Four girls, one junky car, and infinite possibilities: be they sexual awakenings, post-grad anxieties, or your typical mid-20s identity crisis. That’s the basic premise of Out of the Blue Theatre Company’s Rounding the Bend, a new musical playing at the Robert Gill Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
Rounding the Bend makes the most of some typical road-trip tropes: singing in the car (here used as interstitials between scenes), breakdowns on the side of the road, peeing in the wilderness. Beyond those trappings, though, this is a story about coming to terms. At its heart, it’s about discovering who you are, and making peace with the fact that you might not ever have all the answers to that question, especially in your 20s.
Shows have tackled this conflict before, but Rounding the Bend manages to do it with a deft balance of humour and heart. One of the things I liked most about it is that every character is real, distinct, and believable, built up by strong dialogue and charismatic delivery. This is one of the key strengths of the show: it creates conflict not out of melodrama or contrived misunderstandings, but out of organic character interactions.
In a show this character-driven, Rounding the Bend is lucky to have as strong a cast as it does. Emma Banigan’s Jade is slick and cool, but breaks down convincingly when the time comes to own up to her baggage. Alyssa Minichillo’s recently graduated and completely directionless Lauren is mostly played for (effective) comic relief, but her conflict was the most relatable to me.
Arguably, though, the most heartfelt storyline is the almost-romance between Andrea and Quinn. It’s hard not to feel for Andrea (Brittany Rae Robinson) as she falls under the spell of Quinn’s allure, as she slowly allows herself to admit what it is she wants for the first time. Her awakening during her solo, “Inside Outside”, is played subtly, with a kind of burgeoning, gentle joy that made me feel oddly protective of her.
At the same time, I also found it hard to feel any lasting anger at Brittany Kay’s Quinn, who is such a fun, open spirit, and who you never for a second believe means any harm.
If I had one complaint, it’s that the show’s 60-minute running time left me wanting a bit more from the ending. Without giving too much away, much of the drama seems to wrap up quickly, with certain characters absent from the stage. After such a satisfying build, I wanted a bit more of the fallout – one last conversation to hash out what the character in question was thinking and feeling.
Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed Rounding the Bend. It was an energetic night of theatre: I noticed more than a few toes bouncing with the music, along with frequent bursts of laughter and applause. The energy that buzzed through the theatre was, I hope, because the audience was just as invested as I was, wholly, from beginning to end.
- Rounding the Bend plays at the Robert Gill Theatre (214 College St).
- 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.
- Audience advisory: Mature language.
July 4, 4:00pm
July 5, 12:00pm
July 7, 5:00pm
July 9, 7:30pm
July 10, 11:30pm
July 11, 5:15pm