Reviews to help you through the hit-or-miss loveliness that is the Calgary Fringe Festival
THE DUCK VARIATIONS
July 29, 2011
The Duck Variations is the only show at this year’s Fringe Festival that’s not using an original script. The play was written in 1972 by one of the masters of the American theatre – David Mamet. For that reason – as well as the fact it features two mature characters – makes it unique amongst this year’s Festival offerings. This production was actually the winning entry in this year’s Calgary Region One-Act Play Festival.
Let me begin by saying “kudos” to Mike Johnson and Stuart Bentley – and director Richard Michelle-Pentelbury - for taking on a Mamet script. In my opinion, Mamet is a difficult playwright to pull off, especially with a show like this one that has no story to speak of.
The Duck Variations is made up of the somewhat obscure and oddball chatter of two older men who are hanging out in a park watching ducks. They discuss, in a disjointed fashion, such scintillating things as the supposedly symbiotic relationship between blue herons and ducks, ducks’ mating habits, farm ducks, the virtues of pigeons versus ducks etc…etc…Sometimes they’re commiserating with each other, sometimes trying to outdo one another.
Many of their observations about ducks and nature offer a comment on human behaviour, and cause the conversation to wander into pretty heavy territory about the meaning of life and death. Some gentle humour also spices up the show, though I wish there was more it.
I find it’s a play during which you really have to pay attention to “get it,” so to speak. While Bentley and Johnson do an admirable job of carrying off the script, my one suggestion would be to pick up the pacing. My attention was at its sharpest when the lines were coming fast - and – furious; otherwise, my mind started to wander. I think shaving at least five minutes off the 55 -minute run time would make a big difference in boosting the overall energy of the show.
Otherwise, The Duck Variations is a thought-provoking, sometimes poignant, look at life at this year’s Fringe.