Review: The 7th Annual Cooking Fire Theatre Festival

By Amber Landgraff

The 7th Annual Cooking Fire Theatre Festival is a great and inexpensive way to spend a warm summer evening.  Five short plays are scattered throughout Dufferin Grove Park making spectacular use of the outdoor location.

The evening started at 6:00 PM with a delicious and filling dinner for only $6.00.  All the food was made using locally grown ingredients on-site by volunteers.  I had the vegetarian option for the evening, and my friend Manda tried the meat dish, both of which were served with sides of bean salad and a green salad.  For the picky eaters and children in the audience they also offered mini pizzas and hot dogs.

After we ate we were invited to follow our host for the evening, Gnome Chompy, to different stages set up in the park.  For the most part the shows are kid friendly.  The Little Farm Show, GRUB, and Grimm Too were fun and easy to follow.

The second show of the evening, GRUB, was one of my favorite shows of the night.  The over-the-top performances by Marc-André Charron and Mathieu Chouinard were hilariously fun to watch.  Their hyperactive salad preparation, zealous hand washing with increasingly toxic materials, and exuberant use of their outdoor surroundings made for an incredibly engaging performance that had me laughing the whole time.

I found that the subject matter in the last two shows, The Dead Road and Come and Sleep, went over the heads of many of the kids in the audience.  They were visibly and audibly fidgety during that half of the evening.

The performers in The Dead Road did an admirable job in responding to distracting comments shouted out by some kids in the audience, even when they came at the most inopportune times.  Manda and I enjoyed this particular exchange when one performer said, “I don’t even have a real gun.  It’s a stick.  You can look at it.”  And, after aiming the stick at the audience, a young boy shouted out “You told us it’s a stick.  It won’t hurt us!”

Midway through the night there was a break for cherry and mixed berry pie baked fresh and served with ice cream for $3.00.  The break for dessert offered a great opportunity for families with younger children to head home before the last three shows.

The only thing that would have made the evening more enjoyable would have been some bug spray.  As the night wore on I found myself wishing I had remembered to put some on before I left the house.

The Cooking Fire and Theatre Festival is an annual event held at Dufferin Grove Park.  It ran from June 23- June 27, 2010.  Keep your eyes open for this pay-what-you-can event in 2011.