Happy Foods (Present Perfect) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

happy foodsEli inherited his father’s grocery store, the titular Happy Foods. He’s not happy, but that isn’t the point; Eli lives a life of overlapping and interconnected obligations (to his family, to his community, to his employees…) and his father’s legacy is just one component. As the people in his orbit begin to find their own legs and pull in new directions, Eli’s way of life — and the assumptions he’s made about the way the world works — will come under threat. This Toronto Fringe Festival show explores the agony, the debris, and the aftermath of his new normal.

Let’s come straight to it: the more I watched this show, the more objectionable it became.

I didn’t like the way that so much exposition is delivered through Our Townish asides: this feels lazy, telling rather than showing. “This is my sister”; couldn’t you have communicated this more elegantly? “She’s funny”; I disagree.

I didn’t like what I considered an obvious lack of research into both the setting and characters. So much of this production felt handwaved that, by ten minutes into the show, I found I simply didn’t care whether these stereotypes lived or died.

I didn’t like the fact that so much of the drama and plot development in this show seemed to amount to rehashing the same questions over and over again (we get it! responsibility is hard!) — or that the squishy ending (deus ex taxicab?) makes it all irrelevant.

The basic themes and messages here are fascinating, and there’s not much wrong with the actors, but this script and this production mostly got under my skin for the wrong reasons — and I wasn’t the only one getting itchy.

Happy Foods plays at the Al Green Theatre. (750 Spadina Ave., at Bloor and Spadina, inside the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre.)

Performance Dates
July 06 at 03:00 PM
July 08 at 04:45 PM
July 11 at 07:30 PM
July 13 at 02:15 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.

Image provided by the company.