Review by Barb Popel
60 minutes in program but 40 minutes in performance / Musical / PG
To get into a Fringe festival, no jury evaluates the quality of the submitted play. A theatre company applies, and if their name is drawn, they get a venue. They can also participate at a BYOV (bring your own venue). So you never know what you’ll get when you go to a Fringe play. Some of them are remarkably fine. Famously, Tom Stoppard’s Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe a few decades ago. The best plays I saw in both 2010 and 2011 were at the Winnipeg Fringe (and I see close to a hundred plays a year). Some Fringe plays are good enough that they evolve into plays performed at “regular” theatres. Many Fringe plays are too weird and “fringey” for this, but nevertheless are great entertainment for the audience. Many others are well-acted but suffer from a poor script. And then there are those Fringe plays at the other end of the spectrum…
I’m afraid that Hightide Theatre’s Crux is one of those plays.
Written and directed by Kathleen Frost (it’s her first attempt at writing a play), it seems confused about its identity. Is it a musical? Well, there are some musical numbers but they mostly seem divorced from the play’s story. The story is about a young woman, Grace, who wants to find meaning in her life by joining a secret cult. The cult exists, it appears, in an alternate universe where people speak nonsensically and which is entered via a portal in the pedestrian underpass at Rideau and Sussex.
Nonsensical dialogue can work – look at Jabberwocky. Alternative universes can work – there are numerous examples in sci fi/speculative fiction. Even the somewhat tired trope of a young person joining a secret society can work.
But Crux doesn’t work.
The actress playing Grace, Mahalia Golnosh Tahririha, is a personable young woman of some talent. Jeremy Piamonte, who plays the brother she may – or may not – have, is believable, and their short scene together is rather charming. But the other 8 members of the cast are pretty wooden on stage, and embarassingly inept during the group songs. If you have musical numbers, the performers should be able to sing in ensemble and to move convincingly as a group. It’s also pretty important that the audience be able to understand what you’re saying or singing.
There’s also an extremely peculiar scene which looks as if it was dropped in from another play and which involves most of the cast in rags behind what are supposed to be prison bars. And another strange scene with most of the players in hockey uniforms thumping about with hockey sticks.
The play comes to an abrupt end with Grace declaring that she has learned how to be herself and doesn’t need to join this group.
Note that, although the program says Crux is a 60-minute play, the night I saw it it clocked in at 40 minutes.
Crux by Kathleen Frost, is playing at Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Avenue, 2nd floor) on Thursday June 14 at 6:30 pm; Friday June 15 at 5:00 pm; Saturday June 16 at 11:00 pm; Sunday June 17 at 6:30 pm; Wednesday June 20 at 9:30 pm; Friday June 22 at 5:00 pm.