Love In the Time of Time Machines

Love in the Time of Time Machines GillianEnglish and NedPetrie by Rob Colburn

gillian english & ned petrie

photo by rob colburn

The Theatre Elusive’s Love in the Time of Time Machines has a fun premise and some really funny performers but the script could benefit from some further shaping.

It centers on the story of Klein and Gabrielle, who are destined to be together. When Gabrielle breaks up with Klein he is so heartbroken that he decides to use the Time Travel Machine that is in his family’s business to try to break things off earlier with Gabrielle, to spare himself the eventual heartache. Yet, every time he disappears back into the present/future, something goes wrong, and he and Gabrielle are still together- still on the road toward likely/potentially breaking up.

The one thing that I would encourage playwrights Ned Petrie and David Tichauer to consider is whether they want this play to be a Farce or a heartwarming comedy with dramatic moments, because at the moment it is in a murky middle ground between the two. If the play is about the absurdity of chasing yourself through time, I wanted crazier, farcical antics. If the play is about saving the relationship between Klein and Gabrielle, I wanted more depth and intimacy into the couple and who these people were as individuals. Brian MacQuarrie gives a strong performance as Brian, the bar tender, but his narration bits are too long, and not really needed to propel the plot forward.

TWISI Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Love In the Time of Time Machines plays at DanSpace (1531 Grafton Street) at the following times:

September 7 @ 6:30pm

Tickets are $10.00 and are available in advance online at this website or 30 minutes before each show at the venue on the day of the performance. All tickets bought in person must be purchased with either cash or credit. For more information please visit this website or call 902.422.7604 between 10:00am and 5:00pm. 

The Panel Show Strikes Back

Panel Show

ned petrie & brian macquarrie

There were tons of laughs this evening at Ned Petrie’s The Panel Show Strikes Back, which returns to Halifax from Toronto and plays at the Bus Stop Theatre as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival.

Part game show, part comedy show, the premise is that Petrie is joined by three local comedians who compete against one another answering trivia-style questions about current events amid hilarious banter and whoever has the most correct answers wins a cheque for a million dollars.*

This evening’s panel was Paul Doucette (of Flag on the Play), Geordie Miller (of the most beautifully literary and self aware teenage sexual frustration journal fame) and Brian MacQuarrie (the next Lex Luthor) and they brought with them a captivating dynamic of laid back and friendly fun and jokes, most of which addressed some aspect of the human experience in contemporary society. The news stories that Petrie chose to highlight provided not only an array of possible punch lines, but also stood on their own as being strange, absurd and horrifying in their own ways. We discussed the Cronut debacle, the legitimizing of “twerking” and “srsly” by the Oxford dictionary, the swallowing of famous toes and, most delightful of all, Capn’-gate.

Petrie is both suave and kind as the host, encouraging his guests to work together toward building the comedic aspects of the show. The result is an engaging, fun, spirited and often informative evening at the theatre. Each show is made up of different comedians on the panel and since the questions are always different and the answers are always improvised, it is a show that you can return to over and over throughout the Festival. It’s an especially great way to cap off your evening to ensure that you go home laughing.

TWISI Rating:

4 of 5 stars

The Panel Show Strikes Back plays at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) at the following times: 

Thu, Sep 5 @11:15pm (w/ Paul Warford, Andy Bulman, & MORE!)
Sat, Sep 7 @9:30pm (w/ Bill Wood, & MORE!)
Sun, Sep 8 @4:30pm (w/ Panel TBA)

Tickets are $10.00 and are available in advance online at this website or 30 minutes before each show at the venue on the day of the performance. All tickets bought in person must be purchased with either cash or credit. For more information please visit this website or call 902.422.7604 between 10:00am and 5:00pm. 

*winner does not actually receive a million dollars

Roller Town is an Excellent Source of Potassium

mark little & kayla lorette

According to this bittersweet interview with Andrew Bush and Mark Little from Toronto Standard, Roller Town, the multi award winning first feature length film from Halifax’s own Picnicface, may be the sketch troupe’s last project as a unified collective. I definitely recommend heading to your local movie theatres across the country and checking it out.

Roller Town, written by Bush, Little and Scott Vrooman and directed by Bush, is a pastiche of the roller disco films popularized in the late 1970s, including Roller Boogie and Skatetown U.S.A, which have since achieved cult status with audiences in the nostalgia and uber-cheese department. The film centers on a young orphan named Leo, played by Little, The King of the Roller Disco, who falls in love with a classically trained skater named Julia (Kayla Lorette) and together they fight to save Disco from being murdered by a gang of powerfully connected thugs seeking to brainwash the young with video games.

Andrew Bush has captured much of the campiness and the trademark antics of the roller disco film in Roller Town, while shooting it in vivid, bright colors, which accentuate the characters’ amazing wardrobes of short shorts and tube socks, while the special effects and cutting together of most of the more stylized aspects of the film are intentionally rough, abrupt and often animated in classic 1970s two dimensions. This is also a familiar trademark of most of Picnicface’s Internet and television sketches. It is interesting that, within the pastiche context, many of the conventions the troupe has been using since 2006 fit here quite naturally and actually make more sense as a stylistic choice.

I don’t think that Roller Town is supposed to be a serious satirical commentary on the state of humanity and it certainly isn’t, but I do think that it revels in its own silliness in a very endearing and playful way, often reaching for the absurd but sometimes touching, albeit gently, on more solemn issues. The love story, for example, between Leo and Julia is allowed some genuinely touching moments so that the audience is led to root for their eventual triumph over her repressive parents and the gangsters poised to kill them both. Delving a little deeper, while Roller Town does poke fun at the heightened naivety and innocence of the Disco Age, it also plays on the same nostalgia that draws so many to films like Roller Boogie and Skatetown U.S.A. At the very core of Roller Town there is a certain wistfulness for a simpler time. After all, the war in the film is ultimately waged between a social physical activity from the past and an isolating computer-generated sedentary experience that has become so much of the fiber of our present. Of course, whenever solemnity persists beyond a moment, as in The Muppets, someone quickly rectifies the situation with a swift kick of ridiculous. Keeping faithful to its Disco ForeDogFather’s, the balance between the solemn and the insane is always in check.

There are some great performances in Roller Town. Mark Little is delightful as Leo; he is just good hearted enough to win sympathy while still being a complete doofus. Kayla Lorette is adorable awkwardness at its very best as Julia, who largely reacts (or doesn’t react fast enough) to Leo being a doofus, while still managing to develop some chemistry and real affection for him. Brian MacQuarrie has some great bits as Julia’s belt-crazed Grampa. Scott Vooman’s straight superciliousness as classically trained King of the Preppies, Davis, while at the same time always managing to look seconds away from crying, is beautifully ridiculous. Andrew Bush has a wonderful cameo as a Forest Hobo who becomes the Yoda to Leo’s Luke. Pat Thornton is essentially Bobo the Bear from the Muppets humanized as the moronic villain sidekick Beef, but Thornton’s comic timing is excellent and, like Bobo, by the end you almost feel sorry for the guy. He just wants to read his book on How to Eat Jam in peace and he IS having a pretty crappy day.

While I thought the film was well cast, both using the strengths of the troupe and bringing in guest artists from both the Halifax and Toronto theatre and comedy scenes, I thought that the talents particularly of Bill Wood, Evany Rosen and Brian MacQuarrie were not used to their full comic potential. I think that the film could have benefited from either developing these three characters further or having Wood, Rosen and MacQuarrie play multiple secondary and cameo characters. I was sad to see that Wood’s brick throwing nymph was almost completely cut from this more streamlined version compared to the one screened at the Atlantic Film Festival a year ago and the cuts left the film with some strange loose ends and spurts of stark randomness.

The entirety of Roller Town exists in the same realm as the very last moment in Grease when Danny and Sandy’s car suddenly lifts off and they fly on into their future together, the realm where the crazier the premise, the more likely it is to materialize. It also remains quite faithful to the dynamic and the brand of comedy that Picnicface has developed on YouTube since its inception eight years ago. If this is truly the troupe’s last project together (and I hope that it will not be), it is a worthy place to end this adventure and, as for Roller Town, I think it is well on its way to becoming a cult classic in its own right. But, don’t wait for the videotape release, head to your local movie theatre and check it out today!

Roller Town is playing in movie theatres across Canada. Please check your local listings or visit this website.

The Panel Show

ned petrie

The Panel Show comes to the Atlantic Fringe Festival from Toronto and plays at the DanSpace. It is a game show hosted by Ned Petrie where a panel of three comedians are asked questions pulled from REAL LIFE Stupid News and then points are allotted for the chance to win a giant mock-up cheque for $1,000,000.

Our guests for the evening were Brian MacQuarrie, Rhonda Riche and Mark Little. The set up for The Panel Show is an interesting one because it doesn’t really fit into any of the categories one usually associates with the genre of comedy. The comedians show up unrehearsed and with nothing prepared, yet I wouldn’t say the show was improvised, the humour just comes naturally from their own personalities and their own interactions with one another and the material that Petrie provides them with. I would assume that certain performers thrive in this concept more than others and it generally is a lot more laid back and casual than most shows audiences are used to seeing. The subtitle of The Panel Show could be something like : Chillin’ With Funny People.

What works really well is when the comedians are able to create a sort of absurd narrative out of the material that emerges from the guesses and the (often weirder) right answers to Petrie’s strange questions so that new jokes build on the ones that came before, as Pat Thornton does all evening in his annual 24 Hour Stand Up Set, until eventually you have drunken bears and pigeons permeating the entire show.

I also loved Little’s penchant for making a self-judgemental face and leaving the stage to find a different puppet to play with and then returning with it. It was great to have that sort of running gag emerge out of the show. (All the puppets were borrowed with love and carefulness from Fringe Invocation Experiment). It was also a magical moment watching Brian discover that, according to the customs of The Day of Conception in Russia, TODAY (September 3rd) was in fact Brian MacQuarrie Day.

Every show of The Panel Show is different and the cast of comedians includes people like Merv Hartlen, Paul Warford, Amanda Bulman, Kyle Hickey, Cheryl Hann and Jay Wells. You will not only laugh at the cleverness of the guests, but you will probably also be disturbed, confused and fascinated by much of the STUPID NEWS stories that Petrie has unearthed because people really do the weirdest shit and truth really is stranger than fiction.

TWISI RATING:

The Panel Show plays at DanSpace (1531 Grafton Street) at the following times:

Thursday September 6th at 8:40pm

Friday September 7th at 10:00pm

Saturday September 8th at 8:00pm

Sunday September 9th at 1:30pm

It is $10.00; to book tickets please visit this website or call (902) 999-7469 or visit the Box Office at the Seaport Farmers’ Market at Pavilion 20 on Marginal Road. Tickets are also available at the venue A HALF HOUR before the show. Happy Fringe!

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