Gold Fever (Keystone Theatre) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

Gold Fever is a wordless, silent film-type play about a small group of fortune-seekers during the gold rush. This black-and-white creation by Keystone Theatre is laugh-out-loud funny with some tragic bits about ruthless quests for gold. See it as part of Toronto’s Fringe Festival at the Al Green Theatre. You’ll be transported by the story-telling piano-playing, and you’ll admire the smart but simple sets that fully use 50 shades of grey.

Masterfully directed by Richard Beaune, the play opens with our courageous dreamers climbing the Chilkoot Pass in single file. I felt only compassion, knowing that this Klondike gold rush is a true story. We hear the harsh winds and see their cringing faces. The nice spark from this uphill battle comes from watching the two female characters played by Sarah Joy Bennett and Dana Fradkin bond over food and alcohol. They had the audience in giggles as one of them finished off the other person’s cherished drink.

Later, most of the play goes back and forth between the Dawson gold fields (where the men use toilet plungers to mark their property) and a bar run by the new business partners, the two feisty women.

Phil Rickaby plays a boyish, milk-drinking gold worker who contrasts with Stephen LaFrenie’s character, a cheating manipulator. I wanted to be a big sister to the former, and the executioner of the latter.

Bar scenes had David Atkinson at the piano. He was a crowd-pleaser! He used his music to amuse bar patrons and convey his feelings. His notes made us cheer him on, as he dreamed not of gold, but of stardom. Go, piano-player, go!

Another part of the production that I liked was the small touches of gold. I noticed the gold pieces as well as the deeds of land that were made of yellow paper. This made these papers worth their weight in gold, as the only other colours on the set were black, white and grey.

Attention: Fringe benefit. Before Gold Fever, you’ll see a ten-minute curtain riser called Scarborough Fever. Two plays for the price of one! Keystone Theatre worked with the Youth Collective of the Scarborough Historical Museum to bring you the story of a young girl who dreams of exploring the world. She remembers when Mary Thomson (an actual Scarborough resident) and a bear duked it out. This comic fight scene was sharply performed, and the piano provided the background. And hooting from the audience became part of the soundscape.

At the end of the show, after laughing about thirty times, I asked my Fringe companion what he thought of Gold Fever. He said, “It was perfect. It was funny and entertaining, and I learned something.” I guess we struck gold!


GOLD FEVER plays at the Al Green Theatre. (At Spadina and Bloor, enter off Bloor St.)

Show times
July 02 at 08:15 PM
July 05 at 05:15 PM
July 07 at 10:15 PM
July 08 at 06:30 PM
July 09 at 01:45 PM
July 11 at 09:15 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.

To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of Phil Rickaby provided by Keystone Theatre

One thought on “Gold Fever (Keystone Theatre) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. Dastardly good show and review!

    What makes this play work, for me, is the timelessness and universality of it. Whether it is the Klondike Gold Rush, the Hoover Dam “gold rush” or people flying halfway across the planet to the Persian Gulf for “quick and easy” money, there are constant themes and valuable lessons to be learned. Learn from them or repeat them.

    I look forward to the Alberta-based sequel. Instead of being based on a silent film, it will be Twitter-iffic and entitled Hashtag Tar Sands!

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