More Fringe reviews

We caught some real gems at the Fringe, and so should you.

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My Playwright Sister

The Fringe Festival brings a wide variety of theatre, comedy, dance, burlesque and festive fun to venues all over the Plateau and beyond, with events happening daily in the Parc des Amériques, the site of the festival’s box office and beer tent.

The festival runs through Sunday, June 22, and to help you sort through its program and make some smart choices, we’ve reviewed five more productions (see the first batch here):


My Playwright Sister

My Playwright Sister has been described as a sequel to Johanna Nutter’s successful 2009 play, My Pregnant Brother, but it’s more accurately a dialogue that sprang from the monologue of Nutter’s original one-woman play. In Brother, the playwright explores her emotions as her transgender sibling undergoes the sex reassignment process, and the mid-transition pregnancy that literally brings new life into their relationship. But her brother, James Diamond, is hurt by some of the characterizations when he finally sees the play, and Sister is the collaborative dialogue that arises from that conflict.

Both plays are ultimately about family and our ability to hurt the ones we love, consciously or not. In one scene, Diamond explains why he was so upset when Nutter shouted the seemingly innocuous “It’s a girl!” on the birth of his child. For Diamond, that same label had trapped him from birth in a gender that would always be foreign.

“I’m tired of educating people about my situation!” Diamond says in exasperation towards the end of the play, but that’s what Playwright Sister does so well, as both siblings struggle to understand and be understood. It’s a courageous emotional journey generously shared with a widely appreciative public.

* Both plays are presented back-to-back on Friday, June 20, at 4 p.m. (Peter Wheeland)


Living Your Dreams

Two comics, a sound tech, a critic and two audience members walk into a Spanish social club….

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

A stormy night and 11:45 p.m start may have discouraged many Fringe patrons from checking out the first performance of Stephen Spinola’s Living Your Dreams, but it barely fazed Spinola, who took the opportunity to greet both audience members  personally before launching into his quirky, friendly improv/stand-up show last Friday. A New York native, Spinola recently earned a physics degree at McGill University and has since been travelling around the U.S. and Canada in an RV, plying his comic wares to crowds big and small. But not this small, he admitted to warm-up act Mike Carrozza, whose raucous laugh would fill a room twice the size. I ran into Spinola on the Main the next day, where he told me that half the audience was coming back Sunday with a bunch of his friends. With that kind of exponential growth, he just might be living his dreams for the rest of the fest. (PW)


Jem Rolls

Jem Rolls: One Man Traffic Jam

Last summer, I was reviewing at the Edinburgh Fringe, when a small gap between comedy gigs allowed me to stop for a couple drinks at this weird goth venue. My heart jumped when I recognized a name from back home on a poster: Jem Rolls was doing a free show.

Unfortunately, the ravenous Edinburgh crowd wasn’t as happy as I was seemingly, with Jem performing to a disinterested, sweaty crowd. I wanted to shake them and ask : “DO YOU KNOW WHO THIS IS?” and them answering “I JUST WANT TO SEE THAT YOUNG GUY WITH NICE HAIR WHO WAS ON THE BBC FOR FIVE MINUTES ONE TIME AND NOT THIS SUPER TALENTED OLD GUY,” while frothing at the mouth.

This being said, it’s fantastic to see him back on a stage, in front of an appreciative Montreal crowd, doing what he does best: tying our brains into knots with non-stop, clever rapid-fire verses. Hang on to your seat as he races from rants to observations about everything that would make you feel like a “one man traffic jam,” from the terror of the Edinburgh Fringe to the hell-on-Earth that is Christmas shopping in London. If you’ve never seen the eloquent Englishman, shame on you, but it’s not too late. And if, like me, you never miss him, well of course you won’t be disappointed.

Warning: do not sit in the front row. Just like the British Isles that spawned him, he spits rain.

Bonus: catch him at the Fringe park and ask him about Pete Doherty. (Roxane Hudon)



Back at the Fringe after their 2013 hit Around Miss Julie, Hopegrown Productions mounts an ambitious, dramatic play based on a very topical and touchy subject: cyberbullying and its victims.

Miriam Cummings plays Linda, an uptight lady cop suffering from mommy issues and a “patience problem,” with an affinity for Celine Dion and sun lamps. She’s interviewing Amber (Samantha Megarry), a seemingly always-annoyed teenage girl who expresses herself through contemporary dance and a lot of eye rolls. The reason for the questioning is an alleged photo of a dead foetus posted on Facebook.

I go into this play blind, because I missed all the hype about this, while my companion, who brought me here promising “the BEST play of the Fringe,” leaves completely disappointed. It has some good ideas, and the performances, while somewhat uneven, are strong, but the tone of the play seems confused. If you know what the play is about, it’s hard not to see the end coming miles away, but with odd, comic elements thrown in, mainly surrounding the character of Linda (the constant presence of the sun lamp, her hypochondriac mom, “A New Day Has Come” blasting mid-play, her general inefficiency as a cop), it felt a tad anti-climactic.

It’s a huge subject to tackle, but they might want to re-work some elements of the plot to deliver the gut-wrenching punch they were obviously hoping to deliver. (RH)


Story Whore

Unfortunately, a lovely, beer-drenched afternoon made me miss the opening minutes of this show and the probable explanation of why Aussie comic Jon Bennett is standing on stage wearing a dress. But then again, I prefer thinking the answer is “just because.”

Bennett made a name for himself Pretending Things Are a Cock, literally. That was the name of his successful Fringe show and eventual book about, well, the title says it all now, doesn’t it? This new show delves into a more vulnerable side, with Bennett sharing tales of growing up and the loves lost and won along the way, re-telling these as he supposedly told them to a border control officer who looked like Jay Z at the Montreal airport.

Like his last show, a lot of these stories are a bit silly, and if you’ve never seen him pretend things are a cock, he does regale the audience with a few snapshots that just happen to tie in with his tales. While some bits miss the mark, Bennett’s show is generally funny, smart and entertaining. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a tiny Australian guy in a dress talking about getting laid? (RH)


The Fringe Festival runs through June 22. See the full program here.