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Burgeoning at the Fringe

What is intriguing about any true Fringe Festival is its uncensored, un-juried nature allowing amateurs and veterans alike to please—or perplex—their audience.

At the Atlantic Fringe, some productions are more seasoned, having already been performed at various festivals; others use it as an opportunity to “workshop” their play or make their theatrical debut.

Within a span as short as 30 minutes, sets from a previous production are torn down while the mise en scene for the next is being arranged, often by the actors/director/playwright themselves .

In Halifax, you can see Fringe Fest fanatics running all across the peninsula, from theatre house to cosy, unconventional venue, to fit in as many plays as they can. Some enthusiasts do this every single night of the 11-day run (August 29-September 8).

Indeed the Atlantic Fringe offers a special kind of magic—a youthful energy among artists and admirers, a sense of “you never know exactly what you’ll experience,” extracted gems of genius…Some of this magic pours in and out of Silver Dagger and Suicide Makes Sense.

Silver Dagger

Silver Dagger is one of those plays whose basic plotline might sound generic: Handsome stranger comes to small town, locals ponder his shady past, young woman falls for him despite her mother’s disapproval…

But in reality, this play is anything but generic. Rebecca Schneidereit has crafted a luminous script filled with authentic emotion, a sense of place—one can easily picture the streets of Wolfville—and unexpected hilarity. In some instances the dialogue and intonation may not be wholly reflective of its time period (1971), but this does not tarnish the coming of age tale.

As Silver Dagger progresses, the four-person cast intriguingly reveals more of their characters and acting panache.

Ciáran MacGillvary as Isaac, the sexy stranger from Venice, delivers consistent body language (i.e. making eyes at the woman he wishes to woo), even when the spotlight is removed. Karen Power as Ruby, the busy-body gossip and possessive mother, is the fuel source for humour; her pacing and intonation do the script’s “laugh-out-loud” moments ample justice. John Bullock as Arthur creates a convincing pretence of being a plain yet successful professor, and equally, persuasively cracks when the true side of his character is revealed.

And unsurprisingly, Schneidereit as Crystal, is perhaps most in touch with her character. So natural and seemingly un-staged, she demonstrates her genuine connection to the tale.

Monday being a stormy night, Theatre Nova Scotia’s Living Room wasn’t full to capacity. But at the end of the performance, Silver Dagger was met with a resounding applause, enthusiastic enough to come from an audience quadruple in size.

Silver Dagger ~ Remaining Shows
Saturday, September 7 8:15pm
Sunday, September 8 3:45pm
@Theatre NS’ The Living Room

Suicide Makes Sense

Who knew a comedy about suicide could be tastefully funny? And oh does the audience laugh at Suicide Makes Sense.

But in actuality, the play is much more than the controversial issue of death by one’s own hand. The multi-layered concept is brilliant: Sam is writing a play about Marty who MUST commit suicide. Sam and Marty are literally in the same room interacting and debating with each other about Marty’s fate. The storyline breeds confusion—welcomingly so—and in fact the actors (or characters or actors…) acknowledge this perplexity as they interact entertainingly with the audience.

Each performer offers gems: Andrew Gouthro’s (as Sam) mobility around the stage and vocal expression is lustrous; Bradley James Hartman (as Marty) hilariously channels “puppet on strings” motions; and Chad Raymond Elder Poirier (as Ted) is so very fun to watch (Barney from The Simpsons comes to mind).

The play actually written by a “Sam” (Sam Bambrick) seems to mirror a blurred philosophical line between reality and the stage. The graphic moments (an actual noose around a hangman’s neck, for example) are starkly bold, revealing a play on the verge of such potential. If some of the repetitive content is cut out, the pacing tightened up, and the ending refined so that it reflects the brilliant of its premise, Suicide Makes Sense can remain (like Marty…perhaps) alive.

Suicide Makes Sense ~ Remaining Shows
Friday, September 6 6:45pm
Saturday, September 7 10:45pm
@Museum of Natural History

Reviews by Michelle Brunet

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