Cootie Catcher, written and performed by Lucas Brooks, focuses on Brooks’ close encounters of the transmissible kind. Using a cootie catcher, better known to some as a fortune teller, Brooks regales the audience with tales of all the times he thought he had been exposed to one STD or another, while simultaneously exploring his sexual history.
The cootie catcher gimmick is cute, and means that the show is obviously different with each performance. Normally this would be impressive, but given that the stories in question are well-edited anecdotes from Brooks’ personal past, the effect is somewhat diminished.
So, too, is the effect of the stories themselves when Brooks’ mostly charming self-deprecation turns into one-liners like “I don’t even remember what I thought I had but I need a herpes story.” This is frustrating, given that Brooks is a good storyteller, and that the stories themselves are funny as they are but also all contain the germ of a stronger show focusing more on the challenges of receiving appropriate, non-judgemental health care as both a sex-positive person and a gay man.
It’s possible that with the right combination of stories told in the right order, Cootie Catcher would be that much stronger show, but the cootie catcher gimmick itself can’t offer any kind of guarantee, which is ultimately to the show’s detriment.
The stories of three women displaced by historical events, Displaced, from Saskatoon’s Ground Cover Theatre, has the potential to be a truly compelling piece of theatre.
A brilliant concept, innovative staging, and strong acting from two of the three performers are held back by a much weaker third performer, far too much business with costume changes, and a nearly nonstop, Spielberg-esque score.
The writing itself is mostly strong in the sense that the women’s backstories as well as the first third of the show are compelling. However, many of the secondary characters are little more than stereotypes, and the dramatic twist in the story of one of the women plays so heavily to negative stereotypes about Irish people that the intended effect is entirely lost.
With that said, it’s clear that this is a workshop production, and with some time to go before their next run of performances, hopefully some things will be tweaked so that this show reaches its full – and impressive – potential.
Displaced will be performed from July 30-August 8 at the Saskatoon Fringe Festival.
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a deeply frustrating show which tries, and ultimately fails, to counter the manic pixie dream girl trope in which a male protagonist’s dreary life is turned around by the sudden appearance of a magical, mystical girl (never a woman) who, through an endless series of quirks, makes him see the magic specialness in himself, upon which she vanishes from his life forever.
The protagonist here is a struggling writer named Nathan, a “sad white boy” who (of course) uses a typewriter and likens himself to Arthur Miller. Nathan is literally saved and subsequently inspired by a manifestation of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl that he names Sydney, who, upon arriving in his life, serves as a kind of Fairy Godeditor, encouraging him to continue writing despite the terrible reviews garnered by his last play.
While on the surface, the show pretends to tear down the MPDG trope by having the play Nathan writes within the play make a point of running counter to every aspect of it, at the end of the day, that the same play-within-the-play is what redeems him ultimately upholds the MPDG trope. The intention here is noble, but the execution is not well thought-out.