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Production melds laughs, melodrama and history

BY SARAH BERMAN, VANCOUVER SUN

Houdini’s Last Escape

When: Today, 6: 55 p.m.; Sunday, 1: 15 p.m.

Where: Waterfront Theatre

Monster Theatre’s latest biographical production recounts the life of the King of Vaudeville. Equal parts illusions, melodrama and gags, Houdini’s Last Escape reveals that behind every great man is a great woman—not to mention some seriously awkward mommy issues.

Tara Travis plays Houdini’s loving wife Bess, along with a dozen or more cartoonish side characters. Travis steals the show and gets the crowd roaring with well-placed eye rolls, while Christopher Bange tries out his cache of card tricks as the show’s protagonist. Written and directed by Fringe favourite Ryan Gladstone, the script is dense and surprisingly dark.

Like the shows that repackaged Napoleon, Shakespeare and Freud, Houdini’s Last Escape alternates yucks, stunts and historical factoids. However, the exact reason Houdini has chosen to confess how he achieved his rise to fame remains oddly vague throughout.

Phone Whore

When: Today, 10: 10 p.m.; Sunday, 7: 05 p.m.

Where: False Creek Gym

Cameryn Moore is a seasoned phone-sex operator—a “PSO” as she offhandedly terms it. Through a series of steamy phone calls drawn directly from personal experience, we get to know all the acronyms of the biz.

In the same way Dan Savage might explain the perils and payoffs of relationships, Moore frankly discusses the appeals and hardships of phonesex work. Some calls get big laughs, while others require more empathy and understanding.

As we learn more about her motley “stable of regulars,” Moore zeros in on the line between fantasy and action. As the title suggests, this show is not for all ages and sensitivities—no flavours of kink are off limits.

The script is undeniably witty and well delivered, but like most shift work, Phone Whore is a teeny bit draining.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/Houdini+story+unshackled+Fringe/5412209/story.html#ixzz1Y95m5M00

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