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Hey there, time traveller! Asa Nodelman created gothic horror puppet show The Clock in the Lobby for last year's fringe. Inspired by the success of that Best of Fest show -- and by early 20th-century horror writer H. Lovecraft's references to a mysterious tome called The Necronomicon -- Winnipeg's Nodelman follows that act with this big bang of a Biblical sci-fi chiller.

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Log in Create your account. We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:. Inspired by the success of that Best of Fest show — and by early 20th-century horror writer H.

Lovecraft's references to a mysterious tome called The Necronomicon — Winnipeg's Nodelman follows that act with this big bang of a Biblical sci-fi chiller. A cast of 13 marionettes traces the occasionally gory misadventures of over-curious futuristic protagonist Abdolos Hazirinon, whose punishment for reading a forbidden cryptic text is cruel and unusual by any measure. Horribly — and somewhat gleefully — disfigured, Abdolos gets a one-way ticket to outer space, but still manages to discover the secrets of all human life on Earth, which he spills in the titular tome.

Four puppeteers, accompanied by local musician Erik Larsen's spooky ambient music, help unravel Nodelman's bizarro string theory, which suggests that if a little knowledge is dangerous, a lot is fatal. The otherworldly marionettes and props are works of genius — and yes, it's evil genius. However, the visual power of Nodelman's creations is sometimes diluted by excessive showmanship on stage.

A trio of primordial beings — whose appearance gives rise to a truly impressive birth-of-man scene — wow the crowd with their first water-ballet dance across the stage. By the fourth or fifth pass? Given that the mechanics of the show already require a leisurely pace in the storytelling, a little brevity on that score wouldn't hurt.

Still, it's hard to complain about getting too much of a good thing. Fringe Festival mainstay Erik De Waal brings his larger-than-life self back to Venue 8 with his familiar cast of South African animal puppets and some exciting new fables to share. In De Waal's first story, Rabbit is crying because a scary creature with a very big voice is hiding in her house. But this isn't just any creature — this animal claims to eat trees and step on elephants! How ever will Rabbit get her house back when all the other animals of the veldt are too frightened to do anything?

And just what kind of creature is that hiding in the house? The second story concerns not animals, but children. Little Tembhi is left in the care of her older brother. She slips out the back door and loses her doll in the river. She follows the doll right to the edge of the forest where a horrible man a cannibal who eats children! Can Tembhi's brother get her before it's too late? De Waal will tell you — but only if you promise not to "scream like a baby!

Always professional, De Waal enchants and engages his audience with his high energy, sense of humour, and genuine love of his craft. The man just knows how to tell a story. Arrive early — the very first show was almost completely sold out. Great for all kids up to age Barry Smith of Colorado returns with a new episode from the colourful life of Barry Smith. It's an amusing piece of autobiography, complete with a slick PowerPoint presentation.

American Squatter tells the story of a teenage Smith, who goes to live with his father in California after his mother is killed in a car accident. Dad is a nagging clean freak, who is seen in actual family video bagging the wrapping as Smith opens a Christmas present. Smith rebels by taken up skateboarding, dropping LSD and squatting in abandoned London buildings. Smith's hour-long, coming-of-age story wraps with the idea that he and his father are not so different, a conclusion that is only quietly satisfying.

This occasionally amusing one-hander charts the ups and downs of a 30something Colorado blonde who is desperate to find a man. Johanna Walker, the show's writer and star, might not put it quite so bluntly, but that's what it comes down to. This being the 21st century, her dating club of choice must be online.

Despite being a free-spirited artist and a gal who is not afraid to get dirt under her fingernails, she can't seem to find Mr. She has been brainwashed by her mother, who cries herself to sleep at the thought of her daughter being alone for the rest of her life. Walker has an attractive and outdoorsy presence. Her production boasts several clever theatrical devices.

She uses classical music as the voice of her mother and a teapot as a kind of romantic oracle. She also employs a picture frame as a visual metaphor, perhaps of her conscience, but exactly what it signifies is unclear. The main problem with the minute show, though, is that it treads ground that has been worn to dust by a hundred shows before it. Balls is Rob Salerno's theatrical tribute to a close buddy who died of testicular cancer several years ago.

He celebrates male testicles with a story about two inseparable boyhood pals who suffer a low blow to their friendship. The discovery that year-old Paul played by Salerno has testicular cancer stuns Bastian, but it does nothing to deter their constant repartee, replete with gallows humour. Bastian Adam Goldhamer has a similar health scare but is left to go on by himself to contemplate the nature of masculinity.

What Balls lacks in nuance and subtext is made up for with its heartfelt tone. The image of a saddened Bastian picking up the string-can phone with which he once spoke to Paul as a kid nicely communicates his devastating sense of loss.

This frothy brew of music and comedy is getting a whole latte love from average Joe fringers, thanks largely to a strong opening number and a hobo who steals the minute show. The four female cast members — Katherine Dow, Nikki Duval, Connie Manfredi and Chanty Marostica — belt out a ballsy rendition of Black Coffee and take it over the top with faux soul-sister shout-outs and a prolonged round of vocal theatrics worthy of Christina Aguilera.

All of the six cast members — University of Winnipeg theatre students — get a spotlight song that's at least vaguely in tune with their characters, with varying degrees of success.

And each is at the centre of a short scene. There's a cartoonish villainess who's out to destroy the romantically challenged coffee shop manager Travis Maclean , a geeky girl who is secretly in love with the hunky latte boy Tristan Carlucci , and the titular barista who continually drops pop culture references that nobody understands.

The sketches are hit-and-miss, but if a few land off the mark, their short duration is a saving grace. The one constant in the show, at the fringes of the action, is Phoebe the hobo Marostica. If the other characters are sugar, she's the cream.

A mellow philosopher, the gravel-throated Phoebe is an outsider who knows more about the coffee shop insiders than they know themselves. In a deft performance, she provides sage advice to the characters and narrative commentary to the audience, along with a few slyly funny and profound thoughts about human nature.

Weekly World News R. But it's safe to say they've never seen him like this. The rock opera about his "life" was first staged in Los Angeles in and now makes its way to Winnipeg courtesy of Ottawa's Black Sheep Theatre.

The company gets help from some local talent who only had a week to learn the show, which results in a few bumps along the way. The plot revolves around the discovery of the Bat Boy in a cave by residents of a small West Virginia town who are convinced the mutant is responsible for the deaths of 23 cows. They want to see the freak of nature dead. The town's veterinarian and his family fall for the strange creature and teach it to speak, dress sharp, do accounting and sing like an angel.

At a lengthy minutes — and featuring a cast of 12 and a five-member band — this is one of the most ambitious shows of the Fringe, but it still hadn't found its wings on the second night, as some of the harmonizing and choreography from the chorus was a little off at times. Expect it to get some added bite as the run continues. WHEN I saw the number of young children in the audience for this minute opera by a six-person cast, I expected a performance marred by squirming, talking and crying.

Instead, the tots were quiet and attentive — a great compliment to this appealing production by the local semi-professional company that puts on chamber operas. The set, including a castle wall, rose bushes and trees, has a homemade look but does the job just fine.

The show opens with a useful educational warmup in which two sopranos give an introduction to opera, singing excerpts from familiar arias that could perhaps be shortened a bit. The Beauty and the Beast tale, sung in crystal-clear English, moves along at such a clip that it misses a key emotional transition: Other minor flaws are that the piano occasionally overpowers the singers, and that some cast members seem to think we won't notice they're wearing sandals with fairy-tale costumes.

Some of the singers aren't confident actors. As the Beast, tenor Martin Duke Wilson strains on some high notes. Micheline Girardin, though, is an entrancing, poised Beauty whose lovely soprano is a treat throughout Vittorio Giannini's accessible opera. Overall, this little show is a charmer, much more beauty than beast. Written by Montreal's Andrea Rosenfield, this hour-long drama follows the recently widowed Elizabeth as she discovers her late husband Harold had a secret life and that his hidden fortune has been bequeathed to another woman.

She and her son Andrew embark on a bewilderingly dumb spree of vengeance that is neither gripping or entertaining. The two-person production seen at the Montreal Fringe Festival was slow and ponderous. The only inspiration in evidence was the use of a mirror to reflect Harold's treacherous double life as well as to allow actors Angela Potvin and Vladimir Cara to carry out conversations with their doubles.

Traditionally, there's a lot of bad luck surrounding the Scottish play and Zero-Sum Games is another unfortunate victim. Former Winnipegger and Order of Canada recipient Rita Shelton Deverell Smoked Glass Ceiling, brings another socially minded one-woman show to this year's festival. The solo performer, who now resides in Toronto, delivers a politically inspired collage of events surrounding Hurricane Katrina.

Without a glitch, Deverell shapes herself from one Brechtian character to the next, making it abundantly clear that the tragedies of the human spirit transcend age, gender and skin tone. And when an unlikely friendship develops between an elderly gentleman and a materialistic young woman from Canada, a whole other play unfolds that sheepishly points the finger at less publicized tragedies back home.

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The three women in the troupe, Shannon Guile, Jacqueline Loewen and Jane Testar, not only outnumber their two male partners Garth Merekley and Ryan Miller , they're more physical and bolder in their comedy contributions, especially in sketches that include a mime throwdown, a robotic girls' night out, a glimpse into the tragic downward spiral of air freshener addiction, and a flat-out hilarious staging of The Miracle of Birth. If you've blundered into a lot of bad comedy at the Fringe, Hands Off feels — contrary to its title — as reviving as a high-end spa treatment administered by caring professionals who know how to rub you the right way.

Some fringe shows push the boundaries on all manner of sex and profanity, but this isn't one of them. With several jokes per minute being thrown out, some can't help but be groaners they were written 70 years ago, after all , but the majority hit home, and even the bad puns earn laughs.

The impressionists deliver each send-up with perfect timing and impeccable delivery. Who's on First and Hertz U-Drive still sound fresh, and other forgotten favourites are updated and spruced up with local references. Costello may lose a one-horse race, but there's no chance anyone who sees this show will feel swindled.

HIGH Infidelity starts slowly as a middle-aged woman packs away some of the belongings of her recently deceased husband John. Nancy is alarmed to discover evidence that John might have been carrying on an affair.

That is the first plot twist of many in a storyline that an hour later looks like one of those snake balls during mating season in Narcisse. Just when you think you have it figured out, Winnipeg writer-director Dale Watts springs another outrageous revelation about who has been sleeping with whom.

The local amateur cast occasionally stumbled with the frivolous material but people in the sold-out house were probably laughing too hard at the soap-opera antics to notice. If you saw Victor on the sidewalk outside the King's Head, you'd probably give him a wide berth.

His darting eyes and hostile scowl suggest he's a ticking timebomb. He may be a madman who is off his meds. And what's that he keeps doing with his finger and thumb — rolling an invisible ball to keep his anger from exploding? Fringe veteran Jon Paterson gives a brilliantly intense performance as Victor in this Vancouver-based production of Daniel MacIvor's hilarious, sad and disturbing monologue.

MacIvor keeps us on edge as he takes us inside the mind of a screwed-up loner who has a literal sh— job at a company that vacuums out septic tanks. Victor starts out entertaining us with quirky observations and mocking accounts of his lame therapy group. His ravings turn increasingly surreal — sometimes going for mere shock value — until you're not sure what's a nightmare and what he experienced. And like Maddin, he probes the connections between self and home.

The details of Victor's humiliation, frustration and desperate hopefulness make his pain touchingly recognizable. Like all of us, he craves connection, acceptance, and the fundamental comfort of a sane house. The word also refers to the theatre audience. House asks questions about theatre itself, and involves the audience in a way that prompted audible gasps and cries from the King's Head seats.

BEING heavily drugged but wide awake while a doctor performs surgery on your eyes is just one of the exciting adventures a diabetic might have to look forward to during the course of his or her illness.

The funniest stuff often pours out from the darker parts of life, and Elizabeth MacEachern fearlessly splashes around in those depths. She's been a diabetic since childhood and she recounts the frustrations, the fears, and the health professionals she's battled trying to live a whole life. She just wants to be normal — but what is normal, anyway? Is there more to life than juggling insulin shots and controlling an obsession for chocolate so powerful it borders on lust?

Can a woman turn into her father? This Toronto comedian delivers a moving, funny performance as she slips in and out of her own skin, and those of the people that have aided and abetted her in her quest to live her sweet, sweet life. Oregon-bred Steven Marrocco tells us that he moved to Los Angeles to make it as an actor, but got stuck working in a tanning salon.

The lack of drive the slacker-ish Marrocco invests in his one-man show suggests he's not likely to make the Hollywood A-list anytime soon. He could get bigger laughs if he spoke up and delivered his lines with a sense of ownership.

That said, his tale of faking depression in order to take part in a paid drug study does land lots of satirical jabs, particularly against the makers of drugs like Prozac, Celexa and Paxil and their sanitized ad-speak about feeling "down, sad or blue. Marrocco switches characters well, painting funny little portraits of his much-medicated family members and the eccentric researchers.

With the running joke of approaching his trumped-up illness as a well-researched movie role, he pokes smart fun at actors' pretentions.

His story turns conventionally touchy-feely at the end, as he learns life lessons about real depression and trots out the over-simplification that people on antidepressants are numbed-out, incapable of feeling emotion.

Overall, the show propels one to neither an exhilarated high nor a crushing low, just to a zone of mild amusement. Marrocco needs to up the dosage of fierceness and originality in this prescription. Half of it comments on the foolishness of using the emotionally distancing tools of dating websites and the like to find someone to get close to.

The other half recirculates old ideas about being 25 and still mixed up. Winnipeg writer-actor Brent Hirose stars in his own script, taking on the two roles of young men with very different personalities.

This works out well because it depicts how the line between not enough self-confidence and too much often can come down to simple attitude. Caught between the two men is Gwendolyn Collins as a mixed-up waitress who lies to herself when she says she's not looking for commitment.

What makes this cliched triangle interesting is the metaphoric use of computer games like Sim City and the videotaped scenes of the characters posting their online profiles. The action on-screen is supposed to be mirrored by the action onstage, but the obvious mismatches become distracting. Worse, the second half of the hour-long show ignores its modern premise and becomes just another tale of anxiety-ridden somethings trying to find love.

Their reputation clearly preceded them. It also happened to be their th fringe show. By my estimate, shows with this pair translates to at least a million total laughs. After six years at the fringe, MacKenzie and McRobb are masters of good-natured improv.

Both have bang-on comic timing and effortless onstage appeal; nicely paced interactive bits keep the laughs coming fresh and easy. Every act was uproariously funny, and the duo's good-natured one-upsmanship will have you rooting for one or the other to score the biggest gag. While there's no telling exactly what future performances will hold, the show-closing fast-forward replay was deliciously clever and self-effacing.

If you're too shy to become part of the act, nudging the person next to you is not advisable. MacKenzie and McRobb have eagle eyes for that sort of shenanigan. THE road from hell to paradise is only three steps long, but it's a strange and twisted path featuring smoke and mirrors, where nothing is as it seems, according to 19th-century Scandinavian playwright August Strindberg.

In his one-man play about the life of the writer and artist, Edmonton's Scott Sharplin takes us on a mesmerizing trip into a world of paranoia and insanity. His portrayal is nothing short of brilliant as the character tries to distinguish himself from his rivals and solidify the love of his wife by trying his hand at alchemy, turning sulphur, arsenic and mercury into gold.

Sharplin, who wrote the script based on Strindberg's journals, stalks the stage intensely in white face paint, using a variety of props to illustrate the protagonist's methods and what is going on in his fevered mind as he slowly descends into madness.

The journey is intense and fascinating, smoke and mirrors be damned. Good, cheeky fun makes for a too-short hour with the Oxford, U. The band was led by stocking-footed "spoken-word guru" Steve Larkin who, while perhaps not bigger than Jesus, is certainly funnier and more English.

Richard Brotherton demonstrated some positively transcendent guitar playing and Su Jordan reminded the audience of just how effectively a woman's voice can be accompanied by nothing more than the chant provided by her own lovely stand-up bass. The very tall Alex Horwill provided holy drumming. The sound needs a little tweak so that the audience can better hear all the lyrics while the band plays because the words, especially in this instance, are the point.

Play along with some totally painless audience participation. That's the chief reason for the existence of this sloppy, wholly irrelevant satire on TV news wherein: In the age of fake news, Fox News, infotainment and vlogs, a backstage glimpse at a news organization should have yielded at least one pertinent observation. But this comedy by Deb Patterson and her troupe of novice thespians comes up dry, on both comedic and thematic fronts, although one has to acknowledge that digging up Edgar Allen Poe to function as a doom-saying weatherman is at least somewhat inspired.

Drag queen Nelly Furtaco, ably abetted by her fag hag buddy Hagatha and prancing minions Twink 1 and Twink 2, offers up a gay-positive spin on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood It's a fabulous day in the neighbourhood Nelly's bedtime stories include a too-long Emperor's New Clothes variant in which an American head of state is fitted with a designer suit made from material only straights can see.

Better is a Cinderella knock-off that sees the entire cast knock 'em dead with an 'N Sync dance routine. Gayer than a Lance Bass marionette, Gay World is ideal fringe fare for mature audiences of all stripes, assuming hetero attendees live up to the words on Hagatha's T-shirt: In his latest power poetry recital, called How I Stopped Worrying and Learnt to Love the Mall, Jem Rolls takes listeners into what he calls the "rat maze of plenty" that serve as a "laggard-archipelago of lego-ego.

This is the first time that the speed-talking Scotsman focuses on a single subject and the result is that his prose is much more accessible and funny. While the impromptu dashes into the audiences to deliver his words have stopped, he is a more lively action figure on stage.

Rolls does takes time to unexpectedly go off on the Kenny Rogers hit Coward of the County, which he calls the most shameful exploitation of sentiment. His only excuse for the national embarrassment of having the tune last six weeks atop the U. This one-woman show from Winnipegger Jessica Burleson promises titillation and envelope-pushing, but delivers very little of either.

A mostly unconnected series of sketches with a little burlesque thrown in, Jessica — Live! There are laugh-out-loud moments, especially in the final sketch, where a bitter schoolteacher puts a too revealing personal touch on a grammar lesson. Her imagined conversation between an aboriginal woman and Jewish woman seems to be heading into an edgy, interesting place that's going to explore the idea of homeland and parallel Indian reservations with Israel, but it sputters out disappointingly.

Burleson is an appealing performer who really sells all her characters, especially the frazzled stationery-store staffer with the sexy secret, but most of this minute show leaves those characters high and dry.

This edition of The Johnald Slow Show finds the "legend of talk," Johnald Slow Dean Harder as the titular radio-show host , wallowing happily in his own bombast, seeking a raisin-free! Is reducing pollution around Bejing just interfering with nature? And wouldn't our French-Canadian Olympians have an advantage in Bejing because public smoking is still allowed in Quebec? Slow explores these and other stupid questions, bantering with "callers" while accompanied by his guest, a delightfully sleazy wanna-be athlete Aaron Mercke , who feels he qualifies for the Special Olympics because of his "self-declared A.

Harder's blowhard delivery as a faux radio host seems to be channelling what might be a cross between Larry King and a young Richard Dreyfuss in either Jaws or The Goodbye Girl. Funny guy — funny stuff. The tricky bit is that a show like this has the potential to be really uneven, but Harder is smart enough to know that 30 minutes of "hot air" is just about right.

Shakespeare devotees in particular will be intrigued by this minute monologue by a B. In The Tempest, Caliban is the only human inhabitant of an island that is otherwise "not honour'd with a human shape. Providing sympathy for this devil is the goal of Andrew Hamilton, a something actor who resembles an overfed hobbit from The Lord of the Rings. Stripped to the waist for much of the play, displaying a luxuriantly hairy back, he speaks in dense Elizabethan-style sentences to explain why Caliban, a creature of impressive appetite, is no worse than the humans he encounters in the wider world.

Hamilton's material is reasonably ambitious, though perhaps too obscure for most. On the plus side, he makes cannibalism sound like a tasty option. This New York duo one of whom also presents The Movies: Abridged at this year's fest takes it a step further and uses the movies to trigger one man's transformation.

This production is somewhat abridged too, taking up only 37 minutes of its claimed minute running time. Charlie is a going-through-the-motions office worker with a hateful girlfriend and a loathsome manager who suddenly realizes he's playing Kevin Spacey in his own life the wimpy Spacey of Usual Suspects and Glengarry Glen Ross and decides to take cues from Al Pacino the take-no-prisoners Pacino of Scarface and Glengarry Glen Ross instead. Music from The Godfather cues mousey Charlie's transformation into a tough-talking, open-shirted badass.

The very funny, flick-worshipping duo injects new life into the done-that premise, especially the nine-to-fiver cliches.

There were no programs to identify the two actors, but both acquit themselves handily although the one playing Charlie needs to enunciate more clearly during the rapid-fire dialogue. The other, who plays multiple roles, including the girlfriend and the braying blowhard of a best friend, probably scores the most laughs, but Charlie's bagel-shop blow-up is a masterful show of scene-stealing bravado. Killing Kevin Spacey deserves a solid "Hoo-ah! As a girl hockey player with a learning disability, the imposingly physical actress Megan Leach gives percent in this Kids Fringe entry from Regina's Ice Time Theatre Collective.

Lanni shines in athletics, but fails in academics, a condition that leaves this tough kid feeling vulnerable to her peers and to stupidly insensitive school officials. Overcoming her academic weakness is presented as one big sports metaphor in Janice Salkeld's play, contrived to educate kids about learning disabilities.

Fortunately, the strapping Leach has charisma and energy enough to transcend the "after-school special" flavour of the piece. Gene Simmons has always had a bit of a God complex, so it only seems right that he and Jesus — who both look pretty cool on a lunch box — battle it out for the soul of Lester when the KISS reunion tour hits town in Lester fringe vet Dan Baker-Moor used to rock and roll all night, but has stopped partying every day to devote his life to the Lord by working at a Christian supply store, which is next door to a record shop where his son works.

The temptation of the KISS concert is almost too much for the tormented convert and he resorts to spitting up Moses' Red Sea ketchup to imitate his hero. The strong pull of musical nostalgia and religious fanaticism and hypocrisy along with a side-helping of feminism are explored in this minute musical comedy that has plenty of in-jokes for KISS fans. The member cast keeps things moving quickly with sharp dialogue, snappy musical parodies and simple choreography.

If there's a lesson to be learned, it's that hard rock and religion can co-exist, because, after all, as KISS famously noted, "God gave rock 'n' roll to you. Letters Large is the result of one-man, guerrilla letter-writing campaign by Winnipegger Jeff Sinclair. For years, Sinclair has penned hoax letters, sent them off to unsuspecting businesses and waited for quirky new material for his one-man stage show to arrive by post. Sinclair's act is essentially reading the responses to his outrageous correspondence and waving his arm to a technician who will change the image on the screen.

His best is a reply from the American Philatelic Society, to which he sent a made-up story about acquiring a taste for eating expensive stamps. The serious reply referred to stamps as being like fine wines, with distinctive flavours, and suggested that he consume less costly stamps. Despite Sinclair's quirky hobby and his brilliantly concocted letters, the hour-long recitation never pushes the envelope beyond the level of a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction side show.

Jovial Winnipeg magician Greg Wood has put lots of effort into this minute spectacle, featuring tricks sure to catch kids eyes — like cards that disappear before their very eyes with quick sleight of hand.

Too bad the same deftness doesn't apply to all of the illusions, such as a never-ending string of hankies yanked by Wood from a top hat where the false bottom was clearly visible.

He should also lose groaners like when he talks about his wife, a stage assistant, tripling his household expenses. Wood identifies himself as a evangelistic comedy entertainer on his blog, and tries hard to work Biblical content into his show. He weaves tales, like that of David and Goliath, into what otherwise might resemble a birthday-party performance, sometimes falling flat when the complexities of the story overwhelm the physical performance at hand.

Talk to the little ones, however, and you might get a different take. When Wood asked for audience members willing to help him out on stage, lots of wriggling kids could be seen in the audience waiting for their chance to shine. The content of this performance is definitely family-friendly, even if it leaves some family members rolling their eyes.

POOR Frank can trace his lifelong unpopularity to one unfortunate incident of public defecation. Why this childhood trauma was shameful in his mother's eyes, while soccer star David Beckham vomiting on the sidelines of a game is not, he'll never know.

Hunched, solitary and socially awkward, Frank is out of place in the soccer-loving, lager-drinking England he inhabits: Written by and starring longtime fringe star Justin Sage-Passant, Manners for Men traces Frank's attempts to make his way in a society that seems to simultaneously draw and repulse him. The pace is slow and the humour dry, though one sold-out noon-hour crowd had plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

Ultimately, though, Manners for Men is less a comedy and more a thoughtful drama about familial loyalty, obligations and the way a complex maternal relationship shapes one man, for better or worse. Andrea Thompson's spoken-word show is constructed around her public persona as a so-called cougar, the unflattering label attached to older women who date younger men. Stories about the year-old Torontonian's love life are interspersed with verse and songs. Short-lived relationships are punctuated with the wordsmith's kiss-off: Thompson has an engaging stage presence.

However, Cougar is so laid back that you wish it would show more bite. Shakespeare's comedy about mixed-up lovers gets spun like a disco ball and pimped out in platforms in this gloriously silly local musical, brought back for a booty-shakin' 10th-anniversary remount.

Inventive creator Leith Clark stays true to the Bard's storyline and spirit while transposing the tale to the backstage of a '70s Solid Gold-style TV show. Watch for Clark shakin' his groove thang in a different cameo at each performance. Clark's clever script is a non-stop spoof of '70s culture Shakespeare's magic pollen becomes a snortable white powder , while his characters range from Puck as a hyperactive little dude in an afro to Titania as the "queen of choreography.

Gio Navarro's rendition of You Sexy Thing as a pelvic-thrusting Demetrius is a scream, and the guy can really sing. But hefty Bernie Pastorin truly takes it over the top as Bottom, the clueless ham who is transformed not into a donkey, but a Disco Duck.

The idea of recasting the bumbling rustics as the Village People is pure genius, and by the time the quintet pumps its way through Macho Man, Pastorin will have you gasping for oxygen. Get down, get down, get down tonight to Venue 6, before all the tickets are snapped up for this disco Dream.

This minute Kids Fringe outing tells a clever and lively tale of a feisty girl who must save an Oz-like town from a series of comic bad guys.

The Winnipeg company, composed of actors in their 20s, has mounted several other children's plays, including one at last summer's fringe and another at last winter's MametFest.

Writer Charlene Van Buekenhout, who plays the title character, looks like a gamine out of a French art film. The production boasts several funny props and some cute musical interludes. The script would not be out of place on some well-meaning weekday morning children's TV show. The Vancouver performer Dishpig, is a motor-mouthed bundle of compact energy, which he uses to great comedic effect to tell what one presumes is the autobiographical story of his days as a mascot for rock radio station CFOX.

Over the course of the minute show, Landucci deftly shifts among several roles — the no-BS drill sergeant of a mascot-school instructor, the snippy CFOX promotions director — but mostly, it's on Mr. Fox's shoulders, and the actor works up a sweat demonstrating the mascot full-body nod, the big-footed mascot dance and the never-ending high-fives and six-guns he informs us that mascots can't communicate much more than "It's awesome!

The play taps into the cheesy sense of semi-celebrity surrounding rock radio, but it doesn't often go much deeper than belly laughs. Dishpig had a poignant underside, a real sadness to it that made it more than just a guy telling restaurant-worker stories. Fox doesn't quite have that nuance or narrative arc — it ends with bizarre abruptness — but Landucci's performance deserves a rousing rendition of The Wave.

Oh, to be a teenage girl: Leonardo DiCaprio fantasies, secret diaries, and terrified shrieks of "I'm bleeding from the crotch! Puberty's a rough ride, and it's no different when the teens in question are clown sisters Morro Heather Marie Annis and Jasp former Winnipegger Amy Lee. The red-nosed duo is at opposite ends of the hormonal spectrum: In true clown fashion, half the humour is in the visuals, from Jasp's show of forbidden passion for her favourite stuffed toy to Morro's terrific facial distortions every time the phone rings.

Morro and Jasp Do Puberty is a light and engaging hour, with lots of laughs of recognition from something women in the audience remembering their own fantasies of Titanic proportions. Three men from Minneapolis, all in their 20s, play Depression-era snake-oil salesmen in this broadly satiric comedy about materialism and consumerism.

There are some clever bits in the writing. The title is Latin for "capturing death," and the performances of Matt Spring as the fast-talking Prof. Miracle, Brant Miller as his thick-headed assistant, and Jason Ballweber as the soulless ringer are nothing if not energetic. On the positive side, this is likely the only production in which an actor holds his breath in a bucket of water — the actual wet stuff — for at least 20 seconds. Now that shows commitment. THE video store franchise Bigbuster offers a management training film to its managerial recruits with its own corporate revisionist history of cinema.

That wraparound plot device is just an excuse for a series of genre-by-genre sketches on cinema from the Fort Lauderdale-based company that gave us The Bible Abridged. Hence, we get Robert De Niro vs.

Daniel Day-Lewis in an "act-off. We get Adam Sandler contemplating death as his next career move. There is not one viable impersonation in any of these sketches. Ultimately, we get a ringing defence of the indie movie as a curative to the money-grubbing Hollywood epic, and if that seems a simplistic raison d'etre for a fringe play, well, it is. It's a good thing we also get a decent share of laughs. THIS half-baked noir has a plot as thick as your grandma's Sunday gravy and takes more twists than a heaping forkful of al dente spaghetti.

And you know it's going to get messy the second you recognize the Winnipeg cast that brought you last year's oddball insane-asylum mystery A View with a Room.

Writer-actor Chad Heath again appears in dual roles, as rich guy Lawrence and his murdered twin brother Henry, with Carly Kowalski as his simpering wife Portia and Lygia Ramcharan as dangerous dame Adrian. Jason Wishnowski joins the gang as soft-boiled detective Harvey, who spouts lines like, "As I wandered the streets, certain thoughts wandered through my mind.

The first half of the bizarro hour-long show focuses on the murder mystery, and it can be painful to watch. Certain thoughts wander through the viewer's mind. Is it supposed to be funny? Is it just me or is it weird that the troupe obviously took great pains with the set and staging but the actors seem to be winging their lines?

Will I get kicked out if I speak up and ask why Adrian accompanies Harvey to interview the dead man's family? Is she a girl reporter? Then, the plot takes a twist so crazy, it just might work. Suddenly, all that wooden acting — with the exception of Ramcharan, who is really quite good — starts to make sense. And those gaping plot holes?

Why, there seems to be point to all that madness after all. Could it be that this was a work of sheer genius all along and I was just too dense to recognize it?

But the shaky plot fix holds together long enough to get the cast through to a solid final scene. Well, this production by Winnipeg actor Ian Mozdzen certainly lives up to its name — obscene.

And it involves X-rated acts and thoughts that even the most hardened individual would find intensely disturbing. The first half of the two-act play focuses on the mind of a serial killer, Gilles, who rapes and kills young boys.

The second half involves incredibly graphic acts that include drinking fake blood, simulated castration, and breaking eggs against naked flesh and writhing in the yolk. You should know what you're getting into, and the question is why anyone would pay to see for this kind of torture, which is more performance art than typical theatre.

Some audience members will wonder why this production then receives a passable ranking. But the redeeming quality of the production, if any, is that Mozdzen has clearly designed his piece for the maximum shock value possible — and that has its own artistic merit. Mozdzen clearly has a greater vision of the meaning the audience is supposed to extract, evident in thoughtful stage design and precise scripting. For this reason, the abstract subject matter of Act II does its X-rated content no favours — it's hard to extract the value of such gratuitous acts for such an unclear reason.

For those who want to see the world from the eyes of a pedophile, however, Act I may fulfil that wish. This content is not acceptable for any teenager, and it will probably be unpalatable for most people over the age of This show possesses the weird and utterly original creative spirit that is so often missing at fringe festivals. It's not the best production in this year's lineup, but Vancouver actor Darren Boquist's one-man comedy, with its talking wig, might be the most seriously wacked.

Boquist plays off the sleeper movie hit about the outcast life of a nerdy teen who finds redemption by dancing in front of his entire high school. The goofy plot is pretty thick, but we can be thankful it is interrupted by phone calls from Dynamite, whose movie voice on tape provides comic relief "Idiot, I'm such an idiot," he complains. Kudos for Boquist trying to be as loopy as his eccentric source material. Don't just look at the stars. This show is wonderfully fringey, but it's not for everyone.

It's the story of Alex Alex Eddington and Aura Aura Giles , two Toronto eco-warriors who make a pilgrimage to an ancient Haida redwood on the Queen Charlottes that was cut down in There they make a bumbling, self-important attempt to tap into the tree's soul so they can fight the consumption and waste that threaten to destroy the planet.

Throw in some amateur magic and some haunting flute-playing by the mopey-faced Aura and you'll have just barest elements of this complicated, challenging and quite masterful show. It's a little preachy and a bit hard to follow at times. Eddington's performance gets overwraught near the end when Alex descends into naked, self-flagellating mental anguish.

But it's also lyrically written, morally ambitious and exponentially more sophisticated and original than most fringe fare. Eddington, the composer and performer who brought us the Fugue Code last year, totally commits.

There's nothing ordinary at all about May — she just needs a little nudge to see how very special she is. A great cast of women carry this too, too cute production that teaches children to look within themselves to find that unique gift that makes them extraordinary. Cheesy songs and dance numbers reinforce the lessons unfolded in each one of May's adventures, which include helping a frog queen and a magical mouse realize how incredibly important and well loved they truly are.

If this sounds a bit too sweet for your palate, it just gets more and more adorable. The problem is that there isn't much to keep parents engaged and the local production pigeonholes its target audience as being about 3 to 6 years of age.

Having said that, the itty-bitty ones will love watching this charismatic company led by Andrea Rhynard as May, and narrated by Erin Hammond, who could make just about anyone smile. THESE six Winnipeg funny folks, though still in their 20s, are allegedly quite the stars on the local improv comedy scene. Long-form improv, for the uninitiated, is where the performers take one suggestion from the audience at the beginning and run with it for the entire show.

The smart part, however, of their minute production is the soundtrack music, which serves to paper over the slow parts in the action.

But their song-improvising skills are impressive, too. They belt out their tunes in key and invent lyrics that occasionally rhyme. Mark has a problem. Despite the obvious one of being an overnight DJ for pirate radio, he's also in love with the pizza delivery girl. She, of course, is playing hard to get. Oh yeah, this is a romantic comedy, if you hadn't already guessed, complete with all the usual elements of a something TV sitcom.

But all is not lost. Some snappy writing, a solidly rehearsed cast and a couple of sex-crazed morning show radio hosts keep this melo-comedy afloat. You won't get tired of watching these spunky Edmonton actors, led by fringe favourite Matt Alden BoyGroove , bounce from one zany character to the next. What you might get tired of, though, is waiting for the three of them to get to their all-too-predictable conclusion.

However, if you enjoyed the movie Knocked Up and the last episode of Friends, well, then you're in luck. The use of a comical soundtrack and a screen to reveal the silhouettes of radio callers were sound directorial decisions. Well, not all men, just Paper Jack, whose emotions affect the weather. When the pair fall in love, it's nothing but blue skies and sunshine in Jack's heart, which means drought, bad crops and despair for the villagers who have been manipulating his emotions for generations as a way of keeping the seasons in order.

The minute show is a cross between a fairy tale and a morality play. Ultimately, it's an exploration of love: The story is set in the past, but the talented cast never makes the old-world dialogue seem clunky or strange, even when it is. Don't be fooled by the boring description in the program, and most of all, don't tick Jack off — Winnipeg gets enough crappy weather as it is.

THIS amateur Winnipeg production about teenagers' relationship angst, by performers barely out of high school, is best left for friends and family of the cast. A group of friends gather at a birthday party and spend the evening drinking, flirting, bragging, smoking and obsessing. That's all that happens in the mercifully short minute time span. The young actors deserve a pat on the back for having the guts to get onstage, but they are not well served by any aspect of the writing or direction.

Even though the cast is large, the 10 actors seem to take up almost no space on the huge Warehouse stage. Someone should move the couches much closer to the front so when the actors are sitting on them, they can been seen, if not heard.

This sets off a chain of events that leads to the quest to kill Medusa. Shadow puppets, masks, and a "leggy" sea monster add to the goofy adventure. There are a lot of funnybones on that stage. These actors have great timing and know how to deliver a comic line, which they do, one right after another. California-based comic Phil van Hest is bound to appeal to Canadian fringe audiences because much of his material in this followup to his show, Nature Abhors a Vacuum, is about the stupidity of Americans.

But even off the topic of his "I-don't-want-to-think-about-it" countrymen, van Hest demonstrates a comic sensibility as playful as it is smart, on a diversity of topics, including emotionally manipulative bumper stickers, Jesus Camp, and the driving game of putting the word "anal" in front of the make of car in front of you.

And their night of secretly videotaped passion leads her to an adult video awards show in Toronto — in the amateur category. Playwright Chris Craddock's returning fringe fave also features the versatile Anne Wyman as Esther's lover, dead sister and mother the latter character's lecture on how female sexuality is like sticky tape is a standout monologue.

At 18, DePape is probably younger than the character she plays, but she brings an innocence to her character that serves to galvanize Craddock's heartfelt attack on the devastating neo-puritanism of the religious right. There's just not enough substance to this low-budget exploration of the Follies — the cheeky Vaudeville-style skits and over-the-top dance numbers made famous in the first half of the century.

The revue starts with actor Sharon Nowlan twirling around endlessly onstage in a big red dress, and it doesn't get much snappier from there. Nowlan gives us a couple of brief lectures on the history of the Follies from Paris to Broadway, a couple of pantomimes covering the rules for the s housewife and the loneliness of a modern working woman and some amateurish dance numbers.

The highlight is a much tighter bit featuring a cameo by stage manager Nicole Olszewski, who plays Nowlan's younger rival at a dance audition. Nowlan is watchable and charming on stage, but there's just nowhere near enough material for a minute exploration of the genre. That's a disappointment, since Nowlan was part of the Saskatchewan troupe that previously brought us Caberlesque! If there were a meter to measure the enthusiasm of fringe artists, Clay McLeod Chapman and Hanna Cheek's score would be off the charts.

The young but seasoned New York City performers are tickled to be at their first Canadian fringe. They greet audience members like invited guests to a house party. At their first show they delivered a strong set of sketches, penned by Chapman, that had the literary quality of short stories.

Both are fine actors, but Cheek, a smart Parker Posey type, shows exceptional range and depth. Their "stories," as they bill them, are not just tossed-off parodies or setups for punchlines. They're intelligent vignettes with full narrative arcs, rich with imagery. In The Pool Witch, Chapman masterfully recounts a puberty tale set at a water slide as if it's a sea-monster tale of epic proportions.

In the clever Suicide Bomber, the ponytailed Cheek is a cheerleader on a sacred mission to martyr herself for the team. The duo can do touchingly serious material, as in Oldsmobile, in which they play an elderly couple. And when Cheek gives a drunken toast to the bride in Bridesmaid, they venture into extremely dark — but riveting — territory. Their gimmick is that they have 14 stories prepared, and only perform four or five per show, based on a random draw.

That will undoubtedly entice some fringers to go back for seconds of Pumpkin Pie. The farm has been sold to an evil agri-business conglomerate run by ogres, the farmer has decided to pack it in and head for the retirement home, and his teenage son is out on his ear. All is not lost, however. The lad has a talking cat who only needs a hat, a sack and a pair of boots to help his master find his fortune. Written by Sue Proctor and Paul Langel, Loonissee's cast includes four confident teens who can act and carry a tune or two with enthusiasm.

Langel's charming original songs put the "folk" into this re-imagined telling of the folk tale Puss-In-Boots. Veteran performer Proctor is so very comfortable on stage, and she has a gas doing turns as the daffy narrator as well as other minor characters in the play.

The rest of the troupe is well-rehearsed, but Loonissee's overall style is relaxed, and everyone on stage is clearly having some fun being there. The script really needs a couple of re-drafts, though. There are just a few too many loose threads, and the ending needs to come to a more resounding conclusion. All in all a nice performance, and kids up to age 10 will quite enjoy this Winnipeg production.

The Playhouse Studio Venue 3 , to July 25 After a beer-drinking binge, Bev Laura Whyte and Tonka Emiko Muraki realize that a dead end awaits their existence in a northern Alberta trailer park, with Tonka especially fearful that she'll end up working in a Saan store "selling people ill-advised culottes.

Lampooning "trailer trash" is a condescending venture at best, and this Calgary-based duo exacerbate the problem with a half-formed, slipshod script that includes a rap routine and a video segment in which Tonka punctuates every other sentence with the phrase: Smart writing carries this two-hander from locals Libby Lea and Theresa Fawcett, penned by Jeremy Bowkett, much farther than its funny but slight premise might otherwise warrant. To pulsing dance music, the two indolent, entitled bad girls do drugs, shop and sleep around well, not the V.

V, who attends "veev" functions instead , all the while engaging in very modern, hilariously obscene, bitchy banter with the occasional Latin lesson thrown in.

Little do they know, these Paris Hiltons of Rome are about to change history. Fawcett is a commanding stage presence — her talk-to-the-hand way with a diss is enviable — but Lea is less so her many little line flubs add up. The hour-long play is divided into too many short little scenes, which disrupts the flow, but the climax has surprising emotional heft, coming as it does from two such shallow girls.

This hour-long story based on Cervantes' classic novel is a surprising misfire from perennial fringe fave Erik de Waal, the South African storyteller who's been captivating local audiences for years. Setting aside the mush-mouthed delivery, hesitations and muffed lines as opening-night kinks although one doesn't expect them from such a seasoned vet , de Waal's story of the windmill-tilting Don Quixote, as told from the perspective of his faithful servant, Sancho Panza, largely fails to transport the listener into another world.

Alone on a stage that's bare except for a chair, a bucket and a mop props that could get a little more use , de Waal recounts the adventures of the dreamer knight errant and his more grounded squire. But their mishaps are mostly less than captivating, told in quotidian language and with a lot of huffing and puffing for nought — instances that should be humorous fall flat.

The moment when Sancho fully enters into Quixote's deluded world is magical, but it doesn't last. The twist de Waal puts on the tale is clever, furthering the moral that it's better to see the world as it might be than merely to accept it as it is. It would be nice if the rest of the production lived up to that enchanting premise.

Lots of really physical comedy, really cool talk of aliens, and really fun costumes and sets makes this a really, really good Kids Fringe show. Join Scott and Will as they set off on a mission to solve the mystery of what is really real and what is just plain imagined.

This Toronto powerhouse troupe really OK, I'll stop now knows its stuff and could entertain even the most discriminating audience member. And what's refreshing about this show is that the adults were laughing just as hard as the kids. Schneider are outstanding in this adventure story that's appropriate for families with children of all ages.

A baby was cooing throughout and it didn't bother these guys and gals one bit. In fact, this zany bunch often fed off of the audience and included the kids in their mission. Very smart and full of twists and turns that I won't ruin here. But if your kids are saving a place for their new imaginary friend at the dinner table afterwards, you'll know why.

Emily and Eddie, who have been living together for over a year, are growing irritated with each other. He's a nerdy academic who finds himself vulnerable to an affair with a student who worships him. She's a fretful creative type who is tempted to get re-involved with a sensual artist. The handkerchief of the title is a scarlet symbol of possible adultery.

As they prepare for a costume party, Emily and Eddie separately confess to the audience, with the opposite actor taking the role of the seductive outsider. The most appealing aspect of this hour-long relationship comedy is how it plays with truth, as each partner amusingly fibs to the audience. Real-life Winnipeg couple Alison Vargo and Chris Sabel are confident actors, and Sabel's switching between geeky and sexy characters is especially fun to watch.

As the playwright, though, Sabel has bitten off a little more than he can chew. The tense dialogue between Emily and Eddie often rings false, and the ending is perplexing in its attempt to say something about fantasy, disguised desire and coupledom. Negative nebbish Fred Mandelbaum Andrew Cecon lives alone, visits his absent-minded mother at the nursing home and is sweet on Cyndy Clare Therese Friesen , the working girl he's hired to "sleep over" on a regular basis.

For Fred, this is as good as it gets. But it all goes to hell when a cop shows him a picture of a murdered girl in a warehouse. Fred's natural predisposition to anxiety goes into overdrive in this tense, curious murder-mystery.

Director Arne MacPherson maximizes his use of the venue space with creative staging, and keeps Daniel Thau-Eleff's dark, funny script moving steadily along at a beat cop's pace — not too fast and not to slow. Solid performances are delivered by all seven members of the cast. Doreen Brownstone is especially endearing as one of the slightly-out-of-touch residents of a Jewish retirement home, searching for her "Herschel," and Jeff Strome's tightly wound, smart-mouth cop is pretty much everything a prairie citizen both wants and fears in a "law enforcement professional.

What we learn is what we already suspected, that working in retail can be crappy if you have to clean up after slovenly shoppers, be verbally assaulted by idiot customers or hunt for anything in the stockroom.

Passante proves to be a pleasant people person on stage, probably the result of seven years in the retail trenches. But his act, despite some funny moments, comes across as a minute bitch session that is hard to buy into. Maritime writer-actor Wanda Carroll turns up the Corner Gas shtick full blast in this comic monologue about growing up rustic in the outback of Newfoundland in the '60s and '70s.

Her minute show, a combination of the old Codco TV show and a Wayne Johnston novel, consists of a non-stop series of anecdotes about the lack of plumbing, jobs and other civilized amenities one must live without in the Canadian version of backwoods Tennessee. If there was a hatching, matching or dispatching that took place in her outport village during her first 18 years, the now year-old brunette, a gentle version of Mary Walsh, gives us the gory details.

Much of it is charming and funny. Without music, props or any real staging at all besides a table with two glasses of water , she declaims in a broad Newfie brogue about her "mudder," her "fadder" and her auntie's lime-green "bat'room" in the metropolis of Cornerbrook, which she drove to on an actual paved road.

But even if her delivery were impeccable, her monologue would still be missing any conflict and tension. Coming from Newfoundland is not drama enough. If that isn't enough to warn you away from this bizarre one-man washout, Fergus Rougier also sings in a grandiose, high-pitched style that crosses Berlin cabaret with rock's androgynous Freddie Mercury.

Rougier comes from England with obvious vocal and physical-theatre training. He's an expressive mover with great control over his muscular body. He's able to make us see a turbulent ocean by flailing his limbs beneath a sheet of stretchy blue fabric. But his hour-long retelling of the Robinson Crusoe tale is a desperately awkward mishmash of weird, accordion-accompanied songs, unfunny comedy and often-tedious mime. Sometimes it seems Rougier must be targeting kids.

What adult is going to laugh at the castaway salvaging a microwave oven from his ship, or find it hilarious when he tries to start a fire and asks the audience, "You don't have a lighter, do you? On the other hand, the show is rife with kid-inappropriate references to smoking and drinking.

Sadly, there's no rum passed around to make this shipwreck bearable. Carolyn, who is in her 40s and desperate to be a mother, is running out of eggs — and money to pay for in vitro fertilization attempts. Winnipeg's Ruth Baines, the creator of this well-paced hour-long solo show, alternates between the two characters in a poignant exploration of the cruel ironies of fertility and timing. Her portrayal of the older woman is more believably fleshed out, tugging at our heartstrings with Carolyn's yearning to feel life inside her.

Baines expresses that longing in dance interludes, giving heartfelt physicality to the jumble of hopefulness and emptiness felt by women who are trying to conceive. Baines's writing and acting could both use more emotional poetry, and more character depth to avoid caricature. But there is aching truth here. Baines taps into the anguish we all feel when our bodies don't stick to the life script we've laid out. In that sense, Running Out is universal. Vancouver writer-actor Tina Teeninga accomplishes an impressive feat in this minute one-woman drama — she makes us care about the fates of two young women who lead parallel lives of disenchantment in the big city.

The first is Mary Tyler Moore-style innocent trying to make a go of it as a salesgirl in a high-end jewelry store. The second is an engineer from the former Yugoslavia who is haunted by the ghosts of her homeland and is forced to work as a janitor. Teeninga, a gorgeous brunette of about 30, expertly delineates the two characters, switching between them every few minutes. She also plays several supporting characters, most notably the jewelry store's haughty female manager.

But it might be her writing that is Teeninga's strongest suit. She wrings actual suspense from her humanistic story and displays a poet's gift for simile. Stars shine in the night sky "like a million tiny opals" and a dying crow lies on the pavement, its wing "like a slick of oil. She employs little music and only a few props. She wastes no time on corny romantic subplots.

She holds our attention with her talent alone. You need only to prompt Rapid Fire a bit to get the Edmonton improv troupe to embark on an outlandish, minute comic lark.

At a recent fringe performance, the duo of Kevin Gillese and Arlen Konopaki took three audience topic suggestions — a kitchen, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and the movie Tombstone — to create, on the spot, a crazy yarn about a heroine-addicted cat named Condor, a cancer patient whose treatment turns him into a giant Hulk-like creature and a lab mouse into Chris Farley, as well as a sick gunslinger named Doc Vacation. The agile improvisers proved to be quick on their feet, but their ad-libs were not as inspiring as they attempted to being the dissimilar threads of the three storylines together for the climax.

They also improvised the ending at the minute mark, 25 minutes earlier than the stated show length. Bob," a hitchhiker with the nebulous goal of heading east "to the water" in Daniel MacIvor's downbeat one-hander. From the makeshift confessional of the passenger seat, Bob slowly reveals the horrors of her life to random drivers, including childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her father, who transmutes into a "big weird animal" in Bob's fevered imagination.

The structure of MacIvor's play is like an intricate puzzle box, and Sadowski confidently manipulates its shifting pieces to demonstrate how ultimate parental betrayal can devastate the emotional life of the adult survivor.

Now there is a lot of theatre at this year's fringe involving special lights and sound and some wonderful running around on the stage. Don't expect to see any of that here, though, because what this established Winnipeg trio performs is called story-telling. You know, the kind of thing people used to do before iPods and TVO. Well, this is the place to come and see master story-weavers at work. Maybe it was the live Celtic music that charmed me, or perhaps it was the age of the performers over 20 and under 70 that caught my attention.

But one thing's for certain, after Roche finished the opening yarn of this six-story set, I was hooked. These global tales of sinning are timeless ones that you might find yourself re-telling the next day at work or to your kids.

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