Review: The redShow at InspiraTO (Alumnae Theatre)

ITO_BIRD_RED-1__S_In redShow, ten minutes can “tell stories of a lifetime” on the Toronto stage

The 11th Season of InspiraTO, Toronto’s premier ten-minute play festival, is underway, and I had the pleasure of experiencing the redShow at the Alumnae Theatre on Friday night. With plays focused around the theme of passion, I was looking forward to my fourth InspiraTO, and I wasn’t disappointed.

What I have always enjoyed about the festival itself is the immediacy of the stories. With only ten minutes to entice, excite, and entertain, the shows at InspiraTO set quite a challenge for themselves. In past years, the results have sometimes come out uneven, but the experience was always enjoyable. This year was no different.

The redShow contains plays that are “intense, in-your-face, and mischievous.” The six plays that make up the set more or less come through on this promise.

Beginning with Quack, the night started with a play about Abigail the duck, who doesn’t realize she’s a duck until her friend Andy points it out. This was a cute story, though not as mischievous as I was expecting. Madeleine Brown and David Carcasole had decent chemistry which sold the premise and payoff well.

Backstory took the stage next, and in my opinion was one of the two standout pieces of the set. The story is of a playwright and her character locked in a battle for control of the play she is writing. Celeste Van Vroenhoven and Carl Jackson were excellent both individually and collectively. From the first moments of the play, Celeste and Carl appeared comfortable in their respective roles, with Celeste’s confident typing and Carl’s exasperation at being held “captive.” While I knew where the story was going, I enjoyed the route they took to get there.

Katherine and Peter gave us two former lovers rehashing their past and the possibilities of the future. Kristi Woods as Katherine and Adam Malcolm as Peter did a great job showing us the passion between their characters, stemming from their shared past. They built up great tension and I kept waiting for the moment it would burst. This wasn’t the case, but the conclusion left me feeling satisfied with how things worked out for these characters.

Allan Michael Brunet’s turn as Paddy in Serengeti was a revelation, and the standout performance of the night. Paddy is on his way to a job interview while under the influence and on the verge of a breakdown. I was completely taken with the energy, intensity, and passion of Brunet’s performance. This was a moment-to-moment show and Brunet kept each one at its peak. I felt like I was in the speeding car with him, and not in a theatre on Berkeley Street in Toronto.

Orchids and Polka Dots is a story set in 1955, and gives us a subdued housewife, a nervous scientist, and an LSD infused glass of water. Christine Shakespeare is perfectly subtle as housewife Vivian, sitting prim and proper before the experiment begins. Jovan Kocic mastered the physical comedy of his neurotic Dr. Gentry, jumping at the ring of the phone and verging on breakdowns when the LSD-laden Vivian begins her “trip.” The plot of the show felt restrained, but with only ten minutes to “play” with, I thought the story came to a good conclusion.

The closing show of the set was B-Roll. Bella, a sixteen year-old, has been the “star” of her own reality show since birth, and she has finally had enough of the iPad camera in her face. A great and topical concept in our current digital age, B-Roll deals with the issue of internet-celebrity in a direct and thought-provoking way. In particular, Natasha Fiorini plays the role of stage mom Carla perfectly, selling it with her quick apologies and sly, fake smile belying her own desire for fame.

Overall, the redShow at this year’s InspiraTO comes through as advertised, and plays well with the show’s specific theme of passion. I recommend checking out all of the shows to see how ten minutes can tell the story of a lifetime.

Details

  • The redShow is playing as part of the InspiraTO Festival until June 11, 2016 at The Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street)
  • Shows run at various times Wednesday to Saturday (see website)
  • Ticket prices are $25, with Festival passes for all four shows at $75 and are available online or through the box office at (416) 483-2222. There are also promo codes available on the website for 15% off when purchasing online and for a 30% student discount with a valid student I.D.
  • Note: Mature language

Photo provided by the company.