BURNT AT THE STEAK
I cannot say enough good things about Carolann Valentino’s one-woman comedy, Burnt at the Steak. Sure, this show isn’t a piece of deep, probing theatre, but it is a ton of fun.
Valentino recounts her days as manager of a multi-million-dollar steakhouse in New York City in a very entertaining fashion. (She moves to New York from Texas to pursue her ambition of being a performer, but the security of the steakhouse paycheque distracts her – temporarily – from following her dream.)
She assumes a number of humourous characters throughout the show, all whom she met – or worked with – at the steakhouse. There’s the bimbo hostess, the amorous, drunk patron, the European woman who is dining sans “knickers,” and the Jersey Shore ladies who work their gum to catch rich husbands.
Yes, the show does play on stereotypes and, yes, one could call the humour somewhat predictable. I say, “Who cares?!” The show is darn funny.
There are several songs sprinkled throughout Burnt at the Steak, some of which are re-workings of popular musical numbers with lyrics to suit Valentino’s narrative. (A particular highlight is the “Do-Re-Mi” song from The Sound of Music re-worded as a staff training song about steak.)
Valentino has a powerful stage presence and a powerhouse voice. She thoroughly commits to the 18 different characters she portrays, and not once does she let her energy flag throughout the entire 75-minute show.
If you are looking for a good night out at the Fringe, you can’t go wrong with Burnt at the Steak. Yee-haw!
DaDe Art & Design Lab
The creator of Preparation Hex, New York’s Bob Brader, was at the Calgary Fringe last year with Spitting in the Face of the Devil, a powerful show about living with an abusive father. Unfortunately, I can’t apply the same adjective to Brader’s show this year.
Preparation Hex deals with the comparatively pedestrian matters of having a hemorrhoid and finding the love of one’s life. Not, of course, that these are insignificant to the person to whom they are happening but, at the end of Brader’s one-hour show, I was left wondering why he thought he needed to share this publicly. In other words, there wasn’t anything that unique or unusual in the tale he told. While theatre is said to be a mirror of society, I believe that still means the story on stage shouldn’t be boring navel-gazing.
That being said, however, kudos to Brader for being brave enough to share such intimate and personal details about his life.
He sat on stage and delivered his monologue at rapid-fire pace. Even without gripping subject matter, Brader’s writing was strong enough to hold my attention for 60 minutes. He interwove the hemorrhoid tale and the love story in such a way that he left little cliffhangers behind as he switched from one story to the other.
There were some funny moments in the play, particularly surrounding the hemorrhoid. And, despite my questioning the worthiness of the play’s subject matter, that’s not to say there weren’t some interesting moments when I was wondering what would happen next.