Fringe Picks: Part 1

4 Jul

The 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival is in full swing and the buzz is already building! Here are a pair of our early favourites.

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Acclaimed Toronto Playwright Rosa Laborde, throws her hat into the Fringe ring with a family drama about an alcoholic father who re-enters his three adult daughters’ lives shortly after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. On paper, it may sound like quintessential Canadian theatre fare, but there is nothing cut and paste about Laborde’s creation. With a fluid tone that ebbs and flows between drama and comedy, as well as a tug and pull between the ideas of accountability and forgiveness, it’s a rich and rewarding experience with an unusual twist. The site-specific venue, the Citizenry coffee shop on Queen West, is used to great effect; its surprising depth allowing for characters to exit the scene without ever fully leaving the presence of the audience. The cast as a whole is rock solid but it is Scott McCord who steals the scenes as Franco, the middle daughter’s musical husband who finds himself haplessly caught in the midst of his extended family’s crisis on fish taco night.

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Donald Margulies 2010 Tony-nominated play is mounted here with a deft touch by Eclectic Theatre and director Jordan Merkur. Margulies’ protagonists, Sarah and James, a war photographer and a journalist who have shared their lives and careers abroad for nine years, are forced to return home to New York after Sarah is seriously injured in an IED explosion. The return to “civilization” proves to be a catalyst that exposes rifts in their relationship, and ironically shakes their sense of personal stability in a way that not even the chaos of war could. Markur wisely chooses to apply a naturalistic approach to the piece, giving the script and characters the spotlight. Jason Jazrawy is convincing as James, the forgiving yet frustrated journalist, and Carleigh Beverly also deserves acclaim for her role as Mandy, James’ editor’s young and seemingly naïve girlfriend. Mandy’s well-meaning cheerfulness is quietly scorned by the weary couple, but she makes a simple if compelling argument for happiness and in so doing, adds an additional and welcome dimension to Margulies’ work.

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