Sperm Wars (Active Salad Productions) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

rsz_img_4781

Imagine Star Wars, but if it took place inside human reproductive organs. Now imagine that novel concept, performed in a one-man-show by a combination of Neil Patrick Harris and Eddie Izzard, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Sperm Wars, put on by Active Salad Productions as a part of this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, is.

For some reason, no doubt my own cynicism, I was expecting something totally different. Some sort of rambling piece which would probably make its creator laugh, but make everyone else feel awkward. I knew I was wrong when the audience burst into laughter barely seconds after the show began. And we didn’t stop until it was over.

Jeff Leard, who wrote and performed Sperm Wars (with direction from James Leard) plays an immeasurable number of characters on both sides of an inter-genetalial war – better known as sex. Armies of sperm soldiers prepare for their attack on an egg, while the eggs themselves decide which one of them must be sacrificed.

The writing was highly intelligent, and the staging was spot-on, enabling Leard to create this plethora of characters without the audience losing track of who was whom, or what was happening in the plot. Even more impressively, Sperm Wars had absolutely zero props, and no costume pieces to speak of outside of Leard’s skintight white body suit and leather/metal armbands. He creates all of his characters and environments with nothing more than his body and voice, and occasional lighting cues. His ability to transition between these characters cannot be over-praised.

I say that Leard reminds me of Eddie Izzard because, despite the crazy number of elements of which he has to keep track, he was consistently willing to be self-deprecating on the rare occasions that things went awry. And instead of it making us feel sorry for him, it made us (or me, at least) enjoy the performance all the more for it.

If explicit discussion of sexual acts and functions makes you feel so uncomfortable that you wouldn’t be able to handle it for an hour, don’t go see Sperm Wars. Otherwise, you really should. It’s hilarious, the character work and writing are striking, and Leard is great. If it doesn’t sell out, I’ll be personally irritated.

Details

Sperm Wars plays at the Annex Theatre (736 Bathurst St.)

Show times

July 04 at 08:45 PM
July 05 at 01:45 PM
July 06 at 09:15 PM
July 08 at 02:15 PM
July 09 at 12:00 PM
July 10 at 07:30 PM
July 12 at 05:45 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 Jeff Leard by Tisse Haven