A Simple Twist of Faith (Harmony Over War) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

Cast of A Simple Twist of Faith, (L-R) Evan Malach, Sonia Shklarov, Adam Jesin. Photo by Darren Gilbert Levant !

A Simple Twist of Fate is the first production put on by the new group Harmony Over War. This site-specific Toronto Fringe Festival musical makes use of the historic Kiever Synagogue to tell the true story of two people who overcome their differences and, in so doing, save each other. A Simple Twist of Fate succeeds in the company’s goal of enjoyably sharing experiences with lessons that are still relevant today.

The story follows the unlikely friendship of American Alex Lurye (Adam Jesin) and Herr Rosenau (Evan Malach), who meet in Germany immediately after the First World Wa,r when the soldier Lurye searches for a synagogue where he can say his Friday night prayers and finds Rosenau’s. A Simple Twist of Fate shows, in spoken speech and in song, how over the next decades the two men’s lives would go on to intertwine in the most unlikely fashions thanks to the “modern ideas of love” that Lurye sings about.

A Simple Twist of Fate is driven by the strength of its performers and its music (composed by Malach). Both leads acquit themselves well, as actors and as strong singers. The audience definitely enjoyed watching these two men moving towards something greater than they could have imagined. Harmony Over War succeeded in its goal of sharing a compelling and important story.

I did find some issues with the show’s scene changes and staging. The three scenes of A Simple Twist of Fate occur in three separate locations on the Kiever Synagogue property, moving from an exterior tent to the main worship space inside the building and then down to the basement. The last two spaces were good performance spaces, but the exterior tent was an awkward venue for people in the back, who found it difficult to see or even hear the performers. The first transition, from tent to synagogue, also came as a surprise to many in the audience.

As an audience member, I found myself wanting more of the arc of the friendship between the two men. The unlikely pairing of Rosenau and Lurye was the story, but I felt like I needed to see more. How, exactly, did Rosenau manage to overcome his resentment of the victorious Americans to welcome Lurye into his community? What made their shared Sabbath so special for them both? A relationship as transformative as this one really needs to be fully fleshed out.

A Simple Twist of Fate is a crowd-pleasing play with an important message for its audience and a lot more potential in future, more finely-tuned showings.

A Simple Twist of Faith plays at the Kiever Synagogue. (25 Bellevue Avenue, on Bellevue at Dennison Square. The box office is on the Dennison Square entrance, while the play begins on the Bellevue side of the property.)

Show times
July 02 at 07:00 PM
July 03 at 07:00 PM
July 04 at 01:00 PM
July 06 at 12:00 PM
July 07 at 07:00 PM
July 08 at 07:00 PM
July 09 at 02:00 PM
July 09 at 07:00 PM
July 10 at 01:00 PM
July 10 at 07:00 PM
July 11 at 01:00 PM
July 13 at 12:00 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 of Evan Malach, Sonia Shklarov, and Adam Jesin by Darren Gilbert Levant.

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