Rounding out the final days of the Toronto Fringe Festival and still not sure what to see? Keep reading for our staff picks.
Mooney on Theatre Staff Picks – 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival
Mike Anderson had such a delightful time at Three Men In A Boat that he sent his whole family–and they loved it, too. It’s a cream puff of a show, but it’s a marvellous confection, played by a cast who positively hum with energy. The staging is surprisingly innovative as well, and the recurring Eton Boating Song is downright jolly.
Wayne Leung thinks Redheaded Stepchild is one of the strongest shows he’s seen at the Fringe. The one-man show tells the story of a precocious young redheaded misfit who gets bullied at school. It is alternately sidesplittingly funny, heartbreaking and up-lifting. Johnnie Walker’s script is sharp and clever, his performance completely engrossing. Don’t miss it.
Jeremy Gardiner absolutely adored Julius Caesar Project. Although he usually tends to prefer comedies, he was just so blown-away by the complexity and intensity of the cast’s performances. He loves when Shakespeare is set in modern settings, when roles are gender-flipped and queered, and he loves Orange is the New Black, so this production just hit every chord in exactly the right way for him. He hopes that people see this Julius Caesar adaptation, since he thinks it is the kind of show that makes Shakespeare accessible and moving for all audiences.
Istvan Dugalin thinks you should see Radical, Charles Hayter’s dramatized account of a remarkable woman, Dr. Vera Peters (a Canadian oncologist), and her fight to offer women a choice when it came to how their bodies were treated for breast cancer. He hadn’t heard of her before seeing this play, and feels her story is an important piece of Canadian history. It’s also exceptionally good theatre—classy and poignant.
Crystal Wood is still thinking about how much she enjoyed Punch Up, a show about comedy, love and… suicide? Her abs got a great workout from the 60 minutes of straight laughter provided by the sharp script and talented cast. In fact, Crystal liked it so much, she may need to employ her own punch-up writer to truly do this rave justice.
Catherine Jan loved Gold Fever because she got to live through the Klondike Gold Rush and watch some characters strike gold, while others ended up empty-handed, or worse, dead. She also thought the cast and crew did a fantastic job of bringing silent film to the stage.
Madeleine Copp was enthralled by Mochinosha’s Oni; a night of stunning puppeteering that offers an in-depth perspective into Japanese shadow lanterns. Using the folktale of Issun-Boshi, Oni is about witnessing the complex mechanics of simple puppets. The combination of storytelling and puppetwork lets everyone suspend their disbelief as an elaborate landscape comes to life on a screen. This is an unconventional performance that Madeleine Copp believes will inspire curiosity and wonder with its mix of history, folklore, and contemporary humour.
Devon Potter highly recommends that you check out Karenin’s Anna. It’s not the type of story you will have seen on stage before, and the characters are endearing and genuine and just so wonderfully human. Don’t let the title scare you; you don’t have to have made your way through Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina to appreciate this intimate, honest, and very funny show. Cozy up in a blanket at St. Vlad’s, relax and enjoy.
Samantha Wu is raving about SLUT from Beer in a Glass Productions and she’s telling anyone willing to listen that this is the show they need to see! It’s funny, raunchy, and a delightful commentary on what it’s like to be a woman embracing her sexuality in the modern age – the perfect response to the #yesallwomen movement. Erin Thompson is fantastic in this one woman show with musical interludes – and the songs make for a great addition. Slut-shaming be dammed! Go check out SLUT!
Logan Brown highly recommends The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward. Comedy, drama, and music bring this fantastic show to life. The cast deliver excellent performances, and the atmosphere created in the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace takes you to another time and place. And the fact that the story is based on real-life events makes for one entertaining history lesson. This multilayered show has something for everyone. A must see.
Sam Mooney thinks everyone should see The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward. It’s a perfect 60-minute play. The script is smart, witty, and funny. The direction is spot on, and the talented cast is perfect. There’s great original music, some superior stage fighting, and some spectacular dying. She’s overheard people say that they aren’t going to see it because they’re so tired of hearing about Rob Ford. It’s not that Rob Ford! It’s safe to go and see it.
Sonia Borkar really enjoyed two shows this year but since she usually picks comedies she’s going to go with Time Stands Still, a Tony-nominated drama. This show is smart, intense and funny in just the right spots – an overall gem. It follows the relationship of two journalists who have just returned from Iraq, wanting different things from life. The story sheds light on war, relationships and how our experiences shape us.
Dana Ewachow highly recommends you see the show The Legend of White Woman Creek. This is not an ordinary ghost story. This is a unique musical about a woman who goes through love and tragic loss after moving to Kansas. The songs are hauntingly beautiful. The star, Katie Hartman, has such vocal range that she can shake the room with power and bring shivers with a whisper. Watch this show if you want to feel goosebumps.
Randy McDonald loved Licking Knives. Melanie Hrymak’s uncannily vivid invocation of a life of a Ukrainian survivor of the worst that the 20th century had to offer is 45 minutes of perfect theatre, beautifully performed and wonderfully scripted. See Licking Knives now: this brilliant one-person show deserves a large audience.
Daniel Rostas strongly recommends Kitt and Jane. Two pre-teens take over a school assembly to warn everyone about the coming apocalypse. Refreshingly funny, full of innovative elements and ideas, and performed expertly by Ingrid Hansen and Rod Peter Jr., this show is going places. You’ll laugh, you’ll probably cry – and you won’t regret coming to see it.
S. Bear Bergman is still so pleased to have seen Lost & Found, and recommends it to anyone who likes great storytelling and a likable narrator. You might not see yourself in the description, but if you’ve ever been in a relationship you’re going to recognize so very many of these well-rendered moments.
*The 136 shows we covered include all venue, site-specific (BYOV), and FringeKids shows. We cover Alleyplays and the presentations in Visual Fringe separately.
Photo credits: Toronto Fringe Festival