Bette Davis Eyes (Troublemaker Theatre Company) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

Bette Davis Eyes

Bette Davis Eyes, presented by Troublemaker Theatre Company, is one of the show’s in this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival.  I joined a few friends on the rooftop patio of the Epicure Café on Queen Street West on Wednesday night to see the opening show and we all agreed there couldn’t have been a more suitable venue for a show like this one.

The patio is a great size with twinkly white lights and a romantic appeal that fits the tone of the show perfectly. I will admit I was concerned about volume given the outdoor venue, but the performers did a fine job of enunciating and projecting, even in the moments when their backs were briefly turned to the audience.  Helen Monroe’s direction is strong and the small space is used well.

It is hard to explore characters with any depth in a show that only lasts 35 minutes, but I would have liked a bit more character development and a few less references to old Hollywood movie stars. As the title suggests, much of the plot centers around references to old Hollywood, and the iconic actors and characters who were borne out of that time. My friend Chris pointed out that though he had heard several of the names, he didn’t necessarily have a personal knowledge base of their careers or stardom, and felt a bit disconnected from the show for that reason.

The show tells the story of two people who have met four years before in the same place, and who come back together not-so-coincidentally. Both Arthur (Christo Graham) and Marlena (Risa Kastelic) have been through quite a lot in the time since they’ve last spoken, and while there is a slight glimpse into their past relations, I wished there had been more focus on their history, as it was at times hard to believe the two characters had connected before.

Graham’s acting came across to me as more natural and honest than Kastelic’s, though her character is quite complex and that may have been a deliberate choice. I would love to see the show done again down the road when there might be more time to develop the script and to allow the actors to delve into their characters in a deeper way.

Though we might not all romanticize the same era that Marlena does, most of us can relate to the idea of wishing we had been born in a different time. So if you’re in the mood for some dreaming and reminiscing, gather some friends and order a drink on a cozy patio while you watch an intimate little show. Maybe just brush up on your Bette Davis trivia a little bit before you do.


Bette Davis Eyes plays at the Epicure Cafe (502 Queen Street West).

Show Times

July 06 at 09:30 PM
July 07 at 10:00 PM
July 08 at 10:00 PM
July 09 at 11:00 PM
July 13 at 10:00 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 Christo Graham and Risa Kastelic by Helen Monroe.