Reviews - Fringe 2014

Fringe Review: The Kalamazoo Diaries

By Mackenzie Kristjon Jenkyns
Published July 24, 2014

Anytime I see an authentic plastic Viking helmet designed in the Wagnerian style on the head of a naked woman as the poster advertisement for a play, I'm pretty much sold.

If you tell me that there will also be a beautiful blonde maiden (Merle Newell) wandering about with a tray offering mead and she's going to be wearing the children's version of the plastic Viking hat, I'm starting to wonder how I'm not already there.

Great news! This play has both of these components.

Esther Arbeid plays Natalie Fingerhut (the character not the playwright), who is off to Kalamazoo, Michigan, for a medieval studies conference. Of course, her character has no sense of history and repudiates the whole medieval studies scene with all of its costumes and jousting and so on. Absolutely ridiculous!

Natalie is only doing this medieval studies editor stuff because someone is on maternity leave; she's clearly above it all with her nose stuck straight in the air. Meanwhile, a friend of hers has recently died and she's trying to come to grips with this loss.

One of the funniest aspects of this play is the use of accents. Merle Newell had me with her Midwestern twang and then stunned me when she came back as another character who had a more standard Toronto accent.

Eric Lehmann is similarly hilarious with his faux-British accent. And of course, everyone makes fun of the Canadian, eh?

Overall, there is a good balance of serious and funny as we explore the philosophy of history and how history is largely a reconstruction of events through our own imaginations.

The "flashing the monk" scene is particularly hilarious. My only constructive criticism is that for Natalie's next play, she should include a few more Viking characters!

Mackenzie Kristjon is an Icelandic-Canadian singer-songwriter and all around creative force. He has published numerous books including the award-winning Culinary Saga of New Iceland. He also has roots in community radio at CFRU 93.3 FM in Guelph. To hear/see/download his music, you can visit


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