The Fringe and beyond
When it comes to summer, them there theatre waters are murky. After being spoiled this past week by transcendent works like the Hungarian import W – Workers’ Circus, and bidding adieu to the structure of the subscriber season, the average theatregoer is thrust into the no-holds-barred, all-bets-off carnival that is summer in the city. This year, even the Fringe has a fringe, and whatever your tastes, you’re likely to get them served with a musical number or two.
The Fringe‘s biggest selling point is that you never really know what you’re going to get, and despite the built-in odds that there’ll be some stinkers, the marathon fest (June 10-20) is addictive in its promise that the next magical experience may be waiting just down the street. Give yourself a head start and check out the Fringe preview Monday night (June 6) at Café Campus, where performers will provide a bite-size sample of what’s coming up.
While Fringe started in Edinburgh as a response to a more stringently regulated theatre festival, in North America the circuit has sprung fully formed from the thigh of its European cousin. It takes all the unabashed anti-establishment enthusiasm from the original, but it’s not really on the edge of anything else. That, in the eyes of Travesty Theatre and Optative Theatre Laboratories, makes it the establishment. Speaking out against what they see as the corporatization of Fringe, the Infringement Festival (also June 10-20, natch) promises even less rules and a more activist approach.
If you must whet your appetite for hit-or-miss before then, try Karma Productions’ Taming of the Shrew, but be warned: Their recent Macbeth was the most agonizing stretch of theatre I endured this year (June 3, 4,10,11, 12; info: 933-1974).
Like a street dog on a sticky Toronto day in July, the onslaught of summer musicals has its price, but smells so damn good sometimes you can’t resist. The meatier offering is up first, with the Saidye Bronfman’s Fiddler on the Roof, in Yiddish with English and French surtitles (June 8-27). If that’s not quite enough for you the Just For Laughs festival will also be presenting, get this, Evil Dead 1 & 2, a hoofing and singing version of the cult horror flicks. Scary, in more ways than one.
Then, like a busload of blue-haired ladies from Pennsylvania, prepare for the onslaught of Neil Simon-Noel Coward-Norm Foster-lite shows, a collection of plays designed to keep you from remembering which playwright is which, and from having to think too hard. Check out the lineup at the Piggery in North Hatley, where Township Stage offers a summer season, and at Theatre Lac Brome and Hudson Village Theatre West. Can’t keep track? The Quebec Drama Federation will do it for you – their calendar is available at www.quebecdrama.org.
If you’re missing the Festival vibe by August, fear not. Local heroes Gravy Bath return to the Saidye ‘B’ Off Centre with their New Classical Theatre Festival, this year offering an original epic, Kali Yuga, alongside SaBooge Theatre’s Fathom. Both shows fold history back into the present and promise sumptuous visuals and twisted imaginations.