Review: A Very Lupe Xmas (Fault Line Theatre)

Melissa D'Agostino A Very Lupe Xmas is currently spreading holiday cheer at Toronto’s 918 Bathurst Centre. It is better and way more fun than any big-name holiday special on “the boob-tube”.

This festive performance provides laughs, smiles and tasty Timbits! A Very Lupe Xmas will have you laughing out loud and cheering the characters. It’s a great night out and sure to raise your holiday spirits.

Melissa D’Agostino plays Lupe. She is incredibly fun and charismatic. Before, during and after the play, Lupe bonds with all members of the audience. It was like seeing an old friend and making a new one at the same time.

The play is a multicultural story. Lupe is a new Canadian, trying to embrace her new culture while retaining her traditional ones. She attempts a retelling of the Nativity and plays the Virgin Mary. Lupe has gone to great lengths and even hired “Three Wise Men” to help her.

At times, D’Agostino somewhat reminded me of Chelsea Handler. The difference is that D’Agostino put a smile on my face. She’s extremely talented, charismatic and positive. She intoxicates everyone with a virus called Happiness. Call me crazy, but I’d rather watch talent than a trainwreck.

Lupe commands the room. She involves everyone. At times she improvises, interacting with the “community” inside the theatre. Both Stan, my partner for the evening, and I left the theatre in a great, festive mood. We felt fortunate to have met Lupe!

Hart Massey is fantastic as Lupe’s helper, Pepe. He is frightening, yet cuddly at the same time. It’s really a coin toss as to whether Pepe is going to start a revolution in Central America or share Timbits with everyone.

The Three Wise Men are all great. They are played by Adam Lazarus, Sam Kalilieh and Phil Luzi. Each are accomplished actors. Each brings a different dynamic or ingredient. Lazarus also directed and co-created the character Lupe.

After an intermission, the cast returns. They bring more surprises, more fun and more cheer. A Very Lupe Xmas takes full advantage of the refurbished church turned cultural venue. There’s so much going on in so many different parts of the theatre that one is always surprised and impressed. Presents are opened in every corner of 918 Bathurst!

Stan and I agreed that it is almost two plays in one. The cast, venue and audience are the same in both acts, but there are lots of fun surprises and twists. We loved both.

In the second, the mandate of Fault Line Theatre is even more realized. Boundaries are further blurred. It is part stand-up comedy, part improvisation, part sitcom and part traditional theatre. It is easy to alienate an audience when boundaries are pushed. However, A Very Lupe Xmas engages and respects its audience. This is a big part of why it is so much fun and “works”.

There was not really anything we disliked. The signage outside 918 Bathurst Centre could be better. That’s a tiny thing though. The location is great, just steps from Bathurst Subway station.

There are cultural events that just want “bums in the seats” and money in the shoebox (or wherever they store it). A Very Lupe Xmas wants to engage their audience. It is a carefully prepared holiday party. It seems genuine that Lupe wants everyone to leave the theatre in a great mood. Stan and I certainly did.

Definitely check it out if you can, and bring a non-perishable food item for the Daily Bread Food Bank. You’ll save money and be a better person when you do!

Details

· A Very Lupe Xmas is playing at 918 Bathurst Centre (918 Bathurst) until December 18, 2011
· Shows run Thursday December 8 to Saturday December 10 and Wednesday December 14 to Saturday December 17 at 8:00 pm
· additional Pay What You Can matinee on Sunday December 11 at 2pm
· Tickets are available at the door or online and range from $20-$25

Photo of Lupe (Melissa D’Agostino)