Charming Monsters is a play presented by Afterglow Theatre at Toronto Fringe 2013. The drama claims it is a “play about the monster in us all”, using six characters to demonstrate the lust, greed, and violence. The drama takes place in a small town where a too-charming man, Henry, stirs up trouble with the surrounding women.
Even after having watched the play, it is hard to understand what Charming Monsters is about. Is it about the seductions and affairs of Henry, who tries to get into the beds of the whole female cast? Is it about magic and mythology, since Catherine finds herself connected with a mysterious beast? Is it about the trials of sisterhood and the troubles of the more neglected Cassandra?
It is hard to tell if Charming Monsters takes on one path. The play seems to go in multiple directions. Even the venue promotes on this idea. The stage is separated in four sections. Pairs of chairs can represent trolleys, bedrooms, and the ever-present hilltop with the watchful monster. The scenarios are divided by short bursts, quick to dissipate into the darkness. Scenes jump from place to place, skipping in time and I was left to fill in the blanks.
Charming Monsters attempts to connect all the characters together, but the connections bring forth more questions. Why is there a monster on the cliff? Why does Claudia let Henry stay? What do Jefferies and Cassandra have to do with each other? The play does not offer all the answers.
But, as the name reveals, the play has charm to redeem itself. Though labelled as a drama, the play has enough wit to balance its strangeness. The characters piqued my interest with their twisted and intriguing personalities. This is particularly true for Kyle Mac’s deliciously sleazy portrayal of Henry and Lea Russell’s Claudia. Russell’s sexual magnetism and sharp performance make her a complete stand-out in the show.
Even if Charming Monsters was a confusing show to watch, the characters were compelling enough to keep my interest. It is deviously fun to revel in the dark deeds of imaginary people.
Charming Monsters is playing at Factory Theatre (Mainspace), 125 Bathurst Street, Toronto.
Friday July 5th – 5:15 pm
Sunday July 7th – 3:00pm
Tuesday July 9th – 4:45 pm
Thursday July 11th – 9:15 pm
Friday July 12 th – 7:30 pm
Saturday July 13th – 4:00 pm
Individual Fringetickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Late comers will not be permitted.
Advance tickets are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge) are available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.
Photo credit: Cast of Kevin Rees (David), Jamie Sampson (Catherine), Kyle Mac (Henry), Roselie Wiliamson (Cassandra), Lea Russell (Claudia), and Kathleen Goodleaf (Jefferies).