FRINGE 2016: Atomic City is The Bomb!

Directed by Sara Rodriguez and starring the talented Jeff Gandell and Mariana Vial, Atomic City is an explosive romantic dramady (that's drama and comedy, folks) set in 1944 and is performed in the intimate confines of the OFF B: Freestanding Room. 

In Atomic City, Gandell and Vial play two star-crossed lovers conducting important scientific research with the goal of ending World War II. While working on their project, Gandell and Vial are forced put their careers and relationships on the line in order to create the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

Atomic City is one of the darkest, yet sweetest shows I’ve seen at the Montreal Fringe Festival. Gandell and Vial deliver very convincing and stellar performances. The chemistry between them filled The Freestanding Room with tension. It was exciting to watch Gandell and Via as gazed into each others’ eyes with tender passion and yearning while developing deadly weapons together. 

Vial recited her lines with an excellent 1940s accent and mesmerised the audience with her beauty. Gandell delivered an energetic yet serious performance that made one of the audience members extremely giddy. Gandell made her grin so much over the course of his entire performance that I couldn’t help but feel elated by her infectious cheerfulness. Gandell really made her night!

Like the nuclear weapons created in the show, Atomic City is the product of a caring, passionate and extremely meticulous crew. The wooden walls of The Freestanding Room were plastered with posters filled with imagery of the war effort, Hitler and Uncle Sam. Rachel-Anne Germinario did an excellent job designing Atomic City’s set and costume design! 

During the show, Vial even picks up a newspaper that was made specifically for the show and was full of details about life in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The notebooks used by the main characters were also filled with detailed calculations and graphs. Gandell and Vial drank real coffee during their performance, which they accidentally spilled all over the table. Vial handled the accident like a star and subtly avoided the mess. In addition to all of this, the set also included a machine that transformed into a chalkboard, another great idea by Germinario!

Lights and sound technician Jason Allman is also highly deserving of praise as without his careful timing, the show would have never been as charming and smooth as it was!

Atomic City is a lovely, heart-warming play about nuclear destruction! Gandell, Vial and the rest of their team’s talents are showcased beautifully in this show. My only complaint was that the transition between monologues and performances was a bit confusing. I only realized at the middle of the show that Gandell and Vial were telling separate stories to the audience! However, that slight issue didn’t ruin the show that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Jeff Gandell is a Montreal playwright, actor, storyteller, and teacher. He wrote and starred in The Balding, which was nominated for best comedy at the 2013 Festival St-Ambroise Fringe Montréal / St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. Mariana Vial appeared in the 2011 edition with the bilingual improv show Improspection presents B, and can frequently be seen performing improv and sketch comedy locally. 

Jeff and Mariana have performed together regularly over the past 3 years, most notably in Montreal Improv's House Team, Helmut, and their improvised Law and Order duo, Jerry Orbach’s Eyes. 

Come on down to The Freestanding Room, located at 4234 Suite 300, Saint-Laurent - between June 15th to 19th to catch Gandell and Vial’s delightfully charming performances - all at the following times: 

- Wednesday June 15 from 20:30
- Thursday June 16 from 22:30
- Friday June 17 from 19:00
- Saturday June 18 from 15:00 and 21:00
- Sunday June 19 from 18:30


Patricia Petit Liang is part of CJLO’s Official Fringe Team covering the sights and sounds from the 2016 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. She also hosts Fatal Attraction every Monday morning from 11am – 12pm, only on 1690AM in Montreal and online at Follow her show Tumblr, at @fatalattraction1690am

Photos are courtesy of Kirubel Mehari, a Concordia University Comminications student, and the founder of Create and Distribute: a creative agency and niche collective of artists that combine their skills to create content for branding, film and photography.