Shecky’s Yoga Shul (Shana and Howard Productions) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Shana Sandler by Harold PressburgerOut of the past couple of years exploring the Toronto Fringe Festival, I think I chose the best way to start this year’s festivities — yoga class. Shecky’s Yoga Shul is exactly that, a yoga class in the form of a Fringe show combining ancient yoga traditions with Judaic wisdom. But don’t let the label fool you, this 75-minute experience is not preachy, evangelical or wholly new-agey. What it is is inspiring, amusing, comical, and a great way to get a work out during Fringe.

Yes, this is a yoga class so yes you will be required to move. Needless to say, this production, if it can be called that, revolves around audience participation. Wear comfortable clothing, anything you can move and stretch in. This class is for all levels of yoga experience and abilities so whether you do this regularly or it’s been years since you’ve downward dogged or sun saluted (or you don’t even know what that means), you can feel welcome in the class.

The class is lead by Howard Pressburger as Yogi Shecky and his assistant Shana Sandler. Pressburger does a fine job infusing Jewish philosophy and humor into the proceedings of the class. Right from the beginning, the class starts with a chant of “Oym” — a combination of “Oy!”, the classic Jewish expression of frustration and “Om” , the sacred sound of universal consciousness. In a way it represents the world taking care of everyone’s frustrations.

Now I’m not Jewish, I haven’t done yoga in years, and my relationship with the idea of divinity is currently questionable but on a basic level, the class and the lessons can be used as a simple way of dealing with life, relationships and stress which is what I took out of it. It’s not necessary to have come away with some great epiphany of the higher self.

There were a few moments of interruption during the class, one where Shecky was overcome with a bad coughing fit (still unsure if that was staged or not), and when Shecky answered a phone call from his mother. These created abrupt halts in the flow of the class in ways to show that even the great yogi is flawed and human. It pulled the class, the audience, back to reality to realize that yes, this is still a performance.

This is obviously not standard theatre and it crosses the line somewhere between reality and a production. With all the shows happening during Fringe, this is a refreshing alternative to a standard show. It beats sitting on a hard folding chair for an hour and a half and it’s great way to either begin your day or unwind after. With the opening performance having sold out even before I arrived, and seeing that their July 4th show is also sold out, it’s safe to say that others are realizing the same.


Shecky’s Yoga Shul plays at the Ahimsa Yoga Centre. (440 Bloor St W)

Audience advisory: this performance includes audience participation, movement, standing, and floor sitting. Comfortable clothing is encouraged.

Show times
July 03 at 07:30 PM
July 04 at 07:00 PM
July 05 at 02:00 PM
July 07 at 09:30 PM
July 09 at 01:30 PM
July 10 at 09:30 PM
July 11 at 07:00 PM
July 12 at 02:00 PM

Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online , by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.

To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of Shana Sandler by Howard Pressburger