Kavalier’s Kuriosities is Not to Be Missed

Wes Babcock

 

A great first step into drama for the production team at Dead Unicorn Ink, Kavalier’s Kuriosities explores what it’s like to be a “freak” in a world where what you look like is far more important than what you think, do, or feel.

The show opens backstage at a travelling freak show, where the commanding presence of Viktor Kavalier (Aaron Lajeunesse) is projected as a shadow onto a large screen upstage. This sets the stage for my favourite artistic choice in this production: the shadow puppets. The shadows tie in really well with the themes of light and darkness addressed throughout the script in the conflicts between inner and outer beauty that these characters all seem to be wrestling with.

Central to the outward aspect of this conflict is the freak show beauty Lilith (Lauren Cauchy), whose different-coloured eyes have apparently rendered her an outcast from normal society. I wish her reason for joining the freak show had been made clearer; this could be used to heighten the stakes for both her fraught relationship with her brother, as well as explained her need for acceptance on the stage of the freak show.

Cauchy’s performance is good, but I wish her physicality would reflect Lilith’s emotional state and opinions to a greater degree, particularly when she is feeling something negative. This lack of high end contributes to Lilith’s seeming total subordination to the each of the male characters vying for her affection. I wanted see her physical repulsion at their behaviour, a curled lip or glare would reflect that ugly actions lead to ugly realities, regardless of the body you occupy. This simple change would explode the hypocrisy of the play’s world, where she can never be in control because she is a woman and deformed.

DUI are well known for their comedies, and this play, despite being a drama has some well-executed comedic moments. Kyle Cunningham’s great performance as Simon is of particular note in this respect, with subtle and perfectly timed reactions to action across the stage. Cunningham is responsible for many of my favourite moments in this production, and his momentum propels this production towards its conclusion.

Sam McCarthy, who plays the priest, was less impressive than the other three actors. His delivery is a bit flat and lacks the clear intention that would bring him up to their level. His physical presence shows flashes of what this man might one day be capable of, particularly in the baptism scene.

The cast is the perfect size for a Fringe show like this, though at times felt a bit large for the venue it was occupying. The swordfight between Lajeunesse and McCarthy in particular felt awkwardly cramped. It was definitely surpassed by the hand-combat scenes that came later on, which were very well done.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Kathryn Reeves’ role as the puppeteer of the festival’s most beloved ducks, which are endearing companions to Simon and persistently draw the character from his shell through the fun chemistry between Reeves and Cunningham.

Kavalier’s Kuriosities is a fun and action-packed drama that should be high on your list for this year’s Fringe.

 

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