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Fringe 2008 - Day 4

The Fringe is in full swing, and today we present you with a whopping nine Fringe reviews.

American Squatter
(reviewed by by Graeme Stewart):

In this one-man show, writer and performer Barry Smith takes the audience through his drug-addled, punk-infused itinerant adolescence. No question, Smith is a superb storyteller. With a mastery of powerpoint-style presentation and a penchant for self-documentation, he takes the audience on a funny and occasionally poignant journey. The show is all about Smith, and walks a knife-edge just shy of self-indulgence. But to his credit, Smith never mines his experiences for grand morals. It's a good story, well told, with a little multimedia thrown in for good measure.

American Squatter
is playing at the Factory Theatre Mainspace July 6, 7, 9,10, 11, 12. For more info see the Toronto Fringe website.

Continue reading for reviews of Another Problem With H-Theorem, Babies in Danger, The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton Tennessee, DAM Madness, Dogs Barking, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Abortion, Jew for a Day, Pokeroot and Mistletoe.

Another Problem With H-Theorem
(reviewed by Graeme Stewart):

Less a play and more a rambling conversation about Canadian history and obscure concepts in physics, Another Problem with H-Theorem suffers from a terrible venue and an almost total lack of production. The show attempts to tell the story of William Lyon Mackenzie's ghost, trapped in his former home and tormented by tour guides. For some reason, he is suddenly joined by the apparition of his old enemy, Dr. John Rolph. The two have a long talk about nothing in particular, a bizarre 'radio play' is performed live for the audience, and then the play ends. All the while, the actors mumble their way through an incoherent script, seemingly unaware that they are performing for an audience. A strange 40 minutes that only tangentially resembles theatre.

Another Problem With H-Theorem is playing at the Bloor Street United Church July 8, 10, 11, 12. For more info see the Toronto Fringe website.

Babies in Danger!
(reviewed by Robin Sharp):

All in all this is a good investment for your Fringe entertainment dollar. The cast is young and talented, the pace is snappy, and there was at least one sketch that had me laughing till it hurt. Like a Saturday Night Live episode, not every scene works, but there are solid laughs throughout.

A couple tips for seeing sketch comedy at the Fringe:
1. Bring your friends.
2. Everything is funnier after a couple of drinks (if you're into that kind of thing.)

Babies in Danger is playing at The Supermarket (268 Augusta Avenue) July 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. For more info see the Toronto Fringe website.

The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton, Tennessee

The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton, Tennessee
(reviewed by Graeme Stewart):

This is what the Fringe is all about. Christian Republican Fundraiser tells the story of a traveling band of undercover liberals set to disrupt a meeting a powerful Republicans. Combining music and politics with an offbeat love story, Christian Republican Fundraiser is a charming little comedy with some big ideas. At times, the dialogue seems and little clunky and forced, but all is forgiven as soon as the music kicks in. The cast is, to a person, composed of exceptional musicians, and at times the show feels more like a gig than a straight-up play. But the story is there, and its's a good one. Every year, the Toronto Fringe seems to produce a musical that goes on to bigger things. This one looks like an early favourite.

The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton Tennessee is playing at the Cameron House July 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13. For more info see the Toronto Fringe website.

DAM Madness
(reviewed by Roger Cullman):

DAM Madness successfully portrays madness in its varying forms through a trio of professionally trained young dancers. Darby Gibbs, Amelia Laidlaw and Ming Hon, collectively known as a DAM, premiered their brand of fresh, contemporary dance to the Fringe for a cabaret-style show.

It's refreshing to see performers who are primarily dancers enjoy a bit of singing and acting, without doing so in a musical production. While their performance relies too heavily on props, there were some pleasant surprises to their performance, including vocalizations between the characters. At times, it was more about the voice than the dance.

Their facial expressions were beautifully lit in the intimate Helen Gardiner Phelan Theatre setting, adding much to the show's charm, which played on themes from songs as diverse as Philip Glass, Frank Zappa and Connie Francis.

The versatile costumes resembled at times both white nurse's uniforms and straightjackets, portraying characters that suited characters from two sides of a mental institution.

This being maDAM's debut production, I expect to see them grow as a trio, further pushing the boundaries of what we may perceive as contemporary dance. If you need a break from the seriousness of other Fringe fare, give DAM Madness a look. You've got to be mad to miss it.

DAM Madness is playing at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Theatre July 7, 9, 10, 11, 12. For more info see the Toronto Fringe website.

Dogs Barking
(reviewed by Robin Sharp):

If you're looking for a play that's funny, poignant, chilling and devastating, often within a single scene, this is the one for you.

Fanos Xenofos leads a pitch perfect English cast as Neil Ryder, a man who's desperate to either reunite with his ex-girlfriend, or ruin her. Sibling rivalries, infidelities, witty repartee, high stakes drama; this show is written and directed with such verve and polish it's incredible that it's
found its way onto a Toronto Fringe stage . A must see.

Dogs Barking is playing at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space July 7, 8, 10, 13. For more info see the Toronto Fringe website.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Abortion
(reviewed by Graeme Stewart):

A devout Christian woman who also happens to be a black market abortionist is brave material, and How I Learned is a brave show. The play features a strong cast and an innovative treatment of its controversial subject matter. It stumbles somewhat trying to walk the fine line between comedy and drama, creating an emotional landscape that never quite rings true. Frequent and sloppy scene changes are also distracting. Nevertheless, How I Learned finishes off an interesting and endearing effort.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Abortion is playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace July 6, 9, 10, 11, 12. For more info see the Toronto Fringe website.

Jew for a Day

Jew for a Day
(reviewed by Tatiana Kachira):

Jew for a Day tells the story of a 13-year-old Irish Catholic boy who decided that his ethnicity and culture were a bit lukewarm, and that he wanted to belong to an exotic and exciting group. He wanted to be a Jew! Isn't it cool to belong with the people who so often didn't belong all over the world?

The play raises interesting questions about ethnicity, identity, and religion, but the execution is, frankly, simplistic. It felt like a production meant to teach 7- to 12-year-old kids the basics of Jewish history and to tell them, in a very enthusiastic tone of voice, that "There are bigots in any nation!" and "You have to discover who YOU really are!" *yawn* The plot is merely a vehicle to foist these revelations upon the audience. There are a few laughs here and there, but overall a fairly uninspiring production.

Jew for a Day is playing at the Royal St. George's Theatre (120 Howland Avenue) July 7, 9, 10, 11, 12. For more info see the Toronto Fringe website.

Pokeroot and Mistletoe

Pokeroot and Mistletoe
(reviewed by Tatiana Kachira):

How can a victim of high school bullying turn the tables and teach the bullies a lesson? Why, by summoning a demon, of course! Watch out, though, you might just get a little more than you bargained for when you invoke the supernatural forces.

Presented by Blood Orange Theatre, a youth theatre company (all actors are under 21), the play is definitely based on an interesting premise. Charlotte Klein is very charming as a mischievous teenage demon, while Joshua Korngut, though not as engaging and fascinating, is quite believable as a high school boy everyone loves to pick on (come to think of it, his character is not really meant to be "engaging and fascinating" anyway).

The plot, however, is pretty uneven. The beginning is interesting, if a tad slow. Half-way through comes a bit of a jolt - that's when the comedy turns into tragicomedy - but the reaction of the Korngut character is not entirely plausible. The abrupt ending arrives just as you are expecting finally a bit of action. The script needs considerable reworking before I give the play a thumbs up rating.

Pokeroot and Mistletoe is playing at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Theatre July 8, 9, 11, 12, 13. For more info see the Toronto Fringe website.

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