STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Crude Love and No More Lies

Posted by mhudema on June 15, 2008

The Gazette

Love in the Alberta tar sands – between polar opposites. She drives a truck as big as an apartment building.

He’s a city-bred environmentalist who wants to stop the whole project and put people like her out of a job. Yet somehow, they work out their differences.

Sounds like a great scenario for a new Canadian movie. But at this stage, Crude Love is a play written and performed by Gillian and Russell Bennett, making its debut at the St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. It’s but one of many premieres at the Montreal Fringe, which owns the first date on the fringe circuit calendar.

The Bennetts are no strangers to Montreal, or the circuit, which includes fringes in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, London, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria – and, of course, Edmonton, the grandaddy of them all.

Gillian Bennett, 30, grew up in Edmonton. Russell, 35, was raised in Toronto. They both studied acting in New York, at the same school. But they met later, in Vancouver, where they now live – sort of. This summer they gave up their apartment and put their stuff in storage before heading out on the road. This is their first touring season as a married couple, having tied the knot on Tofino Beach last summer.

“It was a beautiful wedding,” recalled Russell Bennett, a latter-day romantic who quit his day job (as a lawyer) to become an itinerant actor/director/

playwright. There’s a bit of Jack Kerouac in every fringe performer.

The Bennetts are relative senior citizens by fringe standards, where the average age usually hovers around 25. But they can’t touch fellow Vancouverite Susan Freedman, whose show Sixty-Four and No More Lies, carries prevarication in its title. She’s actually 66.

More on her later.

Back to Crude Love. Russell Bennett said he and Gillian began writing the play in January, “When we were on our honeymoon, in Nicaragua.”

This is their fifth play – and the first they are performing together. Normally, they take turns doing solo shows, with the non-performing partner directing. Previous hits include Reefer Man and Self-Storage

Inspiration for the play came from an article on the tar sands. They were horrified to hear about the large-scale destruction of boreal forest and the fact that it takes four barrels of water to process one barrel of oil.

Crude Oil may be theatre with a social conscience – a rare bird at a fringe – but they’ve tried to avoid the preachy. “We didn’t want to make it into a polemic,” he said. “The focus is on the love story. It’s kind of like When Harry Meets Sally meets Silkwood in the tar sands. Or Love in the Time of Oil.”

Crude Love plays tonight at 11:15 p.m. at Théâtre Ste. Catherine, 264 Ste. Catherine St. E.,tomorrow at 7:45 p.m., Monday at 6 p.m., Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., Thursday at 8:15 p.m., Friday at 5:45 p.m., and Saturday, June 21 at 9:45 p.m. Tickets $9.

Russell Bennett isn’t the only ex-lawyer at the Fringe. There’s Bill Galloway, whose biggest claim to fame on the circuit is that he’s married to the previously mentioned Susan Freedman, a 16-year veteran of the CBC whose shows make light of the ageing process. Her Sixty-Four and No More Lies is a follow-up to Fifty-Seven and Still Lying About My Weight and Sixty, With More Lies About My Weight.

As for Galloway, he takes an academic interest in his wife’s pursuits. He based his recently completed master’s thesis (Simon Fraser University), about senior citizens who run away with fringe festivals, on her experiences. No. He’s not making this up.

Sixty-Four and No More Lies plays Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at the Geordie Space, 4001 Berri St. Also Monday, 8:15 p.m., Wednesday, 11 p.m., Thursday, 8 p.m., June 21 at 5:45 p.m. and June 22 at 3:15 p.m. Tickets, $9.

Thursday night’s Fringe-for-all offered 25 brief glimpses of what is to come – the good, the bad and the ridiculous – hosted by the hilarious Zack Winters and Sweet Sweet Jimmy Priest. If you want to know which performers rocked (besides New Zealand’s sizzling Busty Rhymes), you’ll have to check out my Stage and Page blog at

The Montreal Fringe Festival continues through June 22. For further Fringe info: 514-849-FEST or

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

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