A Madhouse Dramedy (Stage Mage Productions) 2012 Toronto Fringe Review

 Witty and unique word play coupled with psychiatric humor? Yes, please.

I love playing with the English language, whether it’s word games, Shakespeare, or witty Mamet-esque banter, probably more than the average person. So I was, understandably, positively inclined towards A Madhouse Dramedy playing at St. Vladimir’s Theatre as part of the Toronto 2012 Fringe Festival from the get go.

If you’re looking for wild and ubiquitous use of alliteration, coupled with believably nutty characters then you’ve found your show. That’s exactly what you’ll get from Madhouse. The plot is straight forward. Three patients and family members are trying to deal with the dead body in their living room. But how that body got there, and what exactly is going on with these people is not nearly as straightforward.

It’s a fun romp. Polished and tight, with a delightful cast of crazy characters. So, even if you miss a phrase or two of the fast and, at times, verbose script the story will still makes sense. More importantly, you’ll still have a good time. Admittedly, the word play in Madhouse is a large part of its appeal. Rightfully so. But the show does, in my opinion, sometimes fall victim to its own complex prose filled with rhyme, meter, and alliteration and becomes a tad muddled. Thankfully, it quickly recovers and jumps back into zany goodness.

The performances are really what raise the show above witty writing, into good storytelling. Genevieve Trottier does a good job of being the physical and metaphorical anchor and catalyst for the other characters. Alexander Offord is solid as Dorian. Nicole Wilson, while occasionally falling into whining, is overall entertaining. But it’s the subtly charming “Taylor,” played by Graeme Black Robinson, that steals the show for me.

The characters all clearly have deep psychological problems, but this is communicated without burdening the audience with melodramatic prose or forced drama. I appreciate that. It’s a nutty, dark comedy full of crazy circumstances, fantastically awkward physicality, and one talking dead doctor. In short, A Madhouse Dramedy is best described as Shakespeare of the absurd. And that’s a good thing in my book.

Details:

A Madhouse Dramedy plays at St.Vladimir’s Theatre, 620 Spadina Ave. (Between Harbord St. and College St.)
– Playing July 04 07:00 PM, July 08 11:00 PM, July 09 04:45 PM, July 11 09:30 PM, July 12 12:00 PM, July 13 08:00 PM, July 14 01:45 PM.
– 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 – $9+$2 service charge)
Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.

– photo of Alexander Offord, NIcole Wilson, Genevieve Trottier, and Graeme Black Robinson by unknown.