The Chairs (The Stray) 2012 Toronto Fringe Review

If you are going to go see The Stray‘s version of Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs at Fringe this year, bring a friend. You’ll want someone to discuss this show with after seeing it. I went solo and am now sitting alone in a café writing this review, wishing I had a pal to bounce my interpretations off of.

The problem is, I’m not sure I know what I think about this play yet. It’s the kind I’ll keep thinking about for a few days, and will have to keep thinking about for a few days, in order to work out what it means to me.

What I have already decided, however, is that this is the whole point. The Stray is a production company that wants to be different – their name is inspired by the idea of “straying” from the beaten path.

And Eugene Ionesco is one of the foremost playwrights of Theatre of the Absurd. I feel as though both the company and the playwright would be disappointed if I left the theatre feeling like I understood everything that had just occurred before me.

For a play that has more characters than you can count but only three you can see and two who can speak, it does a great job of conveying the frustrated emotional states of an isolated elderly couple who have nothing to do other than ‘act’ for each other.

But are they acting? Or is this all real? Don’t expect to have your questions answered, and you won’t be disappointed.

You’re going to have to think about this one before deciding if you like it. The play is thoroughly engaging, but I was never sure how I was being engaged – emotionally? Intellectually? Both? You might not ‘get it,’ especially if you’re not accustomed to watching heavy absurdism (as I am not). But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing.

One line in the play says it better than I can: “The universe waits only for you.” This play is an absurd little universe all it’s own, one you can choose to surrender to or not, despite how confused it might make you. It’s all up to you.


  • The Chairs plays at Venue #4, Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)
  • Show times: July 05 07:00 PM, July 06 01:45 PM, July 08 05:15 PM, July 10 10:45 PM, July 12 12:00 PM, July 13 09:15 PM, July 15 03:30 PM
  • All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at, 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