3 Fringe plays on MODERN LIFE

Leash Your Potential

By Ryan Gunther, Vancouver, Venue 10 (Acacia Hall)

If you’ve ever worked in a heavily bureaucratized, stolidly corporate environment, you know exactly what Ryan Gunther is talking about in his new play Leash Your Potential.

Through the vehicle of the “seminar” – a format as insipid as it is ISO-9000 compliant – Gunther methodically skewers the absurdity of modern white collar worksites through a mordant, tongue-in-cheek, and 100% bang-on parody. This guy has lived it. There is a bit of overkill here, though. Gunther’s droll, passionless delivery is intentional for humourous effect, but he’s just too good at it, and his Ben Stein a la Ferris Bueller monotone diminishes his material somewhat. You can see the lesser lights nodding off in this one.

Akin to most others who warm chairs for a living, Gunther has spent a lot of time thinking about ways to cope with the Kafkaesque absurdity of it all. He shows original thought and a very keen mind. Clearly this fellow is NOT corporate material.  Some of it is quite ingenious, like his recommendations on the best place to sleep at work without getting busted (never thought of this one) or the best substance to claim to abuse in order to ensure yourself of an employer paid vacation to rehab (hint: it was one of Bill Cosby’s go-to ‘70s party favours).

There is so much great material here, it’s almost like going to a meeting that actually gives you a reason to listen. It would’ve been helpful if he’d handed out relevant notes on his talking points. Intelligent, relevant, and funny as hell.

4 out of 5

Candy Bones

By Candy-Bones Theatre Co., Vancouver, Venue 4 (Academy at King Edward)

While enduring the preposterous, incoherent, profoundly unfunny mess that is Candy Bones, you might imagine Spinal Tap album reviews:

“Treading in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry.”

“On which day did God create Candy Bones, and could he not have rested on that day too?”

Shark Sandwich? S*** Sandwich.”

Mean spirited, yes, but they all pretty much fit this hour of poorly developed sketch comedy that makes worst of the worst years of Saturday Night Live look good, in a series of segments that are directionless, pedestrian, and filled with pointless banter by clichéd stock characters – including an angel who defecates on stage before telling the audience, “Good luck with your shit.”

This show is a turd.

ZERO out of 5

You Fucking Earned It!

By Bouffonatrix, San Francisco, Venue 8 (Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre)

Weird like Portland but loaded like $ilicon Valley, San Francisco’s Bouffonatrix’s hyperactive take on Western cultural hypocrisy walks a very confusing line at times. As in, what are they doing? Followed quickly by, what are they doing now? Prompting the eventual response of, what the hell is going on?

In places, this piece is a refreshing attempt to satirize the stupidity going on all around us – sometimes even including us – but its effectiveness is significantly curtailed by its unrelenting hyperactivity. Not to mention that who exactly the characters on stage are supposed to represent is never clear. One looks like a Quasimodo harlequin minus the limp, and the other, God knows what she is. A skinny curling stone maybe?

At the beginning, Quasimodo was interrogating Curling Stone (and they said this play was only about the US!) about Honduran bananas, for some reason. In their most comprehensible segments, the two performers Cara McLendon and Sabrina Wenske offer mercilessly withering takedowns of Western imperialism, mindless consumerism, the entitlement of the rich, the self-serving phoniness of TV news, and everyone’s flavour favourite: American bro culture and its incessant obnoxiousness.

These two have oodles of talent, they just need to focus their material better so they don’t end up spinning from subject to subject like a junkie on a meth binge. If you saw this piece of work and made it to the end without developing vertigo or a splitting headache or both, you fucking earned it.

2 out of 5