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Thursday, June 9, 2011
Review: The Only Bar (Fringe 2011)
I am predisposed to liking the work of this company. I've seen plays of theirs and they've been joyously messy, yes, but also indicative of a group of artists who are willing to take huge risks. Nothing, however, prepared me for the polish of their latest work. For one thing, Alain Mercieca's text is more assured and less gimmicky, the actors are solid across the board (under director Robin Henderson) and Mercieca's and JP Mortier's music is delightfully brave (reminding me - if you'll allow me to stretch a little - of Alban Berg and the way his operas allow percussive and sustained-voweled words to float away from and back to the music). But the evening is far less challenging than one with Berg. If it can be said that this company can be sweet, then it is sweet, and charming and touching.
Indeed, there were opening night jitters, but how could there not be with the actors inches from the audience and confined, with their story of bar-flies, in an actual long, narrow bar. But the jitters faded and Karl P. Werleman, as the owner, Stephanie McKenna, as a woman who loves the wrong man, Maxime St-Pierre-Paradis as the poet/narrator, had a startling complicity. However, it is Aaron Turner, as a truly awful rock singer, who nearly ran off with the show (his moment is worth the price of admission), and Lise Vigneault (playing a man), who made this truly wondrous. Vigneault's last moment—blisteringly honest and heart-breaking—took the rating I had thought I had decided upon, and punched it up a notch.