META-REVIEW: Two thumbs up at the Fringe, more thumbs to come

Edmonton’s two top theatre critics – the Edmonton Journal’s Liz Nicholls and the Edmonton Sun’s Colin Maclean – have already reviewed a wad of plays they saw at the Saskatoon Fringe, which are soon to play in Edmonton, so close enough.

Here is a meta-critical, Frankensteinian summation of what they’ve both seen so far (see if you can tell which phrase comes from which; *indicates line that both used) – leading into the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, which runs through Aug. 21:


BERTHA (Venue 10): Wistfully droll tale (by Lucy Hill) … (of) lonely going away party … from a skilful performer (in) half mask … not much of a fan of clown shows (but) this one is an exception .. elliptical and delicate take on the hunger for human connection … big emotions at play here. AGGREGATE RATING: 4 out of 5

THE PRE-HISTORY OF MOSES P. (Venue 3): South Africa’s Erik de Waal’s dark tale (of) a mixed race couple about to have a kid in 1945 … story of evil days … combines with personal subplot … vivid characters in crisis … (told) as ritual or incantation … as much an actor as storyteller … fascinating setting … powerful and moving (story) … author moralizing, and in general supplementing drama with exposition, (is a bit much) … overblown dramatic content … (but) actor commands the stage and the emotions therein. AGGREGATE RATING: 3.75


SPARROW AND THE MOUSE – CREATING THE MUSIC OF EDITH PIAF (Venue 8): An intimate who shares the life of a famous person tells us of the experience … Melanie Gall’s own take on the singer … animated and ingratiating narrator … unreservedly powerful moment (left) audience fighting back tears … (playwright) throws her story away … blithely tone-deaf writing and guileless stage business (stick) the songs together. AGGREGATE RATING: 3.25 out of 5

OH, THAT WILY SNAKE (Venue 4): absurdist comedy* … perhaps it’s (nothing) but a simple acting exercise between two superb performers … amusing little fable of incremental seduction … surreal fantasy worth a visit (but) a few courses short of a full meal … laced with familiar lines from romantic comedies that float by like fragments from a thousand romantic crash-landings … ultimately crashes. AGGREGATE RATING: 2.75 out of 5

MORE TO COME! Keep reading this space for reviews of reviewers and meta-mutilations of Fringe play reviews. Everyone’s a critic at Fringe time.