19 August 2015
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Stupidhead! A Mucisal Cmoedy (B+)
A rare straightforward and simply charming effort at the festival, this original one-woman autobiographical musical is refreshingly unafraid of seeming conventional and is therefore able to really be truthful and simply enjoyable. The form is unoriginal and the songs a little bit derivative but Katherine Cullen and her story are compelling; Britta Johnson’s music is catchy and stirring in that great cheesy musical theatre kind of way. Stupidhead! isn’t a remarkable piece of work but it accomplishes something that few things at the heady festival do- it entertains.
Castor & Sylvie (B)
This two-hander about philosopher Simone de Beauvoir and her protégé/adopted daughter/maybe lover Sylvie Le Bon is a mixed bag of strong concept, awkward storytelling, well-conceived but strangely executed direction and imbalanced performances, all overlaid with some seriously questionable sax playing. Simone (aka Castor) and Sylvie’s story is really fascinating, full of beautiful ambiguity and moving connection but playwright Tara Goldstein’s layered structure involves a lot of monologuing about the past rather than allowing the complex dynamic to simply play out in front of us. Director Pamela Baer thoughtfully emphasizes intimacy with excellent use of touch but she sends the characters pingponging back and forth across the TPM Backspace’s tiny stage as the narrative flips quickly between the past and the more recent past. Tina Sterling plays Sylvie with wonderful tenderness and restraint but she eclipses Mary Ellen MacLean who is awkward and forced as the legendary de Beauvoir. Ultimately the good here outweighs the bad but it could have been great.