“Toronto FRINGE 2017” – truncated Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin  (7/17/17)

For the past decade, The ARTS REVIEW has endeavored to cover at least ten percent of the ‘TorFringe’ offerings; using our own protocols or selection process to choose presentational offerings. Alas, the caprices that accompany the aging process have made it too onerous for us to undertake such a large task. Standing, waiting and travel distance have become arduous. However, we DID manage a day’s worth of ‘fringing’. God, & nature willing; we’ll do a better job in 2018 for the thirtieth Festival anniversary. Here’s our impressions on 3 closing-day performances.

A idealistic portrayal of Algonquin – NOT by the “Group of Seven”

ALGONQUIN HIGHWAY
Written and directed by Wyatt Lamoureux, this poignant dialogue between two fiends/lovers uses an automobile breakdown as the enforced situation for a discourse and debate. Alexandra (Haley Vincent) is aboriginal, Nick is a hippy-ish North American with his own brand of baggage. Their diverse backgrounds; uneven history and self-analyses are cleverly directorially underscored by having their relative positions to each other expand & narrow. Occasionally, even the conked-out car becomes a barricade between the two contesting psyches. Crammed with vernacular and oodles of profanity; the audience still becomes intensely focused on their social interaction and exits the theatre inexorably pondering whether there can be a complete reintegration of the duo after their 5-year hiatus. We hoped so.
p.s. The adapted painting of Algonquin Park is courtesy of Lamoureux himself.

 

CHAD MALLETT
Two zanies, Ted Hallett & Matt Folliott call their offering an ‘improv’, but methinks this is but a well-rehearsed plotline that incorporates some locality setting elicited from the audience. Our milieu happened to be Pittsburgh thus referencing the Pirates; funicular railway; and a steel-industry environment. Physically, the duo are180o opposites; they are also converses in personality; yet can switch roles in an instant.  Naturally this requires fatiguing and continually peripatetic on-stage action. They also portray two other characters and again, exchange portrayals with a moment’s notice. The pace is hectic; the simplistic plotline evokes the standardized Danielle Steele idiom but without the various couturier references. High energy; creative concept and liaison with their audience made this an interesting and certainly different Fringe offering. Hallett & Folliott are consummate entertainers worthy of SNL™!

SEEKING REFUGE
This Rick Jones creation directed by Barbara Larose utilizes the talents and vocal ability of six actors to interpret – even uncomfortably expose the duress and hardship facing refugees trying to escape death and deprivation. In this account two orphan sisters possess assets only sufficient for one to get away…hopefully to safety. Performed in the style of opera comique; i.e. sung but with spoken dialogue, the characters may be stereotypes but are reflections right out of today’s headlines. The siblings are Liana Bdewi & Trisha Talrega with the latter being the younger of the two who is extricated from the ongoing violence. Her meeting in a refugee camp and subsequent relationship with Noah Beemer is the only positive aspect of the plot. She’s depicted as naïve; with him as a rare optimist in the face of unspeakable deprivation.
Hostile inhumanity is represented by Nabil Ayoub as a terrorist ISIL-type, while Jennifer Walls gives strong support in three character-renderings. The four contradictory roles played by Milton Dover are the easiest to grasp given his vocal projection and interpretive body language. Unfortunately, the others’ lyrics are drowned out by Robert Graham’s piano who overpowers with the rather repetitious and monotonous theme melody. The play’s sound & lighting effects; subject matter & interpretation made it a deserved Fringe award-winner.

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