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eye - 08.09.01

Summer workout

Our critics tackle a bumper crop of SummerWorks shows

To Aug. 12. No latecomers will be admitted. All shows $8 ($40 pass). 410-1048.




Featuring Hume Baugh, Melody Johnson, Darren Keay, Ron Kennell. Written by Eric Woolfe. Directed by Michael Waller. August 10, 9:30pm; August 11, 3:30pm; August 12, 6:30pm. Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst.

Part Rod Serling horror spoof, part Victorian melodrama, part vaudevillian sketch revue (given the emphasis on gore, there's lots of parts to go around), Eric Woolfe's exuberantly idiotic Sideshow of the Damned might be the perfect festival show. It's raw, spirited, well-performed and, not incidentally, hugely entertaining. It's also the kind of lightweight piece that might fly out the window if you think too hard about it.

No mistake, the writing here is witty and consistent, and the concept -- from the arch narration and dire front-of-house warnings from the evil barker (Ron Kennell) to the stagy music and low-tech blood effects (shades of Shockheaded Peter) -- is airtight. It's just that the piece sets out to make a bollix out of being scary, and having the audience in on the joke is half the point.

The plots probably don't matter much, but the three tales involve a young woman (Kimwun Perehenic) who becomes the subject of her mad-scientist roommate's (Hume Baugh) cockroach/human experiments, a bogus fortune teller (Perehenic) whose robbery of a bourgeois couple takes a macabre turn against her, and a hapless cuckold (Darren Keay) who gets more than he bargains for when he conjures a priapic imp from an ancient bottle.

As the Barker, Kennell, a solid actor who blossoms the more stylized a piece gets, couldn't be better; Perehenic, who should really get more work, is hilarious in the first (and best) piece and holds her own beautifully elsewhere against the likes of the wonderful Melody Johnson; Keay (New Waterford Girl) reveals himself as a solid sketch man, and Baugh (an alt-theatre addict who's never been afraid to fail) thrives on material perfectly suited to his talents.

Would the current production come across as well in any other context? Unlikely, at least not without a lot of work. But who cares, when you're having this much fun? KEVIN CONNOLLY