Through the Tulips (Branch Out Theatre) 2011 Toronto Fringe Review

A recently widowed Bubby and a mystical young man meet ostensibly by chance in a tulip garden. His mysterious connection to the flowers helps to ease her grief and their instantaneous connection eases her weariness with the onerous imposition of familial obligations at the shiva.

People’s complex relationships with the notion of Jewish identity and culture are key themes in Through the Tulips. Even though sitting shiva is not part of my cultural tradition, the described experience of frustration with loving and concerned family members imposing their expectations on you was certainly resonant.

There was a fun interplay with realism and fantasy in the narrative, although the story was a bit on the saccharine side for my personal liking. Nevertheless, salty Grandma Celia (Shel Goldstein) and sensitive, confused Noam (David Simor) are captivating, sympathetic characters. Goldstein is a veteran of the stage and her performance was especially endearing.

At times the shtick around Jewish identity tended to recycle what many other works on similar themes have covered. I still definitely enjoyed myself but somehow felt that on that point, something fresher could have been brought to the table.

Through the Tulips also tugged at notions of sanity and the challenges inherent in marching to the beat of your own drummer.

Supporting cast members Lauren MaKinley, Mandy E. MacLean and Mike Vitorovich give great performances and there’s no doubt Namoi Tessler gives everyone some great material to work with. Mike Vitorovich’s brief appearance as Noam’s Spirit Guide was memorable, campy good fun. It didn’t hurt that he’s quite easy on the eyes as well.

Through the Tulips plays at Venue 13 Factory Studio Theatre,

– Playing:

Fri, July 15 12:15 PM 1353
Sat, July 16 8:45 PM 1365
Sun, July 17 1:00 PM 1367

– 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