Manitoba·Reviews

Funny stuff: 4 comedies from the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe reviewed

As always, there's no shortage of shows at the 2019 edition of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival that aim to tickle your funny bone.

If you're in the mood for a laugh, here's our take on a handful of humorous shows in this year's festival

John Michael's Meatball Séance runs July 17 to 28 at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. (Paul Clark)

As always, there's no shortage of shows at the 2019 edition of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival that aim to tickle your funny bone.

Here are CBC Manitoba's reviews of four of the comedic offerings we saw on the festival's opening night

Meatball Séance

★★★★★ STARS

"Oh my God, that was so much fun!"

At the end of John Michael's fabulous one-man show, Meatball Séance, that's the first reaction I overheard from an audience member. Which is especially impressive considering Michael asks his audience to create a lot of that fun themselves.

In this extremely high-energy production, Michael plays a guy who tries to conjure up his dead mother by cooking her old meatball recipe so that he can introduce her to his new boyfriend. Michael asks audience members not only to play the boyfriend and the mother, but to shout encouragement at him throughout the show. He also sweats all over us as he races up and down the theatre.

No one in the audience seemed to mind, though, since Michael delivered one of the campiest, most outrageous and most original shows we'll ever see at the Winnipeg Fringe. Don't miss it!

— Reviewed by Kaj Hasselriis

Commando: The Radio Play runs July 17 to 28 at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. (Submitted by Ditch Water Theatre)

Commando: The Radio Play

★★★★ STARS

Harkening back to not one, but two simpler times, Ditch Water Theatre presents the already-dated 1985 Schwarzenegger flick in the style of a 1940s radio show, complete with live Foley sound, old-timey commercials and bow ties.

It's delightful.

There are jokes (they had plenty of time for them: Commando is 40 minutes of plot in a 90-minute bag), but this isn't a parody. The performers' earnestness and effort betray genuine affection for the movie.

Will O'Donnell and Cathy Herbert nail Schwarzenegger and Rae Dawn Chong's voices, with Sam McLean filling the gaps as everyone from an ill-defined South American terrorist to a particularly whiny 12-year-old Alyssa Milano.

The blockbuster star, however, is Foley artist Cory Falvo, who attacks what looks like a table full of well-organized trash with the serene determination of a thickly muscled, thickly accented ex-elite-agent whose daughter needs saving, no matter how many one-liners and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons it takes.

— Reviewed by Kelly Stifora

Dana Smith: Lives at Wee Johnny's runs July 17 to 27 at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. (April Plett Photography)

Dana Smith: Lives at Wee Johnny's

★★★ STARS

A member of the Winnipeg sketch comedy troupe HUNKS, this is Dana Smith's first solo stand-up gig.

You might remember Dana from her appearance on CBC's The Debaters, where she and her husband Tim argued whether they should marry. SPOILER ALERT — they totally did.

Dana puts on an enjoyable, relatable and mildly raunchy set. She covers everything from her leg hair — "like two hot dogs that rolled under the couch" — to her feelings about queerness: "everyone who is not queer is just a picky eater."

She shows how she masturbates like a dog burying a bone and attests to the pure poetry and utter garbage of bathroom graffiti.

In this hour-long set there were some misses. A sexually explicit misunderstanding about a landlord's notices of entry didn't really land. The audience participation sections were uneven but that is to be expected.

A solid show that is sure to amuse.

— Reviewed by Michelle Palansky

Farrago 

★★ STARS

There's a danger in calling your Fringe show "farrago" (go ahead, look it up — I had to before the show explained it): it invites too-clever-by-half reviewers like me to make easy jokes about how apt the title is.

The story of this Farrago isn't new: first-time bank robbers are so poorly prepared that the quirky gallery of tellers and customers they take hostage have to guide them through committing the crime.

That said, lack of originality isn't the main problem here. A clichéd plot and characters are fine if the jokes are good and the delivery fun (and there's a bit of both). What makes this a farrago — OK, it's a "confused mixture," according to Merriam-Webster — in more than name is an apparent lack of preparation behind the scenes. Opening night featured frequently flubbed lines, poor timing, and a tone that was all over the place.

No joke: paying audiences deserve more than a confused jumble.

— Reviewed by Kelly Stifora

With files from Kaj Hasselriis, Kelly Stifora and Michelle Palansky

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