I hit the door of the Al Green Theatre for my first show of the Toronto Fringe, The Urinal Dialogues, full of enthusiasm.
As a gender-studies enthusiast and former bar employee, my experience with all genders of washrooms is vast; I also recently saw and reviewed Queer Bathroom Stories for this site. I was perhaps more enthusiastic than I’ve ever been to be faced with a row of urinals. My excitement, regrettably, did not last.
In concept, The Urinal Monologues is a fine idea. The description suggests that we’ll be privy to the things that happen in men’s rooms, which may explain the dozens of older ladies in the audience. Some of the show did seem related to bathrooms specifically, covering the idea that men don’t talk in the washroom under any circumstances repeatedly – while also showing scene after scene of men not only striking up conversations with strangers in the washroom but casually touching them (back patting, &c.) as well. This nevertheless got us through a great opening bit about a kid trying to buy a condom in the men’s room, and a fairly funny second scene in which a conversation about the relative size of everyone’s equipment ends in a truly hilarious and original gay pickup line.
Then, things start to slide downhill. The next few scenes seemed a little droopy, re-treading an assortment of gendered stereotypes without much zip. The dialogue started to feel as forced as the topics covered, and the actors – whom I found mostly serviceable but not especially fluent – reached for the same broad characterizations over and over. And then, to my great dismay, the show took a sharp left into a really brutal and detailed recounting of a terrible event. This took a shade under twenty minutes – an entire third of the show – and is both the best acting of the piece by far from Derrick Evans and was incredibly alarming. While I am against spoilers, it’s so out of left field in a show called The Urinal Dialogues that I feel I must say: if you’re sensitive to stories of bad things happening to children, be prepared.
I wish this piece felt more cohesive, or had a narrative arc of any kind. As it is, the first ten minutes are great, and I found the rest wildly uneven (veering sometimes into the bizarre).
The Urinal Dialogues plays the Al Green Theatre. (750 Spadina Ave, inside the Niles Nadal Jewish Community Centre)
July 02 at 06:30 PM
July 04 at 10:30 PM
July 07 at 05:00 PM
July 09 at 07:30 PM
July 11 at 12:30 PM
July 12 at 12:30 PM
July 13 at 05:45 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.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo provided by the company.