Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Medicine (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Edgar Governo

This will seem like blasphemy to many devotees of the Fringe circuit, but I am losing interest in the work of TJ Dawe.

Don't get me wrong—he is still a gifted writer and storyteller. His engaging presence and command of the monologue structure are on an entirely different level from almost anyone else you'll encounter performing a Fringe show. However, the road Dawe's work is following in recent years often leaves me cold, pursuing his increasingly idiosyncratic interests at the expense of one of his other strengths, the ability to draw those interests together towards revealing something more universal.

Medicine continues the focus on the work of Dr Gabor Maté seen in Dawe's recent Lucky 9. He attends a retreat run by Maté which centres around a ceremony where the attendees take ayahuasca—a combination (now prohibited in Canada) of plants originating in the Amazon—and through a couple of attempts at this ceremony, connects a childhood trauma to his own self-destructive tendencies. While Dawe is as talented as ever in conveying the emotion of this experience, a part of me could never shake the feeling that I was watching an infomercial promoting Maté’s therapeutic techniques.

Dawe seems to be reaching for the theme that we are all likely to continue in our worst patterns despite knowing they're bad for us (and even why they're bad for us), especially with tangents like his aside on the anachronism of keyboard design that recall his earlier work, but those points never quite come together as masterfully as they did in classic previous efforts such as Toothpaste and Cigars or The Curse of the Trickster.

Like a filmmaker happy to concentrate on niche material without worrying about box office appeal, I doubt Dawe is concerned that Medicine isn't The Slip-Knot (possibly his Annie Hall, or at least his Clerks), and his "Fringe God" status is in no danger, but even Woody Allen had to make Deconstructing Harry.


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