Fringe review: ‘Oh, That Wily Snake!’

Oh, That Wily Snake!, Concrete Drops, London, Ontario, Canada. Orange venue, 60 minutes, $10. (Note: The show is billed as 60 minutes long but actually lasts about 45 minutes.)

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Martin Dockery and Vanessa Quesnelle

Master writer and storyteller Martin Dockery has proved himself in a couple of Fringes past with wide-roaming, wildly enjoyable tales of exploits around the globe. But he’s up to something else entirely in Oh, That Wily Snake!, an ethereal two-person comedy that he performs with actor Vanessa Quesnelle, and a play that is likely to leave audience members with plenty to debate at the beer tent.

You’ll know something is different right away because of the bed onstage — a bed that turns out, wittily, to be an inflatable mattress and becomes the magic carpet that takes the two characters, Edmund and Edith, places they never planned to go.

The ostensible goal is Aruba, which Dockery’s character describes manically as the be-all and end-all of spontaneity and fun, and which Quesnelle’s character shies away from, as she does from so much else. But clearly the point is something considerably broader, and whether you want to read it as the anatomy of a sexual relationship, an allegory about freedom or a retelling of The Wizard of Oz is up to you. (Well, the playwright would probably rather have it be up to him, but that’s not how it works.)

Dockery’s writing is slyly comical, and he’s especially funny as a version of the frenzied character he has played in his one-man shows — using all his, yes, wily charms to persuade Quesnelle’s staid and fearful Edith to do what he wants her to do. Oh, That Wily Snake! is like a provocative dream, the kind that makes no sense in some ways and perfect sense in others. For the Ediths of the world, it’s not a sure thing; for the Edmunds, it may just send you to Aruba.

Remaining shows:
Saturday May 21, 11:30 p.m.
Sunday May 22, 9:20 p.m.
Monday May 23, 8:50 p.m.
Wednesday May 25, 6:30 p.m.
Thursday May 26, 10:45 p.m.
Saturday May 28, 7:40 p.m.

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