Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bishops, Singers, Venuses And Rabbits

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of social activity for this so-called shut-in.  In late Feb, Vicki and I joined our friend Sue for Billy Bishop Goes to War, a funny, musical look at the life and exploits of our most famous World War I veteran.  I enjoyed it much more than I usually would a musical and learned tons of details about Bishop that I'd failed to pick up previously.

A few days later we headed out to a concert by Bashia Bulat, an extremely talented Canadian singer-songwriter whose latest album is now up for a Juno.  This was arranged by our friend Tim, the same person responsible for my love of Radiohead and Magnolia Electric Company.  The show was great, as Ms. Bulat wowed us with her voice and mastery of several different instruments, most impressively the autoharp.  Plus we got to catch up with Tim who we rarely see any more.

Last weekend, Tammy was in town to help us celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary, and the three of us met up with Sue once again for another play, Venus in Fur.  Sue had read a very glowing review of the show by none other than friend-of-the-blog, Peter J, and thought it was something we might enjoy.  Holy crap, did we ever!  All four of us were blown away by the performances of Justin Peter Quesnelle and Francesca Ranalli as well as the complex and delightful script by David Ives. It's a two-person act that features a play-within-a-play as it examines the give-and-take nature of relationships in a very extreme sense.  Had we not seen it on Closing Night, Vicki and I would almost certainly have paid a return trip later in the run, it was just that impressive.

And last night, to mark Vicki's birthday we headed downtown once again to see that same JP Quesnelle in White Rabbit Red Rabbit.  Not only does WRRR feature the producing debut of Peter J (him again!) but it also is structured such that no performer is ever allowed to do it more than once.  That's right: the dozen shows scheduled here in town this month will each have a different local artist in them!  How crazy is that?  The play, written by Iranian Nassim Soleimanpour as a way to "travel the world when he couldn't," can only ever be performed by someone who's never done it before.  Not only that, the actor or actress only receives the script as he or she walks on stage that night.  No preparation is allowed, as it's designed to be as much an act of discovery for the artist as it is for the audience.  Among the many treats of seeing Justin do White Rabbit Red Rabbit was watching the wheels turn in his head as he encountered each new twist or revelation in the script, page by page, in real-time.  Fortunately for those of us in attendance, he was more than up to the challenge!  There's even a small amount of audience participation involved in WRRR, and I was lucky enough to take part in it near the end.  That was a wonderful experience, and a terrific night overall.  We're already making plans to go see WRRR again, with (naturally) another top-notch artist on stage.

I'd say that our recent spate of live entertainment has felt like the very best Fringe experiences we've had, and that's a huge compliment.  The local arts scene is definitely alive and thriving right now!

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