Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fringe Toronto 2009 Round-Up

I only made it to five plays this year, but four of them were magnifico. There's nothing like a Fringe. The festival continues through Sunday. (Complete schedule and mini-reviews here.)

Pen Pals
Two guys, best friends, are trying to break into the TV/movie business as script writers. They collaborate on screenplays. They're also roommates and soul mates. The two actors do not give the most polished performances I've ever seen but they create compelling characters nonetheless. The writing is brilliant: very very funny, especially when they're pitching ideas to each other. I was laughing so hard at a couple of points that I feared I'd start snorting. Delightful.

Written and performed by Andrew Patterson and Holm Bradwell.

A reconceptualizing of Aristophane's classic sex comedy. This is a play I've read but never seen before; this team really brought it to life. The plot is that women in Greece stage a sex strike to force their men to end the Peloponnesian war. In this production the anti-war message is emphasized. It went from being a sex farce to a hard-hitting drama and just when I wondered how they'd pull it all together, they did... with some help from Abba.

Written by Peter McGarry. Performed by Nell Corrin, Dee Watson, Lara Bradban, and Carly Tarett.

Today Is All Your Birthdays
It's essentially a bunch of skits performed by four guys in coveralls, but the piece is unexpectedly woven together into a story about a rift in the space time continuum, employees at the CERN large Hadron collider, Darwin, and, well... I really need to see it again. It's very, very funny and flawlessly performed by actors who are bursting out with talent and appeal.

Written and performed by the Uncalled For troupe.

One-man play about a little boy remembering when he was seven and the circus came to town. (Warning: spoiler alert.) This is one of those things that seem to be about one thing and then turn out to be about something else. The boy thinks he's telling a story about a supernatural circus that somehow took over his soul and changed him into something evil, but gradually we see that he's telling a story about being the victim of child abuse: his mother, a creepy blind woman who speaks in psycho-Dr Suess rhymes, beats him and drugs him until he loses his sanity. The slow unfolding of the real story means it's not difficult to watch: we think we're seeing one kind of horror and then later realize we've seen another.

Written and performed by Sebastian Kroon.

The only dud I saw, and it was still watchable. A musical about serial killers in the 50s, this story has been told many times (Natural Born Killers was about the same duo), and this production adds nothing whatsoever to the story. Plus, the female actor simply wasn't very good. Still: a musical about serial killers!

Written by Kevin McGarry. Performed by Lindsey Frazier, Kevin McGarry, and Gabriel Antonacci.



Anonymous said...

Re Musicals about serial killers... if I was one of the guys in Pen Pals, I'd be compelled to blurt out "Sweeney Todd!" -jk

Anonymous said...

I think you were WAY off the mark on Circus. There were no drugs, he didn't go insane, and it WAS the circus from hell. He's now dead and forced to re-live the telling of the story over and over again.