July 12th, 2015 For the past 7 years “ONTARIO ARTS REVIEW” has endeavored to devote as much coverage to Toronto’s amazing FRINGE FESTIVAL as our contributors were physically able to critique. Our team of; Terry Gaisin; Florence Roullet; Rhoda & Avrum Regenstreif; and Danny Gaisin have published twenty-two thumbnail critiques…many of whom made the Viewer’s Choice selections. Next – the upcoming Hamilton Fringe Festival .
“10/10/10 PROJECT”; Factory Theatre
Occasionally the Fringe attracts something that turns out to be creatively unique and this venture created by ten emerging writers to each invent a piece. Ten evolving composers wrote new music and then ten embryonic choreographers fashioned the interpretive dances for each.
Finally; 10 performers brought it all before the audience. The symbolism is either clear or so highly subtle as to require post-curtain discourse. Without being a spoiler; the raised hands as each performer speaks represents a radio antenna; not a paraphrase of ‘Dr. Strangelove’s’ saluting arm! There are some poignant monologues accentuated by dance as well as cleverly directed postures poses and innovative blocking fashioned by director Aaron Jan. The cast members are all more than adequate coryphées but there are a few standouts…Callie Presniak; Sophie Dow & Arielle Edwards are a treat to watch and François MacDonald & Joel Edmiston contribute that intangible something extra in their performances. The 10/10/10 Project will be coming to the Hamilton Fringe; Danny & I plan on seeing it in its next iteration. T.G.
“SUMMERLAND”; Harbord Collegiate
Looking for a superb demo of contemporary multicultural creativity in Toronto, then Summerland – a new musical by Johnson, Johnston, and Wilde is this year’s ticket.
Recipe: Take one” brilliantly, written and performed, contemporary, allegorical musical masterpiece”, which touches on important issues facing [young] people today, including: ego, self-confidence, love and social acceptance, respect for difference and for sustainable environments. Then add a highly talented 100+ cast and crew from Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, Scarborough and provide solid direction together with superb, diverse indigenous musical skills and abilities in voice and dance. Augment with a great deal of infectious excitement, fresh youthful exuberance and energy. Enhance with some simple, clever, innovative costumes in character with the spirit of the work. Voila! You have the kind of genuine production that Canadians & their myriad community theaters are hungering for, & are ready for. Don’t take our word for it – see it yourself! R.&A. R.
“SIZZLE & SPIN”, Helen Gardiner Playhouse
Our benchmark of quality theatre is full-category professionalism. From the creative idea to direction and role interpretation every evolving step must be polished & correctly focused. Sandra Cardinal’s SIZZLE & SPIN meets every one of these criteria.
The title refers to P.R. –Public Relations with emphasis on “selling the sizzle and putting a ‘spin’ on a client’s problem or situation. Cardinal’s plot parallel job-hunting with a re-evolving social relationship; and the result is a fascinating 60-minute study. Director Kitti Laki plays Joanna, sister to Lena Maripuu’s Charlotte who is interviewed for a new job. The other candidate is Ethan and Johnathon Lovett interprets him as Mr. Sure-thing. Both face dynamic H.R. manager Christina Song who utilizes every facial expression and posture to underscore her role portrayal. The chemistry between Maripuu and Lovett is convincing as is the sorority between Maripuu & Laki. Both react animatedly to their cameo mother ‘Sadie’ who is played by the writer herself. This is a well-written, well interpreted effort. D.G.
THAT’S JUST 5 KIDS… Helen Gardiner Playhouse
The Dame Judy Dench Troupe is five performers with individual C.V.’s of thespian experience. Together they delineate short skits covering such subjects as theatre late-comers; park mommies; zombie-phobia; dating a magician after ‘the magic is gone’ from the relationship, and an especially humorous shtick about an obnoxious flower-boy.
The team of Jessica Greco; Claire Farmer; Chris Leveille; Shannon Lahaie & Gavin Pounds bring an almost improv atmosphere to their TJ5KIATC Fringe offering. Credibly accepting someone offering to lend support to a police detective when one of the offerees is a dog named ‘Scooby’, may seem challenging, but this team makes it actually work. The pace is rapid and the puns rampant. The full title in abbreviated form would certainly make for a neat computer password! The hour ends far too quickly. T.G.
“HIGH TEA”; Randolph Theatre
British humour brings a commedia del ar-TEA to the Fringe. The show starts in the street. “…Blueberry infusion…” can you hear in the line-up near by the Randolph theatre as patrons sip their flowery beverage. Drinking tea in fine china seems like a rather benign action. But wait to see where this can lead you. James (Aaron Malkin) and Jamesy (Alastair Knowles) shake the Tea-for-2 and we all embark on a hot-water road sprinkled with bumps of earl grey leaves. No need for glasses to see this show in 3D. And if you didn’t take any kids with you (and really you should), do not worry: James and Jamesy will make sure the kid IN you comes out and tickles your asset off. James, the Harlequin, is in love and his Colombina’s name is “Tea”. An overflowing, youthful and irresistible imagination generates a tsunami in the theatre and we all have no choice but surf the wave. James, the white clown, serves as our life buoy at first, standing strong onto reality. But soon enough, the audience gives up, shouts and imitates all kind of creatures, applauds for G.O.D. herself and cheers at Captain-two-hooks. No matter what is your mood when you enter this teapot, you will (mint)-leave it with a smile on your face, or tears bursting out of laughter. F.R.
18 PLACES TO VISIT BEFORE etc.; Helen Gardiner Playhouse
Thought that receiving no program at entry, we scribes would evade performer listings…no such luck; the director doled them out just before curtain. Eighteen Places to visit before you die has five Peter Pan costumed performers presenting a series of disjointed skits that suffer from repetitious dialogue but still glean guffaws as well as some titters. Remember the old vulgar saw about “push the button; pull the lever”? – We’re not From Here’s product gives it a robotic aspect. The current rash of insulting disruptions while ‘Live’ reporters do their on-street interviews is one of the funnier bits, only slightly less than another dig at television. The A.M. TV show giggly talking heads that can’t shut up even when interviewing God, should be a training tutorial for Hamilton’s CHCH (& especially ‘The Shark’). The best shtick has to be the 1-minute dating system, although this writer couldn’t grasp the need for the Airline problem that leads to an unspecified Purgatory-ish no-man’s land. If O.A.R. gave star ratings, 18 Places would be about 2½. D.G.
“EXPOSURE”, Robert Gill Theatre
♫ I got me a Nikon™ camera; gonna take a photograph… ♪. Paul Simon could never have done so without the inventiveness of Louis Daguerre back in 1838 (Eastman invented his film in 1840!). Daguerre was a private unassuming individual so his life was never heavily detailed. John Lazarus has written a ‘possible’ scenario expounding on the conditions that may have resulted in his famous first ‘daguerreotype’ portrait. Utilizing the prodigious talents of three thespians; he expounds not only on the situation but on the possible relationships between all three. Craig Walker is Daguerre and poignantly portrays his personal lack of confidence as well as his modesty. He IS Daguerre! The unknown object of the picture – ‘Anonyme’ is played by Christopher Blackwell as a somewhat useless scion who is taken with a street-vending shoe shiner cum psychic who is the pivotal character between the two men. Laurel Paetz brings all her intestinal feelings into her portrayals with each of her co-stars. All three are more than just credible. As history, ‘Exposure’ may be counterfeit; but as theatre, this is righteous and pure. I sat as mesmerized – as if for a portrait. T.G.
“DEBRIS”, Robert Gill Theatre
Serendipity is defined as a fortunate but unexpected positive stroke of providence. Sitting in the Gill waiting area, we met Daniel Wishes & Seri Yamai who invited me to see their puppet show. It’s more than puppets and much more than ‘show’. Using hand manipulated flats in front of a lamp with the shadows projected onto a screen; the audience learns [or recalls] the events and some miracles associated with the 2011 Japanese tsunami off Tōhoku. Two years and 7,000 kms later, the North American west coast found a boat with a live fish; motorbike & basketball inside. The Yellowtail Jack is native only to Sea of Japan waters; the Harley Davidson® FXSTB fast-tail is now in a Milwaukee museum; and the basketball is back at the Kesen Chu Middle School! The presentation may be a little amateurish but fascinating. Critically, the Fringe should have made this definitely a part of “FringeKids!” but it’s not too late, there are still five more performances. So parents; mentors; or grandparents – bring the kids; they’ll be engrossed and enthralled. D.G.
“HOW MAY I HATE YOU?” Robert Gill Theatre
If you’ve ever worked in retail; had to call a company for assistance; had a rude obnoxious waiter or been ‘Future-Shop’ hustled by commission sales types; “How May I etc” will elucidate the rationale behind such behaviour. It’s not instinctive – it’s mandated!
Training executive Christopher Coombes has we-the-audience as his probationary employees and we’d better pay attention…our jobs are at risk! Using his degreed staff- Kelsey Johnston; Jenna Naulls; & Kano Wilkinson who also ‘served’ as writers/directors & founders. Connor Wooldridge joins them as another minion of Coombes autocratic patronization. We’ll learn how to put folks on interminable HOLD; how to bait-and-switch; how to beat the H.R. interview process and especially how to avoid those useless WHIMIS safety caveats. We don’t learn about Thursday evening & Full Moon customer behavior. Post-curtain the cast told this scribe about beginning to feel both sides of the equation; the ‘genuine-ness of what they portray; and a surprisingly weird feeling of being powerful. BTW, the name BELL has no “H” T.G.
“ROUNDING THE BEND”, Robert Gill Theatre
Writer/director Eliza Blue Musselwhite has fashioned a most compassionate musical evaluation of female bonding that surprisingly, is of interest to either sex. Four young women are going on a motorcar trip. This isn’t ‘Thelma & Louise’ it is empathetic; understanding and non-judgmental. The quartet of Brittany Rae Robinson; Alyssa Minichillo; Brittany Kay & Emma Banigan are impeccable examples of perfect casting. All have the voices; dance talent and thespian skills to adequately portray their characters; psyches and idiosyncrasies through dynamic acting and physical expressions of interpretation. There are six original musical numbers by the writer/director & arranged by Jamie Musselwhite which are keyboard performed on-stage by Tara Litvack. “Inside outside” which is sung by ‘Andrea’ (Brittany #1) is so moving as to the audience being able to hear a pin drop. Her duet with Brittany #2 about “All this Love” is amazingly touching. Both songs are pleasing and melodic enough as to be a hit – even out of context. Hint to Emma B.- audition for ‘Rizzo’ (Grease) or “Pinky’ (Happy Days) – you have the look!
Mayhaps; like ‘The Fantasticks”; ‘Urinetown’ and “Drowsy Chaperone’; by ROUNDING THE BEND this effort will find itself going mainstream. D.G.
“RUKMINI’s GOLD”; Factory Theatre, Mainspace
The setting for RUKMINI’s GOLD by Radha S. Menona is a bench on a typical railway station platform, that might be a station platform anywhere in the world. This simile for a universal place represents the event of leaving to somewhere else by minorities forced out by circumstances beyond their control. In the short space of a one-act 90-minute play, this superb ensemble touches, in a serious way – colonialism, racism, sexism, ageism, forced emigration, and discrimination against older traditional societies by one group seeking to exploit another in Africa, India, the UK, and Canada. The title of the play derives from and reflects the classical medium of exchange: – anything of value that can be easily worn or carried on a person, of relatively high value which can be melted down, sold or exchanged by those who must emigrate. Clothes and accessories not only reflect gender and class but also age plus the carrying-on of memory and historical record. Skin colour and skin tone is not only a visible indicator of racial origin, but also of class and social status. With brilliant insight into universal realities, Menon has written a play which deals with all of these important issues with great humour, subtlety and grace. The seven cast members ably portray all of these issues. A.R.
“STRANGENESS AND BREATH”, Videofag
The power in epigraph collective’s Strangeness in Breath is in its unconventional style and pacing. It finds a balance of scenes written in poetic language and scenes written with conventional narratives often coupled with aside monologues that are both funny and honest. Kudos must be given to writer Curtis te Brinke, director Michael Pintucci and dramaturg Lucy Powis. They demonstrated a strong collective ability to combine two different writing forms into one seamless collage ultimately capturing what it means to be in a relationship while in your early 20’s. It is easy to fall in love with the way the two main characters, played by Curtis te Brinke and Luke Peroni, complement each other. Post curtain,I could hear audience members murmuring which character they identified with, leaving me to believe they accurately captured two relationship personality types without ever falling into cliché. If Strangeness and Breath were made into a sit-com it would star te Brinke and Peroni, Canada’s leading language poets and snarkiest comedians would write it, and some how we would just accept how well all this fits together. Knowing and appreciating that this show has come from a long-term workshop process, I would say it is not done yet. There are multiple endings and some of the scenes can be a slight bit tighter. But if this team sticks together – result will be something spectacular. –J.L
“18: FOURSOME MAJEURE”; Al Green Theatre
Golf can be a frustrating game; I was never able to break 100! This ensemble-written effort deals with the relationship between the two couples making up the foursome and especially between the two males who have an unequal business history. The situations are irritating rather than receiving benevolent empathy. As an O.F., seeing the protagonists constantly using Ipods, even while driving, earned an annoying visceral response. Sandra Flores has some of the more pivotal lines but her projection is so poor that we could hear other audience-members reiterating the dialogue to their partners…even in the 3rd row. On the positive side, the male political commentaries coincide with today’s popular opinions as do the schadenfreude-ish pleasure taken over a divot-excavating fairway hit. Overall, this effort ‘overshoots the green’; drives way into the rough; and double-bogies. It is way over (Fringe Standard) -par. D.G.
“PEOPLE SUCK”; Randolph Theatre
Ever get the urge to vent your personal spleen? Attending a performance of “People Suck’ offers just such an opportunity; along with a full-house audience. Don’t we all know folks that are pure assholes? Alas, writers Peter Cavell & Megan Phillips are aware that even assholes sometimes succeed*. The on-stage quintet blame a Darwinian plethora for the texting (see “18” above), even to telling them to “F.O.”… our sentiments exactly. The Gilbert & Sullivan lyric-style piece entitled “Of all the people I hate” is but one of the clever sets…Allison Price’s title track concerning they DO – except when they ‘don’t’ along with the repeated cowboy dirge –“The man they call the FLAKE” and “My God”(is the right God ) that touched home – given our proximity to a Jehovah’s Witnesses church! We’ve all experienced that ‘frenemy’ attitude defined in the group’s ‘When I see you smile [I want to kill you!]. There is also some poignant bits and overall, the play seems to have an optimistic philosophy. Caveat; you’ll be tempted to join in with the repeated chorus punchlines; I Did. Hint to Arthur Wright, work on your vocal projection, we missed a fair bit of your lyrics.
* If the word ‘Asshole’ feels uneasy, type in 3704558 and then turn the calculator over! D.G.
“MEET CUTE”, Annex Theatre
Take a 15-minute sketch and place the two protagonists under the supervision of three different directors with 3 different plot views and the result is a thespian masterwork. Ria Tienhaara cultivates the scenario from the woman being introductory instigator; Julie Cohn takes the opposite view and Adrianna Prosser is based on mutual consent. The dialogue uttered by writer/producer Erin Norah Thompson and protagonist Jesse Bond is virtually word-for-word but the intonations; body language; pauses; facial expressions, even posture epitomize the diverse directorial focus. She’s an office worker; he’s a creative font artist. Both are aware of each other but shyness or reticence prevents any pick-up moves. (BTW, these articles are in Cambria 12). As a study in directorial manifestations, MEET CUTE is Theatre 201; as examples of thespians utilizing subtleties to underscore portrayals, MEET CUTE is totally professional at its best; as entertainment; MEET CUTE is the fastest fascinating ¾ hour I can recall. T.G.
“THE INVENTOR OF ALL THINGS”, Tarragon–Mainspace
Jem Rolls iterates the true story of Hungarian genius Leo Szilard’s life from 1933 to the mid-forties. The man’s intellect and scientific open-mindedness was miles beyond that of his contemporaries such as Fermi Teller; Wigner and even Einstein. His persuading of the latter to write F.D.R. about developing the atom bomb; his work with Oppenheimer and his humanistic attitudes portray a conflicted moralist but a scientist nevertheless. Szilard had the foresight to close the automatic sharing of scientific data among all the international physicists. Rolls tells his story in five segments; each with its own tensions and dynamics. Humorously, he admits to a lack of comprehension about thermal dynamics; nuclear fission or even atom/neutron splitting. He joins our club! We receive a very human view of a Nobel level intelligence and like some popular T.V. shows; see the difficulties such a mind has with a more average brainpower. His social/marital relationship with Trude Weiss; his reciprocated animosity with General Groves of the ‘Manhattan Project’; creation of the Pentagon & lying to Truman are not glazed over. Rolls may be one person, but on stage- he’s Leo plus all his colleagues…utterly fascinating hour. T.G.
“CAWS & EFFECT” Factory Theatre – Mainstage
No pre-show playbill so no idea who the producers or actors are until about ten minutes into the performance. After a longish introduction in ‘bird’ (colloquial crow), the overhead projectors and large-size screen puppetry tell about the tough life of our feathered friends- birth; hatching and rummaging for food. The occasional balloon comments are pithy and will be a punster’s delight. One doesn’t need to be an ornithologist to appreciate the symbolisms or to enjoy the parallels between our own human challenges. Pity the homicidal owl that ends up having to ‘eat crow’ after a mishap with high tension wires. Surprisingly, the writers never answer that age-old question about bears in woods; that starts with ‘Does a bear etc.?’ The subtle message of Caws & Effect seems to be don’t litter; you may end up annihilating a poor birdie. At curtain, we learn than the two performers are Chloe & Jessica…both hail from Vancouver. D.G.
Editor’s note: A few years ago, the Randolph Academy’s Fringe entry was so superior as to earn a place in that year’s O.A.R. ‘Top Ten Listing’. During an appreciative thank-you call from the School’s administration, a request to use their parking lot for our motor scooter during the Festival was courteously granted. We’ve covered every Randolph entry since then. The present administration has elected to rescind this covenant, and such is their right.
We feel that our reportage promise too, may therefore be revoked… There is no ‘QUID’ requirement without a ‘PRO QUO’.
“I’M RIGHT HERE- A SONG CYCLE” – Tarragon Mainspace
The creators behind “I’m Right Here” have updated their statuses to announce to all of us—in the form of a brisk forty-five minute series of musical vignettes—that they are firmly a part of the anti-social media backlash. Their frustrations with social media, and the way these new forms of communication affect us, inform the bulk of the ten anti-technology tunes in this show’s playlist. Yes, smartphones have changed our lives, but while we may be connected online- all the time-, we are consistently ever more disconnected from the people around us.There is plenty of sympathetic audience laughter for the sites, apps, and feelings most social media users’ experience. The recognition factor of name-dropping dating-sites like Christian Mingle™ might be good for a laugh, but in general, the show suffers when it shies away from getting too specific. Instead it focuses on broader observances that come across as unsupported anger against social media in general; without offering more depth or insight into why we all share this love-hate relationship with technology. Brett McCaig’s lyrics are clever (if occasionally repetitive), and Anthony Bastianon’s catchy music serves this company especially well; in particular the four-part harmonies that make use of the stirring voices of the cast. It’s the male cast members that are showcased best: Michael De Rose’s mid-show solo sits so comfortably in the sweet spot of his vocal range that his number becomes one of the show’s major highlights. Likewise, Ryan Kelly’s paean to overcoming the persistent lure of online distractions is a comedic and vocal tour de force. Mark Selby
“URBAN LEGENDS”, Tarragon Mainspace
That day was all about how to convey a strong message, an important story. Banners, voices and body language celebrated human convictions and passion. In the streets of Toronto, some of us shouted and marched for the rights of justice and climate. At the Tarragon theatre other stories were told through dance. Dance served the freedom of expression: expression of joy with a colorful “waacking” disco revival group (choreographed by Caithlin “Caddy” Superville); expression of mental and physical strength through slow-mo “breaking” (Anthony “Illz”Put). A black and white swirl of vibrant “house” energy depicted the busy and lonely urban life (choreographed by Mariano “Glizzi” Abarca). And guess what? The spirit of MJ is back!! He now wears a red hat, dances on the sweet, sensual and groovy sound of Jose James (beautiful choice!!) … and he is a “she”! Body talk by Caroline “Lady C” Fraser was just stunning. The room was left silent, completely wowed. Choreographer Andrew “Pyro” Chung with his dynamic world of locking took us back to reality. And the reality hit real harder when Amadeus “Primal” Marquez decided to share with us “a strong message not an angry one” with his modern street drama “Genicide”. Goose-bumping. F.R.
“LET’S START A COUNTRY!” Tarragon Mainspace
(1) Open the performance with music which is ABC, (i.e. awful, boring and conventional), from old country audio! (2) Project a mundane screen image of a parliamentary proceeding. (3) Hand out an immigration form indicating that the new country [within a country?]: (a) prohibits books such as ‘Das Kapital’; old fowl from the GTA; and some serious US actors, and (b) restricts the import of baggage such as “national guilt” and “emotional carry-ons”. Less interested in substantive issues rather than symbolic ones, the new Father(s) of Confederation begin by appointing a Cabinet [from the audience], including: a Minister of Yes-man ship, who [almost] always votes Yes to every request; a governor general, on whose head is placed a golden crown in which each point reflects one of the key issues facing the country. To help the new country and its “fatherly leaders of Confederation”, there must be an Official Spy who will keep her eye and shapely body on top of things [on behalf of the originating nation and its energy company which may have precipitated the new country]. Audience catcalls, applause, boos and laughter, continuously guide the proceedings of the new country’s Parliament. In the event of trouble arising, a statuesque fig-leafed male Godlike figure arrives on scene to provide “divine intervention” and put everything back in order. In all, it’s a zany send-up of country and national identity. As the immigration card presciently warns: “Do Not Bend To Foreign Influence!” A.R.
“A MAN WALKS INTO A BAR”, Tarragon extra space
This performance by two excellent actors, Blue Big-wood Mallin and Rachel Blair, resulted in a tense, but somehow not very funny performance of what the playwright herself describes as “a meta-theatrical look at gender dynamics”. Where she seems to have gone a little awry is where she promises a comedy in which “we’re going to have fun”. As one who has never been a barfly, her tale is hardly funny, comedic, or a comedy tale for the many female bar tenders everywhere who must frequently, and skillfully cope with boorish “male chauvinist behavior”. Rachel Blair as a playwright also demonstrates what happens to a guy who comes into a bar and appears well behaved as long as he believes that both he and the barmaid are not alone in the bar. As soon as he discovers otherwise, he becomes something of an aggressive monster, a physical brute, almost attacking the frightened barmaid. In this respect, the play is insightful and profound as it metamorphoses into serious drama. However, calling it a comedy or trying to present it as a comedy doesn’t do it credit. A.R.