Manitoba·Reviews

Make 'em laugh! Read our reviews of 9 more comedies at Winnipeg Fringe

Whether you're looking for a sexy parody of the Vinyl Cafe or a humorous take on the War of 1812, there's no shortage of comedies at the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

Options range from a kinky spoof of the Vinyl Cafe to a comedic take on the War of 1812

South African ventriloquist Conrad Koch with his band of puppets, including famous political analyst, Chester Missing (the big head on the right). (Submitted)

Political puppets, terrible survival tips, a pornographic parody of The Vinyl Cafe and a two-metre-tall Laura Secord.

If you're looking for laughs this Fringe, we've got you covered — plus read our first one-star review of the fest. 

Here is the CBC review crew's take on more comedies from the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.

Call Girls

★★★ STARS

Hey — are you looking for a good time? Then pick up the phone (or use the internet, 'cause y'know — it's 2018) and grab your tickets for Call Girls.

Writer/performers Ciera Fredborg, Tessa Jenkyns and Olivia Ulrich are three women working a phone sex line. But don't expect deep reflections on what it's like to be a sex worker — this is played for light, slightly racy but not too raunchy laughs, and it lands plenty of them.

It's sold mainly by the outstanding comedic performances of the young trio (Jenkyns is especially good as the oddly innocent Tracy). They've got great comic timing and a wonderful onstage chemistry onstage.

The show's not perfect — even at a lean 45 minutes it runs out of steam before its end (no breathless climax here, alas). But it's good fringy fun — and ending on Blondie is never a bad call.

 - Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

There's not much to admire about Two White Guys Solve All the World's Problems, says reviewer Kaj Hasselriis. (Submitted by Quondam Dreams)

Two White Guys Solve All the World's Problems

★ STAR

In Two White Guys Solve All the World's Problems, middle-aged buddies Lucas and Mark hang out together at Lucas's cabin after Mark's wife kicks him out of the house. They reminisce about their youth, then Mark (played by Jeff Whyte) launches into angry complaints about the ills he sees in the world.

Mark's list is long: Indigenous people, "social justice warrior morons," Manitoba Hydro, women who spell the word with a "y," immigrants, gays, transgender people, Margaret Atwood, "Justine Trudeau" … the list goes on and on.

Watching Mark is like watching a real-life troll spew his hateful garbage right in front of you, except that you can't respond because this is a play and you're an audience member.

Fortunately, there's another character on the stage who could hold Mark to account: his old friend Lucas, played by Deejay Dayton, who also wrote the script. Except that practically the worst thing Lucas says to Mark is, "You can be such a jerk, but you're such a dynamic personality. I've always admired you for that." 

There's nothing to admire about Mark, nor is there anything to admire about a Fringe show that serves as a forum for hate that goes barely challenged.

— Reviewed by Kaj Hasselriis

421 Is Dead: A Storm Trooper Parody

★★★ STARS

What if Samuel Beckett and Tom Stoppard collaborated on Star Wars fan fiction? That's the question Charles Ross and Rod Peter, Jr. strive to answer with 421 is Dead: A Storm Trooper parody.

It works. Maybe too well. I thought this show was hilarious — approaching genius — but it operates at a specific juncture of geekdom: that of Star Wars fans who are also fans of absurdist theatre. To fully enjoy it may require not only a deep familiarity with Star Wars (some of the references and jokes won't be caught by the casual fan), but also a familiarity with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Waiting for Godot.

Any show that includes the dianoga, prominently features a mouse droid, and brings the tone of a Beckett play to that galaxy far, far away can have all of my credits — but I'm not sure this will be the case for everybody.

— Reviewed by Kelly Stifora

The overall effect of Tales Too Tall For Trailers is a pleasant one, if somewhat toothless. (Dan Winters)

​Tales Too Tall for Trailers

★★★ STARS

Tales Too Tall For Trailers is the definition of a Fringe crowd-pleaser. Bring your grandpa. Bring your co-workers. Bring your five-year-old. They'll all enjoy this musical comedy about a trailer park birthday party. Just don't expect it to stick in your mind after you leave the theatre.

Paul Strickland and Erika Kate McDonald have an aw-shucks vibe and an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink performance style. Shadow projections, flipbooks, paper bag masks — there's nary a handcrafted medium that Strickland and McDonald leave out. Tying the whole thing together are lightly plucked and ably sung folk songs.

The overall effect is a pleasant one, if somewhat mushy. Whether or not you've seen Strickland's previous efforts, like Ain't True & Uncle False and Papa Squat, you'll enjoy Tales. But for a show that's all about the power of stories — especially sad stories — to move you, the tales in Tales could use a little more oomph.

The show has plenty of puns and a pair of strong performances, but unfortunately doesn't make much of an impression.

— Reviewed by Andrew Friesen

Hilariously misinformative, Shawn O'Hara delivers a master class of fake facts in Field Zoology 101. (Submitted)

​Field Zoology 101

★★★★ STARS

Have you ever wondered how to survive on safari equipped only with a Yu-Gi-Oh! deck and a cherry-flavoured Clif bar?

Look further.

Shawn O'Hara delivers an hour-long discourse of wildly inaccurate information about the "hundreds, nay possibly thousands of animal species" on this great, green planet. A presentation guaranteed not to prepare you for your next outdoor adventure, you will learn how to effectively use air quotes in order to avoid litigation, and identify animal silhouettes from crude line drawings.

The lecture hall monologue is a comedy classic — a little old hat, even. But O'Hara keeps the format fresh by interrupting his monologue with audience participation, improvisation, and something I'm going to call transparency animation.

Hilariously misinformative, Shawn O'Hara delivers a master class of fake facts. Pull on your dress cargo pants, heed this call to the wild, and learn absolutely nothing about field zoology.

— Reviewed by Michelle Palansky

​Maybe Baby

★★★★ STARS

I wept. I'm just going to get that out of the way right up front because, as a reviewer, I understand I may not need to say more for conveying the effectiveness of Mike and Chantelle Delamont's (co-creators of God is a Scottish Drag Queen) heartbreaking comedy about their experiences with conception.

To be fair, I laughed, too. I don't think Mike is capable of being unfunny. But this show belongs much more to Chantelle and to her very real struggle with trying to have a baby. She doesn't come off as someone performing. She comes off as someone sharing an intensely personal story about struggling with her own biology and revisiting emotions that almost drove her to drastic measures.

There are laughs, and as great an affirmation of love as I've ever seen in a Fringe show, but this isn't always easy to watch. So, you should go see it.

— Reviewed by Kelly Stifora

In Sex? But I'm Canadian!, a middle-aged Ontario couple embarks on a kinky journey inspired by a beloved CBC Radio program. (Steve Cherrier)

Sex? But I'm Canadian!

★★★★ STARS

Like many Canadians, I grew up listening to The Vinyl Cafe on Sunday mornings. After church, eating pancakes, I'd listen — whether I wanted to or not — to the kitchen radio as Stuart McLean spun tales of Dave and Morley. Hearing his voice today, I'm transported back to those syrup-drenched sunny Sundays.

So to hear performer Nico Dicecco channel the late, great McLean is like slipping into a nap … only to be tied to the bedposts and tickled with a feather. That's because Sex? But I'm Canadian! is a kinky riff on the beloved radio show.

And it makes perfect sense. Dave — sorry, Dale in Dicecco's naughty parody — just can't seem to do anything right. But instead of rolling her eyes as Morley might, in Dicecco's take, Marnie gets out the handcuffs and makes sure Dale is punished.

Dicecco obviously reveres McLean and his legacy. And his impression is uncannily accurate. CBC Radio fans, buy your tickets now … and don't say I didn't warn you.

— Reviewed by Andrew Friesen

Sketch comedy that makes you smarter, the War of 1812 remount is a crowd pleaser. (Sarah Alyce Photography)

​War of 1812

★★★★ STARS

Sailing down the river of time in a birchbark canoe with Pierre Berton, a young Canadian schoolboy learns there was a time in history when Canada kicked ass.

I was there. Not the War of 1812 you sonofabitches! The original Three Dead Trolls In A Baggie production from the '90s. The Pierre Berton puppet popped out and it all flashed back to me. I loved the original and Version 2.0 is just as great.

Is it tight? Nope. This show is as loose as … let's just say it's loose. There are dropped lines and missed cues all over the place but you are in hilariously good hands with veteran Fringe performers Morgan Cranny, Wes Borg, Mike Delamont and Rod Peter Jr.

Come for the Apocalypse Now re-enactment, stay for the two-metre-tall Laura Secord. The horror! Sketch comedy that makes you smrtr, this remount is a helluva crowd pleaser.

— Reviewed by Michelle Palansky

Conrad Koch and Chester Missing. (Submitted)

Puppet Guy, Africa's top ventriloquist

★★★★★ STARS

Conrad Koch is going to start selling out his show immediately and well he should. By five minutes in, my face hurt from laughing so hard. His ace in the hole, his puppet partner Chester Missing, who apparently is famous and popular enough to be granted interviews with politicians in South Africa, was absolutely delightful and technically brilliant.

Koch pulls off several audience participation sequences that are non-threatening to the participant and a joy for everyone watching.

While his puppets are funny and friendly looking, this is not a show for children, unless they happen to be extremely savvy, politically astute, satirically minded children who don't mind some harsh language and sexual innuendo.

Koch throws away more laugh lines than many shows have in the first place. Don't miss this one.

— Reviewed by John Sadoway

​With files from Andrew Friesen, Kaj Hasselriis, Michelle Palansky, John Sadoway and Kelly Stifora

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.