Right! I slept, I went back to work, and now I’m home and ready to put a cap on my recap of my mini-adventure voyage to the TORONTO FRINGE FESTIVAL. And while I’m sad it’s over (not to mention the fact this was my first ever trip to TO that didn’t involve me hitting up one of my fav’rit places ever, Sneaky Dee’s, sigh), I’m glad I got to see and hang out with so many swell and wunnerful folks. Thanks for making it a fun trip, y’all…not lemme get on with getting on, and yammering excitedly about the rest of the shows I saw!
– OF MICE AND MORRO AND JASP by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee (and John Steinbeck, a little) at Tarragon Main. The clown duo of Morro and Jasp are quickly becoming bonafide Canadian starlets, what with winning Dora awards and what not, so I thought I’d best see what the fuss was all about. I started to figure it out as soon as I saw the rabbits. This particular adventure has our heroines putting on Steinbeck’s legendarily unfunny masterpiece in a desperate attempt to earn themselves some moolah. What follows, from the opening suitcase gag (which I was happily seated right in front of) through to the perfect, hysterical and somehow incredibly moving finale, is the answer to M&J’s popularity in 60 minutes. Heather and Amy have created a comic team that is just about impossible to dislike…they’re so at ease in their clown personas it’s kind of hard to remind yourself ( or convince yourself) that they even ARE personas. I’d pay good money to see them on a stage with Ottawa’s own clown team supreme, Pommes and ‘Restes. Maybe next year..? Ottawa would love you, Morro and Jasp, I know I do.
– ZACK ADAMS: A COMPLETE HISTORY OF ZACK ADAMS by Shane Adamczak, at Tarragon Solo Room. Speaking of personas, I find it’s getting harder and harder for me to think of good Aussie lad Shane Adamczak as Shane, and NOT as his onstage alter-ego Zack Adams, who I’ve seen and mightily enjoyed in two Fringe shows now. This one follows our hard-luck but always hopeful hero Zack from an awkward childhood dreaming of being a star, to an even more awkward adulthood, still dreaming away. A few songs, a few bees, and a whole lot of charm and energy power this gem of a show with ease, and will have you smiling even if you never have before. Worth admission for ‘the song of outrageous lies’ all by itself.
– BAD CONNECTIONS by Michael Levesque, at St.Vlad’s. Starring the fantastically talented Paul Cosentino, CONNECTIONS tells a winding story through the lives of multiple New Yorkers, most of whom are engaged in one deception or another…though which end of the lie they’re on is part of the puzzle. A very human tale about some extremely memorable characters, and Cosentino is clearly in his element, making quick and mostly seamless transitions from frustrated Jewish wife to Yoga guru, despised Italian great-grandfather to pregnant young black woman, and many more. It’s a treat to watch him perform, and the story hits home in all sorts of ways (and doubtless, in different ways to different people). I’m getting pretty giddy with how many great performers I’m being introduced to at this Fringe.
– THE FIRST CANADIAN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES by Jem Rolls, at St.Vlad’s Theatre. Yes, a play by THAT Jem Rolls (more on him in a minute), starring Priscilla Yakielashek as Kimberly White-White, graduate of both Preston Manning AND Sarah Palin colleges, and President of the US in the year 2084. For an Englishman, Jem clearly has a better grasp on Canuck and Yankee politics than mos of US do, and he’s crafter a wicked satire on the collapse of the economy, civil rights and privacy. His script is more than matched by Yakeilashek’s unerring performance as the striking but dim pres, who often has to slowly sound out the bigger words in the speech she’s been given. It’s a crafty gem (get it?) of a show that should get even the mildest politicos thinking…and any fans of good acting grinning.
– JEM ROLLS: TEN STARTS AND AN END by Jem Rolls, at the George Ignatieff Theatre. If you’ve seen a Jem Rolls show before (one of his solo shows, that is), you’ll have a basic idea of what to expect. If not, brace yourself, because you’re about to get punched in the face by WORDS! Jem’s unique brand of performance poetry careens full tilt straight at you (and occasionally sideways when you’re not looking) with only the occasional blackout for respite. Don’t worry, though, Jem’s a friendly sort despite all the bluster, and this show features a few of his kinder odes, to both Toronto and a village in Scotland (plus a hilarious rant on drunken louts titled ‘Here comes the Hammer Gang’). A nice assortment of Jem gold in this show, and it will certainly please any of his fans, and should make him a few new ones to boot.
– IN/SIDE THE BOX by Sinead Cormack, at the Helen Gardiner Playhouse. Ostensibly a play about the ways in which we try and make ourselves conform, I find it’s best (from my dull-witted perspective, at least) to try and ‘feel’ a physical/dance piece like this one rather than think it, because quite frankly, thinking is not my strong suit. But this one-woman ensemble dance piece (trust me) is an utter delight to behold, as the dangerously talented Cormack creates her own set before your eyes, dances with partners who aren’t there, occasionally defies gravity and even makes a snack break entertaining. The fact that she manages this beauty of a physical performance with a smile on her face is icing on the cake. I was hoping to get at least one cool as fuck dance piece in on this Fringe your, and now I’ve got it. I also may have found my Toronto Fringe-Crush, which is also swell.
That was all I managed to squeak in on my whirlwind three-day Toronto tour, and my apologies to all for getting these reviews up so late in the game! Although plenty of these shows are continuing on tour across the Canadian Fringe circuit…if you see some of them in Winnipeg, Edmonton, or realms beyond, give’em a try! And tell them the Visitor sent ya. Thanks for the funs, TO…and thanks too for the copy of 1st issue special from 1975, featuring Jack Kirby’s DINGBATS OF DANGER STREET, which I found at the Silver Snail on Queen. That was a nice touch.
Peace, love and soul, Fringers,