Reviews - Fringe 2019

Bad Ideas

By Brian Morton
Published July 24, 2019


Actor Bill Cho, wearing black clothing, directly addresses the audience at the top of the play, "Bad Ideas" and sets up the production's central conceit. That the play, which is presented by local theatre company Notapom, is in fact an anthology of nine short plays, each with its own chapter and subtitle.

This gives the play the exact same distinct vibe of television programs like, "The Twilight Zone" or the more recent "Black Mirror". Clearly, we are on a journey into the unexpected, where anything that we can imagine is possible. In this case, the stories we see presented all spring from the fertile imagination of playwright Dylan Duarte.

The first story is a western that changes many of the iconic elements of the genre into a feminist parable. The production recycles the same four actors, three men and a woman, through all of the stories present. In this first Western, the cast are required to wear many hats - mostly black ones, as villains and outlaws are at the centre of the tale. This is indicated by the impressive amount of profanity, delivered with skill and style.

Another story, "Icons," features a meeting between tech entrepreneurs Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who argue about whose ideas will control the technology of the computer age. "Head" shows an undercover cop in the middle of a bank heist with a Mexican standoff that ends unexpectedly, while "Your Morning News at Night", riffs on the tropes of local TV news, with monologues delivered straight into the camera while a harassed, on-air host attempts to give stories context.

Still another tale takes us to Roman centurions guarding the tomb of Jesus Christ on the day of the resurrection.

The ensemble of Maddie Krusto, Mykola Paskaruk, Bil Cho and Kyle Billie play an impressive number of characters in this production, which veers back and forth from comedic sketches into short dramas with a powerful punch. The motif of messiahs and leaders - who gets to lead whom? - is explored in a few of the tales.

The final story was a powerful narrative about a conflicted yet dutiful son dealing with an elderly father who is in decline with dementia, but I am not sure of its placement as the final story in the sequence. I felt that it left the play ending on a more serious and somber note. Perhaps, one of the shorter and more upbeat stories might have been a better one to end on?

Still, this is an impressively well produced play, given the usual restrictions of doing a show in the Fringe. Dylan Duarte has seized the opportunity the Fringe offers to create a play that is original, funny, and provokes thought. Long live original plays in the Hamilton Fringe!

Brian Morton is a director and playwright, and was the recipient of the 2013 Hamilton Arts Award for Theatre. In 1988, after two years training in Montreal at the National Theatre School of Canada, Morton was the founder and first artistic director of Theatre Terra Nova, which operated out of a 100 seat theatre on Dundurn Street. Three years after that, he was a partner with Guy Sprung in the Evelyn Group, which reopened the historic 750 seat Tivoli Theatre, as a venue for live performance with a production of Douglas Rodger’s play “How Could You, Mrs Dick?”, which dramatized the story of Hamilton’s notorious Evelyn Dick. With Theatre Erebus, he produced the UK premieres of four Canadian plays for the 1990 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. His stage adaptation of Sylvia Fraser’s “My Father’s House”, has had five productions, since it debuted in in 1992, at the Dundas Centre for the Arts. Morton’s “New Talent” was the highest grossing show in the 2008 Hamilton Fringe Festival, and in 2010, it toured to the London and Toronto Fringe Festivals. Brian’s original musical, “Under the Apple Tree”, about a shooting that happened backstage, at the Lyric theatre on Mary street in November 1921, debuted in the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival, and was presented at the 300-seat Zoetic Theatre; it got a second run at the Pearl Company, this past November. Brian was also the producer of the 2012 Hamilton Fringe Festival. He is currently a drama critic, and arts journalist for "VIEW Magazine", and has also published articles in the “Hamilton Spectator” and the “McMaster Silhouette”.

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