The 2022 Saskatoon Fringe Festival is here, and there are 18 live and in-person shows gracing the festival stages.
Check back every day for PodSask’s reviews of Fringe festival shows throughout the weekend!
Show Title: Metempsychosis
What we loved: Comedy and heart hit you like a mac truck in Danielle Roy’s “Metempsychosis.”
This show explores the question, “what happens when we die?” with humour and heart. The set is cut in half, separated by the thin veil between life and death.
The opening scene is of a man (Jenna Berenbaum) dying after a lifetime of eating Cheetos. He is greeted on the “other side” by Louie (Marley Duckett), AKA, death. Louie is the man’s guide to the crossing over part of the hereafter. Berenbaum and Duckett were an absolute joy to watch and had the audience both roaring with laughter and leaning forward in empathy.
All four actors were standouts in their own right, displaying top-notch comedy chops and physicality. Alex Hartshorn’s portrayal of a birthing mother was visceral, accurate, beautiful and heartbreaking. The scene where Hartshorn and Katelyn Polischuk seemingly dance together from opposite sides of the veil was stunning.
What we didn’t love: There isn’t much to criticize about this show. The story was interesting and the performers were engaging and memorable.
The scene where Hartshorn’s character was giving birth to Polischuk’s character could have used a trigger warning. Many people have experienced traumatic births, and while the actors did an incredible job of portraying those experiences it could be upsetting to some patrons.
Verdict: Kudos to writer and director Danielle Roy for bringing the audience on a journey into the hereafter; mind, body, and soul.
If you are looking for a show to make you laugh, think, and feel, check out “Metempsychosis”
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
– Tara Oliver
Show Title: Lesbihonest
What we loved: Laura Piccinin is blunt, hilarious, and — as she’ll remind you numerous times during their show — not straight.
“Lesbihonest” is a little more stand-up comedy than it is storytelling, but Piccinin weaves their personal experiences in with such great humour that those lines are blurred almost into nonexistence.
While much of Piccinin’s personal performance reflects on the various times she’s “come out” during their life — to parents, friends and family members, either as gay or bisexual or pansexual — the most touching parts of the show came when she stopped to address the “why” of all these labels. Some of Piccinin’s jokes were so gut-bustingly clever, it made it all the more impressive when she mixed in some very prescient social commentary about identity and self-love.
Piccinin’s comedy is some of the most genuine humour you’re ever going to experience — and that’s something you don’t see on every stage.
What we didn’t love: Despite the small crowd at the Cosmopolitan Senior Centre on Thursday, quite a few of Piccinin’s lines were delivered over the audience’s heads to the back of the room. With such a personal show, it would have been great to connect a little more directly with such a charismatic performer.
And Piccinin’s energy got away from them a few times. Rapid-fire line delivery can make for some excellent comedy, but if you go a little too fast some of those jokes can sail right past the audience.
Verdict: Piccinin deserves praise for bringing an unfiltered and entertaining take on their own life to the stage in such a skilled fashion. She even joked once about telling their mother a conversation wouldn’t make it to the show (though it obviously did).
This is a Fringe show you’ll love watching. It’s full of laughs, and maybe it’ll help you feel a little more comfortable in your own skin.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
– Matt Olson
Show Title: A Parfi(c)tt Evening
What we loved: The audience got to experience a double feature of plays in “A Parfi(c)tt Evening,” and they were each quirky in their own way.
The two shows were written by the late Brandon Parfitt, and each brought some neat ideas to the table: “And All His Friends” is a story about Death (or at least, one of many Deaths) having to deal with a surprising soul in purgatory, and “Narratory” following someone suddenly aware of a voice in their head that’s narrating their life as it happens.
It’s the second of those shows that stood out most. “Narratory” tackles some really interesting concepts on the stage, and solid performances from the narrator (voiced by Kyler Bueckert) battling with the slowly-becoming-self-aware lead (Aris Night) showcased some clever bits of writing that tackled the idea of a “voice in your head” in a unique way.
What we didn’t love: Both plays had their own little moments, even if the performances occasionally felt unpolished. But the second was much smoother than the first.
Kudos to the director for stepping in to take the place of an absent performer on Thursday night. It didn’t hinder things much — but the first play, “And All His Friends,” was just a slower show in general. The pace picked up delightfully as we neared the end (highlighted by some fun physical comedy from Bueckert), but the back-and-forth between characters got muddled in the middle.
Verdict: Both of these plays offer a bit of poignancy, with one reflecting on the facts of life (and death) and the other framing ideas of mental health and independence through the lens of some wild fourth wall-breaking meta theatre. The second show was much more engaging than the first, and both felt a little rough around the proverbial edges for the performers, but they were entertaining nonetheless.
If you’re looking for a clever diversion, “A Parfi(c)tt Evening” has something for you.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩
– Matt Olson
Show Title: Identity Crisis
What we loved: Fringe vibes on full display. A one-woman show with minimal props or tech, engaging directly with the audience.
“Identity Crisis” takes us into the life (or death?) of Gemini, a cybernetic virtual pet. This character is part bird, part fox, part human, and part AI? We’re never really sure. The audience is taken into what feels like a post-apocalyptic fever dream.
Gemini is on a quest to figure out who and where they are, and who they belong to. In a series of robotic glitches our host pronounces the horoscopes of all twelve of the zodiac signs in a part-scripted, part-improvised panoply. The physicality and characterization of performer Alyssa Billingsley was enjoyable to watch and had the audience laughing and leaning in.
The Refinery’s black box setup was the perfect venue to spotlight the character’s frame of fur and metal. The artist’s use of movement, music, and the theatre’s ghost light drew you in while leaving you feeling uneasy.
What we didn’t love: Although the story had the through-line of using zodiac signs and horoscopes to move the story forward, the show was difficult to follow and a bit scattered. While fully acknowledging that this was perhaps the artist’s intention, the script could have benefited from some more clearly defined themes.
Verdict: Though the performance filled 60 minutes with dialogue and song, the intention of the story never did become clear to the audience. The artist’s physicality and comedy were high points in a show that just didn’t seem to hit its mark.
Rating: ★ ★ ✩ ✩ ✩
– Tara Oliver
The Saskatoon Fringe Festival runs from July 28 to August 6, 2022. Information for all shows, tickets, and the full festival program can be found at 25thstreettheatre.org/saskatoon-fringe/.