It’s a little unfair for a seasoned comedian, writer and performer like Briane Nasimok to have his show Confessions of an Operatic Mute in the Toronto Fringe Festival, along with every other schmendrik in Toronto who woke up one morning and thought perhaps they had a show in them and $742 to spend.
The cavernous George Ignatieff Theatre was more than half full for the opening on a Wednesday, no doubt filled by fans and friends of Nasimok who arrived to hear stories of wordlessness and wooing among the supernumeraries of the Canadian Opera Company for most of the 1970s.
Nasimok, though clearly somewhat nervous in the beginning of the show, warmed to his task and told stories of his romantic misadventures, practical jokes, and love of the stage in a trim fifty-minute performance that passed in the pleasant way that time does in the company of a good storyteller.
His borscht-belt comedy style is clearly authentically received and lends a satisfying bunch to throwaway jokes and gags, while his admittedly-not-marquee-quality looks give him an Everyman (or Everymensch) quality that’s very appealing. There are no bells, whistles or pyrotechnics here. Just a guy telling some pretty good stories about something interesting he’s done – which, to me, is a real pleasure.
A good dramaturge might have helped him condense the beginning chronology of every part he ever played in elementary school. I also would not have minded hearing a few more serious stories, rather than simply hijinks. That would give the show some depth as an artistic narrative, as well as a comic one.
My one real complaint about Confessions of an Operatic Mute is that Nasimok is so wedded to his self-deprecating schtick that we never really get to experience him as the guy who dedicated a lot of time and love to making great operas work.
You do not have to know anything about opera to enjoy this show, though it helps. Other things that will assist audience members in getting all the jokes: Jewish culture, old movies, and stage acts of the 1950’s.
All in all, this show is solidly built and nicely delivered while not pretending to be something it’s not. I’m tempted to go back for the last performance, when I think Nasimok will really be in his groove, to see how the stories sound then.
Confessions of an Operatic Mute plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre, 15 Devonshire Place
July 02 at 08:45 PM
July 04 at 10:30 PM
July 05 at 01:45 PM
July 06 at 03:00 PM
July 07 at 08:30 PM
July 09 at 05:45 PM
July 12 at 12:30 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online , by phone (416-966-1062), 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 if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
Photo provided by the company