Fringe reviewl: Canarsie Suite at the edge of Vaudeville

A top-five Prague Fringe Festival pick for sure.

Canarsie Suite- At the Edge of Vaudeville @ Divadlo Inspirace

This show is so damn bizarre and strange—and so damn good--it is a Fringe must-see and has to be experienced. Freakishly talented stars Aimee German and Jennifer Sargent are obviously mutant genius actors and clowns. Both have extensive training and experience in the worlds of Lecoq and Gaullier and both are fantastically gifted comics and performers. Even as an American who gets the sly cultural references (I did wonder if the Europeans in the audience were often lost), I was left exhausted trying to keep up with the soaring Americana Vaudeville story and the boundless energy of the LeRoy Sisters Gladys and Birdie. What they do so very well is completely inhabit and embody the very voices, bodies and souls of their characters—especially when the show gets all crazy meta on us and they are playing two characters at once: Gladys/Phonsie (the most hilariously disgusting and disturbing fat child I have ever seen) and Birdie/Ester (recalling every French stereotype possible associated with a gorilla-taming-show-girl-mama). In a Fringe Festival where many performers are directly engaging the audience to varying results, they prove masters of audience acknowledgement—taking whatever the audience gives and turning it around to suit the moment and the needs of their story. Fearless in their physicality and ability to show us rough edges in the main performances from Gladys and Birdie (but not from German and Sargent—a very, very hard trick) the women make us believe they not only wear their hearts on their sleeves but also their lungs, stomachs, livers and kidneys as well. Everything from Eva Burgess’ direction to Tony Melone’s musical direction feels truly from another realm of existence—in a good way—and contributes to make this carny freak-show truly a window into another time and place. I have never been to Canarsie, Brooklyn—somehow all my years in Manhattan I managed to avoid it—but should I return I will be sure to remember one of the weirdest and most memorable evenings in the theatre I have ever experienced.  A top-five Prague Fringe Festival pick for sure.

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