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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: Tough!

Kirsten Rasmussen gets Tough
Fringe darling workshops a solo show
by Sarah Deshaies

A one-two punch of quirky characters duke it out in Tough, Montreal Improv and Fringe darling Kirsten Rasmussen’s new solo work at Theatre Ste. Catherine.

Two personae are toughing it out in two different arenas of life: Amanda Paine as a fledgling fighter in the boxing arena and gym, and Lucy Diamond as a singer on the stage of the Swan Song, a small-time club. They’re surrounded by other characters populating this vaudeville-ian world including the golly-gee boxing coach James Carter, the Swan Song’s hapless bartender and owner Al, and Amanda’s boxing foe, Stacy Fingers, the formidable “two-time city champion.” 

...the very funny Rasmussen has the chance here to chew the scenery and hone her comedic characters.

Rasmussen, a Saskatchewan transplant to Montreal, is workshopping her Rocky-lite play before she takes it on the road to the Adelaide Fringe Festival this March. Last seen bringing her solo show Blink Blink Blink from last year’s Fringe to the Centaur for the Wildside Festival, the very funny Rasmussen has the chance here to chew the scenery and hone her comedic characters.

Not only did Rasmussen write the words and lyrics, but she also sings in the play, and executes seamless character transitions; I felt winded just watching her. (She also composed the music with Jeff Louch, who plays Nicky Titts, the wonderfully-named accompanist to Lucy’s corrosive cabaret act.) Rasmussen’s in fine physical comedy form, having even started boxing training last November to give the boxing sequences a touch of reality. (“I got punched in the face last week,” she quipped after the show.)

But the story could use some extra time in the gym. Tough is a light Fringe tale and a parody, and by no means Million Dollar Baby, but I wish I knew a tad more about Amanda and why she is picking up the boxing gloves. While her relationship with her coach is a tried-and-true (and tired) tale of inspiration, Lucy on the other hand has some clear emotions driving her through the act: an absent and famous father, a rotten mate and a shitty gig. 

But Rasmussen is an exceedingly talented and amusing performer. One hopes she’ll get some great exposure and experience (and a tan) Down Under, but that she’ll come back to Montreal before heading off for bigger things. 

You can catch more of her this June, when she begins her nightly hosting of the 13th Hour at the Fringe in June, taking over from venerable, veteran hosts Uncalled For.

Tough play lasts one hour, and runs until Saturday at Theatre Ste. Catherine at 8 p.m. Opening acts include Sarah Quinn, DeAnne Smith and Peter Stevens. Tickets are $15. If you’re lucky, you can pick up some of her sister’s “Tough” cranberry chocolate cookies for 25 cents each - a  fundraiser for Adelaide.

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