This Late Late Breakfast Show

The Late Late Breakfast Show

I’ve mentioned the Late Late Breakfast Show before, in this blog.  There’s a show next week, and I really think you should all attend if you happen to be in Calgary.

I mostly think that because I have a couple of sketches in this one.  I’m not sure if I can tell you what they’re called, and I’m not going to damage my relationship with the show by giving away anything.

I mean, I assume you’re here because you like my writing.  Well, see how much better it is when actors read it.  You may not think that’s possible.  I understand how you’d get that impression, buy you, sir, are wrong.

Of course, maybe you’re just here to see me fail.  Well, fuck you.  If you don’t like my sketches, it’s because the actors ruined it.

Or you’re stupid, because the actors are cool and talented and know where I live.

If you’re unfamiliar, the Late Late Breakfast show is a sketch show that’s about an hour to an hour and a half long.  In their own words:

Laughter… The best medicine… You know, other than medicine…
The Late, Late Breakfast Show presents four evenings of sketch comedy filled with a pants-wetting array of sketches, songs, and dancing… Warning: The Late, Late Breakfast Show is not responsible for any injuries sustained during the show whilst chuckling, giggling, or heartily guffawing.
 
It goes up next week.  From Wednesday, August 18th, to Saturday, August 21st, there’s a show each night at 8pm.  Tickets are $14 each, and are sold at the door, cash only.  There’s an extra late show at 10 pm on Friday and Saturday, which is 2 for $15.
 
They’re playing at the Motel theatre in the Epcor Centre for the performing arts at 205 8th Street Southwest.

Happy Wackin’ Jim McCrackin

This time, I’m not even going to pretend this is a review.  This is a straight out plug for Happy Wackin’ Jim McCrackin, a show being put on by a theatre company my sister Kim is involved in called Accidental Humour.  Remember, kids, humour has two “u”s.  

Kim is, as I understand it, one of the founding members.  Based on a long phone conversation we had in January, their basic mandate seems to be to question what is currently considered Canadian theatre.  Basically, to carry the label, a play generally needs to be about what it means to be different in Canada, and how individuals suffer for it.  It’s about what it’s like to be a hyphen Canadian, like an Asian-Canadian, or a First Nations-Canadian, or a Fill in the Blank-Canadian.  Our theatre is about guilt for how the European-Canadians have treated all the other hyphens, and how we should feel guilty about it.  

Which isn’t necessarily untrue.  I love Sharon Pollock’s  plays, which are very specifically exposures of the revisionist tendencies in Canadian history to match our perceived national identity.  If you want that translated out of “Joey is a prick with a degree”, it means she shows us we aren’t who we think we are, and Canadians have really been jerks.  Sometimes that needs brought up, but if you are a European-Canadian, and not one of the oppressed ones from Eastern European or Ireland, Canadian plays are telling you about how badly your people treated the other hyphens.

As the descendants of the British and the Swiss, it can get to be a heavy load of guilt, and it’s easier to go to Shakespeare or Improv where no one expects an apology because of something our ancestors may have been involved in.  There’s nothing wrong with telling these stories, but maybe, every once in a while, we could have a Canadian play that’s main theme isn’t about what makes us different. 

Maybe it should be about things we enjoy.  We’re Canadians, and the things we like should entertain other Canadians.  It shouldn’t be about some bigger cultural mosaic issue.  Sometimes, Canadian plays can be about Canada today, not what someone’s grandpa did to your grandpa or how it was hard to look different from the other kids growing up.  I’m as white as they come, but no one wants to watch my play about how hard it was growing up as a Geek-Canadian, with pants that were too short and an interest in science fiction and fantasy.

Accidental Humours other mandate is to include multi media in their productions.  This isn’t used in a Brechtian sense, to remind the audience that what they’re seeing isn’t real.  It’s used to show parts of the story that are difficult to put on stage or to cover up the time it takes to change sets or costumes, or other … theatre things.  I saw it in their last play, For Love of a Zombie.

It’s more like watching a movie.  Normally, when the technical demands of theatre would put a pause in the action, you’re watching more story on the screen.  It shortens the run time, packs in more of a punch, and often has really interesting transitions.

And unless you were involved in zombie romance, you weren’t asked to feel guilty.  If you were involved in a zombie romance, you should feel guilty, and ewwwww.

While I haven’t seen Happy Wackin’ Jim McCrackin, I heard a lot of the early stages.  Amos wrote it in our apartment, and it was good when the workshopping started.  It’s the story of a professional hitman on his last job, and some of the problems that arise out of it.  There was a gay cat at one point, but I think that might be gone now.  Still, it was really funny when I heard the start, and had some awesome action sequences.  It’ll be even better now, as it’ll be further down the line, with more minds increasing its brilliance.  It’s theatre for the masses, and you don’t need to know words like Brechtian to enjoy it.  If you do, you’ll enjoy it too.  It’s a smart action play. 

As opposed to all those mindless action plays….

I wish I had a chance to see it when it all came together, but I’ll be in England, and I can’t say that I’m really feeling the European guilt that leads to an apology on that.  If I wasn’t travelling intercontinentally, I’d definitely be seeing this show, and if you’re going to be at the Edmonton Fringe you should definitely check it out. 

If you’re not going to the Edmonton Fringe you should reconsider, because it’s awesome.

Unless you’re in England.  Then you get a pass.

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“Happy Whackin’ Jim McCrackin,” at the Fringe!  Venue #5 – King Edward School, 8530 101 Street
Show times:
August 13 @ 12:15 pm
August 14 @ 6:30 pm
August 15 @ 9:15 pm
August 20 @ 2:15 pm
August 21 @ 11:00 pm
August 22 @ 4:00 pm

If you’re there, be sure to check out to check out An Informative Guide on How to Climb the Corporate Ladder as well.

An Informative Guide on How to Climb the Corporate Ladder

Some might say its unethical to promote work done by your friends as an impartial view. I’m certain literary critics are friends with authors and that Ebert probably eats with Spielberg and Bruckheimer. So you can go talk to them about integrity. Besides, I’m being upfront about the fact that I’m friends with Gavin Williams.  

I'll steal his promotional images to promote his play

  

That doesn’t change the fact that his An Informative Guide on How to Climb the Corporate Ladder is a great play. In 2007 it won the Calgary Regional One Act Play Festival.  And the Alberta One Act Play Festival.  That means someone more impartial than me liked it best of all the other one acts. When I saw it at Loose Moose, there was a featurette attached called “The Receptionist” Lindsay Mullan performed physical comedy for about 10 minutes, alone on the stage with a single word of clearly audible dialogue. She was fascinating, bouncing around with unbounded energy, and every time I was certain there was nothing more that could be done with a strange and lonely receptionist, I was both wrong and entertained.Once Lindsay’s piece ended, the main play took to the stage. Gavin wrote, co-directed, and played to protagonist in “An Informative Guide on How to Climb the Corporate Ladder” so I feel very comfortable calling it his. It follows how one is hired, disillusioned, and stays with a terrible job in a huge company, tempered with Gavin’s caustic wit.

 The cast was perfect. All three members slipped in and out of the various roles assigned to them with ease. You never needed to guess who they were at any give point, as their demeanour and body language suited each role so completely.

The set was simple and functional, as this is very much a one act festival piece. Everything was basic and multifunctional, so it was easy to set up and strike the set.

The eerie part of the play is how well it predicts life with a corporation. It touches on every annoying aspect of that world, every justification you make to stay, every frustration that makes it nearly intolerable, and every shred of futile hope which paralyzes you into inaction. Kodie ended up with the exact same terrible shame as I did for making every one of the mistakes hi lighted in the play. We were entertained the whole way through, and harrowed when we really thought about the content of the piece. Basically, if you watch this play, you will want to quit your job.

 Of course, afterwards, when I told Gavin that, he told me the real message was “Joey, kill yourself.” That explains why he looked directly at me several times throughout and whispered those words, but I guess I missed the real message.

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If you missed the show here in Calgary, you’re not out of luck!  Gavin’s taking it to the Edmonton Fringe Festival.  It’s the coolest theatre event in Alberta.  For more shameless plugs/shows I would definately see, check out Happy Whackin’ Jim McCrackin. You’ll here more about this play from me next week.

Late Late Breakfast Show

For the sake of honesty, I should admit this is more of an advertisement than a review.  I have something of a relationship with the Late Late Breakfast Show. 

Late Late Breakfast Show

A few years back, Lina came up to Calgary because some friends of ours from university were doing sketch comedy in The Late Late Breakfast Show.  I wanted to hang out with Lina, so I agreed to come along.  I didn’t have high expectations, but I figured I could at least support my friends. 

But there’s the key; my friends were heavily involved in the show.  These people made me laugh in conversation, so give them some practice and some props and they were killing me.  With laughter, not props. 

Lina came up for the next couple of shows, and I went with her each time.  We tried to hang out with Amos and Gavin, but when you do a show, the cast bonds.  If you go for drinks with a group of actors after a performance, prepare to be left out of conversations and inside jokes.  They’ve worked their asses off together, and they’ve bonded in ways your lazy ass can’t be expected to understand.  Lina and I were often talking in the corner when we headed out with the cast. 

As time went on, I started really becoming a fan of the show, to the point where if all my friends quit, and the show went on, I would still go see it.  Some of the sketches, like “Cheese,” “Jacked,” “Sad Hearts,” and “Pat Quinn’s Dracula” really grew on me.  As is the way of life, eventually there came a show Lina was unable to attend.  So I brought Kodie.  I kept bringing people, and the show was fine with expanding the audience. 

I had reached official hanger-on status when I went drinking with some of the performers, and it wasn’t because they were going out after the show and I was tagging along.  I was just invited.  They were brainstorming, and I kept throwing in my two cents.  I made them laugh, and advanced some of the ideas.  When I went to the next show, about a month later, a couple of my ideas and lines had survived through the writing and rehearsal process and were there in the show. 

I fucking loved it. 

A little while later, Amos became my roommate.  Living with an actor, you’re going to run lines, and if you live with a writer, you’re bound to read over their work.  It’s just a fact.  They will make you.  By default, I was more involved in the shows, just by virtue of who I lived with. 

One day, Amos told me “Oh, you’ve got comp tickets to the next show.” 

“What?  Why?” 

“Contributors get comps.  We’re doing A.I.D.-sy” 

A.I.D.-sy was a sketch that came out of a conversation Amos and I had a month earlier.  We joked around about what would happen if someone told you they had A.I.D.S. and you had trouble distinguishing it from the hiccups. 

I’m a classy guy.  A classy guy who loves free tickets! 

By the next show, I submitted scripts and collected comp tickets.  I believe in working collectively, and that the actors know their craft.  After I submit the written work, they are free to alter it.  The cast found a much better ending for “Action Boner” than I could. 

There’s a show this week, from Wednesday to Saturday (more info here).  I wrote three things for this one; “Bigfoots,” “Capes,” and “Behind the Couch.”  If you’re reading this, you’re probably been tricked into thinking I’m funny.  If you want to see what real professionals can do with my words, come and check it out.  Or, if you’re like me, and enjoy things that are funnier than the shit that asshole Joey writes, enjoy all of the show but these three bits.  I’ll be at the 8 p.m. show on Friday. 

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  Performance is at the Bird and Stone Theatre, located in the basement of the church at 204, 16th Ave NW Calgary.  Shows run from Wednesday April 28th to Saturday May 1st, at 8pm nightly, with additional 10 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday.

Contraband

Writing this review, I see one major problem already; time.  I went to see Contraband on March 24th, and this review is just going up now.  It’s one thing if it’s a concert, something you don’t have a chance to go see it whether or not I liked it.  With a play, you may have a chance to go see a later performance than the one I saw.  So, with apologies for this one, going forward I’ll do my damndest to get a review up before the show closes.

Secret Opera House 

Contraband played at the Arratta Opera House.  It’s a few blocks from my house, but I’ve never seen the building.  I walked a full circle around it trying to find the damn place.  I guess I didn’t expect an opera house to be subtle.

 Mob Hit bribes us with cake

Inside, the people from Mob Hit Productions were incredibly friendly.  It always helps people win my favour when they start by pouring me a drink.  Sure, it would have been even nicer if I didn’t have to pay for my vodka, but I don’t hold that against them.  You should probably really like me before you offer to support my habit.  They did let us take our drinks into the theatre, which is amazing.  You never get to drink at a play during the play.  There are a lot of plays that would have been a lot better with this policy.

 The lobby was hosting an art show for Sarah Slaughter.  I apologize, but I couldn’t find a link to her work.  It was a mix of painting, photography, and skateboard designs.  I don’t know a lot about visual art.  I liked what I saw, and there were some really cool pieces, but I can’t really explain them, so I won’t.  I will keep an eye out for her work in future.

We can admit only one... Whch is a Highlander joke. 

The play itself was an enjoyable way to spend an evening.  It’s a story about two brothers rising through organized crime in Calgary.  I recently had a conversation with my sister, about how Canadian art spends too much time worrying about what it means to be Canadian, instead of just being.  Plays tackle historical subjects to increase their Can-Con weight, and everything is so intent on completely defining the nation.  My sister and I agreed it would be better if Canadians just wrote about what they cared about, or found interesting.  It would make better pieces than this struggle for Canadiana.

 It turns out Contraband is a great example of what we want to see.  The plot sounds a bit like a T.V. show.  Considering how often people watch T.V. compared to plays, that’s probably a great way to reach people.  If they don’t care about the things that theatre is often about, if you can’t fill seats, why not tell the type of stories they’ve shown an interest in?

 That’s not to say this was just T.V. done live.  Through an excellent use of space, the action in Contraband is so much more intimate.  You’re close.  At home, when you watch a mob movie on their home entertainment system, there’s a plate of glass, an invincible, impenetrable barrier keeping violence on the other side.  In the theatre, where the audience is sitting in two rows of ten, spitting distance from the action, there’s something absolutely harrowing in every blow, every time someone’s thrown to the ground, each time a gun is fired.  You know it’s not real, but when you can smell the shot you just saw and heard, the impact is on a totally different scale.

 I really liked the stage craft.  Actors moved the set pieces in dim light while taking their places.  It kept the pace fast, and since not every actor whom placed a prop was in that scene, it kept you guessing. 

 The casting was superb.  Several times, the small cast was called upon to play extra roles.  Through excellent use of costume, and the consummate skill of the cast, you could tell if they were their main, named character, or some walk-on role.  They could easily slip into their major part, and you could tell who they were portraying before they spoke.

 I especially enjoyed Frank, the mob boss.  He carried himself with such strength and confidence, and own the stage in his scenes.  Unfortunately, a couple of times a line of dialogue would slip from his grasp, and the character would melt.  The actor was alone on stage, completely out of place, standing where Frank should have been.  These were moment, parts of a second, and he would find the word from the script and Frank would reappear.  The character was locked to the script, and the actor couldn’t keep him if he lost his way.  It’s too bad it took so much from an otherwise brilliant performance.

 The show was partially multi-media, and video was leveraged to enhance the show.  There was an excellent piece, with a fire, and if all the video segments had shown that level of artistry, it would have bolstered the show into excellence.  Other times, the video was used to cover difficult set or costume changes, and with more variety it would have done this better.  There were a few points were it was rather unnecessary, like they felt they needed to give the video team more to do.

I do that shit 

If there’s one thing I tend to be hard on, it’s writing.  After all, I really get it.  I know you can’t usually fault a production for it’s writing, but I understand Tim Ford was directly involved in the production, and I feel it’s fair game.

The play began with a conceit wherein we were watching a news program about the brothers.  This vanished twenty minutes in, and it was awkward and unnecessary, so I was fine with the fact it didn’t come back.  We watched each step of the brothers development into criminals.  They were pretty stock characters, which isn’t a bad thing, but it means we don’t need to be spoon fed their development.  They were unique and individual versions of their archetypes in the main story line, but their history was nothing new.  The few important details revealed in the first twenty minutes, and there weren’t many, could have been handled later, in conversation, or even flashback.  Instead, the slow start was used to prop up the weak device and I kept fearing the opening news show would come back, since it was never resolved or ended.

The second act was constantly interrupted by news reports, framing the action in the bigger world.  This was another poor choice.  The strength of the stories was their intimate nature, and the plot points delivered in these news pieces could have been worked into dialogue or shown.  Additionally, authority figures kept urging the “city” to be vigilant and report everything their neighbours did, even if it was slightly suspicious.  I was unsure if the play was condemning or promoting a witch hunt mentality.

Everything you need 

“Drugs” and “guns” kept coming up.  It seemed odd that the gangsters referred to their product as “drugs” since they also stated they were dealing explicitly in cocaine.  I would understand if they were using euphemisms for their particular product, but they were just being unnecessarily vague at some point.  There was no evidence anywhere that any other drugs were moved by the organization the characters were involved in.  “Guns” received special reverence every time they were mentioned.  They were spoken about as being glamorous and making you rich, as though they were the holy grail of the criminal underworld.  However, for all the dialogue allure, plot wise character had weapons the moments they wanted them.  In their hands, the weapons were workhorse tools.  If they’re a staple of the characters’ world, they should be treated as such.  If they are rare and life changing, they should remain that way when they show up.

When we’re introduced to the character of Nate, Dmitri tell us he’s a psycho.  I’m not sure why.  He’s a loyal, trustworthy character, who has one little instance of the old ultra violence.  That moment seems out of character.  There should have either been more instances, or some admission that Dmitri was wrong.

Despite this long list of me being a picky bitch, it was a great show.  I plan to see more Mob Hit in future, more for their original work than their other productions.  They have a unique voice, and I want to hear what else they have to say.