Fluff – but fun fluff! St. Leonard Chronicles at Centaur Theatre

Sold out houses – night after night – says something about this fun to watch, and slightly heart warming play about an evening with an Italian extended family in St. Leonard. And it’s been extended to December. You have time to get tickets and join the crowd singing it’s praises!

There’s the young couple, their parents, and the mother of the mother of the husband – aka: Grannie. They are sitting around a dinning room table – behind them is a view into the kitchen that they can not see – being family. The direction alone deserves kudos. Roy Surette has managed to imagineer a small room with walls that yet is open to the theatre seating. You get completely the fact that this is not a huge home – in fact it’s a duplex/triplex – the young couple have renters that they manage below and above. By setting the kitchen above and behind the table, it is very easy to keep your eye on the action there – and yet build up unseen walls separating that action from what is happening in front.

The story unfolds as a string of conversations – starting with the Grannie who regales – for the hundredth time – her family with the story of what happened when she arrived in Canada.

Keeping with the Italian tradition – of course she and her young husband stayed with cousins they had never meet – living in a walk up served with an outdoor curving staircase. And of course the husband slips with the trunk half way up the stairs. Equally predictable are the reactions of the non-italian neighbors – Go home Wop! Maudit Italians!

Listening to the banter, laughter, and tall tales being told – you get a good idea of what life for this kind of extended family must be like.

There is a story of sorts – the kids are trying to make their lives better, the parents see any changes as change for the worse, and the old lady drinks wine and nods off from time to time.

I won’t ruin the play by revealing more of the story – but bottom line – the acting is terrific, the play itself a wonderful effort, and naturally the production values at Centaur is fabulous.

Join the troops – see the play. Everyone deserves an easy night out!

Fringe at it’s Best – Alex Cross and his Rise to Fame

Going to Fringe is always a bit of a risk – particularly because the shows at the Montreal Fringe are not picked by a jury – they are pulled out of hats. So many out of the hat for Canadian productions, so many from the hat for English Productions, so many from the hat for French Productions, so many from the hat for Foreign Productions – you get the idea.

So how does a Fringe goer with limited time pick and choose from over 90 productions? There are tons of different methods. Some people go to a specific production because they know someone in the piece. Some people go because they read a review. Some people go because they heard good things from other Fringe goers. But I go because I like the location – and it fits my time slots!

Not perhaps the most scientific of methods, and I will admit to occasionally going based on Fringe goer reviewers, but I’ve rarely been disappointed. The Intrepid Traveler thinks that perhaps I’m too easy to please – but I think I just pick well!

In any case – I do like Mainline – it’s got lots of room for the performers – less room for the audience, and lousy toilets. But the sound quality is good, and the chairs are quite comfy. So – after being tossed out of 2 for Tea (so they were sold out – surely 3 ladies could have squeezed in) – I said – hey – Alex Cross – it’s at my favorite Theatre. So we hiked over, bought tickets and settled in.

The story of Alex Cross summarized in the play-bill – “A talentless loser’s drive for fame leads him to making a deal with the devil for his soul. Join Alex’s journey during his rise to fame until he learns the truth from a conspiracy theorist who attempts to expose the hidden satanic agenda behind the music industry.”

What they don’t tell you is how well the story is going to be told. There are 11 performers on stage – in addition to Alex, the Devil, and Gavin, the Conspiracy Theorist, there’s dancers that perform when Alex is on stage as back-up, there are women who act as the Devil’s handmaidens – dressed in extremely revealing fashion of course, there’s the ultimate bad guy Baphomet – and there’s a narrator. So lots to watch and see and enjoy.

The acting was good by Fringe standards – and ranged to excellent in the surprising cases of the Devil (straight-faced business man with an evil streak) and the Conspiracy Theorist. He’s so good that when he does his excellent speel to Alex on how the Devil is taking over the music industry – the audience applauded. So he bows – and then comments shamefaced to Alex – I often pretend that there is applause right there.

Too funny, too well done, and great Entertainment.

And they end the story in 3 different ways! I have no idea what endings 2 and 3 are – because we saw ending 1.