At the Waldorf Hotel
Sept. 10, 13, 15 and 16
Squidamisu Theatre really pushes the Fringe limits with George F. Walker's Suburban Motel cycle. Six plays, 24 performances over 10 days. They all happen in made-to-look-shabby Room 102 at the (very obliging) Waldorf Hotel on East Hastings. Kickstarting this ambitious undertaking was Problem Child directed by Bob Frazer and featuring Marisa Smith as Denise, an ex-junkie, ex-prostitute and Sebastian Kroon as her boyfriend RJ, ex-junkie, ex-con. The cramped space, heat and street noise really ramp up the intensity of this play about Denise and RJ who are holed up in a hotel waiting for social worker Helen (Bronwen Smith) to determine whether this young, messed-up couple deserve to get their baby girl-seized by Family Services-back from the stable foster home where she has been placed. "Helping" them out-not really-is Phil, the alcoholic desk clerk (Simon Webb). Walker has us going back and forth: yes, the kids deserve their kid; no, the baby's better off where it is. Helen tips the scales when she goes all religious on them-and yet, and yet. Do Denise and RJ really have it together? Problem Child is excruciating theatre-in a good way. So good, in fact, that I'll try to see the rest of the cycle.
At Studio 1398
Sept. 10, 11, 14 and 15
Quick, what do you think of when you think of Ireland? St. Patrick's Day? Leprechauns? How 'bout Bloody Sunday, the IRA or the UVF? Playwright/performer Stephanie Henderson takes us back to the Belfast bus station where Molly is calling it quits with the Emerald Isle. She just wants to go somewhere where little boys don't throw bricks at other little boys because their fathers tell them they're the enemy. Or where bombs don't go off in pubs ("I was feckin' next door") killing your "mates" or where young men are shot in the back running down the street. Henderson doesn't take sides and that's the point: taking sides hasn't got Ireland over its troubles. Henderson's Irish lilt comes at you fast and right off the top; it takes a few minutes to adjust but once you do, you're in there with "why the frig should you care," "beatin' the shite out of each other" and other Irish pleasantries. Don't expect a pretty picture of Ireland, a place where, says Henderson, "It's harder to live for your country than to die for your country." Molly has packed up her potatoes and her "funny accent" and is movin' on. Sorry tale, well told.
At Studio 1398
Sept. 11, 13, 15 and 16
Megan Phillips discovered, in a few short but painful years, what most of us take a lifetime to learn: "The path I planned is not the path on which I stand." Sometimes the path is better than planned, sometimes not as good but it's almost always different. Phillips learned it the hard way: while studying musical theatre in London, England, she was hit by a car on her way to rehearsal. The ankle was broken but worse, degenerative osteoarthritis had set in-not exactly finishing her career (as Breaking Velocity proves) but definitely causing a time-out. Phillips is a warm, generous and brave performer. Breaking Velocity refers, I think, to "escape velocity," a term in physics that refers to breaking free from a gravitational field. In Phillips' case, it means leaving behind the "poor me/why me?" syndrome and moving on. She sings, she dances-not the way she dreamed of dancing but she is dancing. And while it's not the Broadway stage, she brings enthusiasm, a winning smile and good advice to Studio 1398.
Read Jo Ledingham's review of Heroes at plankmagazine.com.