By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Flora & Fawna Have Beaver Fever (and so does Fleurette), Stage 12 (Varscona Theatre)
“Thank you and welcome for coming,” says Fawna, gamely trying to overcome natural melancholy and achieve stage vivacity.
She’s one of the earnest 10-year-old founders of The NaturElles, an all-inclusive, non-binary pre-teen collective devoted to cultural diversity, equality, democratic consultation, tolerance, helpfulness to the weak and “all people at all times.” Ah yes, and trouncing “antiquated gender roles.” There are, of course, limits: “No mean girls.”
Fawna’s NaturElle companions are a study (and a sight gag) in contrast. The deep-voiced, unusually husky Flora (Darrin Hagen, in size umpteen rubber boots) is a repository of worthy, progressive liberal rhetoric inherited from her “mom and her other mom.” Fleurette (Brian Dooley) is a shy francophone, smiling a glazed smile, apparently dazed by the glory of the public gaze. Perpetually furrow-browed, Schmidt’s Fawna, on a short fuse (even her pigtails turn down), grits her teeth over Fleurette’s helpful extended French translations.
We last met Flora and Fawna, along with Fleurette (their one-girl proof of cultural diversity) in 2015 in Flora & Fawna’s Field Trip (with Fleurette). We were in the woods, at a NaturElles recruitment seminar. This time out, they’re planning a field trip, to a beaver dam. “Without beavers there would be no Canada….” We’re asked to vote on possible field trip destinations anyway. As Flora says matter-of-factly, “we wanted to be able to say in hindsight that we consulted.”
Sly topical barbs like that, delivered with kid-like gravity, sneak their way into the script by the Guys in Disguise team of Schmidt (who directs) and Hagen. Like its predecessor, this sequel mocks redneckism (Fawna’s step-dad, as she inadvertently reveals, is a piece of work). It both salutes tolerance and has fun with the liberal jargon that goes with it.
As you might expect from the title, there’s a vast reservoir of crass double-entendres to draw from, and tease out, as delivered by single-entendre 10-year-olds. It’s drag with a difference: there are crafts, and audience participation: “how well do you know your beaver?” The “historical re-enactments” don’t quite work. But, hey, this may prove to be the only show at the Fringe with Hudson’s Bay jokes.
All participants get a prize. As Fawna notes glumly of a politically correct era, “everybody must be rewarded. Even if they’ve hardly put in any effort at all.”
In the end, the show turns good-hearted playfulness into something more sentimental, a manifesto about friendship and change that presses its luck, arguably, just a bit too shamelessly. But Fleurette does get her moment to shine. And by then, your Canuck heart has been won.