Going Commando

Live radio play strips down Schwarzenegger action movie

Commando is back! The wacky Winnipeg Fringe Festival hit from the mind of comedian Cory Falvo is returning to the the Gas Station Arts Centre on Feb. 22. Commando reimagines the 1985 action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a radio play on stage. 

“Part of the fun of the show is that we’re doing it in front of you,” Falvo says. “We use that to the full extent because we are aware that you are sitting there. We wanted to make it so that people who are visually impaired would still enjoy the show, but (we) make sure that it looks fun, (too).”

Commando features improvisers Sam McLean and Cathy Herbert, as well as “serious” actor William O’Donnell from Mr Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story. Herbert, a member of comedy troupe President Bear, plays villain Bennett, second lead Cindy, and many bit parts.

“I try to keep the voices as different as possible,” Herbert says. “There are scenes where Arnold is killing a million guys, (so) it’s just me and Sam trading off ‘now I’m the guy who dies. Now you’re the guy who dies.’”

Despite the talented cast, the star of the show is Falvo’s live foley sound effects. Audiences can watch them use everything from a pie plate to a watermelon to create the soundscape of the play.

“One of the sound effects I was least interested in doing (was) using a hairdryer as a 747 (airplane), but the entire sequence of him escaping the plane as I played with the hair dryer and the microphone actually got an applause break (at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival) every time,” Falvo says. “You can punctuate a moment with a really unexpected sound, or using something that they didn’t necessarily expect for something. There is that element of surprise with the audience.”

By exposing the means of producing the sound, to a Brechtian effect, Falvo opens themself up to inevitable yet satisfying failure. 

“When you’re working with live sound effects there’s a lot of unpredictable things that would happen, and fortunately the cast would always back it up. (One time) I snapped and I didn’t do it as loud as I would like, so I snapped again,” Falvo says. “A lot of the show is really just everyone watching me struggle to keep up with what’s going on and to play the sound effects ... every once in a while something slips and it adds to the comedy of that unexpected ‘whoops,’ because everyone knows what is going on and what you are trying to do. It is not intentional but when you’re juggling 65 props, it is going to happen.”

Commando plays Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. at the Gas Station Arts Centre (445 River Ave).

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