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FASS 2007 - Imprint review

This review appeared in the February 2, 2007, issue of Imprint.

Is FASS worth all the fuss?

Duncan Ramsay, Imprint Staff

There's no point in judging slapstick on the basis of subtle wit, or kabuki on the realistic portrayal of human emotion. As with many art forms, these styles demand they be appreciated on their own merits, rather than on the standards of similar forms. The trick lies in approaching the experience without preconceptions, and enjoying yourself based on what you find.

FASS is like this. The company (Faculty, Alumni, Staff, Students), which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, makes a point of accepting anyone who wishes to apply - the idea is to give people the chance to gain experience in a theatrical production and to have as much fun on stage as humanly possible.

Approaching FASS like you would a professional company would not only be wrong, it would be a waste. The fun of FASS lies in getting swept up in the energy of people losing whatever inhibitions they have on stage, laughing along with the craziness, essentially enjoying yourself in the company of a bunch a fun people - the actors. These are the sorts of criteria that would make a production like this a success and, given that, the question remains: Does FASS pull it off? Well, in part.

It's not that the production lacks an energetic cast or a good sense of humour - it has both in abundance. No, FASS's greatest problem, and one which casts a shadow on the rest of the performance, is that the production is in desperate need of a script editor. Whether this is due to a desire to grant the members of a huge cast decent amounts of stage time, or for some other reason, the fact remains that at well over two and a half hours, FASS is butt-numbingly, Frodo-I'm-so-tired, long.

Far too much time is wasted introducing each of the play's seven scenes (one for each sin), and entire five-minute stretches could be cut without hurting the story. When the jokes are rolling, FASS is great, but all too often the script drags, and when it does, the energy that is so critical for a production like this is sucked away.

So FASS is bad? Boring? Well, no, let's not go that far. During the majority of the play when the comedy hits, FASS is hysterical, a gleeful mix of pop culture references, sly swipes at UW, slapstick, ham and craziness. Anger and Lust in particular make it difficult to stop laughing, and the transition sequences introducing each scene are minor works of genius. In general, each scene gets funnier as it progresses, as does the play itself.

Although FASS sometimes feels like a patchwork of the dull and the funny, the comedy is always enough to inspire forgiveness of the dull - you know you'll be laughing out loud again shortly. Highlights include Lisa Hagen as the Angel, Josh Hoey as the Demon, Selina Saba as Sister Mary Jane and Emily Sheepy as Honey Bunny- it was a real pleasure to watch this cast on stage.

As for the staging itself, it was generally competent, and although the production was obviously low-budget, it was never distractingly so.

But FASS isn't just a comedy, it's a musical, and this is a blessing - as FASS is at its best when it's singing.

The wealth of parodies to spot throughout the production are often truly inspired, and are always enjoyable - parodies of Great Big Sea's "Ordinary Day" and "It's a Hard Knock Life" from Annie in particular stand out as some of the best moments of the play. A few songs were not sung with enough volume for the theatre, but in general the singers here performed solidly throughout.

Go ahead and see FASS if you have the inclination - at $8 a ticket, the play is good value, and you're bound to enjoy yourself. It's just a pity the upper echelons of the production couldn't see fit to tighten up the script - it would make for a much stronger production.

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