Tonight’s almost full-house bodes well for Rachel Blair’s two-hander, A Man Walks into a Bar, playing at Tarragon Extra Space as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. Blair has written a true to life, well-paced, feminist show. Don’t let the feminist label scare you. The play is quite funny. Proof that feminists do have a sense of humour.
Blair plays The Woman and Blue Bigwood-Mallin is The Man. The show opens with The Woman trying to tell a joke. The Man interrupts her to tell her that she is speaking too fast. She is. She slows down.
She says “A man walks into a bar…” and The Man interrupts her again. “What kind of bar?” He explains that good story telling depends on details. She starts again. He interrupts her…
The play holds up a mirror to life. Life as a woman. No matter what you’re doing there’s usually a man ready and willing to leap in and tell you how to do it right.
The Woman is a bit bemused but she goes along with his suggestions. At first it’s funny.
There aren’t any one-liners; the humour is in the delivery, in the body language. For me a lot of the humour is in the recognition of the interaction between The Woman and The Man.
They start acting out the story. The Man walks into the bar. The Woman is the bartender. They flirt a bit, and chat. He interrupts, he wants the joke to humanize him so they back up a bit and start again.
It’s as if there are two women and two men on stage; The Woman who is trying to tell the joke and the woman who is the bartender, and The Man who is interrupting the joke and the man who is the customer.
The mounting tension was a familiar feeling. I imagine all women have been in a similar situation. A man you don’t really know, who thinks he knows you, gets irritated at something you say or do.
The Woman gets testy. The Man gets annoyed, The Woman gets nervous. The Man gets Angry. The Woman is afraid.
They back up a bit and start over.
It has the potential to be confusing but Blair is a terrific actor. She has great timing and delivery and can switch from a comedic mode to a more dramatic mode without missing a beat. Bigwood-Mallin took a while to hit his stride and relax into the role. I’m sure it was first night jitters and he’ll be fine.
I like plays that have a message but don’t hit you over the head with it. I love plays that make you laugh while they deliver the message. I really enjoyed A Man Walks into a Bar.
- A Man Walks into a Bar is playing at Tarragon Theatre Extra Space (30 Bridgman Ave)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door.
- The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.
July 03 at 01:15 PM
July 04 at 07:00 PM
July 05 at 03:30 PM
July 06 at 08:30 PM
July 08 at 12:00 PM
July 11 at 05:15 PM
Photo of Blue Bigwood-Mallin and Rachel Blair by Jon Robertson