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Jane Enkin Reviews three plays at the Fringe Festival-Before Breakfast, Eleanor's Story, Adam’s Neurohilarity-on until July 24

by Jane Enkin, July 20,2022

Fringe 2022 July 13 - 24

For information about venues and showtimes, see https://www.winnipegfringe.com/

Reviews by Jane Enkin

 

Before Breakfast

 

This one woman opera is exciting to hear, poignant to contemplate. Naomi Forman gives a thrilling performance of a vividly created, complex character. Composer Thomas Pasatieri and librettist Frank Corsaro based their story on a Eugene O’Neill play; they expanded the main character and gave her a joy-filled backstory. In what is set as the opera’s present-day, in 1916, Charlotte is a depressed and enraged wife, hollering at her off-stage husband who is still lying in bed, and sneaking her first gin of the day. She is devastated by the way her marriage, which began as a romance between a grocer’s daughter and a well-born, Harvard-educated man, has turned out. But throughout, Charlotte revels in sweet memories of her childhood and thoughts of the high point of her life, the days she danced in a marathon. 

 

A delicate, silent dancer, performer Anne Forman, echoes these memories and extends the joy they bring to Charlotte. The introduction of a living dancer on stage, rather than the doll that appears in the original libretto, was Naomi Forman’s own innovation, adding immensely to the beauty and fascination of the production. At times, the dancer appears to be Charlotte herself in her younger, happier days; at other times she might be an imagined daughter Charlotte never had. When she is not dancing, the dancer is on stage listening with sympathy to Charlotte’s expressions of anger and pain. 

 

Naomi Forman’s beautiful voice brings power to the intense build of the music; equally impressive is her command of the quietest moments.

 

Singer and dancer – in real life, mother and daughter – play beautifully together under the direction of Mariam Bernstein. They are accompanied by onstage pianist Danielle Guina, handling the dramatic score with flair. 

 

Highly recommended


 

Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany

 

Ingrid Garner performs her grandmother’s story, told in her best-selling memoir. Eleanor was American, born to German parents, living an idyllic life in small-town New Jersey. But when she was 9 years old, her father enthusiastically accepted a good job in Germany. The year was 1939.

 

Before their trans-Atlantic ship reached Europe, Germany invaded Poland and the war began. The family wanted to return to the US, but they were trapped, so they began their new lives in an apartment in Berlin. As a little girl, Eleanor wanted to be like all her friends, so she joined the Hitler Youth. When America entered the war, she was torn and confused, and soon afterward the family was focused only on survival. 

 

The play, with many disturbing scenes, is a good reminder that civilians pay the highest cost in conflict. Eleanor’s experiences were not the same as those of the Jews of Europe, but she lived in grave danger and constant fear.

 

The production makes good use of sound, lights and simple props. The tension builds from the opening moments.

 

Garner is moving and effective throughout. She shows the many transformations that affected Eleanor’s life as the war continued. Garner quickly transitions to play other roles in the story – most interestingly, her mother, a vivid character. 

 

Disturbing and moving, this play is highly recommended.

 

Warnings: loud noises, gunshot, descriptions of disturbing wartime events, reference to suicide/sexual assault



 

From the sublime to…

 

Adam’s Neurohilarity

 

Adam Schwartz has assembled a rotating line-up of comedians from various marginalized communities who share funny stories from their lives.The show features comics of all levels, from seasoned veterans to brand-new comics. Lots of “language”, TMI about the comics’ sex lives.

 

The supportive, enthusiastic audience on Sunday had a great time as they listened sympathetically and laughed hard.

 

Each stand up routine was brief and included lots of good lines. All of them included some narrative, and ER doctor Melissa Yuan-Innes told one long, very funny story.

 

Highlights (some of the clean ones):

 

Non-binary comic Lyric Avra:

“My first theme is Death. My grandparents died recently - bless their Jesus-loving hearts - they no longer have to spend Christmas with their Jewish grandchildren -  now no one is left on earth who hasn’t learned to refer to me as ‘they’”.

 

A young comic in his routine about what it would be like to be a mosquito:

“You’re handed a sword, someone points to a T-Rex and says ‘There’s your food.’”

 

And in the experience of a comic “of colour”, this familiar refrain:

“Where are you from?”

“Downtown Winnipeg.”

“No, where are you from from…”

 

Lots of variety, lots of fun

 

Warnings: coarse language, sexual content

 

 
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