death: THE MOVIE (Human Warnings) 2011 Toronto Fringe Review

In death: THE MOVIE Greg Scala plays a film director intent on creating the most controversial movie ever made. The premise is this movie is: a man finds out he’s dying, he struggles with it, and then he dies. This is all explained in a very engaging opening monologue. The catch, we are told, is that the character will actually die. There will be no last minute medical miracle, no afterlife, no magical return from the grave, and that will be unlike any other movie in existence. 

Being a film buff I couldn’t help but think at that point “but there are movies like that, for instance Barbarian Invasions.” But then I just had to accept that that’s the conceit of the piece and move on.

After this monologue the second character appears, the actor who is to play the dying man in the film. This is where I feel that the play becomes very lopsided. Calvin Fournier, playing the actor, is not of the same calibre of Scala.

Now that I’m out of the play and looking at the program, this makes sense: Scala has had a long hiatus from acting, but does have experience, while Fournier’s credits only include being a lead singer of a punk band.

The press release says that there is no director or that, alternatively, all three are the directors – Scala, Fournier, and writer Justin Zaza. There can be some value to such a collaborative approach, but I can’t help but feel that if there had been a separate director perhaps they could have given Fournier some assistance on some basic aspects of acting, such as what to do with his hands.

The piece does succeed in some other areas, for one, the art direction on the set is simple and powerful. It also follows through on the promise from its promo material to “make death funny by ‘killing’ the concept of death” which they again accomplish in a simple fashion. Everyone knows if you repeat a word enough times it becomes meaningless. In this show they talk about death and dying so much that the concepts lose all objective meaning.

The show then does become reasonably funny, but it would have been funnier still if Fournier’s skill at comedic timing was on par with Scala’s.

death: THE MOVIE plays at Venue 7, St. Vladimir’s Theatre, 620 Spadina Ave

– Playing

Fri, July 15 2:15 PM 754
Sat, July 16 5:15 PM 763

– 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

One thought on “death: THE MOVIE (Human Warnings) 2011 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. I’ve written two books and a movie of which I am very proud, But I feel that “death: THE MOVIE” is by far the best thing I have written so far.

    We worked hard for four months. I spent a year writing it.

    I originally did not want to have any program at all out of fear of biasing the viewer with external content. From this review I see that my fear was well-placed. An entire half of this review is not about the play. An entire half of this review is about the program!

    Art critics are important and have responsibility.

    I designed this play to be socially relevant at any time, in any culture and for any age group. I believe that one day it will be recognized on the level of Hamlet. It upsets me that that day was not July 15th 2011!

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