A half hyena and a dead­pan egg: early Fringe hits

> BY KATH­LEEN OLIVER

The Georgia Straight - - Fringe Festival -

Isaw nine of the dozen shows that are headed to Van­cou­ver from the Vic­to­ria Fringe, and I urge you in the strong­est pos­si­ble terms to see the first two re­viewed here. If you have kids, or just a healthy in­ner child, you should also check out Beaver Dreams and The Bird­mann: Bird­house, which have plenty to of­fer to both kids and adults.

SIX FINE LINES This show is a gift. Mack Gor­don rein­vents the lyric es­say—a literary form that packs a depth charge by jux­ta­pos­ing frag­ments of dif­fer­ent types of mean­ing—as an ex­pe­ri­ence of com­mu­nion. This is all the more poignant given that the play has lone­li­ness and loss at its cen­tre. Gor­don’s de­scrip­tions are vivid: his friend Sarah has “a smile like a bro­ken-down picket fence”, the high­way rush­ing un­der her beat-up car is an “an­i­mated grey-scale flip­book”, and his writ­ing is equally in­formed by ideas (Anne Car­son, Re­nata Adler) and ideals (he grad­u­ally enu­mer­ates new rules for liv­ing). In his gen­er­ous, un­pre­ten­tious, and in­ti­mate per­for­mance, Gor­don keeps peel­ing back the skin of his struc­ture to re­veal the play’s (and his/our) heart, and its de­sire to con­nect and to beat faster. Beau­ti­ful. At Carousel The­atre on September 8 (10:45 p.m.), 9 (3 p.m.), 10 (7:45 p.m.), 11 (6 p.m.), 13 (10:45 p.m.), 14 (8 p.m.), 16 (10:30 p.m.), and 17 (4 p.m.)

HYENA SUB­POENA Cat Kidd is a force of na­ture. Ha, I wrote that first and then read it in the press re­lease for this show. Well, it’s true. We first en­counter her smooth, dusky voice singing a verse about be­ing half hyena, then Kidd’s lithe, sinewy body emerges from a tent to prowl about the stage as her words take us from the hyena’s unique bi­o­log­i­cal sta­tus, its shapeshift­ing pow­ers, its hermaphroditism, and its cu­ri­ous laugh to mem­o­ries of squat­ting in East Van with an­ar­chists and mak­ing se­cret il­le­gal do­na­tions of dis­carded ho­tel food. And that’s just the first poem! Kidd holds the au­di­ence spell­bound for the full hour with the power of her voice and her move­ment as her tales of African fauna give way to those of other preda­tors, hu­man ones from her youth. Jacky Murda’s ex­cel­lent mu­sic un­der­scores Kidd’s ir­re­sistible rhythms. Pre­pare to be blown away. At Stu­dio 1398 on September 8 (5 p.m.), 10 (8:15 p.m.), 11 (10:15 p.m.), 14 (6:55 p.m.), 15 (8:45 p.m.), and 16 (3 p.m.)

BEAVER DREAMS Fringe shows don’t get any more Cana­dian than this: it’s bilin­gual, it’s set on a lake with a cabin, and the stars are our coun­try’s most in­dus­tri­ous ro­dents. Com­bin­ing an­i­ma­tion, in­ter­views, live ac­tion, and pup­pets, Mag­gie Win­ston and Mika Laulainen tell the story of a multi­gen­er­a­tional bat­tle be­tween beavers and hu­mans at Win­ston’s fam­ily cabin in Que­bec. The play man­ages to be both deeply per­sonal and deeply wacky as the beavers re­peat­edly re­build their dam; the range of pup­pet tech­niques and phys­i­cal play­ful­ness never stops sur­pris­ing. The per­form­ers are clearly hav­ing a blast, and it’s in­fec­tious: this is a fam­ily-friendly show (my 10-year-old son loved it) full of fun you can sink your teeth into. At Ha­vana The­atre on September 8 (8 p.m.), 9 (9:30 p.m.), 10 (1 p.m.), 12 (9:30 p.m.), 14 (6 p.m.), 16 (5 p.m.), and 17 (2:15 p.m.)

THE BIRD­MANN: BIRD­HOUSE Fans of Trent Bau­mann’s Bird­mann will be thrilled to meet his com­pan­ion, the de­light­fully dead­pan Egg (Sachie Mikawa). When their bird­house is threat­ened by the Re­gur­gi­ta­tor, a na­ture-killing phe­nom­e­non, Egg starts run­ning back and forth across the stage. When Bird­mann asks what she’s do­ing, she replies, “Pan­ick­ing.” Later, at­test­ing to her ve­gan sta­tus, she says, “I don’t even look at the Milky Way.” The world-sav­ing fun in this show in­cludes mu­sic, jug­gling, and a con­ven­tion of stuffed toys. Suc­cess­fully silly for an al­lages au­di­ence. At Rail­spur Park on September 9 (7:15 p.m.), 10 (4:15 and 7:15 p.m.), 13 (7:15 p.m.), 14 (7:15 p.m.), 15 (7:15 p.m.), 16 (7:15 p.m.), and 17 (3:15 and 7:15 p.m.)

’TWEEN EARTH AND SKY How of­ten do you see a show that could have been done the same way hun­dreds of years ago? Sto­ry­teller Mark Lyon, clad in breeches, a green vest, and a tam-o’-shanter, uses noth­ing but his words and a sim­ple short cane to weave a cap­ti­vat­ing spell with his tales of fairy folk and en­chant­ment in Ire­land. The sto­ries and Lyon’s de­liv­ery are mas­ter­fully crafted; I hung on his every word for the full hour. Sim­ple and mag­i­cal. At Stu­dio 16 on September 8 (10:30 p.m.), 9 (4:30 p.m.), 10 (1 p.m.), 11 (6:45 p.m.), 14 (8:30 p.m.), and 16 (8:15 p.m.)

IN­TER­STEL­LAR EL­DER The premise is bril­liant: it’s the fu­ture, and an agri­cul­tural catas­tro­phe (I won’t spoil the hi­lar­i­ous specifics) has ren­dered Earth un­in­hab­it­able, so all the hu­mans are be­ing sub­jected to “ther­a­peu­tic hy­pother­mia” and blasted into or­bit un­til the planet re­cov­ers. Fringers fa­mil­iar with SNAFU’S ear­lier shows will rec­og­nize In­grid Hansen’s Kitt, who’s a cou­ple hun­dred years old when she’s se­lected for “early de­frost” and given the job of “sleep cus­to­dian”. Kitt grad­u­ally set­tles into zero-grav­ity rou­tines like pee­ing into a fun­nel and tak­ing a few puffs of “nu­tri­ent spray” for her meals, but she’s bored, and her at­tempts to amuse her­self lead to some witty busi­ness, ex­pertly synced to a knock­out score. Hansen’s phys­i­cal pre­ci­sion is im­pres­sive, and though the mid­dle stretch doesn’t sus­tain the en­ergy of the show’s open­ing mo­ments, in which Hansen plays a robot whose lip move­ments never quite sync with her com­put­er­ized voice, the end­ing is a lovely sur­prise. At the Wa­ter­front The­atre on September 7 (7 p.m), 13 (5 p.m.), 15 (6:40 p.m.), 16 (12:30 p.m.), and 17 (5:15 p.m.)

LOVELY LADY LUMP “Spoiler alert: I sur­vived!” an­nounces Lana Sch­warcz near the top of this comedic ac­count of her ex­pe­ri­ence with breast cancer. Sch­warcz uses standup, video pro­jec­tions, and straight-up sto­ry­telling to ex­plore both the med­i­cal (a biopsy so dif­fi­cult that the sono­g­ra­pher broke

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The Bird­mann: Bird­house Lovely Lady Lump

a sweat) and cul­tural con­tours of her di­ag­no­sis: “I hate it when peo­ple re­fer to cancer as a jour­ney,” she says; “I pre­fer the term ‘hostage ex­pe­ri­ence’.” Her goal in shar­ing her story is cathar­tic, cel­e­bra­tory (and she does tend to laugh at her own jokes), and per­haps most im­por­tantly, ed­u­ca­tional. A show that gets laughs and might also save lives. At Stu­dio 1398 on September 7 (6:45 p.m.), 9 (8:30 p.m.), 13 (5 p.m.), 14 (10:20 p.m.), 15 (6:45 p.m.), and 17 (1 p.m.)

THE IN­VEN­TOR OF ALL THINGS Fringe sta­ple Jem Rolls, best-known for his spo­ken-word po­etry, does some­thing dif­fer­ent with this show, which tells the story of Hun­gar­ian physi­cist Leo Szi­lard, a key ar­chi­tect of the atomic bomb who was also one of the strong­est op­po­nents of its de­ploy­ment. Rolls fires a lot of facts at us in this re­count­ing of Szi­lard’s life and dis­cov­er­ies, and many of them are fas­ci­nat­ing. (Szi­lard cured his own cancer by in­vent­ing ra­di­a­tion ther­apy; he once quipped that the Man­hat­tan Project’s best in­ven­tion was the SE­CRET stamp.) But Rolls hasn’t ad­justed his de­liv­ery to suit his ma­te­rial: it’s still shouty and sweaty, and it feels more like a bar­rage of in­for­ma­tion than the story of a life. At Carousel The­atre on September 8 (8 p.m.), 9 (5:45 p.m.), 10 (3 p.m.), 11 (10:45 p.m.), 13 (8 p.m.), 14 (6 p.m.), 15 (10:45 p.m.), and 16 (1 p.m.)

THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD David Or­tolando has the be­gin­ning of an idea that will res­onate deeply with au­di­ences—about the dis­ori­en­ta­tion and de­spair of liv­ing in a post­truth Amer­ica—but this solo show strug­gles to give it co­her­ent the­atri­cal ex­pres­sion. Or­tolando spends a long time ask­ing the au­di­ence ques­tions be­fore launch­ing into a story, then an in­ter­minable stretch of voice-over nar­ra­tion, a dream se­quence, and pop songs. Or­tolando’s good in­ten­tions are pal­pa­ble, but his ex­e­cu­tion makes for an ag­o­niz­ingly long hour. At the Re­vue Stage on September 8 (10:20 p.m.), 9 (4:35 p.m.), 10 (noon), 13 (6:45 p.m.), 14 (8:30 p.m.), and 16 (7:30 p.m.) - Granny’s space suit is a neon-pink ’80s ski suit Hansen nabbed at a Mon­treal thrift store. (“It’s a sweat ma­chine. I carry elec­trolyte pack­ets.”) In Ed­mon­ton, due to chal­leng­ing sight­lines, she’s added six-inch-plat­form Moon­boots to the en­sem­ble. Much like a smart sci­en­tist or in­ter­stel­lar trav­eller, this artist has learned to mod­ify and adapt on the fly.

FOR HER PART, CAROLINE Sni­atyn­ski, the play­wright be­hind Ac­cel­er­a­tion at this year’s Fringe, came to a healthy artis­tic com­pro­mise with the daunt­ing physics at the heart of her drama. Her work is, after all, set in the Swiss lab where, in 2012, the world’s elite physi­cists are search­ing for the elu­sive Higgs bo­son par­ti­cle— a sort of mys­te­ri­ous miss­ing link in quan­tum physics. One of them is Elise, a sci­en­tist whose sis­ter dis­ap­peared a year ago, mean­ing she is caught up in two ob­ses­sive searches—one pro­fes­sional and one deeply per­sonal.

“I em­barked on the piece with­out re­ally know­ing how I was go­ing to han­dle that [the physics],” Sni­atyn­ski tells the Straight from her Van­cou­ver home, point­ing out that she was al­ways fas­ci­nated by how sci­ence con­nects with the rest of the world. “It soon be­came clear that I am not a physi­cist, but then that ac­tu­ally be­came an ad­van­tage. I had to con­stantly ap­proach the ma­te­rial as a non­ex­pert.…the re­sult is that the search for the Higgs bo­son and ques­tions about sci­ence are present and in­form the world, but what I was re­ally in­ter­ested in was the hu­man el­e­ment.”

Ac­cel­er­a­tor turned out to be about some very hu­man ques­tions. “What do we know?” Sni­atyn­ski asks. “And when we don’t un­der­stand some­thing, how can we go for­ward any­way?

“I’m in­ter­ested in scale: the world of par­ti­cle physics is huge, vast, and in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to a cer­tain ex­tent,” she con­tin­ues. “The pro­tag­o­nist here, with her sis­ter miss­ing, is sort of the nar­row­est fo­cus pos­si­ble—grief and loss. So there’s a world that’s very big and very small. And there’s the idea that size alone doesn’t make things more or less com­pre­hen­si­ble.”

Look­ing at her work along­side all the other plays at the Fringe this year that fea­ture women and sci­en­tific themes, Sni­atyn­ski notes that the combo couldn’t be more timely.

“Women and sci­ence are both un­der at­tack right now,” she com­ments. “It’s in­ter­est­ing how things have be­come more top­i­cal now that I’ve writ­ten

Five more Fringe shows that blind you with sci­ence

Sci­ence and art are of­ten seen as op­po­sites, but they seem to be in­ter­min­gling like never be­fore at this year’s Van­cou­ver Fringe Fes­ti­val.

Ex­per­i­men­tal cancer treat­ments, zo­ol­ogy lec­tures, cryo­geni­cally frozen heads: they’re just some of the top­ics in­spir­ing the­atri­cal out­ings.

Here are a few of the shows to look for if you have a thing for lab coats, petri dishes, test tubes, and in­ter­ga­lac­tic trav­el­ling.

SHAD­OW­LANDS

Sa­vanna Har­vey’s play tells the non­lin­ear story of a sci­en­tist di­ag­nosed with the same breast cancer that killed her mother. Find­ing that tra­di­tional treat­ment has lit­tle ef­fect, the sci­en­tist launches her own ex­per­i­men­tal bio­med­i­cal treat­ments, as she’s vis­ited by the ghost of her mother in the dark lab­o­ra­tory.

THE IN­VEN­TOR OF ALL THINGS U.K. Fringe favourite Jem Rolls is back with the story of Leo Szi­lard, the Jewish Hun­gar­ian physi­cist who fled Nazi Ger­many, but not be­fore rec­og­niz­ing the dan­gers of it de­vel­op­ing the atomic bomb. In his inim­itable per­for­mance po­etry, Rolls hails him as a “bloody hero”. The just wrote of the show: “An­i­mated, en­er­getic and flam­boy­ant, this is how his­tory should be taught be­cause I can tell you one thing, no one in that crowd will ever for­get the name of Leo Szi­lard.”

LET ME FREEZE YOUR HEAD Join this provoca­tive sales pre­sen­ta­tion if you’ve ever con­sid­ered hav­ing your head cry­on­i­cally frozen so that you can re­turn to life again in the fu­ture. The show gets its smarts from its writer and solo per­former: Neil Mcarthur, direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Pro­fes­sional and Ap­plied Ethics at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba.

FIELD ZO­OL­OGY, 101 Shawn O’hara plays hi­lar­i­ous an­i­mal-hat­ing field zo­ol­o­gist Brad Goose­berry. His straight-faced but silly “lec­ture” was voted favourite com­edy and run­ner-up for best new work at the 2016 Vic­to­ria Fringe.

GO, NO GO Part of the Ad­vance The­atre pro­gram of play read­ings by women, Natalie Fri­jia’s work tells the story of the Mer­cury 13, bar­rier-break­ing pi­lots who pe­ti­tioned NASA to be con­sid­ered as fe­male astro­nauts. Here’s the twist: reimag­ines their bat­tles with sex­ism within a cir­cus set­ting. The choice isn’t ran­dom: NASA once the­o­rized that aeri­al­ists, ac­ro­bats, and other cir­cus types might best adapt to ex­treme con­di­tions.

Wa­ter­front The­atre) (September 8 to 11 at the (September 12 at the False Creek Gym) Let Me Freeze Your Head (September 8 to 11 and 13 to 16 at Carousel The­atre) Ed­mon­ton Jour­nal (September 8 to 10, 13, 15, and 16 at the Wa­ter­front The­atre) (September 8 to 10, 13, 15, and 16 at the False Creek Gym) Go, No Go

Trent Bau­mann’s is a good egg; Lana Sch­warcz’s gets laughs and saves lives.

Finds Neil Mcarthur sell­ing the ben­e­fits of cryo­geni­cally freez­ing your nog­gin.

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