Good thing Lisa Haas managed to land Origins Organic Coffee as her performance space (of which she proudly announced is the “official sexy venue” at this year’s Vancouver Fringe). For with all that talk about death, the aroma of coffee filtered the room from any possible chance we could actually smell the grim reaper cometh our way as Lisa recounted the obsession her family has about this rather morbid subject.
For its short 40 minutes (we’re pretty sure it could be stretched to 50 if Lisa’s audience were to take additional “breaks”) Lisa manages to relate a number of stories about her family, their rather macabre preoccupation with death and in particular the Crown Hill Cemetery that was built in their neighbourhood when she was a child.
From Mimi the hamster’s eulogy, to a dissertation on what constitutes good and bad funeral food (according to Lisa one shouldn’t even think of bringing lima bean salad to the bereaved) to the strange uncle that insists on taking photos of dead relatives in their caskets, Haas serves up a delightfully funny monologue.
An interesting mechanism Haas uses to either relieve the tension with all this talk about death or provide her with a way to rest and refocus is her “break bag”. At any time audience members can yell out “break” and Lisa will have them pick a subject from a brown paper bag. Of course, knowing how polite Vancouver audiences might be, I didn’t hesitate to yell “break” after Lisa got a little bogged down on the subject of suicide. For my efforts, we were regaled with a story of Hornbills and how they use poop to create their nests. Seems bodily fluids are popular amongst Lisa’s “breaks” and while I was the only audience member that actually called for one, Lisa did take a couple more. At one break we were even treated to some Doritos and Bugles (both, as we now know are good funeral foods).
In a quick discussion with Lisa after the show, she confessed to us that the original title for this piece was Crown Hill Cemetery: Gothic Fag at Its Best, for apparently CHC actually had more than its share of fags running the place. We can only assume that the name change meant the elimination of these stories which is a shame as while Lisa is a Lesbian, the actual queer content in her show is non-existent.
Given the very short run time this is a great show if you find yourself with time in-between other shows or, like Lisa, you want to laugh at death in face.
Oh yeah, and don’t be shy. BREAK!
Crown Hill Cemetary
Vancouver 2009 Fringe Festival
Origins Organic Coffee, 1245 Cartwright Street, Granville Island
Tuesday, September 15 @ 7:25pm
Thursday, September 17 @ 9pm
Saturday, September 19 @ 5:15pm
Sunday, September 20 @ 1:45pm
Sunday, September 20 @ 9pm
Comic monologist Lisa Haas presents her morbidly funny tale about the struggle to avoid death while growing up next to a burial ground in the suburbs of Denver. Embracing life seems impossible when it is trampled on by embarrassing coffin-side calamities and telemarketers selling cemetery plots. Read more about why critics have said “Haas delivers monologue with moxie” at http://www.lisa-haas.com.
For tickets to Crown Hill Cemetery and for all the information on this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival be sure to visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com.