You and That Fucking Gorilla (House of Squalor Productions) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review

Will Mackenzie, Shawn Steinmann, Lauren Albin, Taylor Hammond, Charlotte Boyer

Dark comedies are notoriously difficult balancing acts. You and That Fucking Gorilla by House of Squalor Productions is a dark comedy show about a mother whose family adopts a gorilla against her wishes, now playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival. In my opinion it doesn’t quite balance the scales, but it makes a valiant effort.

The story goes: Beth (Charlotte Boyer) is a loving mother who does everything right, except everyone walks all over her and treats her like garbage. Her husband, Robert Sr. (Will MacKenzie), brings home a Gorilla (Shawn Steinmann). Beth doesn’t want the Gorilla staying in their home, but is pressured by her children, Rebecca (Kim Sakkal) and Robert Jr. (Taylor Hammond), as well as her supposed “best friend” Carolyn.

The production is well done. There are fantastic moments of direction from Rebecca Moran. The cast is strong as a whole, with great supporting performances. Leading lady Charlotte Boyer, as the trodden-on mother Beth, captures the frustrated, dampened energy well.

One stand-out performance is Lauren Albin as the “best friend” Carolyn, dressed all in animal prints and constantly drinking wine. Albin lights up the stage and takes full advantage of the hilarious character. She has a terrific sense of comedic timing and is a guaranteed laugh whenever she’s on.

The press release says that the show “explores the burdens of motherhood in a severe and poignant way, while always remaining a comedy first.” It promises to “make [us] laugh very hard,” and also “make you want to call your mother and love your family dog just a little less.”

On making me want to call my mother and tell her she’s amazing, this show succeeds. On making me laugh wildly, something doesn’t quite work. Typically, I love dark comedy, but how can I laugh wildly while watching a mother being treated so badly? The answer is: I can’t. At least, not yet. In my opinion, there isn’t enough comedy to balance the dark.

There are great one-liners and running gags (“Fucking Sheila!”), but the majority of the jokes are made at Beth’s expense. She’s continually knocked down regardless of whether she obliges others or says what she thinks. There’s no chance of her winning, so I end up just feeling bad for her and I stop laughing at the jokes.

Complicating matters is that the other characters fall into larger-than-life stereotypes — thus, easy to laugh at — but Beth seems to come from a naturalistic drama. As a result, potentially funny lines come across as verbally abusive at times.

The crux of the show is that the Beth’s reluctance to love the Gorilla ruins the family. However, the family is ruined to begin with. The Gorilla doesn’t incite the downfall of the perfect doting mother, but rather accentuates how badly she’s treated. Nothing changes; she is as doomed at the beginning as she is at the end.

This show may have its issues, but it is certainly not without potential to be a truly hilarious show. With some rewriting and work-shopping, I believe that it can realize that potential. House of Squalor Productions is an exciting new company and I look forward to seeing what they bring to the Toronto theatre scene. Keep an eye out for them!

Details

  • You and That Fucking Gorilla is playing at the Factory Studio Theatre.
  • 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 peformance. 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.
  • Warning: mature language

Remaining Showtimes:
July 06 at 01:15 PM
July 07 at 06:30 PM
July 09 at 12:00 PM
July 10 at 09:15 PM
July 11 at 05:45 PM

Photo of (left to right) William MacKenzie, Shawn Steinmann, Lauren Albin, Taylor Hammond, Charlotte Boyer, by photographer Don Albin.

 

One thought on “You and That Fucking Gorilla (House of Squalor Productions) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. Spot on review.

    After seeing this play, I came up with two better endings which would have made it a much more rewarding and balanced exercise in domestic absurdity. The gorilla could have been much more powerful a device in both of them. In a spirit of constructive criticism, I sent these two suggestions to the producer.

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