LA Theater Review: FEAR FACTOR: CANINE EDITION (Hollywood Fringe / Edmonton Fringe Festival)

by Tony Frankel on August 11, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours

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DOG GONE

Having immersed myself in forty Fringe shows this year, I have become highly suspect of those shows that bounce from Fringe to Fringe across the land, cross-promoting like oversexed insects until they garner enough publicity to hype unsuspecting theatergoers into believing that their pablum is actually worth the attention – which, of course, it usually is not.

When it came to my attention that John Grady and his one-man show Fear Factor: Canine Edition had been playing the Fringe circuit, I avoided it. Just the idea of the TV show Fear Factor alone kept me away. Yet my curiosity was piqued when I discovered that Grady’s show had nothing to do with the crass competition of Fear Factor – it was an examination of the relationship between a man and his dog.

Fear Factor: Canine Edition – John GradyFortunately, the Best of the Fest offered one encore performance last Saturday. The result was an affecting look at the spiritual bond between pet and owner that also managed to tap into the universal truths behind our need for Man’s Best Friend. With authenticity and just enough humor to keep the subject of loss from becoming maudlin, Grady posits a gentle reminder that the scratch of a puppy’s belly may offer more healing power to us than the “perfect” human partner. I left with a renewed conviction that my own occasionally messy relationship is a gift, for I am as tethered to my partner as a man to his dog. By elucidating his love for his own animal with elegance and poise, Grady gave me permission to say just that.

Fear Factor: Canine Edition – John GradyHis movements are distinct, lithe, poetic and spare; he operates like a perfect, well-oiled machine, yet there is nothing mechanical about his physicality. The motion of an elbow or wrist accented his graceful dialogue with all the strength and loving with which one holds a baby. It is clear that he has had extensive dance training (which no doubt led him into the cast of Blue Man Group in New York).

Although the performance was intimate, I still found myself longing for a higher form of theatricality. But that is not what Grady set out to do. He keeps his grief in check by moving, touching, and inspiring his audience. It may sound strange, but I almost felt as if he loved the audience with the fervent and gentle power with which he loved his dog.

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

Fear Factor: Canine Edition
played at the Hollywood Fringe
plays the Edmonton Fringe August 11-21
for tickets, visit http://www.thejohngrady.com

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