The Philanderess is a farce by playwright and actor Sophia Fabiilli, currently playing at the Annex Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. This update of the classic George Bernard Shaw comedy The Philanderer is an unqualified success that deserves full houses.
After I read the script of Shaw’s original 1893 play, I was interested to see how Fabiilli’s genderswapping of that play’s very modern love triangle would work worked. The Leonard Charteris of the original is now Charlotte, played by Fabiilli herself, a modern woman world-famous for her sex blog about her adventures with enthusiastic non-monogamy. The dependable and open-minded Grace Transfield is now Grayson, the original’s rival Julia Craven is now the desperately in-love Julian. All the action now occurs in a luxury resort in the Muskokas where all are preparing for Charlotte’s commitment ceremony with Grayson. When Julian and his family step in, desperate to stop the ceremony before it is too late, wackiness ensues.
The Philanderess is wonderful. It keeps the original themes of Shaw’s play intact, merging them with a modern setting and a very nice, fast-paced, bawdy wit that works. Fabiilli’s script is something to be proud of, never giving the audience’s attention a chance to lapse as funny things keep happening. Compliments are also due to the support staff, including stage manager Laura Paduch and designer Laura Gardner, for making effective use of the staging possibilities at the Annex Theatre. This is a well-designed show at every level.
It was a joy to watch all of the cast members of The Philandress in action. Fabiilli herself was the perfect centre of the action as sex blogger Charlotte, a person who finds her plans fall apart when the careful barriers between her online and real lives come crashing down, smart and with a great sense of comedic timing. The actors portraying her rivals, Amos Crawley’s Grayson and Jakob Ehman’s Julian, are likewise well-suited for their roles, playing well off of Charlotte as well as each other. Deborah Tennant (Darla Transfield) and Suzanne Bennett (Maria Craven), rival matriarchs at odds over their sons and their past, do great jobs as well, as does Seth Drabinsky’s Sylvie Craven, a proudly fey man who tries to give the various characters the semi-professional help they so need.
The Philanderess is a well-written, well-designed, and well-acted show that is a hilarious hour at the theatre. It definitely deserved the standing ovation it received from the packed house tonight, and it deserves more at future showings, at this year’s Toronto Fringe and hopefully afterwards.
- The Philanderess is playing until July 12 at the Annex Theatre. (730 Bathurst Street.)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. 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 St. 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. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
- Warnings: Sexual Content.
Remaining show times
July 04 at 11:00 PM
July 06 at 01:30 PM
July 08 at 07:30 PM
July 10 at 05:45 PM
July 11 at 12:30 PM
July 12 at 04:00 PM
Photo of Sophia Fabiillii by Max Telzerow.