Toronto theatre that’s “just like the game” with D&D Live.
Dungeons and Dragons (D&D)is a fantasy role-playing game loved by millions across the world with various editions released since its inception over 40 years ago. Regardless which edition you choose to play or whether you favor a rogue or paladin to a cleric, Bad Dog Theatre Company has taken this legendary game and turned it into a hilarious improv stage performance. You, the audience, is given the roll of the prized D20 and can control where the action goes.
Having been surrounded by gamer types during most of my impressionable years, I’ve been involved in a few D&D campaigns, enough to find a live stage performance of this to be incredibly tempting. Informing my date, Bob, of this venture, he immediately sourced me a set of gamer’s dice, and a set for himself, “just in case” and off we went.
The theatre at the Comedy Bar is already dark when you walk in, the fog machine and laser lights in full mesmerizing effect. This makes the room rather difficult to navigate as you find your seats so watch your step! Make sure you pick up a play-bill at the door, that will serve as your player’s handbook throughout the show and you may be required to refer to it.
The Dungeon Master sits to the side of the stage, required D&D User Guide in hand. His job is to narrate and govern the action during the game. He introduces you to his large cast of characters – the heroes, the villains, and the non-playable characters which act as secondary characters and stand in place of objects.
The story takes place in the mystical lands of T’Rannah (think Toronto), and we first find our heroes trapped in Islington prison. The audience participation comes when it’s time for the characters to perform an action or make a decision to see how well it plays out. Members of the audience are asked to step up and roll the large 20-sided dice, the resulting number is compared to the Dungeon Master’s roll of his dice to determine the level of effectiveness. Luckily, with a series of mighty rolls, our heroes are able to escape from the prison.
There are times when the action can feel disjointed – as the performance is all improvised, it isn’t uncommon for an actor to miss a cue or come in too early. The non-playable characters standing in as options can also seem distracting and the fourth wall between audience and actors is often times pushed away. But though it can seem fractured from an audience perspective, that’s the nature of the game. Bob, a more seasoned player than I am, pointed out that during any D&D game it’s not uncommon for players to speak out of character, question the Dungeon Master or fumble with the continuity.
The characters are hilarious and the actors play them well, taking audience cues with ease. Molly Davis who portrayed the halfling rogue May Cottonball, fit her rogue character perfectly, jumping up with excited will asking the DM if she could step in to slit the foe’s throat. Chris Gibbs as the dark sorcerer Drofbar the Terrible, delivered a delightfully droll and sarcastic performance befitting of his character.
After an hour, the show came to an end but with more questions left opened than were answered. That’s because the adventure is not complete. This week’s performance is only part one of a five-part campaign and the audience is encouraged to attend every week to see the story unfold.
It’s a production that fits well with any D&D aficionado, as the subtleties of the performance turn into inside jokes that are better understood by those who have played before. For those not too familiar with the RPG, D&D Live is still a hilarious adventure comedy romp. Either way, this show is too funny to be missed.
- D&D Live: The Legend of T’Rannah is playing at the Comedy Bar (945 Bloor St. W.)
- Performances are Wednesdays from August 22 to September 19.
- Tickets are $12, $10 for students and are available at the door or by calling the Comedy Bar Box Office at 416-551-6540.
Photo of clockwise starting from the left: Molly Davis, Evany Rosen, Rob Norman, Ted Hambly, Allana Reoch and Colin Munch by Michal Grajewski.