Review: Boxes Buried Deep (Convection Productions)


Sage Tyrtle performs her one-woman show Boxes Buried Deep at Toronto’s Videofag

Boxes Buried Deep is Sage Tyrtle’s one-woman show: a real life fairy tale about how to discover and embrace your inner “crazy.” Her performance style is conversational and so the intimate Videofag venue is a great place to experience her. The audience is small enough, close enough, that she could put her arm around you as she weaves her tale. In fact, it felt as if her arm was around me the whole time.

The material is personal. We first meet Sage as an excited five year old, thrilled to be on a road trip from Baltimore to California with her dad. We slowly learn, as she does, that trip is taking her far away from her mother—a woman her dad says is just “too crazy” for them.

Her tale leads us through humour and heartbreak as she reveals her adolescence and teenage years. There are some very amusing anecdotes about Montessori school, yoga and alternative lifestyles. And yet it never feels as if she’s poking fun. She’s never mean or condescending, always playful and affectionate.

Her wide-eyes drew me right in. I was right there with her as she faces other children’s cruel reactions to her, her father’s toxic relationships with women, and her yearning to be with her “crazy” mother, who is—despite her schizophrenia—the most healthy and encouraging person in her life.

Many of the influential people in her life’s journey she’s rendered as fairy tale characters. Some of them represent an ideal that is impossible to attain. The princess who tries to banish all negative thoughts and the handsome, flattering prince who almost ruins her marriage: they are persuasive, but ultimately damaging. But even when she realizes they are damaging, there is never any sense of regret for having been seduced by their perfection, only gratitude for the insights gained in the aftermath.

The story lost me a little when we got to her adult years. Around the time of her marriage and the birth of her son, I found myself confused by how much time was passing. Also, towards the end of her tale, there is a distinct change in her delivery. Early on, the puckish persona of the youngest Sage flows right into her giddy adolescence and it’s all very endearing. Then, when it’s the adult Sage talking to us, the wide-eyed wonder disappears from her eyes and some of the magic is lost.

Looking back on the performance as a whole, it makes sense that the adult Sage would not be quite the same person. As grown-ups, it requires conscious effort to retain that sense of boundless wonder that comes so easily to children.

At the close of her story, Sage reaches out the reclaim her magic, but it’s different now—full of hard-won insight. She finally unpacks the deep and dark emotions she tried to bury and comes to terms with her loss. She had me back then, right in the palm of her hand. And her final line hit me hard. This isn’t simply a coming of age tale, I realized; it is a tribute to the love and guidance of a parent and how it can survive even time and distance.

If you’re in the mood for a touching, whimsical bit of storytelling, head on down to Kensington Market this weekend to spend an evening with Sage. She’ll introduce you to slew of colourful characters. And if you’re an 80s child/90s teenager, you’ll be quite tickled by some of the references. (Remember the “information superhighway”?)


  • Boxes Buried Deep plays November 15 and 16 at Videofag (187 August Avenue)
  • Performances: Saturday at 4PM and 8PM, Sunday at 4PM
  • Tickets are $15 (general) and $10 (students)
  • Tickets can be purchased online

Photo of Sage Tyrtle by Zoë Gemelli