52 Pick-Up (HC & The Howland Company) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review


52 Pick-Up is a real crapshoot and I mean that in the best possible way. The Howland Company Theatre show playing as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival is literally left to chance every performance.

On the surface, the script by perennial Fringe Festival stalwart TJ Dawe and Rita Bozi is a simple love story detailing the relationship arc of one particular couple in 52 short vignettes.

The schtick in this production comes from the fact that the titles of the 52 scenes are written on the backs of the cards in a full deck which is thrown into the air at the top of the show. The two actors then pick up the cards from the floor at random and perform the scene described. In essence, no two shows are ever the same. On any given night, the couple might break up before they meet and the excitement of fresh love in one scene could be followed with the lingering resentment of a love gone stale the next.

Beyond the exciting, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants spontaneity of the performance, what I loved about this show is how relatable the story is. Anybody who has ever been on an awkward first date, fallen in love, had a relationship with a significant other and fallen out of love will see themselves in this couple.

52 Pick-Up is performed by alternating casts of two so you’ll see different actors depending on the performance you attend. On opening night Ruth Goodwin and Alex Crowther filled the roles. The two have great energy and an amazing rapport. A huge part of the fun of the show is watching how the actors run through the series of random scenes that often require them to play vastly different emotions in rapid succession. Goodwin and Crowther pull it off with finesse.

As the scenes progress you really get to know this couple intimately; one partner’s love of travel, languages and astrology, the other’s aversion to sweaters, and the scenes become pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that slowly come together to form the complete picture of their relationship. By the end of the show you really get the sense that you’ve gone on a satisfying, complete journey with this couple; albeit a non-linear one.

52 Pick-Up is in turns funny, quirky, spontaneous, relatable and heartbreaking. Get your tickets soon. Opening night was the first of what I imagine will be a long string of sold out performances.


52 Pick-Up plays at Tarragon Extraspace (20 Bridgman Ave.)

Show times
July 03 at 07:00 PM
July 05 at 10:30 PM
July 08 at 03:00 PM
July 10 at 01:45 PM
July 11 at 05:45 PM
July 12 at 08:45 PM
July 13 at 05:15 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.

 To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.

Photo of Ruth Goodwin and Alex Crowther by Vincenzo Pietropaolo

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