Review: Big in Germany (Ten Foot Pole Theatre)

Ten Foot Pole Theatre presents Rob Salerno’s Big in Germany at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times

ALEXBRUCE3-smallI’m a ‘90s kid. As a teenager I’d experience this ridiculous giddy excitement whenever I’d visit downtown Toronto and make my requisite trips to Sam the Record Man on Yonge and the MuchMusic building on the corner of Queen and John which was a sort of Mecca for my Canadian teen self.

Sadly, nowadays Sam’s is history, the iconic neon sign gone, I download my music and I couldn’t be more blasé when passing by the CTV-Bell-Globe media centre that now occupies the corner of Queen and John. If you can relate to any of the above sentiments then you might enjoy Big in Germany.

Ten Foot Pole Theatre and playwright Rob Salerno are regulars on the Canadian Fringe Festival circuit and are known for their hard-hitting productions taking on contentious issues like Canadian politics (Fucking Stephen Harper), testicular cancer (Balls), and HIV-criminalization (RAW).

Salerno and Ten Foot Pole show us a bit of their lighter side in Big in Germany, their current offering playing at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. The show has a light, funny, buddy comedy/rom-com feel to it and is part love letter to Toronto part nostalgic remembrance of the ‘90s and part satirical send-up of the Canadian entertainment industry.

The show tells the story of Bruce (Michael Goldlist) and Alex (Dylan George), childhood best friends and aspiring rock stars who take supporting jobs in the porn industry as their band, The Omnipotents, struggles to break through into the Canadian music scene. Complicating matters; Bruce is also secretly in love with Alex.

In a fluke of luck, the band becomes an overnight success in Germany and after embarking on an overseas arena tour, Bruce and Alex return home to obscurity and grapple with the nature of their relationship.

Big in Germany is aimed squarely at an audience who grew up in Toronto in the ‘90s; parts of it almost feel like a Buzzfeed post with a string of ‘90s nostalgia. The audience the night I went was comprised mostly of 25- to 34-year olds and responded well to the material but I suspect the degree to which you’d relate to the play is proportional to your proximity to that cohort.

The play is also an irreverent look at the Canadian entertainment industry. Salerno’s sharp satirical edge comes through in the one-line barbs about the state of Canadian film and television peppered throughout the script.

At its heart though, Big in Germany is a story of friendship and unrequited love. Dylan George is appropriately over-the-top as the wannabe rock star Alex. Michael Goldlist gives us a sweet, likable, conflicted and pitiable Bruce. The scenes near the end between Alex and Bruce are really sweet and heartfelt. Salerno rounds out the cast in the deliciously smarmy role of porn producer Phil.

I had the opportunity to see an earlier version of the play at the 2010 Toronto Fringe Festival and it was interesting to see how the piece has evolved since then. The current version is more tightly-paced and the incorporation of live music performed by the cast members gives it more of an air of authenticity.

If you’re a ‘90s kid or a Canadian music fan take a chance on Big in Germany. It’s a fun night out.

Details:

  • Big in Germany is playing from April 11 – 21, 2013 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St. (East of Yonge), Toronto.
  • Shows run Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
  • Tickets $25 at door, $20 advance, $15 students/artists; PWYC Sunday matinees
  • Tickets are available at buddiesinbadtimes.com or call 416-975-8885 .

Photo of Dylan George and Michael Goldlist by Jenna Wakani.