Lust & Marriage (Dance Naked Productions) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Eleanor O'Brien by Lloyd Lemmerman

I laughed. I cried. There were sex jokes galore, and tales of blowjobs gone horribly, horribly wrong. Mostly I watched one woman’s heartfelt story of finding love, and herself – with the help of a children’s book and potent hallucinogens – in Dance Naked Productions’ performance of Lust & Marriage, part of Toronto Fringe Festival’s 2015 lineup.

"Monogamish" artwork provided by companyI went into this show with low expectations, mostly due to my own biases: like the character in the one-woman show, I too believe in love, and the concept of a soulmate. But I’ve had supremely bad luck in the dating world, and have recently embodied the Bitter Single Woman stereotype. I also identify as monogamish, and have seen so few realistic portrayals of polyamory, or “monogamishness”. I find the less positive realities of both are often glossed over by poly communities and popular culture.

Within the first few minutes I was relating, in a serious way, with Emily (Eleanor O’Brien, also the artistic director of Dance Naked Productions) and her tribulations. Romantic ideals linger from a childhood spent around too many romance novels, and don’t quite line up with more mature sexual desires. Isn’t true love, or finding your soulmate, supposed to be a happy combination of compatibility AND raging passion?

Through fluid and simple physical movements, era-specific music, and letters to and from Dan Savage, we go on a journey through the years and witness Emily’s sexual and emotional awakening. Eventually, through many awkward trials, dates, casual flings, one-night stands, and a life-changing trip to Burning Man, Emily discovers that yes, finding your soulmate IS a combination of compatibility and passion. But it isn’t necessarily the way we imagine it will be, which in this case is monogamous.

Lights fade and it’s all fine. Emily is in love, and will try to adapt. Until the best-kept-poly-secrets – jealousy and fear of abandonment – rear their inevitable heads. What follows is a hilarious, honest, and genuine portrayal of open relationships: how they grow, expand, change, and how they work best when negotiated in good faith. Her portrayals of various other characters are solid and consistent, and she has the presence needed to pull off a one-woman show, on a stage with nothing more than a small table.

In light of my above-mentioned biases, I did feel a bit sad at times. This show reached into my soul and poked it, mostly gently. That was a first in my theatre-going experience. The constant referencing to Dan Savage, a well-loved columnist, but also a noted fatphobe, was a bit triggering for a hopelessly romantic fat girl like me, and did sour the performance for me, but only slightly. However, I feel that using his voice (via his column), as a vehicle for humorous and frank dialogue, leading to self-awareness, was brilliantly conceived and executed.

I absolutely loved Lust & Marriage. If you enjoy laughing out loud, graphic but realistic sex talk, and satisfying conclusions, I urge you to see this show. If open discussions about sex acts make you uncomfortable, or you’re anti-feminist, I’d suggest skipping this one.


  • Lust & Marriage is playing until July 10 at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse  (79A St. George Street)
  • Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
  • Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment
  • There are several flights of stairs to the performance space, but the space is listed as wheelchair accessible.

Remaining Showtimes
July 03 at 03:00 PM
July 05 at 08:00 PM
July 06 at 01:00 PM
July 07 at 08:15 PM
July 09 at 02:00 PM
July 10 at 07:00 PM

Photo of Eleanor O’Brien by Lloyd Lemmerman
Artwork provided by company

7 thoughts on “Lust & Marriage (Dance Naked Productions) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. Also note: the 94 Harbord bus, which runs along the route, is detouring at Spadina.

  2. It’s personal and honest
    Warm and inviting
    Clever and full of surprises
    it’s pretty hard not to love this show…

  3. Dear Jess – I’m enormously grateful for this review. Though the show was nominated for Best Solo Show and Best English Language production in Montréal, it didn’t get a single review! Thank you so much not only for your generous praise, but for your honesty about your own personal reactions to the material. I agree, Dan doesn’t always get it right, and I have my own issues with some of his responses, but overall, I think he has done a lot for tolerance and acceptance around sexuality. I so appreciate that you were able to see past your own triggers and find merit in the wok. Thank you so much,
    Eleanor O’Brien
    Dance Naked Productions

  4. You’re so welcome! Thanks for such a brave, honest, vulnerable performance. It was hilarious and touching. It’s my top pick so far!

  5. FULL DISCLOSURE – I won tickets to see this show from Mooney on Theatre. Despite the freebie, I thought this play was fantastic!

    Was thinking of seeing it anyway – the poster was most intriguing.

    Having said the above – I thought that this was the best show that I saw (from about the dozen-or-so that I did) so far all Fringe! [Brief aside to all Fringe participants – please stop performing boring and unnecessary “musicals” and lame “sketch” shows – really, we (or at least I) just don’t care!]

    This show was very honest and sincere – can’t say whether it was a “true” story, but it absolutely played so. It was a play about authentic emotions and, as such, it drew me in. Could have perhaps been edited a little (perhaps the last bit? – would have been a killer 60-minute show, rather than perhaps a just-slightly-too-long 75-minute show.)

    However, Eleanor O’Brien’s performance was amazing – full dazzling commitment.

    Why was this not a “best of Fringe” pick? In my opinion, it was much better than some of the shows chosen…

    Hope this show has a long life after FringeToronto!



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