Tuesday, 31 July 2012

FringeTO Faves

Guest, HeidyMo (http://hyemusings.blogspot.ca/) and I discuss some of our favourite Toronto Fringe Festival faves:

With the Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival being unjuried, sometimes you will luck out and see great shows and sometimes you can bounce from a spectacular show to a bomb in the span of 60 minutes. When I go to the Fringe, I hope to see a mix of indie and professional passion. This year, from my perspective at least, there seemed to be a bumper crop of wonderful plays. Here are some o my avourite plays, not because they were technically excellent, as many were, but because they resonated with me.

Liza Paul and Bahia Watson
Liza Paul and Bahia Watson, past artist-in-residence grads from d'bi young's anitafrika dub theatre) are the creators and stars of Pomme is French For Apple, a play that dares to share the honest truth about the vagina, sexuality and platonic and non-platonic relationships. One of my favourite scenes, is the one in which Liza (playing the teenage daughter) asks her Caribbean mother (Bahia) if she can date. What follows is a hilarious diatribe that more than answers the question. I saw knee-slapping from beginning to end. A Caribbean show that is well-suited to Toronto's savvy audiences.

Seeing a title like pornstar at the Fringe could be a little dicey. I didn't know if I was in for stripper poles, or raunchy dialogue intended just to shock, but with Chris Craddock'ss name on the script and the team behind Fringe darlings Morro and Jasp, I joined the line that stretched around the Tarragon Theatre with less trepidation than I would if the production had been by unknowns. What I got was a smart script about religion, politics, and a young woman's claiming of her sexuality maturity. The comedy about a repressed Saskatchewan librarian's nomination for amateur porn (little did she know she was staring in one at the time) was intelligent as well as winningly acted by Amy Lee (Esther), and seductively performed by Lynne Griffin as sexpert, Sharon, whom Esther encounters when she lands in San Francisco. Rounding out this women-only quartet are Heather Marie Annis as the innocent, ethereal Kate, longing to reconnect with sister, Esther, and Sharah Menell, as Clarice, the Sarah Palin-loving politician and mother of Kate and Esther, played with cool fire by Menell. My Rating: 5/5 Stars

OTHER FAVOURITES, include The Dinner, which has an outstanding ensemble cast, and one that I have already reviewed is The Virginity Lost & Found, a perfect pairing with POMME! (see these reviews here) and The Ballad of Herbie Cox (see review)


Jim Sands
charlie: a hockey story. I love storytelling, and Jim Sands quickly drew me under his spell with this mostly autobiographical tale. As a kid, Jim was the kind of guy who wanted to watch a brand new series called Star Trek, with its phasers in action and women in short skirts than spend an evening watching hockey. A successful night for him was getting away with switching the channel (manually, back then), and hoping his Dad kept snoozing on the couch so he could make it through an entire episode. When young Jim finds out his father's brother was once part o the NHL, is the moment that sparks his interest in the game. Through his recounting of hockey's rock 'em, sock 'em history, Jim reveals aspects of his relationship with his father (one that never ran smoothly), and his love of Shakespeare. Yep, I said Shakespeare. Sometimes good shows get overlooked at the Fringe. At 75 minutes the show could be improved with a good 15 minutes shaved off its run time, but this "average guy" show is a good one that deserved more than the modest crowd that were present at my viewing. If you're out West try and catch Jim's other performances of charlie: a hockey story: http://www.jim-sands.ca/  My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Quantum Taxis
By: Paul Steinsland
Company: Punkture Wounds Productions
Company origin: Toronto, ON
Director: Paul Steinsland
Location: Honest Ed’s Parking Garage, 581 Bloor St. W.

FRINGE DESCRIPTION: Performed in an underground parking garage, the play is set inside two cabs. Each driver interacts with his passenger in a way which affects both lives. Yet what happens when a seemingly insignificant event causes each passenger to get into a different taxi? We see in an alternate reality how the smallest occurrence can profoundly change our trajectory.

My THOUGHTS: Kudos to this play for a)taking me somewhere I had never been, or even thought of going: Honest Ed's Parking Garage (I don't think many in my group had been to this site, either judging by their response), and b) making me think about Quantum Mechanics as it relates to everyday experiences of four characters (two passengers, two drivers) as they chit chat about life while headed to their destinations. God, the Universe, Fate, Coincidence, reggae music (Did you know every tune can be transposed into a reggae song?) are all explored with a casualness that nevertheless makes you ponder your own existence. At 80 minutes, the play does drag, especially when your Fringe time clock is tuned to plays below the 60-minute mark, but I was glad of the experience. My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Photo Credits: photo of Liza Paul and Bahis Watson, Taxi Cab by donna g; photo of Jim Sands courtesy o http://fringetoronto.com/

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