Montreal Fringe: Dystopia, misogyny, and carrés rouges

0 Posted by - June 15, 2015 - Performance, Reviews

2056: A Dystopian Black Comedy takes place in a near-future Canada, controlled by an authoritarian regime known as the Helpers who have, in the wake of an atheist Reckoning, abolished all religion and languages other than English. Like other dystopias, it is based on controlled fear.

Written by Keir Cutler and directed by Jon Lachlan Stewart, the play portrays a society in which radical atheism has subjugated all other ideologies, even capitalism, to a strict humanism dictated by pure science in order to achieve a sense of relative peace in this Brave New World. In this society, even the possibility of self-determination has been eradicated; existing even without the promise of love, abundance, or continuity suffices. Juxtaposing post-9/11 paranoia and the religious war which followed against the linguistic and cultural tensions of the Canadian experience, the action takes place within an easily conceivable future.

This immediacy is heightened by realism in both the acting and casting choices. The need for a culture divergent from the Helpers’ constructed monoculture is well conveyed with sudden bursts of energy from the cast, particularly Sébastien Rajotte’s Knut. Humberly Gonzalez’s performance as Madalyn is a nuanced exploration of a young woman trying to find her place in this world, while Stuart Fink conveys the quiet delusion of fanaticism, even if such blind faith is contingent on disbelief itself. (FGB)

2056: A Dystopian Black Comedy runs until June 21 at the Studio Multimédia du Conservatoire, 4750 Henri-Julien.

Above the Law‘s Jon Malanos must have decided at the last minute to forgo performing the show he advertised, about a Montreal Anglo becoming a sovereignist after moving to Toronto. Instead, he opted for an uninspired Dane Cook-light standup set which was for the most part (and thankfully) lost on a matinee audience.

For Malanos, men should become feminists because “you don’t negotiate with terrorists”, his girlfriend is “bamboozled” by his sexual antics, a onesie is like “being in a tampon commercial”, the benefits of living on your own include “paying $1,000 to watch porn 13.5 volume points louder than at your parents’ house”, getting over emotional distress is easy “because [he’s] a man”, and the benefits of long-distance relationships include “flirting with gay men to fill an emotional void” and “becoming the master of dick pics” regardless of how much of a “pussy” his emotive texts would make him appear to those who may read texts he sent to his long-distance girlfriend. If you’re into heteronormative “confessional” bro humour, this might be the show for you. Otherwise, you’ll be annoyed more than tickled. (FGB)

Above the Law runs until June 20 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 St-Laurent. Regretfully, the venue is not wheelchair-accessible.

 

Listed under the title Monde émondé, Coup d’états is an outpouring of frustration over the silencing and eventual taming of Quebec’s student movement following the spring 2012 protests (and, one would imagine, the premature end of the spring 2015 movement). Written and performed by a group of CEGEP du Vieux-Montréal students, their anger at being simultaneously denied a voice by mainstream media and torn apart by those same outlets is palpable, and rightfully so.

Set at a radical open mic night, this original work is an interesting mix of protest poetics and self-criticism. The first scenes in particular play up both the inherent musicality of mass chanting of slogans and banging of casseroles, as well as the cacophony of voices and ideas inevitably drowning each other out that tends to come with umbrella movements.

While these internal debates and contradictions are interesting enough to explore on their own, the attempt at adding additional dramatic tension through the characters’ romantic relationships, broader philosophical debates, and reliving of past traumas ultimately detracts from what could be a very strong analysis of how a movement eats itself. The musical interludes from a jazz trio, too, are a massive distraction as well as a bit of a cliché, despite the excellence of the musicians. (KK)

Monde émondé/Coup d’états is performed in French, and runs until June 21 at the Black Theatre Workshop, 3680 Jeanne-Mance. NB the venue is only accessible by one small, slow elevator – plan an extra few minutes to get there.

 

Felipe Gomez Bonilla is an experimental filmmaker, philosopher and critic from Los Angeles by way of Bogota.  He is currently working on a hybrid film/play which details his experiences moving across the American continent over the past 20 years, and is excited to become reacquainted with the Montreal theatre community as a critic for the Fringe Festival. He can be found @kinosophist across social media.

Kristi Kouchakji is, among other things, a contributing editor at Art Threat, and can be tweeted at @badyogi (misogynists and MRAs need not apply).

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