OTHER FREDS
by Kendra Fanconi
Granville Island Arts Club and the False Creek shoreline
July 11-23
$20-$24
604-280-3311 or
www.ticketmaster.ca

Kendra Fanconi is nothing if not ambitious. The woman has written and staged plays in the treetops of Stanley Park and the swimming pools of the Jewish Community Centre. Now she’s created a carnival of parallel universes and alternate realities alongside and literally in False Creek, with well over 100 actors, musicians, acrobats, cyclists, kayakers, dancers, pie throwers and party boaters.

In Other Freds quantum physics meets Leaky Heaven Circus, and when it works it’s absolutely exhilarating.

The audience gathers inside the Arts Club where we meet lonely Fred (James Long), dressed in the nerdiest outfit imaginable. “Fred has become a black hole of possibility—nothing ever happens to him.” But quantum mechanics, we’re told, posits an infinite number of alternate Freds in parallel worlds.

We meet six more of them, all dressed identically, all adept at physical comedy, when we go outside and sit along the docks behind Granville Island Market. Each is accompanied by a musician—a banjo player (composer and musical director Mark Sylvester) for Fred 1, a clarinetist for another, an accordion player, a percussionist, etc. What follows is a symphony, a ballet, and a clown show of epic proportions.

For a while the Freds operate in chorus. Then each goes his own way. Fred 1 remains the sad-sack loser whose every attempt to connect with the many women who pass through the scene meets with slapstick failure. The other Freds have different misadventures. Colin Heath as Fred 7 does his usual amazing acrobatic things. Fred 5 (Shawn MacDonald), fleeing an angry man, escapes in a kayak only to find himself in a water fight with a flotilla of kayakers. Through binoculars we watch a bicycle ballet across the way on the Yaletown shore.

As a cop chases some kids, another Fred emerges from underwater followed by his musician floating in a tube. Fred and the cop begin to duel but suddenly a wig slides down from the Granville Bridge on a guy wire. The cop puts it on, transforms into something like Michael Jackson from the 1980s, and everyone does what looks like choreography from Thriller. The cop/Michael then dives into the water and is pulled away by a powerboat as a 40 foot party cruiser drifts by with still another Fred leading about 20 people in a dance on the upper deck.

It doesn’t all work, especially a long, uninspired stretch of conventional circus material in the middle of the play. But when everything is cooking, it’s magic. Kudos to all the Freds, including Tom Jones, Andy Thompson, Eric Rhys Miller and Shaun Phillips; to Miller for his choreography; to Mark Sylvester and his adventurous musicians; to all the dozens of actors, extras and crew; and especially to Fanconi for her direction and inspiration.

The fifteen minute finale, after the Freds decide to end it all, is a crescendo of comic brilliance that includes a water ballet, an extended slo-mo pie routine, and a huge musical celebration that has all the stars in all the universes aligned in a dance of glorious harmony.

Jerry Wasserman

 
 
                       
 
 
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