Reviews - Fringe 2019

Bushtits, Shihtzus & Private Dicks: All's Fur in Love & Noir

By Brian Morton
Published July 25, 2019


This touring production coming all the way from Calgary, Alberta is tight, compact, thoughtfully realized and delivered with utter conviction by its two-person cast.

"Bushtits, Shihtzus & Private Dicks", riffs off of the "film noir" conventions of certain films from the 1940s, which, using the cinematic styles of German Expressionism, told sordid detective stories populated with femme fatales and hard boiled detectives. Certain conventions, like morally ambiguous anti-heroes and the never-ending divides between light and darkness, make this a fascinating genre to recreate in a stage play.

The cast of the play features Trevor Matheson as "Les", a dollar store clerk with a passion for old movies, and the ever mercurial Melissa Dorsey, who plays forty characters onstage in this production.

The pace of this play is quick, lightning quick, and it moves so quickly that if you blink you might miss something. The sheer ballet of objects, hats, props, costume changes, with doors opening and closing, makes you dizzy while watching it.

The plot explores a series of unexplained disappearances of pets in a small high-rise apartment building. Our meek and mild mannered dollar store clerk becomes a cool hard boiled detective with a fascinating interior monologue whenever he puts on a prop fedora hat. The endless back and forth, with changes in lighting and sound, demonstrates that someone up in the booth was hitting all the cues, perfectly, every time.

This play earned a well-deserved standing ovation at the end, but as always, with productions that come to the Fringe from outside of the GTA, they live and die by word of mouth in getting an audience out to see their play.

So, check out this production, Hamilton! I think that you will find that it is well worth the effort.

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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