Barfly on the Wall – 2010 Toronto Fringe Review

By Winston Soon

Heat does not for comedy make. This is the lesson I learned as I caught the sweltering Barfly on the Wall. It’s not that the show is flawless – far from it. I’ll get to that.

But c’mon, how in the hell can anyone be funny as they nearly slip on their own sweat and even more importantly, how can an audience find anything funny as they….well…slip on their own sweat?

There were years when this venue (Theatre Passe Muraille’s backspace) was not a venue in the Fringe – I can see why. Honestly, I know Fringe is a not for profit venture, but a space this hot turns it comedy performers into hamsters on wheels, huffing and puffing, somewhat amusingly but never really able to take off. The nearly comatose audience couldn’t muster much laughter even if they were inspired to.

Comedy – especially improv – needs the energy of its audience. When you are performing for zombies, then it is no surprise that your show will look lazy, dozy, and undirected.

It’s too bad – it’s clear that both performers are solid and capable of outstanding work (as evidenced in past Fringe Festivals) but together, in this venue, on this night, it only almost works. Almost. An audience interview, newspapers, and beer fuel the scenes.

There IS some fantastic and funny stuff here. There are witty barbs about tortoise shell chaps, Iranian women, the Bishop of Toronto – all that work and would be funny in another show – or venue. But then they mop up their brows, they look at each other and muse “Should we play this?” referring to a piano sitting on the stage.

They plunk around without any real reason and the show just kind of wanders off in the same way that it does in the banter between scenes. Maybe I am feeling kind but I think I will give these performers the benefit of the
doubt – another venue and this show could have been really great, or at least good.