Another freshly prepared batch of fringe play



The Grand Salto Theatre

Kids Venue (MTYP — Mainstage), to Sunday

Ontario’s Zita Nyarady could give Emma Memma of Wiggles fame a run for her money. The Kids Fringe 45-minute fable about a Little Rooster getting back his silver ring from an evil cabbage delighted a lively Saturday afternoon audience. Nyarady as the Little Rooster (as well as the rest of the show’s characters) had the audience in the palm of her hand (or wing). The physicality displayed throughout was fun to watch and take part in (though this reviewer was too shy to jump up for the dance party at the end of the performance).

It’s impossible not to be charmed by Adventure of the Little Rooster. It is a perfect example of what kids fringe should be: fun, silly and full of bubbles. ★★★★★

— Sonya Ballantyne


Yap Theatre

MTYP Mainstage at the Forks (Kids’ Venue), to Saturday

Storyteller Erik De Waal returns again with his menagerie of animal puppets.

This show has been produced multiple times over the years, and some things never change. De Waal still has his magical rapport with children, boundless physical energy and a real sense of fun.

This year, his 45-minute show once again opens with “Tokoloshe,” because it makes such an attention-grabbing opener: The tale of an invisible gremlin creature has De Waal racing back and forth across the stage, chasing something we can’t see.

Another tale involves a guinea fowl whose nest is crushed by an elephant, and the chain of events leading up to the accident. Think of it like the 12 days of Christmas, a tale recounted backwards and getting longer with each step. So much for “the young generation having short attention spans”: the kids at Saturday’s performance could recite the progression better than many adults I know!

In short, no surprises for returning customers, but new viewers will be enchanted, as always. ★★★1/2

— Janice Sawka


Rob Gee

King’s Head Pub (Venue 14), to Sunday

                                <p>Rob Gee and Jon Paterson in A.W.O.L.</p>


Rob Gee and Jon Paterson in A.W.O.L.

Two fringe heavyweights, Englishman Rob Gee (Forget Me Not) and former Winnipegger Jon Paterson (How I Met My Mother), team up for this comedy that’s a cinch to be a fringe hit even before the show’s rough edges are sanded off.

Cyril (Paterson) and Neville (Gee) are residents of a seniors’ home whose bodies and minds are fading but still have enough street smarts to sneak away to see Cyril’s granddaughter perform at the Monsters of Death Metal festival.

Jokes about aging, dementia and drugs, both medicinal and recreational, abound during A.W.O.L.’s hour, but Gee and Paterson’s hilarious off-the-cuff hijinks gain more laughs than the script. It debuted just last week in Regina, and sadly, fringe-goers at A.W.O.L.’s next stop in Edmonton will be the beneficiaries of its 10-day workshop in Winnipeg. ★★ 1/2

— Alan Small


Local Rascal Productions

Théâtre Cercle Molière (Venue 3), to Sunday

<p>Justin Rutledge photo</p>
                                <p>Corin Raymond</p>

Justin Rutledge photo

Corin Raymond

Toronto singer-songwriter Corin Raymond returns to the fringe with another stellar one-man show, again revolving around his love of reading. A decade ago his solo spoken-word show, Bookworm, delved into stories read to him by his father as a child; Bookmarks explores the many books he’s loved, loaned out, lost and (sometimes) found again while on the road.

The 60-plus-minute monologue is broken up into five- or six-minute stories — almost like an album, or chapters of a book — with Raymond fondly (and sometimes funnily) reminiscing about books that have helped him through difficult times, including coping with the loss of his mothers (to understand why it’s plural, you’ll have to see the show).

Raymond’s got a beautiful, poetic delivery and dynamic stage presence that works brilliantly with his reminiscences — it all pulls at the heartstrings in a big way. ★★★★ 1/2

— Ben Sigurdson


Seismic Shift Productions

Tom Hendry Warehouse (Venue 6), until Sunday

                                <p>Breaking Bard</p>


Breaking Bard

Two things are demanded of audiences at every improv show by Vancouver’s Spontaneous Shakespeare Company: an adjective and a location, which shouting fringe-goers are, of course, only too happy to supply. But while the “cave” setting was a clear and easy winner, artistic director and former Winnipegger Brent Hirose couldn’t decide on the adjective and so turned to the four other cast members to choose. Anyone momentarily disappointed that “flamboyant” lost to “melancholy” needn’t have worried. This nimble, talented troupe, taking their show on the road for the first time, is incapable of disappointing any audience.

Over 49 raucous (and unexpectedly moving) minutes, the “tale of miner melancholy” stitched betrayal, love, heartbreak, revenge, greed and the best intentions of forest nymphs together with excellent comic timing, deep pockets of Bardian verbiage (including a couple of brilliantly placed classic lines) and what looked like sheer delight at the chance to entertain us with a modern improv twist on the art of the Bard. ★★★★1/2 out of five

— Denise Duguay


Catch Me in the Kitchen

The Planetarium Auditorium (Venue 9), to Sunday

<p>Matt Hertendy photo</p>
                                <p>Ginette Mohr and Stephen LaFrenie of Catch Me in the Kitchen</p>

Matt Hertendy photo

Ginette Mohr and Stephen LaFrenie of Catch Me in the Kitchen

Catch Me in the Kitchen Story Adventures is a masterpiece of the imagination. This hour-long two-story show is nothing short of delightful, and enjoyable for the whole family.

Toronto performers are flawless in their telling of reimagined versions of the classic fairy tales Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Lupus Maximus and the Three Little Pigs. The set is minimal, just a few wooden crates and a colourful backdrop, but that’s all that’s really necessary because the duo are such good storytellers (tales are told in English, infused with French words throughout). They are dedicated to bringing each character to life, not only in the way they speak, but through their physical acting as well — flawless.

This lovely piece of storytelling theatre bears viewing more than once. ★★★★★

— Shelley Cook


Far Fetched Productions

Planetarium Auditorium (Venue 9), to Sunday

We don’t deserve dogs, so the Internet phrase goes, but Alice (played by Irene Sankoff, composer-lyricist of Come From Away) truly believes she doesn’t deserve her dog Sassy, who has run away and is being held at Animal Control, in this charming but uneven 50-minute comedy about unconditional love and choices.

The script by Toronto-born, New Mexico-based playwright Brenda McFarlane is snappy, but the character of Alice is hard to puzzle. Her relationship with her husband (on whom she has walked out and for whom getting a dog was initially a deal-breaker) is underdeveloped, but so is the relationship, unfortunately, between her and Sassy. Some sections felt flat owing to timing. A few key moments — such as a discussion of Sassy’s potential fate — could have been allowed to breathe more and, while Sankoff is adept at playing multiple characters, the effect was dizzying sometimes.

That said, there’s plenty of heart in this one — especially if you’re a Dog Person. ★★★

— Jen Zoratti


Kelly Finnegan Productions

King’s Head Pub (Venue 14), to Sunday

                                <p>Comedian Stewart Huff presents Donating Sperm to My Sister’s Wife.</p>


Comedian Stewart Huff presents Donating Sperm to My Sister’s Wife.

George Carlin dipped in honey-brown bourbon, Kentucky comedian Stewart Huff controls the room from the second he says “taxidermy raccoon ass.”

During this hour-long standup set — a treatise on goodness in an era of divisiveness — Huff takes the audience from a snake-bitten southern church to the moonshine-soaked forests of Kentucky, peppering each sentence with effervescent wit and overwhelming kindness.

Twenty-five years down the comedy road, Huff has been doing this for a long time, but he hasn’t lost his joy, or his sense of purpose. He understands what a privilege it is to make people laugh for a living, and he deserves to be thanked for the service he provides. ★★★★★

— Ben Waldman



PTE — Colin Jackson Studio (Venue 17), to Sunday

The words “adult puppet show” elicit certain expectations, but Avenue Q this isn’t. Despite her Sesame Workshopbona fides, brilliant Canadian performer Ingrid Hansen’s puppets are often nothing more than her mirrored fingertips, magnified onscreen, or her own balled-up underwear.

It’s no small feat to create a real sense of peril around the escapades of a Kewpie doll head rested on a hand, but the audience gasps like kids at a Punch and Judy show when the weirdly sexy Baby Tyler is in danger, and his fixed coy expression actually seems to change. It’s almost as entertaining to watch Hansen’s face as it is to marvel at the magic of her adroit fingers and mind.

This 65-minute show (not 75) is utterly magical, insanely inventive, wickedly funny, disturbingly dirty (“Why does it always get all porno for me?” the MC, Florence McFingernails, asks) and beautifully twisted. Give Hansen a hand. ★★★★★

— Jill Wilson


Horus Eye Productions

John Hirsch Mainstage (Venue 1), to Sunday

First, the good news: An Evening of Magic & Illusion delivers exactly what it advertises. Sitruc James and Miss Jacqueline, magicians from Regina, perform tried-and-true tricks for an hour. They break out all the tools of the trade, including linking rings, razor blades and playing cards. There’s audience participation throughout. It’s a hit with kids.

Now, the not-so-good news: The humour is as traditional as the tricks. In 2023, why are we still mocking same-sex intimacy, men wearing panties and adults using leather during sex? Especially in a production that calls itself a kids show? It’s not so much that the punchlines are inappropriate. They’re just plain lazy.

Some of the magic is sloppy, too. But it’s doubtful any youngsters noticed or cared. They were too busy laughing, shouting and begging to get on stage. ★★★1/2

— Kaj Hasselriis


Martin Dockery

Royal Albert Arms (Venue 15), to Sunday

New York storyteller Martin Dockery digs deep into his fringe past for this yarn that is set during his debut at the giant Adelaide Fringe, which according to his website was in 2011.

He was prepared to bomb, because he says no one willingly attends a one-man storytelling show about self-discovery — although the Royal Albert Arms was packed on a Saturday afternoon with folks doing exactly that.

He’s encouraged by new friends he meets Down Under, as well as mysterious letters from an admirer that become more amorous as his Adelaide show gains momentum.

Dockery’s boisterous style and his 60-minute, sometimes meandering buildup to Every Good Story’s climax is definitely one to add to second-week fringe lists. ★★★★

— Alan Small


Actors Studio

The Gargoyle Theatre (Venue 25), to Sunday

Everybody who was born and everybody who will ever be has one common certainty: one day, they will die. It may sound harsh, but it’s the truth, and the same can be said of a few of the following sentences.

When God instructs Death to bring a few newcomers to the afterlife, the cast — representing all humanity — beg for their fate to be reconsidered. Soon, Everybody becomes a single entity (Maia Woods) forced to re-evaluate her life’s choices and confront the unknown.

While well-performed by this cast, who make excellent use of the theatre as an arena for movement, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ script is a repetitive tonal mess, with a few audio intervals, notably one about race, shoe-horned in where they frankly serve the story no benefit.

This 80-minute performance will make you think about who and what matters, but it may also leave you scratching your head. ★★★

— Ben Waldman


The Pucking Fuppet Co.

PTE — Colin Jackson Studio (Venue 17), to Sunday

For much of this hour-long comedy-mystery (emphasis on comedy) designated sleuth Horatio P. Corvus, “sorter-outer of murders” sits atop the top hat of puppeteer Adam Francis Proulx, interviewing members of the Crow family. They are suffering in the aftermath of a murder. And since a flock of crows is called a murder, this is, as Horatio observes, “a murder murder mystery, if you will.”

Horatio is the only puppet, but he’s a beauty; his display of feathers, metal mesh and studs is almost kinky. But the comedy is fairly benign and more or less kid-friendly, featuring every kind of crow pun you could imagine. (Members of the family include Sheryl and Russell.)

The lighting is dark-dark-dark, save for five floor lamps used by Proulx like an organist pumping on floor pedals.

Proulx is a newcomer to the Winnipeg fringe, but his show is such a delight, we should expect to see more of him. Make him feel welcome accordingly. ★★★★

— Randall King


Tyson Comedy

Cinematheque (Venue 7), to Saturday

In this unexpectedly sweet 45-minute comedy, writer and performer Megan Phillips is Megz (“with a z, spell it right”), an 11-year-old circa 1996 who is hopelessly devoted to the Grease cinematic universe.

                                <p>Grease, Too!</p>


Grease, Too!

In fact, she’s been double-featuring Grease and Grease 2 every weekend in her basement. Rydell High is a refuge. She’s getting bullied by a boy at school. Her parents are splitting up. She has to eat her Oreos in secret. But Grease Weekend is her time for joy.

As a performer, Phillips’ energy is peerless. She transforms Cinematheque into a ‘90s rec room — complete with Oreos passed around the audience — as she breathlessly annotates both Grease movies and starts opening up about her own lonely life. As a writer, she masterfully captures that period where you still feel like a kid but your friends are unrecognizable teens, as well as that itch to share your favourite comfort watches with other people.

This show is very loose, but honestly it’s part of the charm: Megz would be the type whose mouth can’t keep up with her brain. ★★★★1/2

— Jen Zoratti


So Lonely Productions

Alloway Hall — Manitoba Museum (Venue 5), to Saturday

                                <p>George Buri, centre, based I Lost on Jeopardy on his real experiences.</p>


George Buri, centre, based I Lost on Jeopardy on his real experiences.

A lot has changed on Jeopardy! since 2017 when Winnipeg history prof George Buri had his hard-earned shot on the long-running hit U.S. TV game show. But media coverage of the 2020 death of host Alex Trebek and the search for his replacement drove the show to even greater heights of popularity. So it makes perfect sense that Buri brought his one-man storytelling show about the experience back four years after earning raves in a sold-out run at the 2019 Winnipeg fringe.

And the story is still great, but delivered at a breakneck pace that felt at odds with some of his advice: to cherish the moments, the people. Details of fellow contestants were interesting and endearing, but rushed. Buri’s delivery continued through many moments of audience laughter, obliterating the dialogue. A pause would have been welcome to savour this story, which came in four minutes under the 60-minute advertised length. ★★★1/2

— Denise Duguay


Subscatter Productions

Rachel Browne Theatre (Venue 8), to Friday

This 50-minute triple bill takes a deep dive into the recesses of life, inhabited by three fearless solo contemporary dance artists. Toronto’s Oriah Wiersma’s Isn’t This Where explores the wisdom of the body and its corporeal memory. She stretches her limbs out into darkness, fingers splayed, over her own created soundscape. The elegiac work is deeply stirring, ending as her body crumples to the floor.

Montreal-based Kayla Jeanson’s Plays Herself likewise compels as a highly visceral, gestural-based work that becomes increasingly propulsive, its enigmatic ending wisely leaving viewers to draw their own conclusions.

However the spookiest shadows lie with Winnipegger Alex Elliott’s Let’s not stay awake through dark nights, inspired by an ancient Icelandic lullaby and the story of two outlaws in 18th-century Iceland. Elliott skilfully crafts her images like an artisan, garbed in animalistic pelts/leggings to appear both the hunter and hunted. In her haunting, unforgettable solo, the way she spreads her arms like eagle wings to finally meld with her barren landscape elicits goosebumps. ★★★★1/2

— Holly Harris


Magician and the Muse Inc.

Planetarium Auditorium (Venue 9), to Sunday

Winnipeg magician Chanelle Munroe makes her solo debut in this 45-minute illusion-based show that, with a little more razzle dazzle, could be a showstopper.

The premise is grabby: there are five ways to kill a magician using the five elements — fire, water, air, earth and ether (or love) — so each illusion or magic trick was based on each. For some, the stakes felt wincingly high, particularly the ones involving an element of real danger (broken glass, razor blades). But for others, it was hard to discern when the illusion had reached its climax, leading to some “Is that it?” confusion. The lighting is too dark in places, and the stage is cluttered.

The dulcet-voiced Munroe is a captivating host. She suffuses her magic with storytelling and cultural teachings pinned to each element — Munroe is Métis Cree, and her spirit name is Waabshkibinishkwe, meaning “White Bird Woman” — so not only will you be awed, you’ll learn something, too. ★★★1/2

— Jen Zoratti


Comedy Illusions of Greg Wood

Calvary Temple, (Venue 26), to Thursday

Local fringe veteran Greg Wood and his two apprentices, Wynter and Tanek, dazzled the Saturday afternoon crowd with sleight of hand and a well-produced show. Even before the 60-

minute spectacle began, joke announcements were made over the PA systems. The “lost items” announcement will make you giggle.

Wood brings a very vaudeville-style magic show to the largely older audience. The classic tricks of sawing a lady (or Tanek) in half are included, as well as a brother-sister memory trick, assisted adorably by a boy plucked from the audience and his older sister. But the highlight of the show is Wynter’s Bess Houdini trick. Not content to be a lady sawn in half, Wynter’s magical workings are a delight.

There are moments when the show felt geared to a business-conference-like audience, and certain jokes would go over the heads of the younger members of the crowd. But this show is worth the walk over to Calvary Temple. ★★★★

— Sonya Ballantyne


Hill Party Productions

PTE — Colin Jackson Studio (Venue 17), to Sunday

Matt & Ben was co-written by Mindy Kaling (The Office, The Mindy Project), a very funny woman, but at one hour, this locally produced two-hander is like a Saturday Night Live sketch stretched beyond its limits.

Partly this is because Matt & Ben is 20 years old and the premise — the script for Good Will Hunting falls from the heavens and lands on the coffee table of two Boston wannabe-screenwriter dude-bros, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon — feels very dated and not a little petty. (The notion that Affleck is an untalented hack is pretty passé.) There’s altogether too much yelling and over-broad inside jokes (nods to Gwyneth Paltrow and Batman) that take the place of real jokes.

However, Winnipeg’s Eden Jamieson (Matt) and Samantha Duha (Ben) nicely inhabit the roles of mismatched best friends (Jamieson is also hilarious as a dream J.D. Salinger) and overcome the script’s shortcomings with punchy performances. ★★★

— Jill Wilson


Cameryn Moore / Little Black Book

MTC Up the Alley (Venue 2), to Sunday

Hailing from Berlin, a city infamous for its pretentiousness, Cameryn Moore is decidedly unpretentious. Equipping audiences with paper, charcoal and, well, herself, Moore unravels —and undresses — an exhilarating memoir, detailing her journey as a life-drawing model, experiences with fatphobia and brash encounters with Berlin hipsters.

Through a combination of audience questions and storytelling, the interactive show meditates on body neutrality, culture shock and the changing seasons of life. It’s difficult to say what, precisely, Muse is. Sure, it’s a life-drawing session, but it’s also Q&A, a memoir, a performance-art piece and at times, a comedy show. Luckily, its interdisciplinary flair is a strength, not a weakness. Ultimately, while Moore is the muse, the audience-turned-artists make Muse. Whatever the hour-long experiment happens to be, you can’t miss it. ★★★★1/2

— Cierra Bettens


Chase Padgett

PTE — Mainstage (Venue 16), to Sunday

When perusing your fringe program, make sure to hand-pick this tale of a fingerpicking phenom drawn from the mind and soul of Chase Padgett, a festival veteran with transformative capabilities and undeniable talent.

With Nashville Hurricane, Padgett is a one-man band, equipped only with an acoustic guitar and an electric voice that never cracks but often cracks the audience up. Embodying four characters — the titular guitar hero, an aging bluesman, a struggling mother, and a preacher who puts profit before people — Padgett shifts among them as expertly as he changes chords; he plays four roles better than many could play one. As if his guitar skills weren’t enough, his singing voice, particularly that of the bluesman, is sublime, a hearty combination of Chris Stapleton and Ray Charles.

Playfully sidestepping music biopic convention while winking at it, Nashville Hurricane is an inventive exploration of talent as both cage and key. ★★★★★

— Ben Waldman



Manitoba Museum — Alloway Hall (Venue 5), to Sunday

This standup comedy show features six performers describing their live with various neurological issues (dyslexia, autism, nervous anxiety, Aspergers). It’s funnier than it sounds. At least in some cases. But that’s the standup conundrum: not every performer is equally strong (mumbling into the microphone, flat energy level).

Highlights here include host Scott Koropas, appearing onstage in bright patterned Bermuda shorts with matching top, apparently channelling the vintage Hawaiian Punch mascot. “Autism is gauged on a spectrum,” he explains. “I fall on the sexy end!”

Danielle Kayahara is self-deprecating, sympathetic and downright adorable as she describes her compulsion to “overthink everything” while pausing to second-guess her comments.

The show closes on an upbeat note with a series of loud and proud rap numbers on the topic by Quinn and Kane Greene. ★★★1/2

— Janice Sawka


Physically Speaking

Cre8ery (Venue 24), to Saturday

If you have never understood what’s supposedly funny about the bumbling, childlike Mr. Bean, avoid Okie Dokie. Should you make the mistake of attending this self-indulgent solo physical comedy show, you will be bored, you will be annoyed, and you will be baffled by “humour” like a doorbell ringing and the excited clown finding no one on the doorstep — repeatedly.

Ardyth Johnson, a veteran Winnipeg-trained clown and mime, plays the childlike Margaret. She’s a frumpy loner in a bathrobe whose existence is disrupted by the arrival of an unruly alien baby (invisible to the audience) that she is forced to parent.

The cartoonish tale is supported by sound effects, music, props and hard-to-see video. Johnson demonstrates dedication and technique, but needs invention and an editor. Most of the comedy is lame, over-obvious and tedious. There are a few touching moments at the end in which Johnson’s mime artistry shines.

Thankfully, Okie Dokie ran 10 minutes short of its advertised 75 minutes. It could be edited down to 15 minutes without any loss of effective material. ★★

— Alison Mayes


Melanie Gall Presents for Kids

Kids Venue (MTYP Mainstage), to Saturday

If the TV show Bluey has taught us anything, it is that content made for kids doesn’t have to be something parents tune out. The Alberta-based performer Melanie Gall tells the story of Tilly in this half-hour musical. Tilly hears music and sets off to become an opera diva, despite the reservations of her brother and mouse-phobic humans.

Audience participation was welcome at this Saturday show and many adults sang along when the kids in the crowd acted as the opera house students during a lesson. Gall’s adorable portrayal of Tilly keeps the kids interested, while her vocal range perks up the audience every single time a high note rings through MTYP. Leaving the venue, many adults could be heard commenting on how much they enjoyed the show. This play is a good intro to the festival for both kids and their usually non-theatre-going parents. ★★★★ 1/2

— Sonya Ballantyne


10..9..8 Productions

Centre culturel franco-manitobain (Venue 4), to Sunday

British playwright Mark Ravenhill’s Pool (No Water) is a punch in the gut throughout its 65 tense minutes, in which a group of former art school students gather at the snazzy house of the one who has soared above them as a star of galleries and media.

All six — though voicing admiration — harbour seething resentment, while she shows contempt towards them. An incident happens in the pool. The star ends up hospitalized. The others show concern then slowly turn the event into “art.” The final punch comes when they understand that the star will make their images her latest “creation,” while they remain her background noise.

This production is impressive. All six actors are engaging as chorus and individuals. The direction by Emma Welham is forthright and bold. One big mistake: the images taken by the group should be projected, not simply scattered on the ground. ★★★★

— Rory Runnells


Gwen Coburn

John Hirsch Mainstage (Venue 1), to Saturday

Boston comedian Gwen Coburn is just a sad, sexy baby trying her best in this whip-smart autobiographical musical comedy about when “#YesAnd becomes #MeToo.”

                                <p>Gwen Coburn in Sad Girl Songs</p>


Gwen Coburn in Sad Girl Songs

At first, this 60-minute show seems like it’ll be an hour of funny, feminist songs about locating the clitoris, emotional labour, depression, daddy-issues boyfriends and the boys of Tinder. But occasionally, a disembodied man’s voice rings out, commenting on her body, or offering a critique. Coburn’s entire demeanour onstage changes. He throws her off. He shuts her down. And when we learn who he is over the course of the show, the effect is gutting.

Coburn sets the abuse she experienced against a backdrop of Greek mythology — particularly Venus (sad, sexy baby) and Medusa and her snakes — a clever way to illustrate how baked in (and old) these problems are. The show would benefit from some polishing — some punchlines are not hit with the precision they could be — but Coburn has a real gift for oscillating seamlessly between the hilarious and heartbreaking. You have to laugh to keep from crying, after all, but this show will make you do both. ★★★★1/2

— Jen Zoratti


One Trunk Theatre

Room 201, 29 Forks Market Rd. (Venue 29), to Saturday




Equal parts Romper Room throwback, nature walk and interactive theatre experience, this educational presentation for children ages 3-6 introduces them to ecological issues regarding forestry and conservation on a level they can relate to. The three lead forest rangers, played by theatre interns for the company, may not be polished professionals, but so what? The kids loved their playfulness.

The venue, although hard to find at The Forks, is perfect for the subject, with its old wooden floors and beams, and birchbark-patterned curtains. Add some wooden benches, artificial trees and a campfire site, and you’re in a forest!

Adults be warned: there’s a lot of repetitive sitting and standing (also crawling and wading through imaginary rivers), but if you can’t keep up, you can always be the pole for the campsite tent.

With any luck, shows like this will plant the seeds of appreciation for both theatre and nature in a future generation, and that’s the best outcome of all. ★★★★

— Janice Sawka


Best Medicine Productions

221B Baker St., 180 Market Ave. (Venue 31), to Saturday

Hollywood-based fringe vet Shelby Bond (One Man Back to the Future) multi-tasks in two different fringe shows, the improvisational Dungeons & Shakespeare and as the host of this comparatively undemanding treasure hunt. Bond plays Holmes and you are drafted into service as one of the Baker Street Irregulars to hunt down clues placed on posters in the immediate vicinity of Market Square. The goal is to rescue the deposed Prince of Romania.

In both the clues and the overall presentation, Bond really nails the Holmes milieu, replete with coded words, deception (one of the five “suspects” represented in each of the posters is a liar) and general Victorian fussiness. The puzzle is genuinely challenging and hey, if you can’t crack it, it’s an ideal way to get your steps in. ★★★1/2

— Randall King


Indifferently Reformed

Royal Albert Arms (Venue 15), to Sunday

The energetic Indifferently Reformed troupe of University of Winnipeg theatre students and grads offers up a stormy odyssey of Shakespeare’s windy comedy that’s also a tale of revenge. The whirlwind begins with Prospero (David Lange), the former Duke of Milan, demanding weather spirit Ariel (Eve Ross Moore) to conjure a tempest to shipwreck usurper Antonia (Hope Figueroa), and her party, which includes Alonsia (Hope Figueroa) the queen of Milan.

Prospero, who resembles Charlton Heston’s Moses with his toga and Lange’s imperious portrayal, uses his magic and his monster Caliban (Brian Hood) to keep his rivals at bay while kindling a romance between his daughter Miranda (Isabella Lischka) and Ferdinand (Dryden Dilts), Alonsia’s son.

Script editor Christian Leeson and director Jordan Phillips have managed to abridge The Tempest into 75 minutes without it getting lost at sea too badly, a task almost as difficult as squeezing all 14 members of the cast — 12 actors and two musicians — on the Royal Albert Arms stage at the end. ★★1/2

— Alan Small


Axiom Theatre

John Hirsch Mainstage (Venue 1), to Sunday

OK, here’s the deal: The members of improv troupe Club Soda don’t know what’s going on.

                                <p>From left: Luke Cecelon, Kevin Ramberran, Thomas Toles, Daniel Chen and Cuinn Joseph of Club Soda</p>


From left: Luke Cecelon, Kevin Ramberran, Thomas Toles, Daniel Chen and Cuinn Joseph of Club Soda

Reprising their 2022 fringe offering, all the players portray a cast of actors — except one. That one (who changes every show) becomes the power-hungry director, lobbing bizarre instructions at the others while they work.

The troupe doesn’t know what’s coming, and the director doesn’t know what the troupe will do with his or her instructions/improv games. In Saturday’s show, one task had the actors trying to recite their lines with mouthfuls of water, and later, black beans.

The entire hour is improvised from a request for an audience member to recount a fond personal memory. A woman’s tale of a hotel with a domed arcade area morphed into people staying at a domed hotel, only to learn they were actually captive research subjects.

There were a few stumbles, not surprising given the complexity of all the moving parts, but this show is a lot of fun and frequently pretty amazing. ★★★★1/2

— Janice Sawka


Crosswalk Productions

MTC Up the Alley (Venue 2), to Sunday

From friends, to lovers, to near-strangers, A Work in Progress reimagines a timeless trope through a classic medium: a radio. In this hour-long tender queer drama, former lovers Emma and Mia meet at a park bench to revisit the soundtrack of their lives together. As they turn the dial, the radio static awakens their younger selves to the left of the stage as they reminisce on both fond and turbulent memories.

The radio takes the pair back to childhood dance classes, their old apartment, hospital rooms and everywhere in between. Balancing intense storylines with dry humour, the play by Manitoba’s Ethan Stark grapples with substance abuse, mental health and unconditional love.

Occasionally, it’s difficult to follow the chronology of each flashback, though, to be fair, that’s not how memory tends to work. There may have been a few dry eyes in the audience at the end of the play, but they certainly weren’t mine. ★★★1/2

— Cierra Bettens

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