Review: The Tenderpits Trilogy: Parts 1 and 2 (AnimalParts and VideoFag) Toronto Theatre Review

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The seamlessly executed multimedia trilogy The TenderPits, a theatrical personal story of self-discovery and grief, is playing at Toronto’s VideoFag

This past Thursday I set out to see the opening night of The TenderPits Trilogy, produced by AnimalParts and VideoFag, and I experienced an innovative and risky multimedia show created by Anthony Johnston and Nathan Schwartz.

Johnston performs solo as he takes us through a partially auto-biographical story of self-discovery, fantasy, and unexpected grief. Johnston has nothing short of Herculean energy in this 2 part production of The Tenderpits Trilogy, he is a virtuoso of the comedic moment, and his unwavering commitment to his role is what carries us through the more abstract moments of this story.

The story begins with a wacky premise- a young man who believes he is a wizard and decides to start a new life in New York. The writing strikes a good balance between being both relevant and fresh, aided by Johnston’s unique delivery of relateble experiences. Pop cultural references abound in this show, and yet it never feels forced or cliché; it comes across as a very sincere and wickedly funny experience of coming of age in the 90s.

It turns out Johnston and I have a lot in common! I’m not a young gay man who thinks he’s a wizard, but in every over way I am certainly the show’s target audience: Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” is one of my favorites, I seriously know every single lyric to Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, and I do recall, painfully, the whiny voices that made up the emo chorus/cast of “Party of Five”.

This show demonstrates how successful a multimedia show can be when the media is used thoughtfully. Compliments to both Johnston and Schwartz as all the elements never took away from the visceral and raw performance of Johnston. The bare bones of the story is already engaging, the audio visuals just enhanced and complimented the narrative. The innovative blend of performance and multimedia bridges theatre and performance art. It was reminiscent for me of early Miranda July live performances, where multi-media is used in a sensitive and attuned way- to enhance the human experience, instead of alienating it.

A great feat of theatre and performance art- catch this show at VideoFag while you still can!

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Photo provided by the Theatre company