Sunday, November 27, 2022

Fringe Review: A Side of Rice

Who: Chromedome Productions
What: A Side of Rice
Length: 55 minutes
Where: Theatre Aquarius Studio (190 King William Street)
When: July 21-31 as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival
Tickets: $12 + $1.75 fee at https://boxoffice.hftco.ca/event/866:572/

“I just need a sip of water,” Nicholas Rice says, about ten minutes in to his one-man storytelling show, and the audience erupts into applause. Rice wasn’t expecting this (or fakes a small, blinking realisation that people are clapping extremely well), but everybody in the audience was. You couldn’t not applaud. This is also the first time I move, having been motionlessly captivated by Rice for his opening verses and stories.

That would become a pattern. He’d sip water, we’d applaud, and I’d try to wake up my limbs from their torpor. He wasn’t surprised the subsequent times, of course, but seemed more appreciative each time.

In A Side of Rice, main character Rice notes he’s been an actor for forty-seven years, but the performance bug bit him earlier. The show is the story as to how it happened. Over the sixty-minute performance, Rice shares stories he’s acquired from over seventy years of living, according to his bio- but you’d never believe it for his spritely, childlike energy. Despite being an actor for over forty-seven years, Rice’s level of deft performance acumen speaks to a performer who has many more years of experience. His performance is measured, paced, emotional, funny, and so deeply human.

The stories actually start back in the early 1900s, with Merle Rice’s stories. Nicholas’ mother is a prominent figure in the piece, as is the absence of his father, who died when main character Rice was very young. He speaks of the profound meaning of the absence of a father, too. While the stories feature a lot of tragedy, they never feel tragic. Rice is such a storyteller that the sadness in his stories might make you feel anguish, but never bad. Instead, he is just letting you hear his humanity. It’s not upsetting, it’s just true. It’s emotional, but it’s not negative. Every story shared seems to have elements of humour, no matter how dark. All of them glued me to my seat.

If there is one kvetsch, or gronach on this show (see it to appreciate the Jewish and Scottish language reference), it would be that Rice has selected three main narratives (his search for manhood and discovery of performance, his mother Merle, and his own family – the beginnings of his parenting journey) which might loosely fall under the banner “parenting”. Consequently, there isn’t a driving narrative or character arc. This doesn’t detract from the show and is clearly a stylistic structural point- but Rice makes it work.

If you like storytelling, this is a great show. If you want to risk your legs falling asleep for being drawn into storytelling, this is a great show. If you just want to hear from a wonderful life, well, this is a great show.  

Ryan M. Sero
Ryan M. Sero
Ryan M. Sero is a writer, among many other things, and has a long, loving history with Hamilton's theatre scene in particular. He is the artistic director of Make Art Theatre. He does what he does for Jody, Pippa, Emmett, Vienna, and Jude.

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