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REVIEWS: Performers coax laughs from love and death



When: Today, 1: 45 p.m.

Where: Studio 16

She’s got “capital V, extreme V, Vision.” But a lack of funding, lack of connections and empty seats prevent her art from gaining the universal success it deserves.

In her brave one-woman show, Allyson McGrane attempts to satirize the plight of a mediocre self-indulgent performer. She pitches her audience a “brilliant” play about British Columbia’s Harmonized Sales Tax, and then rattles off a laundry list of complaints about the theatre industry.

Though it’s obvious McGrane is purposefully under-prepared (she reads her script from a clipboard) there is little comedic payoff for enduring her rant. The underlying commentary: actors and writers sometimes suck.

Clocking just over 30 minutes, the piece feels surprisingly long. Aficionados is too painful to be parody, too transparent to be ironic.

The Seminar

When: Today, 9: 10 p.m.; Sunday, 5: 25 p.m.

Where: Revue Stage

From the crew that debunked fairy tales at last year’s Fringe, comes a gross-out commentary on society’s obsession with good looks.

Hawking leg extensions, butt implants and lip injections, a trio of plastic beauty-bots present an hourlong seminar about how to find success. The answer? Buy their creepy surgical full-body makeover kit.

Rather than subtle satire, these ladies take self-help to a hideous extreme. Surgeries are performed with wood saws and hedge clippers. Marching around shouting slogans like “ugly is a choice!” and “choose to change!” ad nauseam, the group pushes audiences right to the edge of their comfort zone.

But the discomfort never lasts long. Leading lady Melissa Heagy is especially clever at pulling back with comic relief, song and dance. The team uses slide show and video skilfully, reinforcing the infomercial vibe.

The Surprise

When: Today, 9: 20 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m.

Where: Waterfront Theatre

It’s no surprise to last year’s Fringegoers: Martin Dockery is neurotic and hilarious.

Following his Pick of the Fringe win for the monologue Wanderlust, Dockery delivers a new barroom tale of travel, relationships, and the occasional experiment with hallucinogenic drugs. This time he’s adventuring through the ancient Cambodian temple Angkor Wat with his German girlfriend, and visiting his stiff but successful father in Vietnam.

Like a true Brooklynite, Dockery quavers with anxiety, flaps his hands wildly and raises his voice in excited crescendo as he delivers each morsel of acute observation. Dockery is searching for meaning in every sentence – giving the impression he’s conquering inner turmoil in real time.

His true-life experience with love and deception, compounded by his endless games of “emotional chicken” with his family, make effortlessly captivating material. Watch out for his final words-they are as chilling as they are precise.

Grim & Fischer: A Deathly Comedy in Full-Face Mask

When: Sunday, 5: 40 p.m.

Where: Performance Works

As a late edition to the Fringe Festival roster, Grim & Fischer was not included in this year’s program guide. And yet, with their cartoonish design and expert physical execution, Portlanders Kate Braidwood and Andrew Phoenix have set Granville Island abuzz.

Donning oversized sculpted masks, Braidwood and Phoenix communicate skilfully, sans dialogue. As Mrs. Fischer and Death himself, the pair play a dark cat-and-mouse game fusing slapstick comedy and tenderness. Mrs. Fischer is a cheeky woman who knows she’s nearing the end of her life. She chooses to fight off death Rockystyle. The Reaper is initially confounded by her antics, then intrigued. Finally, Grim abandons his deadly duties-spellbound by Mrs. Fischer’s tenacity for life.

Although the marriage of high and lowbrow is mostly charming, the mix is at times clumsy. Expect pop culture references and a whopping dose of toilet humour up against Carl Orff and Chopin.

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