The Ballad of Frank Allen, an endearingly witty story by Australian company Weeping Spoon Productions, features Montreal’s beloved Al Lafrance as himself and Shane Adamczack as Frank Allan, the tiny man living inside Al’s beard. An unexpected companionship forms between Frank and Al, and soon they are taking on the world of awkward romance and evil scientists together.
Al represents the sarcastic, slightly unambitious, modern young-adult, described as a “hipster Care Bear.” Meanwhile, Frank provides comedic commentary on Al’s life, both by giving a parallel narrative and by “training him not to do stupid things.” In order to survive, as a tiny person in another man’s beard, Frank learns to “Pavlov dog” Al by yanking on his beard hairs, thus conditioning him.
After “training” Al for survival, Frank discovers that Al can hear him if they are both drunk enough. Once they are properly introduced, their friendship begins to grow. Meanwhile, the scientists who accidentally shrunk Frank, their janitor, set out to cover up their mistake, bringing Frank and Al even closer together. By the end of the experience, both men grow to find their “desire paths.”
The humour of this show is a wonderful combination of cleverness, awkwardness, physical comedy, and pure play. Indeed, the tone of the show in entirely playful, relying less on props and more on the brilliant imagination of the actors.
This is definitely a show in which disbelief is suspended and the audience takes pleasure in the non-illusions such as onstage character changes, scene changes, and plot gaps. This can be perfectly explained by the moment where one character asks the other why something works. The answer that follows is, “It just does. Not everything has to make sense!”
On-point lighting cues create effective transitions and add humorous mood-lighting behind the performers. For example, all the lights behind Al go out when he is kicked in the balls and all he can feel is pain.
Character switches and scene changes are all hilariously handled, with no grand illusion and no special effects. With the two actors standing side by side, they indicate the switch from Al’s world to Frank’s miniature perspective with a gesture and a “Swish!”
Adamczack plays a slew of characters, each with a different accent, so you never know who he’s going to be next. Lafrance’s character switches don’t come in until later, but they are just as side-splitting. Their vocal talent extends to creating their own sound effects (except for a few funny props).
The play is accompanied by comedic indie-rock musical numbers with an endearing sense of humour. Both Adamczack and Lafrance play the guitar and sing their hearts out, while rainbow colors illuminate the stage. This lovable soundtrack is what truly makes the show a ballad.
This show is recommended to anyone who enjoys heart-warming characters, physical comedy, and very silly stories. In the end, it is a play that celebrates bromance, the joys of acting, and the wondrous adventures that can happen when you’re drunk.
Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Celine Cardineau
Weeping Spoon Productions presents “The Ballad of Frank Allen”
When: June 9 – 18, 2017
Where: Petit Campus, 57 Prince-Arthur East
Duration: 55 minutes
Tickets: www.montrealfringe.ca | 514.849.FEST (3378)
Official Media Partner of the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival