Plays in Cafés, playing the RedFish BlueFish Creative Café as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival , features two short plays by playwright Alex Karolyi which offer glimpses into the relationship of a couple, Frank and Shelley.
Frank (Craig Burnatowski) is a sort of overgrown manchild; the kind of guy who has trouble listening and is obsessed with sex and/or food (sometimes both at the same time). Shelley (Alex Karolyi) is high-strung to the point of being a bit neurotic, she constantly nags at Frank.
In the first play, the lifestyle magazine-obsessed Shelley tries to connect with a disinterested Frank over card games. The second play is set several months later when the newly engaged couple are about to sample cakes for their pending wedding.
The pair engage in a type of network sitcom-style banter and while I thought the script had a few chuckles here and there and was mildly amusing, it mostly just plays off of tired “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” gender stereotypes. “Rye helps me connect with my emotions,” quips Frank. Ultimately, I kept asking myself, why are they together and why should I care?
The presentation as a site-specific show in the RedFish BlueFish Creative Café is interesting; while the first play is set in a café the second is not.
The inclusion of a singer/guitarist (Scott Everatt) to provide musical performances, before, in between and after the two plays adds a nice ambient touch to make the space feel more coffee shop-like. He performs a few cover songs and while he sings beautifully his inclusion did feel like filler for a thin program.
I suppose if you’re able to relate to the characters you’d possibly find them endearing and enjoy the show more than I did. In the end, I found Plays in Cafés a bit tedious and drawn-out even at the economical 50-minute run time, including musical interludes and a brief intermission.
- Plays in Cafés is playing until July 12 at RedFish BlueFish Creative Café (73 Harbord St)
- 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.
- July 02 at 08:00 PM
- July 03 at 08:00 PM
- July 04 at 08:00 PM
- July 05 at 04:00 PM
- July 09 at 08:00 PM
- July 10 at 08:00 PM
- July 11 at 08:00 PM
- July 12 at 04:00 PM
Photo of Alex Karolyi and Craig Burnatowski by Charlie Robinson