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Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: Miner Inconvenience (Fringe)

by Rebecca Ugolini

Loosely based on the events of 2010 Chilean mining crisis, Miner Inconvenience explores the tensions and friendship that develop between Mario (Brian DeGrace), an experienced and serious miner, and Santos (Santiago Espinosa), his young, goofy apprentice, when both men are trapped underground for weeks on end. 
Although it seems that Miner Inconvenience tries to convey the sadness and occasional hilarity of Mario and Santos’ predicament, it vacillates too quickly between comedic and dramatic moments to reap the full benefits of either. It’s clear that writer Jonathan Fournier tried to create a script which would, in keeping with the play’s metaphorical setting, delve deep into the human condition to unearth its insecurities as well as its joys. Unfortunately, he often counters his own efforts by deflating drama too quickly with a joke.
A few moments in particular were real mood-ruiners: when a rescue crew member shouts down the tunnel to Mario and Santos, the voice actor of the pre-recorded clip affects an exaggerated, Cheech-and-Chong style accent. Neither DeGrace or Espinosa affect accents throughout the play, and it somehow comes off as a cheap joke. The play’s title is mentioned by characters in speech three times throughout the play. Although the first is a little nudge-nudge to the audience, and is generally forgivable, if not in good taste, the novelty soon wears thin the second and third times, and destroys the audience’s suspension of disbelief. 
Miner Inconvenience does feature some interesting staging: while most of the play takes place in near-total darkness to simulate conditions underground, DeGrace and Espinosa make use of headlamps and flashlights to illuminate—or to obscure—their faces and surroundings. A little more finesse in handling this eye-catching technique could have created some very dramatic and stunning moments. 
All this is not to say that Miner Inconvenience doesn’t have its good moments. DeGrace does a nice job of portraying Mario’s slow breakdown as the normally cool-headed workman comes to terms with his perception that the years have passed him by. Espinosa is entertaining and sympathetic as Santos, although he often speaks too quickly or gobbles his words. Fournier does pace the play well, as Mario and Santos are left to wait for a few more weeks after they have been discovered by the rescue workers, allowing the audience to experience the full extent of their claustrophobic, seemingly never-ending torment. 
In the end, the Fringe festival is composed of dozens of shows of the calibre of Miner Inconvenience—and truth be told, that’s kind of the point of the come-one-come-all Fringe approach. If you’re prepared to suffer a few failings for a few triumphs, and if the subject matter and staging intrigue you, give Miner Inconvenience a shot.



  1. Thanks for the review. Despite the 2/5 rating, you mentioned a lot of positive things, which is much appreciated.

    Dark comedy, to me, is all about undermining dramatic situations with laughs. Much of the dramatic situations that are coutered with jokes are intentional. And from the other responses I've heard, most audience members enjoyed this.

    Jonathan Fournier

  2. PS: I concede on the point that I "namedrop" the title too much. I've removed one of those.


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