Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: Unenlightened (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Edgar Governo

Sometimes, a performance suffers most from the timing of when a person sees it. I saw this show the day after seeing TJ Dawe's Medicine, and the two face opposite problems despite dealing with what seems to be extremely similar subject matter.

Both shows ostensibly tackle the same premise: an autobiographical tale in which the author/performer, unsatisfied with some aspect(s) of their own life, seeks help from a shamanic retreat at a remote location to learn more about their true selves. Right away, those specific parallels predisposed me to compare Elizabeth Blue's work to Dawe's, even though the two were no doubt created independently and that type of comparison can be inherently unfair. Unfortunately for Blue, such a comparison also reveals how much more polished a performer Dawe can be, despite my reservations about his work (discussed in more detail in my review of his show).

While Dawe has narrowed his onstage interests to the point of potential alienation, Blue and her story come off as entirely too generic. The show's advertising and writeup in the Fringe program book stress Blue's comedy background, giving the impression of someone who would be right at home in the Upright Citizens Brigade—but I got very little sense of that person, the specifics of the life she describes in New York City, or her goals there. Beyond a vague notion of artistic achievement, what is she looking for from show business? Is it a career as a successful comedian, or something else?

The main sustained metaphor in Unenlightened is that of the caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and how little thought we put into the stages in between, but this piece would've benefitted a great deal from more time spent in the cocoon before emerging.


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