Pilgrimage, written and produced by Ry Kincaid (part of the KC Fringe Festival): seen September 23, 2012
I’ve never read The Canterbury Tales. (Well, I may have read an excerpt or two in English class.) What I know of it is mostly what I’ve garnered from pop culture (yes, that includes A Knight’s Tale), but I know enough to know that it’s a lot like Shakespeare: it is classic British literature, is filled with gorgeous poetry, is a lot dirtier in places than most people seem to realize, and was written in such a way that you might as well consider it a different language. You don’t exactly need a translation, but you really need to have a good grasp of the language to get all what’s going on.
So, when I heard that Ry Kincaid was doing a musical based on it for the Fringe, it was one of the first things I made sure fit my schedule. I knew from past experience (2010’s Fringe outing “For the Birds”) that Kincaid has a way about edutainment, making things educational and entertaining at the same time.
For the most part, Pilgrimage doesn’t disappoint. Kincaid does a good job of giving each tale a different song style that fits both the tale and the teller, from the priest (Amy Kelly) singing basically a gospel song to the Summoner (Damron Armstrong) singing soul music, ending on the Parson (Katie Gilchrist) with her very own “I want” Broadway show-stopper. My favorites had to be the Wife of Bath (Celia Gannon) singing a country song ala Dolly Parton and the Squire (Nick Uthoff) singing a tale of lost love in what was either the best or the worst Justin Bieber impersonation I’ve seen yet.
My biggest issue is one I’ve mentioned in many a review before: there were far too many times I couldn’t understand the singers, with them being overwhelmed by the band. In fact, I couldn’t understand any of the Miller’s tale (told by both Vi Tran as Reeve and Sean Hogge as the Miller). As mentioned, Chaucer, like Shakespeare, is complicated in this day and age – especially for those unfamiliar with the writings, and so the need for clarity is especially vital.
Either if you think The Canterbury Tales is a stuffy piece of Ye Olde English or that it’s the greatest piece of literature ever written, Pilgrimage is worth the time to check out. Just let’s hope they get those lyrics heard.
Pilgrimage performs two more times during the 2012 Fringe, and tickets are $10. More information can be found at http://www.kcfringe.org/2012/artist.php?ID=94 .
This review will (hopefully) be posted to the KC Stage review system. Agree or disagree? You can rate / review this show yourself (requires free registration) by going to fringe.kcstage.com (where every review gets you put into a drawing for prizes).