One of the things I love about the Toronto Fringe Festival is that you never know what to expect when walking into a show. As I walked into the Robert Gill Theatre on Thursday night to see aware! productions’ Canadian premiere of Ancient History, I had very little idea of what to expect.
But I must say that I walked out completely satisfied, and completely heartbroken in the very best way. If you, like me, love a good old so-realistic-it-hurts type of love story, then make sure you see this show.
But didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. The entire show takes place in one bedroom, but the action never stops. It never feels rehearsed, unnatural or unrealistic, which speaks to the strength of Richard Beaune’s direction.
Jack (Zack Amzallag) and Ruth (Tiana Leonty) are in love – or in ‘intense like’, depending which one of them you ask – and the show explores their relationship and the many complications inherent in it. Both Amzallag and Leonty are, as the script describes Jack and Ruth, tall, thin and witty people.
They spend much of the show in very little clothing – fortunately they are both in great shape physically, which makes the show much easier on the eyes than it is on the heart. But their real vulnerabilities lie in the emotions they uncover.
The performances are incredibly honest, believable, and raw, and though it took a few minutes for me to warm up to the characters, by the middle of the show they had me completely invested. Leonty especially had me near tears in some of the heavier moments; she flawlessly moved back and forth between immense happiness and intense heartache, often in a literal second or two.
There is lots of humour and a little bit of ‘adult’ language in the show, and if you can make it through the slightly slow choreographed start, the payoff will be worth it. (Don’t let the pre-show music fool you, either – though the playlist, including hits by groups such as the Backstreet Boys and K-Ci and JoJo, seems to set the tone for a light and fluffy love story, I can assure you this show is anything but).
Not everyone will love this type of show as much as I did, but surely many people can relate to the hardships of being in a relationship, falling in love, knowing who you are, what you believe and what type of person you want to be and be with.
So in the midst of the comedy shows, children’s theatre, and any other lighter fare you might be taking in at this year’s Fringe, do yourself a favour and go see this hard-hitting production. You might not love it, but there’s a good chance you might like it intensely.
Ancient History plays at the Robert Gill Theatre (214 College Street).
July 06 at 03:30 PM
July 07 at 10:30 PM
July 08 at 06:45 PM
July 10 at 01:45 PM
July 11 at 02:15 PM
July 13 at 04:30 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.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of Zack Amzallag and Tiana Leonty by Josef Beeby.