J.H. (Scribe and Shooter) – 2010 Toronto Fringe Review

By Crystal Wood

The good thing about J.H. is that the actors really give it their all. The other good thing is that you can order food and drinks before the show.

I’m afraid that’s all I can say about this play before I inspire people to angrily disagree in the comments below. Listen, I wanted to like this play. I was ready to see some drama after a day of watching comedies. I was intrigued by the idea of using T Cafe on Bloor Street as a venue. I even liked the menu that doubled as a playbill. But despite that, I left the show feeling unsatisfied by what I had just seen.

J.H. bills itself as a drama. It’s really a melodrama, with each line dripping with much too much angst and mystery. At one point, I had echoes in my head of “My sister is my daughter!” from the movie Chinatown. This is a Greek tragedy set in a tea shop. But wait, why is it in a tea shop? After a throwaway line to suggest that that one character bought his dad’s old tea shop, it’s never mentioned again.

There are so many hidden family secrets, unanswered questions and brooding looks that there’s not enough actual plot for us to consider. For every answer that was finally given, we had to ask ourselves three more questions. Some generous people might argue this is clever writing; I would argue it’s careless writing.

I feel compelled to mention though that this is a perfect example of the Fringe experience. The festival really is a mixed bag of shows, some that you’ll like and some that you won’t. I didn’t happen to enjoy this play – no sweat, after 60 minutes, I’m off to the next one! If finger-puppet musicals or cab drivers doing improv isn’t your thing, then maybe a family melodrama like J.H. will be.

Details:

­– Venue 18, T Café, 511 Bloor Street West

– Showtimes:
Thu, July 8 7:00 PM – 1803
Fri, July 9 7:00 PM – 1804
Sat, July 10 7:00 PM – 1805

– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by Phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 ($10+$1 convenience fee)

– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows