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(Posted 5 a.m., June 27)

Local playwrite reprises avian production for Fringe Festival
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Tom Charlebois (right) and Mike Kosowan star in John Cook's production of 'Crackers' at this year's Fringe Festival. Fred Sherwin/Photo

This year's Fringe Festival received over 70 submissions from local playwrites and theatre companies this year to fill just 22 spots in its program. Among them, was Orléans' playwrite John Cook's production of "Crackers".

In order to pick which plays would be in this year's festival each production was assigned a numbered bingo ball and 22 were picked out of a hopper. Cook's play was the last one selected and so the process of rehearsals, costume making and set design began, culminating in six performances in a little over a week.

Cook's whimsical one-act play was first performed at the Shenkman Arts Centre over three years ago. Several of the actors who appeared in the original production have reprised their roles for the Fringe including Mike Kosowan, Victor Lachance and Francis Kenny.

"Crackers" presents a bird's eye view of two parrots who fate and the witness protection program have brought together.

Eric is a red-plumed parrot who has never ventured outside his cage even though his owner always leaves his door unlatched.

Salvador is Eric's mysterious new housemate. An Amazon green, he was plucked from the jungle by exotic bird smugglers and sold to a local gangster.

Eric spends his days watching soap operas and reading the newspaper clippings that line the bottom of his cage.

When Salvador tells Eric he wants to learn how to read too, it triggers Eric's memory of his former housemate Petey's demise.

Eric taught Petey how to read, but rather than keep his newly-acquired talent a secret, Petey decided to be a show off and was eventually taken away by a bunch of men in white suits for "research",

"I hid in my cage and did nothing when they took him away. I should have tried to fight them off," Eric tells Salvador, which is when the audience learns that Eric's cage is never locked and he can fly away whenever he wants.

Although the play is performed in one act, it is told in two intertwined scenes. The main scene revolves around the interaction between Eric and Salvador in their two cages. The secondary scene takes place in the office of the gangster who needs to take care of a "problem".

As it turns out the problem is Salvador. Hank is about to go on trial for a number of offences including durg-dealing and racketeering. When he finds out his lawyer can't buy off the judge, or the jury, he kills his lawyer and hides the gun under the floor boards.

Salvador spills the beans to the cops and has to be placed in the witness protection program, which is how he ended up in the cage beside Eric.

When Hank finds out where Salvador is hiding, he sends his henchman Stinky to bump him off. But when Stinky is about to kill Salvador, Eric flies out of his cage and fights him off until the police arrive.

In the final scene, Eirc says goodbye to Salvador who is free to go back to his home in the Amazon where there is a chica on every branch.

Salvador invites Eric to go with him, but Eric decides to stay, fresh with with a newfound appreciation for the freedom that exists beyond his cage, or so we're led to believe, until, in the final scene, he flies into the deeming house lights.

"Crackers" is a fun story brought to life by a talented group of actors starting with Tom Charlebois and Mike Kosowan who play Eric and Salvador respectively. Victor Lachance plays tbe gangster named Hank, Francis Kenney is Stinky, and Sarah Benfield plays Det. Watt.

Cook has been trying to get into the Fringe Festival for the past three years. For those Festival patrons who've taken in the first five performances it was definitely worth the wait.

The sixth and final performance of Crackers takes place this afternoon at 6:30 p.m. in the University of Ottawa's Academic Hall on Seraphin-Marion. Tickets are just $12 and are available at the door. For more on the Fringe Festival incuding tomorrow's encor performances visit http://ottawafringe.com/.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)



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