This past weekend Mooney on Theatre sent its dedicated team of 18 writers and 5 editors to cover all 141 shows* in this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival! With the sheer number of shows available at the festival, picking the ones you want to see can be a daunting task.
Of course, one of the best ways to enjoy the Fringe is to not overly plan it out and just go and take a chance on something that happens to be playing at a given time; it’s only ten bucks and about an hour of your time and you may discover something you think is amazing.
If you’re still feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of shows at the Fringe and are looking for a place to start, we’ve asked our staff to tell us about their favourite shows they’ve seen at this year’s festival. We hope our staff picks can help you navigate the Fringe.
If you’ve seen something you think is amazing that you think others should go see please let us know by leaving a comment.
Mooney on Theatre Staff Picks – 2013 Toronto Fringe Festival
Mike Anderson thought that CALLAGHAN! was just incredible. The staging is downright cinematic, the material is strong, the acting is outstanding, and the puns are appalling. This company that has physical theatre down to a science: they run like a well-oiled machine, they play with and off each other beautifully, and they have tremendous fun doing it. Sit in the front row for the best experience.
Gian Verano recommends Stalled. Like slapstick on crack, it’s a show about the improbable yet hilarious goings-on of one bus terminal restroom. Every skit had more than one laugh-out-loud moment and the cast seemed like they were genuinely having fun. If you’re in the mood for something light and silly, you won’t be flushing your time down the toilet by checking out this play.
Wayne Leung thinks We Are the Bomb is one of the best site-specific shows he has recently seen. Playing at the Paddock Tavern, the show imagines that Canada has passed a modern prohibition law banning the sale of alcohol and that a pair of would-be revolutionaries takes over the bar declaring it a sovereign nation, making the audience its unwitting citizens. The show is clever and tightly paced. The laughs land at a good rhythm and a strong ensemble cast ensures a polished, well-timed delivery. And it’s in a bar, so they serve before the show–a definite plus.
Katharine O’Brien loved You Won’t Be Here (Tomorrow). It is, hands down, one of the best theatre experiences she has ever had. No frills theatre at its best, this play means business. Prepare to have just as many laughs as tears. Perfectly staged, the acting and directing are top notch. Katharine would recommend this play to anyone who wants to have their mind blown.
Istvan Dugalin fell head over heels in love with Handle With Care by Tangled Wed Theatre. In his opinion, it is remarkable children’s theatre—upbeat, whimsical and intelligent. The play, which is primarily concerned with environmental issues, works on several levels, and it does so with style and a sense of fun. It was difficult for him to choose a favourite, but he opted for this FringeKids! entry. Bring a child to see it. Watch their eyes sparkle. And rediscover the awe and wonder that is too easily lost as we mature.
Lauren Stein thinks it would be a really good idea for everyone in Toronto to go see The Musical of Musicals: The Musical. It’s an affectionate parody of some of the greatest composers in showbiz and has some pretty kick-ass talent. A Fringe show with a cast that can sing and sing extraordinarily well? Often unheard of, but not in this case. If Lauren were you, she’d have bought her ticket yesterday.
Christina Kostoff recommends Cold Comfort as an exhilarating performance to catch at this year’s Fringe Festival. Dealing with some weighty issues, playwright Owen McCafferty spins an engaging exchange between father and son. David Mackett bring this story to life with limitless energy and commitment, and avoids possible melodramatic traps with his fine understanding of character and the dramatic moment.
Dorianne Emmerton recommends 2-Man No-Show for being both very silly and very sincere. Ken Hall and Isaac Kessler prime their audiences up with hilarious physical comedy before touching their hearts with stories of unhappy childhoods. The finale is a jubilant celebration where everyone is invited to partake in the fun.
Randy McDonald strongly recommends the play SPOON as a very successful mashup of queer theory and relationship drama. It’s easy to imagine a play mixing conventional drama with social theory falling flat, but that isn’t SPOON at all. Playwright Spencer Charles Smith wrote a smart, funny script that was well-served by ingenious set design and excellent acting. Catching SPOON while it’s still running is a must for anyone interesting in cutting-edge theatre.
Sam Mooney loved O(h), and she’s not really a fan of modern dance. O(h) is much more than dance and, most importantly, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sam chose to see it because it said that in the Fringe program. This is a smart, funny, witty show. Casebolt and Smith are very talented dancers but they also sing and they talk. They seem so relaxed on stage, they make it look easy.The audience loved them and Sam had sore jaws from grinning and laughing for an hour.
Eunice Wong is cheering for an underdog. Guayoyo Creative Collective’s one-clown confession Exit is what Fringe is all about – trying something new and celebrating the local. It’s also remarkable that this play is both lighthearted and serious, an unbearable weight. There’s a reason why Confucius said that the funniest people are the saddest ones. That’s right, wise guy, this one’s for you.
Dana Ewachow loved 2 For Tea by Life & Depth productions so much that she is considering seeing it again. James and Jamesy present a play about adventure, friendship, and tea time. It was a delightfully silly play, perfected with unique physical comedy and audience participation. She would highly recommend this play for a wonderful time. And in addition, she always enjoys a complimentary cup of tea. She doesn’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to join a tea party.
Ashima Suri’s heart was stolen by Stealing Sam the moment playwright and actor Steven Gallagher walked on to the stage with a George Michael song playing in the background. Gallagher completely embodied his character Jimmy in a candid and genuine manner which made this story of a middle-aged gay man trying to find himself again even more compelling. Ashima loves this heartfelt endearing play about love and loss and it should not be missed at this year’s Toronto Fringe!
Emma Letki loved Kin. She loved the storylines, the characters and the acting. Author Bathsheba Doran has written a humorous, honest and insightful play looking at relationships in today’s society. Even though Kin touched on some tough parts of life it stayed light and humorous. Emma is sure anyone will be able to relate to it, and laugh along with it too.
George Perry really enjoyed Mo and Jess Kill Susie. He thought everything about the show was great, from the script to the acting to the intimate venue. It’s a cast of three women, two of whom take a police officer hostage. Playing in the basement at Trinity St. Paul’s, seating is extremely limited, but the audience is right in on the action. It’s a play full of violence, both physical and verbal, but it’s not gratuitous and it doesn’t glorify it. In fact, George thought that the play was anti-violence and very cerebral. Mo and Jess Kill Susie is a tough ticket, but if you manage to see it, you won’t be disappointed.
Masroora Haque picks Polly Polly, an existential crisis presented with laughs, heart and character changes so fast it’ll make your head spin. Jessica Moss plays all the characters, juggling three different versions of herself in the same moment; no small feat. However, It doesn’t seem as though all the characters are played by one person. The voices and caricatures are so distinct. The transitions from one caricature to the next are swift, skillful and well executed. The performance is high-energy, physical, captivating and immensely funny.
*The 141 shows we covered include all venue, site-specific (BYOV), and FringeKids shows. We cover Alleyplays and the presentations in Visual Fringe separately.
Photo credits: Toronto Fringe Festival