Buffering… skewers modern intellectual property laws by “working with the scraps of the public domain: a princess, a witch, and a live audience.” The play, staged at Theatre Passe Muraille, during Toronto Fringe opens in a mythical realm faced with impending financial doom (it’s not the EU). A rhyme-happy “Fool” (AJ Vaage) functions as the accountant for the land, and takes stock of its grim fiscal prospects:
“Since we’re balls-deep in debt, and nothing is free, I hereby beget these austerity measures three.”
One of the consequences of his austerity program is a levy on rhyme – a serious problem in a land where everyone speaks as if they’ve been possessed by Dr. Seuss.
Victims of the Fool’s budget include a jealous Witch (Amy Cunningham); a Busker (Trisha Smith, who also plays a Magic H8 Ball) and a squeaky-clean princess obsessed with her Twitter feed and other people’s opinion of her Tumblr (Shauna Wooton).
Things get worse with the arrival of a “Mercenary Knight” (Tallahassee Steele / Rockland Derek, “a bareknuckle brawler from Memphis, with a current record of 2-17”). This guy rides into town repping Queen’s University, a toy horse between his legs, and doesn’t leave until just about everyone on stage has had all their life expectations come crashing down around them in glorious chaos.
The play riffs off of quite a few internet memes, which, the program informs you, is any “idea, image, video, text and/or etc. that is propagated and imitated via the internet.” (Keep an eye on the set for Apple (TM) Trees and other subtle touches.)
What’s great is that even though there’s a Meme Troll (Julia Hladkowicz) who lampoons internet fads like Double Rainbow, First World Problems, and the omnipresent Honeybadger, you don’t really need to know (or care) what a meme is to get the humor in Buffering.
Co-writers Amy Cunningham and Shauna Wootton impose layer after layer of clever restrictions upon the script, and then proceed to subvert each of them in surprising ways. The Busker struggles to sing as the Mercenary Knight sits beneath her with a pad and paper, auditing her every rhyme. The Magic H8 Ball can only answer yes or no questions, forcing anyone with a question to get really, really specific.
The result is a pitch-perfect, smart comedy that delivers consistent laughs, develops its characters, and subtly encourages its audience to take a second look at the truly ridiculous elements of our society.
- Buffering… is playing at Venue #10, Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue near Queen and Bathurst)
- Performances: July 10 01:00 PM, July 11 11:15 PM, July 13 09:45 PM, July 15 02:45 PM
- Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Late comers will not be permitted.
- Advance tickets ($11 including service charge) are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, or in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street.
- Value packs are available for anyone planning to see at least 5 shows.
- Photo Credit: Kaela Greenstein.