Donna Kay Yarborough’s Fringe Festival show Diagnose This! Tales of a Medical Actor provides some big laughs about topics that would otherwise make for rather awkward discussion in mixed company. She’s on at the Wood Hall in the Victoria Conservatory of Music through Sept. 1. Don Descoteau/Monday Magazine

Fringe Reviews Pt. 4: From fears realized to a medical mission

Monday offers the latest show reviews from the Victoria Fringe Festival, on through Sept. 1

This Man is an Island – Dread Pirate Productions

All ages, at The Roxy Theatre through Sept. 1

This Man is an Island is less one-man show, more stand-up comedy routine, with the barest narrative conceit to justify having a palm tree on stage. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that when it comes to audience enjoyment, mileage will vary depending on personal tastes.

Writer/creator Evan Roberts has a subdued style, with wordplay jokes often so subtle they whiz by unappreciated. His laugh lines are more chuckles than outright guffaws. In truth, his approach might be better suited to a column or a book, despite the inclusion of songs. His witty use of diction would shine on the page; on stage it is a bit tough to parse.

**1/2 (out of five)

– Tim Ford

Tuesdays with Morrie – Theatre Alive Productions

Ages 12 and up, at the Downtown Activity Centre through Sept. 1

Mitch Albom is one of my favourite authors, so I had to see this play, adapted from the novel of the same name. And it did not disappoint. The two actors held the audience spellbound for an hour, making us think about what is important, how we live our lives and how to die with grace, if not with dignity. The talented actors might have been well served by the use of personal microphones in this particular venue. But they were wonderful to watch and listen to. Minimal props allowed us to concentrate on the words, facial expressions and body language of the actors.

****1/2 (out of 5)

– Sheila Martindale

Carlyn Rhamey in Scaredy Cat

Scaredy Cat – Squirrel Suit Productions

Adult themes, comedic storytelling at Wood Hall through Sept. 1

Maybe the techie on this show deserves equal praise, for the quick changes of light and sound. But the creator and performer, Carlyn Rhamey, does a great job of sharing her childhood and adult fears with her audience. The comedy keeps us from being totally terrified, even helps us to laugh at these dark imaginings. Like Grimm’s Fairy Tales, maybe the telling of the stories keeps the fear in proportion. And, perhaps due to her mother, the performer does begin to grow out of her nightmares. She should not be afraid of those incipient wrinkles, she has earned them. Maybe being afraid of the F-word might be a good idea, though.

**** (out of 5)

– Sheila Martindale

Nevermore – Hapax Theatre

PG-12+ Musical Theatre, on at the Metro Studio Theatre through Aug. 31

Entering the Metro to find fragrant mist wafting through the space (water-based, better than dry ice), one is prepared for a gothic tale to be told on stage. Having the pianist play equally foreboding minor chords in a darkened theatre added to the sombre mood.

The subject of the story, early 19th-century writer Edgar Allan Poe, is portrayed well as a tortured soul who seeks solace in the bottle from his many nightmares. The remaining cast members, who hauntingly play the women who have died or otherwise left him – from his mother to past lovers – do a great job vocally of turning Poe’s prose to song and maintaining the dark mood. At 90 minutes with no break, it could have been a little shorter, but the cohesiveness of the chorus and solos, and the creativity of the writers make this show a winner.

**** (out of 5)

– Don Descoteau

Diagnose This! Tales of a Medical Actor – Donna Kay Yarborough

Adults only, coarse language solo storytelling, on until Sept. 1 at the Wood Hall

Who knew there was such a thing as a standardized patient? Yarborough describes the job in great detail, sometimes in ways not for the squeamish, such as when she has her “pelvic region” examined. Her dedication to helping new doctors learn bedside manner and communication is admirable, but her stories about her experiences working with green and often terrified students is hilarious.

Her delivery and wit are razor sharp and she makes those topics that don’t usually make the dinner table conversation seem somehow more palatable. A bad personal experience related to a prolonged health diagnosis led this longtime actor to the standardized patient job, a finale which leaves the audience with food for thought and respect for her mission.

***** (out of 5)

– Don Descoteau

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