It’s the end of the first weekend of the Toronto Fringe Festival, and we’ve been busy running from theatre to theatre, sampling everything the festival has to offer. Here are some highlights so far…
PornStar: Fringe regular Chris Craddock offers his trademark dark and imaginative humour to Toronto’s audiences in this thoroughly entertaining story about sex, religious zealots, and hell (it’s not as preachy as you might assume). Bringing Craddock’s script to life is the always impressive trio of Heather Annis, Amy Lee, and director Byron Laviolette – best known as the trio behind ‘Morro and Jasp’. This quirky and contemporary fable is both a tight piece of writing and a great reminder that Annis and Lee are versatile and talented actors in any genre.
Of Mice and Morro and Jasp: Speaking of Annis, Lee, and Laviolette, these recent Dora Award winners are double fisting this year with their own hysterical take on Steinbeck’s classic. Tackling this sacred cow of theatre and literature is yet another creative step forward for the clown sisters who first made a name for themselves with kid-friendly shows at the Palmerston Library. As with any ‘Morro and Jasp’ production, one can expect a porous fourth wall, some gentle ad-libs at the expense of audience members, and palpable chemistry that could only come from a fruitful eight year partnership.
A Funeral for Clowns: This colourful but unobnoxious clown show is a successful example of what happens when style meets substance. Set within the clown universe (if such a thing exists) this work is not so much a story as a somber reflection of a clown’s life via the reminiscence of his family and a few brief but poignant flashbacks. Arrive early as the Funeral Director’s (played by Marcel Dragonieri) pre-show deadpan interactions with the audience are a highlight, as is Kat Letwin’s innocent and tender performance as the deceased’s brother.
Mahmoud: Those allergic to the “over zealous one person show” may be thrown off by the first few minutes of this energetic piece by performer Tara Grammy and director Tom Arthur Davis, but bear with it. As the piece moves forward, an insightful and emotionally honest picture of what it means to be both a first and second generation Iranian-Canadian is revealed, and seemingly unrelated story-lines are cleverly woven together culminating in a powerful conclusion.
The Other Three Sisters: The “dysfunctional family drama” is a common presence at the Fringe Festival, but when filtered through the mind of culture-nerd playwright Johnnie Walker, familiar territory feels refreshed. Issues of death and abandonment dot the thematic landscape, but it’s creative touches like eye patches, cupcakes, and ugly-as-sin dresses that define the flavour of this show.