FRINGE 2017: A Look on the Gems of the Last Week

Montreal’s Fringe Fest can be hectic at times; there’s always so much to see, and every year, I find myself saying things like “I wish I had enough time to see this,” or “I wish I had reserved tickets. I didn’t know it would sell out.” But this year, I tried to see as many shows as possible during the final week of the festival. On the recommendation of Artistic Director Amy Blackmore, I made it my goal to see at least three productions in one day. Of course, it’s hard to remember so many details when you’re running from show-to-show (and the beers at the Fringe Park probably don’t help), so here’s some short-but-sweet reviews of the shows I managed to squeeze into.


Things Drugs Taught Me

Fringe award-winners Nisha Coleman and Jeff Gandell combine forces to tell the true stories of their experiences with drugs, from their high school daze to the present day. The stories are relatable to anyone who has had an adventurous past, and I observed many audience members chuckling whilst nodding their heads in agreement. Coleman and Gandell’s separate journeys naturally start with marijuana, evolving from acid to ecstasy. As they climbed up the drug ladder, I was expecting the stories to take a dark turn into substance abuse and addiction. But the anecdotes were kept light and amusing, concluding with life lessons with no negative consequences.


Cherry Docs

In this powerful two-man play, we witness the aftermath of a violent crime, where a young neo-Nazi skinhead’s only salvation from life in prison is a liberal Jewish lawyer. Having read David Gow’s script in college, I was quite familiar with the text, which allowed me to concentrate more on the acting and the delivery of the lines. Thomas Gould took on the role of Mike, who made audience members uneasy with his lamenting of the “white man’s struggle” in a multicultural society, a rhetoric you can still find on internet messageboards today. Originally from England, Gould put on a convincing North American accent, never once breaking it, even during parts where Mike is losing his mind from being in a confined space for months on end. His one-on-one exchanges with Danny, played by Max Katz, became increasingly heated and emotionally wrenching, to the point where I felt I was on the edge of tears. I hate to sound cliché, but it was way better than the film adaptation.


Crazy Bitch

Ellie MacDonald’s stand-up career has been building to this very moment: a 45-minute-long comedy special where she can look back on her life and laugh. MacDonald spares no details in telling a story of pregnancy and marriage at a young age, to how she became a strong independent woman who doesn’t need no man. Throughout her story, MacDonald is time and time again affixed with the label “crazy bitch” for daring to stray from the path set by the controlling men in her life.  She instead rises above and gives insights on how our patriarchal society might be the problem. Her social commentary is complemented with video segments, one of which is an appropriately-titled “Fuckboy Montage,” where MacDonald is forced to absorb inconsiderate comments about her body from the many men she has dated. From start to finish, MacDonald has a stage presence that captivates everyone in the room, a skill that proves her superiority over other local comics.


Invasive Species

Florida has been overrun by a swarm of cane toads and only one man can save America from being ravaged by these critters from hell. Gabriel Schultz plays Junior, the self-proclaimed “toad hunter” taking one last train ride to the heart of the swamp to kill the mother of all toads, Big Bertha. Armed with his trusty power drill and the manic devotion of a southern preacher, Junior has vowed revenge on all of toad-kind for the loss of his wife and unborn child. Killing a Big Bertha would be easy enough if it wasn’t for Junior’s addiction to injecting toad venom. The show goes into some bizarre territory, almost as it was straight out of a William S. Burroughs novel. The final scene is like witnessing a bad acid trip, where all of Junior’s demons come back to haunt him. If I somehow develop an irrational fear of toads, this play is to blame.