After watching Daniel Tobias’s The Orchid and the Crow (playing at the Al Green Theatre during this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival), I have no words to offer except for some time-honoured reviewer clichés: I laughed! I cried! It was a darkly humourous tour-de-force! In all seriousness, I thoroughly enjoyed The Orchid and the Crow. It was an absolute blast, it was absolutely devastating, and, best of all, it was chock-full of great song numbers.
Daniel Tobias, better known to Frequent Fringers as one half of the comedy duo Die Roten Punkte (admittedly one of my favourite Fringe shows ever), proves he can light up a stage on his own in this one-man (stand-up? musical? cabaret?) show about growing up a child of “Jewish atheists” and his very adult confrontation with testicular cancer.
In this musical comedy, Tobias wittily lampoons everything from the religious ritual of circumcision to dating after testicular removal to the cult of Lance Armstrong. As a person who is unfamiliar with religious texts, I cannot speak to the accuracy or even fairness of his views but I can assure you that he is not unkind.
This is not to say that Tobias pulled any punches, only that he manages to infuse everything with a tone of “it’s all in good fun.” His ridicule of the faith-driven obsession with circumcision re-imagines God as a sexy lounge singer and his delivery of a very detailed description of his orchiectomy via a melancholic Italian ballad had the audience roaring with mirth.
As a performer, Tobias is infectiously energetic and charming, and he certainly has the voice for all the musical genre-hopping he does in the show. He capably ad-libbed with audience members throughout and was not afraid to invite impromptu audience participation. At one point, Tobias had an especially hilarious exchange with an audience member who vocally criticized his sidebar on the history of the brontosaurus.
However, the most impressive demonstration of his skill as a performer is his ability to shift between the dramatic and the comedic with equal intensity. Tobias’s timing is so spot-on that I found myself fluctuating between tears and laughter in the blink of an eye. This technique makes moments like the recounting of his experiences with chemotherapy especially potent.
While it is extremely easy to pile praise onto the performer/creator of a one-person show, compliments must also be paid to the production team. The transitions were mostly seamlessly woven into the stage-business of the show and the lighting perfectly complimented every song. The use of a certain sound effect during the diagnosis scene was also particularly affecting. As well, the judicious use of choreography and projections made sure our eyes were glued to the performance at all times.
Despite my obvious affection for the show, there were a few things I wanted more of. The revelation of Lance Armstrong’s lies had a huge impact on many people and I would’ve liked to see Tobias delve deeper into the subject.
Regardless, The Orchid and the Crow is an unmissable, extremely entertaining, moving show that deserves a larger audience.
- The Orchid and the Crow is playing until July 11 at the Al Green Theatre. (750 Spadina 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.
- The Fringe program guide lists this show as 90 minutes long but the actual running time is closer to 70 minutes.
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