‘The Toronto Fringe’ – a most worthwhile festival Reply

EDITORIAL UPDATE  (7/12): A serious situation occurred very late Monday night that caused us to completely curtail attending, and even miss entry closings at some of our chosen Fringe offerings. To GEEK; Kabarrett; Andy Warhol; ‘2018 -a Sex Odyssey; & “Tee Shirt”. Our sincerest apologies. Perhaps some of the above are planning on re-staging their efforts at the Hamilton Fringe. If so, let us know!

The FESTIVAL is over; so this is our recap! The Hamilton/Toronto train rides are onerous; schlepping around downtown Toronto -tiring; taking our notes and then publishing same means 14-16-hour days. However, the efforts & thespian results make it all more than worthwhile…its a privilege!    HINT: – Watch for a major change in our ARTS REVIEW’s Top Ten in December.


High School Symphony -cast

Upstream Downtown, St. Vladimir’s
Common knowledge, all of Toronto south of the Casa Loma used to be Lake Ontario. Thanks to landfill, we’re now a supposedly ‘World Class’ city. At least according to John Tory and his hourly TV interviews. Morgan Johnson & Alexandra Simpson tell the evolution of both city and the Chinook genus of salmon…from the salmon’s point of view. The result is hilarious giving proof to the fact that ‘Funny can also be clever’. “SPLASH[“ this isn’t! The two fishies; Jojo & Beagle, interact with the audience; control the backup drum & horn accompaniment, and tease each other mercilessly. They’re also acrobatic dancers and seem to throughly enjoy their on-stage escapes. A shame we saw this offering on its last performance – otherwise could have recommended it to readers looking for a light but pleasant comedy hour. D.G.

Judas Star Supersong, Church of St. Stephen in-the-Fields
Preface: – I am a huge fan of the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and after 35 years, still know all the lyrics to all the songs. I still treasure the double album but have not played it for many years. This show happily brought it all back and made me enthusiastically wish I could sing along! Like many theatre-goers I’m familiar with the songs and characters well. My 31-year old daughter not as much. She did enjoy the show but found it hard to keep track of the characters as they changed with the story. She left wishing there was something physical that could have differentiated them. A simple scarf or hat perhaps? We both thought Paula Wolfson was fabulous. She is blessed with a beautiful voice with all the range necessary to sing both male and female roles. Her accompaniment on piano and drums was a beautiful addition. It made transition from characters & songs interesting. The venue (& acoustics) were an idyllic setting. Mary Lou Harley

Rage Against The Complacent, Robert Gill Theatre
Two of the people with whom I witnessed ‘Complacent’ said it was refreshing to see a show willing to experiment with form… I agree. Theatre is the art structure of the future and shows such as this find ways to continue exploring what the medium can be. It reminded me of ‘Pool No Water’: – minimal set, five actors moving together using choreography to express themselves as unit . But this script is Canadian not British, and deals with an issue we in Toronto still need to find solutions for. A hundred homeless people died in Toronto in 2017 (nearly two per week) and in 2018 the Globe and Mail reported many of the city’s homeless chose freezing conditions over dangerous shelters. Writer & composer Daniel Bagg and hisRage Against The Complacent” asks us to engage, to help, to change.  J.L,

Anywhere, Factory Theatre, studio
It is human to sometimes want to pick up & go; to move away from our homes, to leave our comfortable relationships, to shake the planted trees of our lives and break the root even if that means ending up on the ground. We can feel alone doing this. Telling the people closest to us that we want to leave them is harder than expected. Desperation, estrangement , and self-doubt is what ‘Anywhere’ is about. But it is not the traditional splice of life comedy that you would expect to deal with these themes – it’s a thriller. Liz (Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster), a married business woman, stays in an Air B&B for a week. Even offered a hotel provided by her work- choses the alternative to get the full suburban experience missing from the city. On the last night of her stay, her host Joy (Cass Van Wyck) is waiting up for her to confront her about what ensued between Liz, Joy, and Joy’s boyfriend the night before. David Lafontaine’s direction is big, bold, and alluring. Michael Ross Albert knows how to reel you in slowly, then hook you. He is a rare writer that can state his themes directly and still give you more to think about in the subtext. Wyck & Lancaster don’t just portray; they are their roles. This is an engaging story.  J.L.

Mrs. Mama’s House, Bata Museum
Mrs. Mama’s House” is a beautiful piece of theatre about ugliness. The show uses the nursery rhyme “The Old Woman Who Lives  In a Shoe” as a jumping off point to transform the basement of the BATA shoe museum into a world that is surreal and wondrous. I’ll never look at the shoe museum the same again. Natalie Semotiuk, who plays mama, keeps the danger omnipresent while Northfield, Murray, and Sethna dig deep into the heart of the piece. If the show continues in its development – it would be great to see more of these “duckies” and their world. J.L.

F*cking Perfect, Factory Theatre, Mainspace
Very Fringe; very imaginative creation that represent human interaction…in this instance – modified with with the adjective “Selective”. Three women, Jeysa Caridad; Jessica Bowmer & Iliana Spirakas, personify and define insecurity. Something to which all of us can identify. Hair inferences, but less ‘in your face’ than The Merlin Sisters’ take of the subject. The title appears too often in the monologues, but remember, I’m a really Old Fart.
The ladies facility to posture help underscore the vocalized statements, and the sensually choreography is impeccable. Mayhaps the title should read “
Feeling Perfect” – the common usage “F” word. D.G.

ECHOES, Factory Theatre, Mainspace
Personal note: -Interest in interpretive dance is the result of previous Fringe offerings. ‘Echoes’ has no plot just feelings explored and presented by four dancers grouped in duos – 2 white-clad; the other pair in black portraying their shadow selves. The quartet are emigres from Greece; Ecuador; Cuba & Hamilton. Clever use of silhouetting; posturing and aerobatic moves are like one’s walking through a beautiful garden. No need for comprehension, analysis, or correct nomenclature – just the appreciation of beauty and talent. Absolutely fascinating and definitely something exotic. The Vancouver production company OMNIKA has taken the trouble to list the unfamiliar fifteen selected works the onstage background terpsichore, something that may help promote some of these interesting pieces. Alex, Isabella Nikki & Rowynn‘s costuming, makeup and natural attraction almost detract from their collective beauty. T.M.

The Girl in the Photograph, Factory Theatre, Studio
One major plot with a couple of sub-plots. This instance, Mexico; Guatemala & Chile are some of the countries of cast member origin. Necessary because a large portion of the dialogue is in Spanish. However, even uni-linguists will grasp the on-stage story progress. A very young actress becomes sexually associated with the much older director who has a beefed-up Don Juan complex. He’s also got a live-in girlfriend and has had an affair with his assistant.
Portrayals are sincere and seem real with a strong feeling of chemistry between all of the cast. The usage of a side-stage guitarist (Johnny Salib) brings both underscoring and a welcome tension-breaker to what is progressing but it is the powerful magnetism between ingenue Andrea Cabeza (The girl in the photograph) and her director David Chinchilla that keeps the audience fascinated and glued to both characters. Strong support is contributed by Tamara Almeida & Erin Roche as his other paramours. The legal statutory aspect, as well as secondary story lines make this one of those shows that require continual audience attention. But it’s engrossing enough to make this not a chore. This is “ Es un esfverzo sincero” (a determined endeavour) D.J.

CLIMB, St. Stephen’s Community
“Climb” is a supposedly biographical showcase for composer performer Duane Forrest. He sings & plays guitar (Actually plays it, not just the chords) continually throughout the hour. Seems he met a woman while living in Northern Mexico; chased after her; had a relationship and then blew it all away. The dating, seducing, subsequent wedding, cheating and loss chapters are all acted out behind a semi-opaque screen giving an effect of the story being his dreaming. The couple, who actually come out stage front, are both very attractive and convincing in their portrayals. Diego is Dwain Murphy and ‘Mariella’ is Sandra Aguilar. 
Forrest has failed to arrange even the simplest of programme notes, hence this writer had to request a cast listing, and suggest that in future, such a sheet, contain the other characters (& brief bios) as well as a song list – perhaps with some of the reggae lyrics for audience singalongs!
Curious note; noticed three members of the audience reading our paper on their smartphones before curtain …flattering! T.M.

Under the Knife, Randolph Theatre
n. yid. misfortune, bad luck, travail or worry. In this case a family that doesn’t respond to each other. All the characters are 180 degrees apart but living together. A familiar thesis but the over-usage of a certain scatalogical verb beginning with the letter “F” and the noun ‘You’, can grate. The play needs a dramaturge to cut this effort down by about twenty-five minutes. In this writer’s opinion, ‘Under the Knife’ needs sharpening .
B.T.W. Having our motor-scooter stolen last night & vandalized before the Toronto Police recovered it is an epitome of TzurusT.G.

One Left Hour, Randolph Theatre
Thinking outside the box’ is the aim of many playwrights. ‘Good Old Neon’ has gone beyond even the room in which that metaphysical box is stored! Bringing the ludicrous works of Danil Kharms (1905-42) to a stage is like his output – surreal and this 7-person production team utilize many theatrical vehicles to accomplish their goal. The creators are also the cast who dance; recite; semaphore; posture and choreograph as well as publish his works in their playbill.
The result is heavily symbolized as are the onstage discussions. This scribe actually had an urge to participate in the ‘Art is Food’ debate. They also pre-wrote a summation of this review in stating “
We understand that this approach is not for everybody. We hope that it will be for you. But if not-that’s okay too” Summary: – it’s more than just for some, and definitely OKAY+ D.G.

“Danil Kharms”…  portrayed times five!

High School Symphony,  Randolph Theatre
In a word, this is a totally professional and polished project. It’s a funny, energetic, fast-paced musical with a diaphanous plot. Two school mates reunite, compete and bully one-another on social media. Familiar -yes, but this obviously autobiographical tale resonates with
all of us. A large cast of pro musicians; some acting for the first time; are precisely handled by director Ryan Percival. Playwright & costume designer  Hayley Pace who also plays ‘Hayley’ in the story line. Her team of seven creative team mates bring the eight-member cast to life and audiences are sure to identify with at least one of the characters. Admission :- there’s three ME’s among them! Their instrumental talents are top drawer; their acting is more than passable, and the only challenge, was turning my head sufficiently to with the action in the balcony that’s co-ordinated with the stuff on stage. Nick Marshall‘s trombone; Teddy Zamor‘s trumpet & Jeremy Deveaux’s sax playing will have some band aficionado’s wondering where to hear them perform post-Fringe. Thanks to seatmate Teika for some terminology defining! D.G.

Slaves of Starbucks, Al Green Theatre
S of S” one of those one- (cynical, white) -man Fringe shows who’s comedy is equal parts tasteless and righteous. How many of these fringe shows can there be? How many times can these men win the lottery? There are at least two characters named Bob, three jokes with rape as the punch line (four if you include an entire bit about being castrated), countless mentions of Nazi Germany and every female character being satirized is dumb. This show is not funny it is easy. It runs 85 minutes (of course) and gets more desperate and obnoxious as it goes on.  J.L

First Dates, St. Vladimir Theatre
This is
the one. In future years, when recalling the 2018 Fringe, I’ll immediately remember my emotional reaction to this totally polished and epitomic definition of what professional theatre can create. Urinetown; Drowsy Chaperone; The Fantasticks and My Wiggen Lesbian Jewish Mother’s Wedding all went mainstream. If ‘First Dates’ aren’t picked up for future staging it will be a “Shanda” (Yiddish for sin) This is a meticulously directed, top drawer thespian effort and every one of the connected vignettes are touchingly and empathetically presented. This scribe was especially moved by the interaction between Ron Lea and Allegro Fulton’s sketch; 

Ron Lea & Allegra Fulton interacting

I also identified with David Fox’s dementia portrayal that touched a little too close to home. Bring a friend, bring a sweater (St. V’s A/C is powerhouse) and bring a few tissues. I’ve planned on seeing it twice! D.G.

The amazing cast of FIRST DATES

The Joy of Sax, Passe Muraille, main space
A young man from a religiously fanatic family is learning to play a saxophone. His dissonance somehow is an aphrodisiac and turns on the other cast members to licentious behaviour as they hear his beginner’s off-key noise. In vignettes we meet those affected, all are stereotypes and the cast are amazing at their multiple portrayals. Cam Parkes has the lead role and he occasionally seems overwhelmed. The 3-hatted (writer/producer/director) Tim Phillips and his team have given this play-let their full effort, but somehow, as Shakespeare said it “Much ado about nothing” D.J.

The Merkin Sisters, Factory Theatre, Mainspace
Ingrid and Stephanie start their presentation by invading the audience, and thus we know we’re going to be involved and acknowledged from on-stage. Genetic hairballs; portrayed physiology, visual skits and above all, ADULT themes and simulations of love & masturbation.
The duo are well-coordinated; pliable and integrated as a team. Their show is creative and very different.
I found that this 75 minute effort was about 30 minutes too long, but the audience loved it.

Nocturnal Space; Al Green Theatre
When contemporary dance works it sometimes hits me spiritually, and Emily Rapley’s Nocturnal Space did just that. Five women enter the stage individually with an opening gesture that I am sure will be the best at fringe – it’s moving, original and that energy continues through the rest of the piece. These women are grappling with themselves and maybe something larger, more immediate. It makes sense in our current political climate for a dance show to begin and end in strife, we condemn ourselves and we victimize others in the same way these dancers confine themselves and those around them. Rapley finds countless moments to disturb through violent movements and grisly silence. There were a few missed opportunities, especially in the moments when the dancers are alone on stage but for a debut performance I am excited to see what’s next. Stand out performances for Victoria Gubiani, Paige Sayles and Robyn Bedford. Plus – a standing ovation to Alex Laurie’s musical score .J.L

The Makeover Show; Monsieur Barber shop & Spa
This play, directed by Nicole Arends and featuring Alysa Golden and Jane Smythe, is based on Alysa’s actual experience on Style by Jury, a reality-tv show in the early-naughts. It depicts a make-over show effectively staged in a beauty salon, with antique chairs and stylish décor, using audience members as studio audience. Alysa plays a mother of teenagers trying to become “the person she wants to be” through the ministrations of Jayne’s elegant, relentless host/expert. Alysa complies – until she finds the “real” make-over in their relationship. The dance between the two well-drawn characters balances comedy and emotion. Their final turning point, however, seems rushed, and could be portrayed more theatrically, including a costume change showing Jayne’s transformation. Recommended for a new “look” at ourselves. Created and presented by Avalon Company, E.S.J.

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