Anatolia Speaks – 3 stars
Anatolia is a Bosnian refugee who gives a presentation to her Canadian ESL class. It begins with the basics of her new life in Canada: where she works (Superstore), where she lives (a small apartment with no fridge), and why she loves Canada (freedom to shop at Superstore). As Anatolia answers her classmates’ questions, the story of her past and all the hardships she endured to come to Canada are revealed as the presentation takes a darker turn.
This one woman show was an emotional journey into Anatolia’s past as we pieced the bits of information together to learn about her struggles. Anatolia was captivating for the most part, but there were sections that felt a bit dry and I thought it could have used something more than a bland powerpoint presentation.
No Tweed Too Tight – 4 stars
This cheesy genre spoof of insurance investigator Grant Canyon was over the top in a good way. Acting like an exaggerated, drunken cross between Philip Marlowe and James Bond, Grant Canyon is on the trail of a huge insurance fraud case. If only he can remember what happened to him, he might be able to solve the mystery and escape death.
Actor Ryan Gladstone staggers around the stage downing liquor and creating vivid scenes with only a chair and a wooden box that serves as a bar, a bed, and a bathtub, among other things. Cutting to scenes where he awakens from a blackout, he finds himself in many unexplainable situations including being stuck inside a snake, in outer space, and buried underground. Of course, Grant Canyon always knows how to get out of a sticky situation.
Gladstone delivered cheesy one liners and mixed metaphors with just the right tone and switched back and forth between multiple characters with intoxicating speed.
Chase and Stacey’s Joyride – 3 stars
Having seen Chase Padgett in two extremely impressive one-man shows, 6 Guitars and Nashville Hurricane, I was a bit disappointed in this show. I think the problem is that this show is a completely different format, so it requires different expectations. With his partner in theatre and life, Stacey Hallal, he created an improv show performed in a randomized, audience-driven order.
Some of the sketches include a ribbon dance performance by two commentators who fall in love, a rutabaga farmer who is trying to film a commercial but failing in various hilarious ways, and a gender reversal where Padgett is a controlling girlfriend and Hallal is her boyfriend who takes a stand. I found the finale of the show when they read out audience responses to “when was a time you felt joy” the most interesting.
Peter n’ Chris and the OK Corral – 4.5 stars
It’s easy to see why Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson are award-winning comedians. Their ability to transport audiences on a wild west tale of betrayal, friendship, and slow motion bar brawls was impressive. With no props, simple costumes, and plenty of sound effects, Peter n’ Chris had the whole audience in fits of laughter.
Their style of physical sketch comedy involved Wilson mooing his heart out as Winifred the cow and Peter have a long conversation with his “talking gun.” While there were some groan-worthy one liners, they were within the corny realm of the whole premise of the show, so they didn’t feel out of place. Their attention to detail down to the sounds of the swinging bar doors is what made this such a vivid story. In case you were wondering, the guys also perform a pretty good line dance that received a few whoops from the crowd.
High Tea – 3 stars
Advertised as being inspired by Mr. Bean and Monty Python-style comedy, I had different expectations than I should have going into this show. I was not expecting an imaginary tale on the high tea seas, but I soon realized that Aaron Malkin (James) and
Alastair Knowles (Jamesy) are skilled physical comedians who excel at playing with their imaginations and involving the audience in their imagined worlds. James comes over for his weekly cup of tea at Jamesy’s house where Jamesy is already in full swing pretending the teapot if a phone, a ship, and various other things.
I am not generally a fan of coercive audience participation when I go to the theatre, so I think that put me off a bit, and I also felt at times that the show came across as a bit childish. I did appreciate the moments of clever humour such as Jamesy getting his head stuck in the fourth wall as he tried to see the audience on the other side. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t in the right mood for this show, but I think these two are great representatives of the importance of playing and imagination — something we’re never too old for.
The Hatter – 4.5 stars
Fans of Alice in Wonderland will love this show, and fans of great theatre will also be pleased as Andrew Wade takes the audience on a wonderful journey into the mind of The Hatter as he tries to find his way back to Wonderland. The March Hare, the Cheshire Cat, the Dormouse, and even some talking flowers all have appearances in the show, as well as the dreaded Jabberwocky played by two willing audience members.
Getting ourselves a cup of tea on the way in, we were all part of the tea party and even joined The Hatter in a rousing rendition of “The Unbirthday Song.” As The Hatter tries to find his way back to Wonderland and comes to terms with his past, we learn about this complex character’s many layers; he is endearing and sympathetic in his desire to block out reality and return to a place where he can have an “empty mind and a full cup.” Who knew The Hatter was such a profound character?
Cannibal: The Musical – 4 stars
Trey Parker’s tale of Alferd Packer, the first American ever convicted of cannibalism, is a hilarious, South-Park-reference-filled joyride of carnage and the crude humour Parker is known for. Alferd is on trial for cannibalism after he is the sole survivor of a badly planned gold mining expedition in the Colorado Rockies. His only hope of escaping execution is with Denver Post reporter Polly Pry, who may just be on his side.
The young cast put on an impressive performance with songs like “Shpadoinkle” (in the tune of Oklahoma!’s “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”), “When I Was on Top of You” (Alferd singing about his beloved horse Liane), and “Let’s Build a Snowman” (which gets one miner shot), and “Hang the Bastard” (self-explanatory).
If the sound of “Hideho!” or “Umkay” will make you laugh, then this is the show for you.