Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lawrence & Holloman

Lawrence & Holloman
by Morris Panych
Calgary Fringe Festival

Most American's don't know the work of Morris Panych, he who rules The Arts Club in Vancouver, and in general with good reason. As a student I was irritated by Panych, who sometimes has the feel of a song and dance man (and not in good way). Panych has gone on to produce consistently entertaining and smart plays, a kind of cross between Beckett and Sally Clark (another Canadian playwright who should be more well known), though definitely Beckett/Clark light.

If you've never seen the play, this Fringe production, directed by Wayne Hvingelby and featuring local actors Telly James as Lawrence and Aaron Ranger as Holloman, does a passable job at bringing the characters to life. With very little budget, Fringe shows tend to have a "my dad has a barn, let's do a show" feel to them, and this one is no different. In typical Panych fashion, there is little required with the set--just a few props to keep the minimal settings. The acting, well, it was spotty. Both actors had their high points, but either the actors didn't have enough time to learn their lines, or they didn't have enough stamina for the 90 minute running time, because they were slow to warm up, had great moments in the middle, and then petered out in the end. It was a good reminder that being an artist is also about stamina, and being in shape for the duration--whatever that duration may be.

For those who don't know the play, all I will say is it's an investigation into fate, faith and arrogance. It's tight, funny, and appropriately disturbing. What were the good moments? Well, James does a good job of keeping his energy up as the ever-optimistic Lawrence, the more physically demanding role. Ranger is less successful in achieving a believable shift in his character, but he gets a few good laughs with his deadpan delivery. As with any two-hander, the banter is what keeps the play moving, and so much depends on the interaction between the two. Here the actors haven't yet arrived on the same stage--but perhaps by the weekend they will have.

Note to Calgary Fringe producers: where is Fringe Central? What good is a theatre festival without a central gathering spot to post reviews, meet friends, and grab a drink? This is a big oversight. Hope that next year the festival takes shape.

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