Theatre of the Beat’s A Bicycle Built for Two is a comedy all about love and- you guessed it-marriage. This Toronto Fringe show is overall sweet and charming, though at times it feels a bit like an after school special on relationships.
The show examines the intra-relationship conflicts of several different couples: the main characters, Will and Sarah, who are getting married and experiencing tensions; Will’s parents who are in the throes of empty nest syndrome; and a few other couples who are also connected to the family.
The program mentions that much of the content is based on interviews with marriage councilors to understand the pitfalls of modern marriages. The program also mentions that the show was commissioned to bring to light marital conflict resolution and communication. For better or for worse, this goal is definitely clear. In each scene, a different type of relationship conflict emerges and is brought to the fore. Most of these issues stick to the most common problems, such as lack of intimacy, growing apart, not discussing issues as they crop up, etc.
Johnny Wideman, one of the actors and the playwright, has written a fairly accurate portrayal of relationships, and the research is evident. However, despite being accurate, I didn’t feel like I learned anything new about relationships, or even gained a new perspective. To be fair, I come from a family of therapists, so what may be old hat to me may not be so obvious to others. However, it seemed as though most of the “lessons” from the show were ones I’ve already seen many times in popular media.
Because this show seems to be trying to impart a lesson, it would seem they could have stretched a little farther to come up with more original, insightful relationship dynamics. Despite feeling like I was being taught a lesson, I found the writing witty and cute. Many of the funniest moments are very original, and I found the writing to be rather clever.
One of the most developed parts about the show is the set, and the direction for how to use the set creatively. Andrew Classen’s set design is possibly one of the best sets I’ve seen at the Fringe. With ladders, milk crates, cardboard boxes and a tandem bicycle as the only actual set pieces, Classen reminds me that what is important is not the actual objects themselves, but how you place them.
Rebecca Steiner, the director, has led the cast into some interesting shapes and directions. The actors move all around the stage elegantly, and move minimal set pieces to completely change the set around. A Bicycle Built for Two has some of the most creative uses for cardboard boxes I have ever seen. The actors use these boxes first as packing boxes in an old basement. They then rearrange them into a dining room table, and then into a car.
Jen Pogue and Johnny Wideman both play believable characters with energy and commitment. Pogue plays Johnny’s 50-something mother, who is almost completely believable, despite the rosiness of youth still in her face. A Bicycle Built for Two is a cute show about relationships and conflict management. If you want to learn more about relationships, or just appreciate a good show about marriage, then you may have just found your soul mate in A Bicycle Built for Two.
A Bicycle Built for Two will be playing at Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst St.)
July 03 at 11:00pm
July 05 at 12:00pm
July 06 at 8:45pm
July 07 at 3:00pm
July 09 at 7:00pm
July 11 at 1:45pm
July 12 at 9:15pm
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 provided by the company