, explosions, sex and lots of Big Turks.

Scratch is a two-person improv session which lasts for a solid hour. The performance stars Arlen Konopaki and Kevin Gillese (written & directed, as well) who both hail from Edmonton, Alberta. A few months ago, they decided to put on an improv performance which they would perform every idea from "scratch." The host, Allyson Pratt, welcomes the audience to the show and asks them to name any random movie, profession & object. She writes them down on a whiteboard and places it at the edge of stage-right. This is all the two performers have to work with.

The show starts off with a bang, some smoke from the base of the stage and a warm-up of facial movements, strenuous air-digging & miming. After the ridiculous warm-up is complete, our actors begin the story. In this case, the opening story featured a family heading towards Oregon Territory during post-Colonial times. The second story featured an ugly store-clerk/owner who couldn't get any and his geeky workmate trying to help him out. The final story featured a foreign lover who ends up falling for someone he just met and can't get the person out of their mind. One idea moved on into another, and the other idea sprouted into another idea. After 20 minutes of some of the best improve I've seen in years, three storylines were going on all at once.

In the best ways possible, Scratch comes off as a "laugh-till-it-hurts" comedy. There were times when it was so funny, the performers would crack a smile or a chuckle here and there. Most theatre-going folks (especially those who understand improv) would understand where the actor is coming from when this happens. I was very sympathetic of this because I know that I'd laugh forever if I could. The performers also had a tendency to do flashback scenarios where they would spin around, the lights would change and they would emulate a quick scene. Then, they spin right back to the scene they were just in.

An important part of the performance was the visual lighting. The lighting would be different depending on the scenario. This helped with identification for the main scenarios and the flashbacks (note: the flashbacks were all done with white lights, while the main scenarios were with blue, red and somewhat green lighting). Tech guy Madhav Sarda was in-charge of this and did a fantastic job.

Although the performance moved on very well, there were times when the performers would mix the scenarios up and lose a bit of flare 'n gust. Thankfully, whatever was lost was immediately brought back by quick thinking and lewd content. Yes, that always gets people focused: lewd content. Was this ever a problem? Never. There were times when I wasn't sure if it was going to go on and on or if it was ready to just finish. Regardless, the duo collaborated all of their ideas by the end in a mixed-up montage and Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You" played in-full over the P.A. system.

I take something like Scratch to heart: improv has always been my game. Anyone who can combine a furious blend of wit, music, slapstick/physical comedy (or "dramedy") into to their workings without having to plan it out knows how to entertain. Clearly.

My advice: have fun with this.


Show Information:

Venue 10 - Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse / 79A St. George Street

Thu, July 13 @ 1:45 pm - show code: 1046
Fri, July 14 @ 12:00 pm - show code: 1052
Sat, July 15 @ 7:30 pm - show code: 1063

Tickets: $10 "At The Door" / $10 Advance ($8 + $2 SC) / Passes: $6.50 - $8
Running Time: 60 Min.

(ALSO: the same duo will probably doing a promotion at the same place called "naked at noon" on NOON. If you like what you see in 'Scratch,' go see "naked at noon.")

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