I was really, really excited to see Excuse You at the Fringe this year. I love funny shows, I love memoir/biographical shows, and I love storytelling. As it turned out, Excuse You is a funny, fast-paced 50 minutes of comedic theatre and storytelling. Unfortunately, the show is 90 minutes long.
Let’s cover the show’s good points first, shall we? The cast is sturdy and game, with Erynn Brook (as Deborah) giving the whole business a little extra shine with her talent for character and accents and Chai Lavie, as Tony, holding it down as her classic foil, the Male Chauvinist Pig. And by golly they all tried.
Unfortunately, a pretty good cast was somewhat thwarted by a very, very text heavy script which literally required the actors to memorize and recite paragraph upon paragraph of what was supposed to be – and may indeed actually be, as stultifying as it was – the employee handbook for the ushers at a theatre. Bless each and every one of the actors, for they tried their best, but there’s just no way to make that kind of text interesting, and it’s extraordinarily hard to memorize because there’s no motivation, or plot, or anything to help. Writer/Director Bryce Alexander Dudley might have been a victim of his two hats on this one; a director who had not also written the piece might have cut most of the first twenty minutes of the show and excised a further five here and there as he went. That would have been a good decision.
For sure, there are laughs. “Kicking the Cat” is wall-to-wall funny. And Lavie’s bartending scene, played alongside Sarah Cervinka as Rhonda, invokes oh so many of the particular and extravagant dumbnesses that seem to afflict people in bars. Peter Nicol, playing a phlegmatic Jack, gets some good bits in answering phones at the box office in an extended, funny scene. The funny parts are full of laughs, no doubt.
But the not-funny parts are really…not. And whoever decided the bartenders should play half their bits facing upstage could stand a talking to. Talkings-to might not come amiss either for Matt McGrath, who seems to be only one foot into a flamboyantly gay manager but keeps backing away from it, and for Dudley again who gives us the first laugh of the show about… menstrual blood.
Someone’s got a brilliant thirty-minute comedy show here (it should probably go to Brook, who could carry it like crazy) but this isn’t really enough for a 90-minute Fringe show, which lags and sputters. Interestingly, on the way out of the show, people were animatedly telling their favorite stupid-customer stories from their time in retail or other customer-service jobs and I’ll tell you what – the stories I overheard were hilarious.
July 07 10:00 PM
July 09 10:30 PM
July 10 12:00 PM
July 11 07:30 PM
July 14 05:15 PM
- Tickets for all Mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only.
- Advance tickets are $11, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062 ext. 1), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West)
- Money-saving value packs are also available; see website for details.
- LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.