Sunday, 4 July 2010

Fringe Reviews: Whores, Funny Men, An Innocent Man

As I have mentioned in other Fringe reviews, attending the Toronto theatre festival is a crap shoot: you never know what level of artistic merit the play/performance you are going to see will have. The festival is un-juried, and participants are chosen by lottery not by how good their productions are. That's what I love about this festival, and why I keep going. When you discover a fresh new talent, you share that with other festivalgoers as you stand in line comparing notes before the start of a show. A buzz can be created by word of mouth that can make a certain plays become hot ticket, must see festival fave. So, if you've seen anything you want to let others know about or if you disagree with any of my reviews, please, please leave a comment.

A Tale of Two Humours

CACTUS: The Seduction...
Created and Performed by Jonno Katz
( &
presented by Jonno Katz - Epicworlds from Melbourne, Australia
Directed by Mark Chavez from the Pajama Men.
Director: Mark Chavez
Genre: Play-Comedy
Audience: General Audience
Warning: Content, Language

DESCRIPTION: Multi-award winning comedy that is both irresistible love story and carnival of boundless imaginings.
“deserves more exclamation marks than the paper will allow. If you can’t get tickets, it is imperative that you either steal them or sneak in.” Vancouver *****
“both Brechtian and pant-wettingly hilarious.” Eye Weekly ****1/2

MY REVIEW: If something is sad we cry, but when it comes to comedy we all don't laugh at the same thing. Amidst eruptions of laughter that filled the sold-ut show, the gentleman sitting beside me and a few people in the audience rarely, if ever, laughed. Jonna Katz did everything right: his deliver was amazing, his narrative structured and clear, and his interaction with the audience magnetic. I can hardly criticize someone for not tickling my funny bone when I can see and hear that he is doing a good job, so I'm going to base this on audience response and take myself out of the equation. Audience Rating: ****1/2 4.5/5 stars

Venue 6 The Solo Room
60 min.
Mon, July 5 4:00 PM - 620
Wed, July 7 10:00 PM - 631
Thu, July 8 9:45 PM - 635
Fri, July 9 7:00 PM - 637
Sun, July 11 12:30 PM - 644

by Jason John Whitehead
presented by Jason John
Whitehead from London, UK
Cast: Jason John Whitehead
Genre: Stand Up Comedy
Audience: Mature Audience
Warning: Content, Language

DESCRIPTION: Making his debut on Canadian soil, originally from Nova Scotia and winner of the prestigious BBC comedy award at the Edinburgh festival. Jason John Whitehead’s comedy has taken him around the world and now he can’t wait to entertain a home crowd. Here is his story so far....
“intensely likeable, seriously funny” - The List

MY REVIEW:I laughed and so did the audience this time round. Jason's performance may not be as polished as Jonno Katz (Cactus), but this is a stand-up comedy, not a one-man comic performance piece about a fictionalized character. Whitehead's comedy set includes a recent break up with a woman who wasn't sure she wanted to be a comedian's girlfriend, his brother's children and a riff on children in general, his father's unwittingly selling what is interpreted as offensive memorabilia on ebay, and the night I saw the performance, a young man named Jordan who occupied the front row all by himself. I loved Whiteheads's ability to freestyle and include Jordan (his mother, and grandmother) in his show. It takes talent and experience to go with the flow, to deliver your set while incorporating the unexpected (Jordan and his family) into the whole set and making it work. My Rating (plus the audience this time): ***1/2 3.5 stars

Venue 6 The Solo Room
60 min.
Thu, July 8 8:00 PM - 634
Fri, July 9 8:45 PM - 638
Sat, July 10 4:30 PM - 641

Two by Tanisha
Wise or foolish as it may be Tanisha Tait directed two plays in this years' Fringe lineup: Maurice Carter's Innocence and The Whores. You may remember that Tanisha was part of my 5 Minute Fringe Festival Special where 8 guests came on to talk about their shows in 5 minutes. I'm happy to report that Tanisha did a good job with both plays

by Donald Molnar & Alicia Payne
presented by Arbez Drama Projects from Toronto
Genre: Play-Drama
Audience: General Audience
Warning: Gunshots

DESCRIPTION: A gospel choir helps tell the story of the enduring friendship between Doug Tjapkes and Maurice Carter, a man who spent 29 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Maurice is Black. Doug is White. While fighting for Maurice’s freedom, the two men became brothers. Based on a true story.

MY REVIEW: When the cast came on I was very happy to see that a few members of the accompanying chorus had been members of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, which meant that I didn't have to worry at all about the singing I was about to hear. As for the drama itself, it was well-suited to its church location, the story was very compelling (especially being based on a true story), but at 90 minutes it's a little long and drags. Since seeing the play, I have heard that the run time has been reduced, which can only add to the enjoyment of this play with gospel music by a talented bunch. Rating: ***1/2 3.5 Stars

Venue 19 Trinity St. Paul United Church - Sanctuary - BYOV
90 min.
Mon, July 5 7:45 PM - 1907
Tue, July 6 7:45 PM - 1908
Wed, July 7 7:45 PM - 1911
Thu, July 8 7:45 PM - 1913
Fri, July 9 7:45 PM - 1914
Sat, July 10 7:45 PM - 1916
Sun, July 11 2:45 PM - 1918

by Charles Crosby
presented by FishStick Productions from Toronto
Director: Tanisha Taitt
Cast: Clare Blackwood, Hayley Fisher, Sarah Illiatovitch- Goldman, Jennifer Kenneally, Joanne Williams
Genre: Play-Drama
Audience: Mature Audience
Warning: Content, Language, Nudity, Gunshots

DESCRIPTION: Derived from interviews conducted with Halifax-area prostitutes, the play looks at the business through the eyes of five women; Carnie, Cherry, Lori, Sam and Mary; from different backgrounds with alternate outlooks and stories to share.

MY REVIEW:The plot speaks for itself, but it's the acting that makes this and everyone of the cast members was correctly. Each actor inhabited their roles with credibility. The the dramatic and comic elements are well-paced and keeps you engaged as the whores' self-revelations and conversations builds a visual world with contrasts and comparisons based on seniority and class. Rating: ****1/2 4.5 stars

Venue 7 George Ignatieff Theatre
75 min.
Mon, July 5 8:00 PM - 730
Tue, July 6 3:00 PM - 733
Thu, July 8 Noon - 745
Fri, July 9 8:45 PM - 757
Sat, July 10 4:00 PM - 761

• 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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