Review: Help Yourself (The Falling Baby Co-op)

Best of Toronto Fringe returns with Help Yourself, playing at Red Sandcastle Theatre

“You really didn’t see that coming?” demanded my companion as the house rose to applause.

I did not.

A few minutes before the end of Help Yourself I did have an aha-this-is-a bit-of-a-Greek-tragedy moment. And the nether regions of my brain registered that the instrumental item on stage – Chekov’s gun, so to speak – should go off.

But the morality was all wrong. Donny (Daniel Pagett) said the gun wasn’t loaded. And why should I have assumed anything about anything in this fast-paced 2012 Best of Fringe play?

I’m not even sure whether Kat Sandler’s play was a tragedy, a comedy, or a take on the absurd.

The pain on Ted’s (Tim Walker’s) face was heartbreaking. Samantha’s (Tosha Doiron) repeated line, “love is not a potato – you can’t just throw it out the window,” makes sense.

And there was laughter, but much of it made the audience squirm in discomfort, probably because it was all so morally wrong and unexpected. Which is precisely what makes Help Yourself so interesting.

Playing in the smallish, just over a year old Leslieville Red Sandcastle Theatre, the audience literally spilled onto the stage. We were up close and personal with Ted, slapping down $5,000 cash to try to clear our conscience.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever thought? What’s the worst you could do?

Rich, young Toronto urbanite Donny uses psychology, philosophy, religion and even brute force to convince his clients that doing whatever they want is the right thing.

It was exhilarating listening to Pagett, not to mention watch his highly active persona jump around the stage and keep pulling himself together to keep up the shtick.

My companion gave the best actor prize to Donny’s nemesis, Ted, who was walking seriously wounded. No wonder NOW pronounced Walker one of Toronto’s top 10 theatre artists of 2012.

Tosha Doiron as Donny’s girlfriend provided the lightness this play needs – both thematically and to roll out the story. Her stunning wardrobe, her glow and warm personality were among the distractions that kept my brain from coming to conclusions about what else might be going on.

Hardly surprising Help Yourself also walked away with “Best New Play” and “Patrons’ Pick.” It’s 90-minutes of theatrical enjoyment with some hefty takeaways. Such as no, love is not a potato. You can’t just throw it away.


Photo by ZAIDEN