Review: Mister Baxter (The Quickening Theatre)

Mr Baxter The Quickening Theatre at the Bring the BUZZ Festival at Theatre Passe Muraille

This latest incarnation from Quickening Theatre brings the BUZZ to theatre in Toronto.

Mister Baxter is the first of five plays being presented in the Bring the BUZZ Festival at Theatre Passe Muraille.

Written by Kate Fenton, Mister Baxter was first performed at InspiraTO in 2010 as a 10-minute play and won the Audience Choice Award. In 2011, it was a 50-minute play at Fringe and was chosen as Outstanding Ensemble by Now Magazine. You know it must have something special to offer.

A young play is like a child, it grows and develops and a lot of that growth and development takes place in the first two or three years. Mister Baxter is now a 70-minute play with three stories that gradually come together and intersect, all set on the TTC.

It’s a play about connections and the result that one incident can have on a number of people who weren’t part of it; or who were part of it in a limited sense in that they knew one of the people involved.

The writing is strong and the characters and situations are believable, something I appreciate a lot. It’s real life, only more focused.

Even though I knew what was going to happen I could feel the tension mounting. There was a really effective use of a garbled TTC service announcement that broke the tension. Most of the comedic moments were effective tension breakers. The play is billed as a comedy/drama but there’s much more drama than comedy. I needed my Kleenex.

Before the show Andy McKim, Artistic director at Theatre Passe Muraille, introduced playwright Kate Fenton and told us that Bring The BUZZ is a play development festival that uses audience dramaturging to further develop the plays. There’s a brief questionnaire in the program for the audience to fill at the end of the show. After the show, he invited us upstairs to mingle. He said that if we spoke to Kate the kind of comment that is most helpful to the development of the play is about what you didn’t get or struggled to figure out.

I’m not a lot of help as an audience member dramaturge unless it’s a play I don’t like. If there’s no real emotional or intellectual connection then I spend the time picking things apart. If I feel connected to the piece then I don’t really notice anything, I’m caught up in the play. It’s almost impossible for me to be objective as soon as the play ends. I need a bit of time.

Kate, if you’re reading this, it took me quite a while to figure out that Paul and Rebecca were actually on the train.

Part of the fund raising initiative for the play is a silent auction of the winning photos from a photo contest that The Quickening Theatre held. Take a few minutes before or after the show to go upstairs and see them – and maybe bid.

Mister Baxter isn’t a play for young children but I think that mature teens would enjoy it. In the end it’s a play about hope.

Details:

– Mister Baxter is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille (15 Ryerson Avenue)
– Performances are on September 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29 at 7.30 pm with Saturday matinees at 2 pm
– Tickets are $25.00. Saturday matinees are PWYC available only at the door
– Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-504-7529 and at the box office