THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
Lantern Church Sanctuary
Keystone Theatre’s The Last Man on Earth is essentially a silent film put on stage. It does take a minute or two to acclimatize to actors making so sound whatsoever (though they are accompanied by an inexhaustible soundtrack from piano-man David Atkinson), but pretty soon you’re hooked.
The story is delicious, and suitably silly: the Devil (Stephen LaFrenie) and his eager, bat-like Minion (Sarah Joy Bennett,) plot to corrupt a regular, none-too-bright mortal named Gormless Joe (Phil Rickaby). The plot sweetens when Joe encounters pretty pie-maker Penelope (Dana Fradkin) over her wares, giving rise to the ‘flirty pie-eating’ warned about in the audience rating. At this point the Devil tries to seduce Penelope, and the audience follows Joe to Hell and back again.
With only sparing use of inter-title cards (handily translated into French, I might add), the story is told with huge stylized movements, exaggerated facial expressions and a good deal of slapstick. (You will laugh. I promise.) From jigs to kung fu posturing to watching the Devil primping in front a mirror, the Last Man shows off the superb diversity of the actors’ skills, all without a word of dialogue. Particular kudos to Bennett, who as the likeable and somewhat well-meaning Minion was consistently hilarious.
All of this adds up to a solidly entertaining hour of theatre, possibly unlike any you’ve seen before. You won’t find the meaning of life here, but you will have an awful lot of fun. And might get a craving for pie.
In general, I’m not a fan of improv. However, I took to heart Festival Artistic Director Michele Gallant’s advice to see something at the Fringe you wouldn’t normally go to. So, I went to check out Naked Improv, courtesy of the Improv Guild.
Keep in mind that the title is not literal. In other words, the “naked” part references the “stripped-down” style of the improv. There are no sets, no real costumes, no rehearsals, and no scripts. (However, one skit did see a guy in bare legs wearing a tutu.)
Yes, some of the scenarios the improv troupe acted out got very goofy, very fast – my general beef with the genre.
However, the five-person troupe that I saw (I think they change it up a bit from evening to evening) was great — funny, fast thinkers committed to carrying out a story line no matter how silly it got. One thing I can definitely say about the show as a whole– it is very high energy, complete with a pounding music intro and fast switches between improv games.
Devotees of improv and neophytes alike will definitely want to catch Naked Improv at the Fringe.
With many Fringe shows incorporating adult themes, it’s refreshing to find a show that is really very innocent in its nature. I mean, the central character here is none other than Santa Claus.
Polar Shift is about what happens when Santa gets fed up with his image being used to promote commercialism and consumption at Christmas. So, he takes the big corporations to court in order to withdraw the rights to his name and image.
The actor/creator is Matt McKinney. He’s clearly a strong emerging talent, as he switches effectively between Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, corporate lawyers and a Coca - Cola polar bear.
Complementing his performance are some multi-media elements including Santa supposedly addressing the world via television from his home in the North Pole.
The one weak spot in the show is the inclusion of that bear. Audiences meet the bear in 2030 when his habitat is endangered because of global warming. He shows up at Coca–Cola corporate headquarters to demand action. That is, I think that’s what he does... I would like to see the role of the bear made a little clearer for the audience.
Finally, the show does end quite abruptly, and it’s a bit unclear what becomes of Santa’s lawsuit.
Despite these things, however, McKinney has put together a charming little show that is quite unlike anything else I have seen thus far at this year’s Fringe.