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Fringe Reviews: Part 1

So, I've had a chance to see 5 of the 9 plays that were featured on my 5 Minute Fringe Special on June 19th. Each person had 5 minutes to tell you why you should see their show; now it's my turn to tell you whether or not I think you should spend that $10 ($11 if you buy on line).

Kissing Swinburne
by Mark Huisman and Claire Frances Muir
presented by Lady Trevelyan’s Circle from Toronto
(at left)Mark Huisman as Ethel and the mask was created and built by Karen Rodd. Photographer: Claire Frances Muir.

DESCRIPTION: Puppets, live action, masks and multimedia transport you into the imagined, sadomasochistic world of Victorian poet Algernon Swinburne and his love-struck companion Theodore Watts. To win Swinburne’s love, Theo must compete with a lusty first cousin, the school mistress - who paddles with enthusiasm, a preacher who wants a nibble, and an array of lascivious puppets!

MY REVIEW:This imaginative drama has lots of bawdy sexual humour and first-class acting, especially on the part of Claire Frances Muir in the role of Swinburne. Puppetry work by the whole cast presents plot points and songs that will will have you empathizing with poor pathetic Swinburne even as you laugh at his childhood lusts for spankings. Right after seeing this play, I rated it **** 4/5 stars on Facebook. Well, having had a couple of days to think about this rating, I have decided that I was holding back because I saw this on the first night of the Fringe. Rating: 4.5/5 stars.

Director: David Talbot
Cast: Mark Huisman, Mary Krohnert, Claire Frances Muir
Genre: Multi-Media
Audience: Mature Audience
Warning: Content

Venue 22 Bread & Circus- BYOV
65 min.
Sat, July 3 6:45 PM
Sun, July 4 5:00 PM
Mon, July 5 8:30 PM
Tue, July 6 5:00 PM
Wed, July 7 5:00 PM
Thu, July 8 8:30 PM
Fri, July 9 6:45 PM
Sat, July 10 5:00 PM
Sun, July 11 8:30 PM

Love is a Poverty You Can Sell
Original Material written by Justin Haigh.
Featuring the Music of Kurt Weill and others.
presented by Soup Can Theatre from Toronto

DESCRIPTION:Enter the world of a 1920s Berlin cabaret and enjoy a night of song, story, and sin. This special theatrical tribute to the music and musical legacy of legendary composer Kurt Weill features a cast of only the finest bohemian riff-raff backed by a ten piece orchestra.

MY REVIEW:This play has good material (how can you go wrong with Kurt Weill) to start with and the songs are recognizable, but the singers need to project! Bread and Circus is an intimate cabaret setting which is perfect for this play, but most of the singers can't even reach past the first few rows when they hit their lower notes. They also need to correct when and where they breath so that their phrasing controlled and their diction is clear. I saw this on opening night, so I am hoping tweaks are made so that this becomes the brilliant work it should be. Among the singers, the standout for me is Arthur Wright, whose rich voice is perfectly suited to these songs.

Hosting the "cabaret" are Ryan Anning and Scott Dermody as Hans and Jodel. Anning and Dermody have fantastic timing and delivery. Their script, written by Justin Haigh, is a definite highlight of this show, and thankfully they are given the stage time to engage with each other (and us) while they move the show along. Opening Night Rating: *** 3/5 stars. Post Opening Night Rating: TBA

Director: Sarah Thorpe
Genre: Musical Cabaret
Audience: Mature Audience
Warning: Hedonism, Tomfoolery, Indulgently Floral Language

Venue 22 Bread & Circus- BYOV
90 min.
Wed, June 30 10:15 PM
Thu, July 1 10:15 PM
Fri, July 2 10:15 PM
Sat, July 3 10:15 PM
Sun, July 4 2:30 PM
Mon, July 5 10:15 PM
Wed, July 7 10:15 PM
Thu, July 8 10:15 PM
Fri, July 9 10:15 PM
Sat, July 10 10:15 PM
Sun, July 11 2:30 PM

Created by Linette Doherty
presented by Maya and Jackson from Toronto

DESCRIPTION: A hilarious look at public transportation in the big city. From breakdancing cops to bored office drones, the subway is where the city comes together; our joys, loves, fears, and frustrations become shared collective experiences. With a cast of zany characters blending hard hitting street styles and haunting contemporary works, Linette Doherty creates dance that’s accessible, technically innovative, and unique.

MY REVIEW:This is not a tour de force dance work, but it is fun and will appeal to dance students who are thinking of putting on their own shows. What the dancers lacked in technique they more than made up for in their enthusiasm. The dance school standards of jazz, tap, and ballet are performed to a wide range of music from the classics to hip hop. Would appeal to youth audiences. Rating: 3/5 stars.

Director: Linette Doherty
Choreographer: Linette Doherty
Cast: Linette Doherty, Ashley Brodeur, and Gary Lucich
Genre: Dance
Audience: General Audience

Venue 4 Bathurst Street Theatre
60 min.
Fri, July 2 7:00 PM
Sun, July 4 3:30 PM
Mon, July 5 10:30 PM
Wed, July 7 1:45 PM
Thu, July 8 9:15 PM
Sat, July 10 2:15 PM
Sun, July 11 5:15 PM

Raven for a Lark
by Elise Newman
presented by quoi quoi quoi from Toronto

Photo: Elise Newman

DESCRIPTION: Two actors get sucked into the twisted world of Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy. Originally staged at SummerWorks, this darkly funny play was a hit at the Ottawa Fringe. “Devilishly creepy… a must-see” (Ottawa Citizen)

MY REVIEW:It takes nerve to tackle this Shakespearean drama that is not often staged because of its bloody content and heavy subject matter (rape, canibalism, politics etc) so, hats off to Elise Newman for bringing her version of this play to the Fringe. For some people the Fringe connotes comedies and frivolity rather than dark and dangerous. In choosing to focus on the actors playing the roles of Chiron and Lavinia, Newman does a good job of distancing us from the horrible rape and mutilation of Lavinia by Chiron. This slight of hand focuses our attention on the disparate reactions of characters Nina and Charles to the opening night of their show and to different methods of approaching a role. These moments are funny and well-played by Adam Bradley (Charles) and Shelley Liebembuk (Nina). While it is Bradley who will be hated for how good he is in his role, the calculation of Liebembuk's character Nina lurks just below her ingenue surface and her murky depths should not be underestimated. As disturbing as Shakespeare's play, Raven for a Lark is not for those who cannot contemplate the darker, ugly side of our natures. Rating: 3.5/5 stars.

Cast: Adam Bradley, Shelley Liebembuk
Genre: Play-Drama
Audience: General Audience
Warning: Content

Venue 3 Royal St. George's Auditorium
45 min.
Fri, July 2 9:15 PM
Sat, July 3 4:00 PM
Sun, July 4 5:45 PM
Tue, July 6 1:00 PM
Wed, July 7 11:15 PM
Fri, July 9 9:45 PM
Sun, July 11 2:45 PM

The Silent City
by Stagehands
presented by Stagehands from Toronto

Photo: Ashlea Wessel at Revolver Photography

DESCRIPTION: “Bombastic Broadway Rock” raves NOW Magazine! Toronto’s own musical-theatre rock band, Stagehands, brings Fringers a high-energy, all-original rock opera performed and acted the group. Follow the tale of an artist struggling to get heard in a city where nothing is as it seems... Warning: tunes so catchy, you won’t be able to get ‘em out of your head!

MY REVIEW:If you loved Rock of Ages and/or We Will Rock You, then this play will appeal to you. Rebel rocker, Stan, lands in a town where everyone wears a mask by ordinance of the mayor. The mask makes everyone sound the same, and chains them to sing what the mayor approves if they want to become stars. Good music and singers make this a play that could be polished and moved to the Panasonic Theatre, but they will have to rework some of the songs so that the audience will be able to differentiate between Stan's style and the Mayor's style. This musical plot point wasn't clearly defined. Rating: 3/5 stars.

Director: Evan Tsitsias
Choreographer: Stephen Low
Cast: Justine Moritz, Marko Pandza, Nemanja Protic, Geoff Stevens, David Yenovkian and Mackenzie Zufelt
Genre: Musical
Audience: General Audience

Venue 22 Bread & Circus- BYOV
60 min.
Wed, June 30 8:30 PM
Thu, July 1 6:45 PM
Fri, July 2 5:00 PM
Sat, July 3 8:30 PM
Sun, July 4 6:45 PM
Mon, July 5 6:45 PM
Wed, July 7 6:45 PM
Thu, July 8 5:00 PM
Fri, July 9 8:30 PM
Sat, July 10 6:45 PM
Sun, July 11 5:00 PM

• Online at
• By Phone at 416-966-1062 or 1-866-515-7799
• In person (June 30 – July 11 only) at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street


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