Murder on the menu and other Fringe offerings from U of M students, staff and alumni
Mariianne Mays Wiebe
A play version of Hitchcock’s creepy film Rope is one of many Fringe Festival plays mounted this year by U of M Faculty of Arts students and alumni. The discomfiting script exploits the gap between stage and audience as two young men “with a refined taste for music, literature and homicide … indulge themselves in the ultimate Nietzschean fantasy by strangling the life out of a former classmate whom they take to be an inferior being,” as the company’s play notes read. After the murder, the audience becomes an uneasy participant at a posh dinner party — complete with a feast served on the dead man’s coffin — thrown by our two charming murders in their quest to “make their work of art a masterpiece.”
U of M Rhodes Scholar Thomas Toles directs as part of the 28th Minute company, and the play features eight other current or former U of M students in the cast, including Caitlin Belton, Daniel Tompkins, Daniel Chen, Sarah Putnam, Kevin Ramberran, Joshua Banman and Darcy Fehr. Faculty member Robert Smith is also in the cast.
Says Toles, “It is daunting but rewarding to be directing such a difficult show mostly on my own! It has been extremely rewarding to work with so many people I enjoy and respect from the Black Hole Theatre company.”
Having previously co-directed a play (last year’s Orphans), Toles says that the main things he tries to keep in mind as a director are “to encourage actors to feel confident and flexible, and to try many different things while blending their skills and ideas with mind.
Though it’s “a hugely daunting task” to be in Hitchcock’s shadow, says Toles, “we want to do our version of a script that we find irresistibly moving, funny, suspenseful and disturbing. We hope to do the script justice.
“We try to find humour in the drama and unusual moments that can complicate the moral questions of the show.”
Three on a Bench is directed by U of M Black Hole Theatre alum Matthew Legacé and its cast features two other Black Holers, Vicki Rutkowski and Cynthia Heibert-Simkin, along with current student Jeff Homer. Alumna Meaghan Labossière stage-manages the production. Three on a Bench, says Legacé, is a comedy by Doris Estrada about “misunderstandings, love and human nature. Set in a park on a lovely spring day, Harry and Betty discover what can happen when one wrong comment or look can almost destroy a relationship.” The rehearsal that took place in Assiniboine Park was a highlight, Legacé says. “It was lovely day and we spent an early evening working on this wonderful show outside in the fresh air. Definitely one of my favorite moments.”
In keeping with this year’s Fringe theme, “Embrace the F Word,” Strange Day at the Fringe is a play about going to the Fringe that asks that age-old question, “Should I even go to the Fringe??” It features staff member Chris Reid, of the marketing communications office, a seasoned theatre performer who plays the lead. As the play notes explain: “Rachel wants to go. Harry doesn’t. It’s too far outside his comfort zone. Urged to relax and enjoy the experience, he remains uneasy and tense, as strange encounters with colourful characters and musical numbers blur the line between reality and imagination. After all that, will Harry ever go again?”
Television and Error by Three Beggars Company features two plays for the price of one. Both written by U of M alumnus, new playwright new playwright Logan Stefanson.Logan Stefanson, the dark comedies are directed by another former student, Daniel J. Tompkins.
Other U of M offerings include Kissing Sweet by the playwright John Guare, Tom Noonan’s The Wife, Comedy Plus Time Equals Tragedy, The Broken Ballerina, Adult Entertainment by Canadian playwright George F. Walker, Better than Bong Water, Phoney Baloney Pantalone, Dog Act, Winnipeg is Beautiful, Better Looking Boys, Offices, Fire Woman, Raising Roger and Shakey Must Die.
Rope, Three on a Bench, Television and Error, Better than Bong Water and Shakey Must Die all play at Venue #4—Alloway Hall, 190 Rupert Ave. (Manitoba Museum). Tickets are $10 ($8 for students).
Strange Day at the Fringe, Adult Entertainment, Fire Woman and Raising Roger play at Venue #3—the Playhouse Studio, 180 Market Avenue.
Phoney Baloney Pantalone and Winnipeg is Beautiful play at the Kids Venue.
Dog Act plays at Venue #1 (John Hirsh Mainstage); Better Looking Boys plays at Venue #2; Offices plays at Venue #1. The Broken Ballerina plays at Venue #9 (Shaw Performing Arts Centre MTYP, 2 Forks Market Rd.)
>>See winnipegfringe.com for showtimes.