The cliché goes: I laughed, I cried. For The Cruelest Phone Book in the World by Craving Space Productions: I laughed, I sat with my jaw on the floor, and I tried to hang on for the ride. It is a wild, wacky, and wonderful one-man show at the Toronto Fringe Festival.
Disclaimer: if you crave easy-to-follow, linear, “traditional” stories and simple metaphors, while simultaneously despising audience interaction, this show is not for you.
Even before the show, RC Weslowski is out and engaging the audience, reminding them to go to the washroom and sing along to the music. Then, right before the lights go down: “The lights are about to go down, say, ‘ooh!’ and pretend you never saw me,” as he rushes off stage. We “ooh.”
And then the whirlwind of words, images, stories, songs, and air guitar solos begins.
Weslowski has a great voice and radiates a loveable, excitable energy. His writing is laden with stunning imagery and one-liners that are shockingly funny.
Essentially, the show explores love: falling in love, losing love, searching for love, and how to come to terms with all that love brings. It is not, however, predictable or cliché. Weslowski uses the metaphor of paper products to symbolize people.
And he milks it for all its worth. From twisted stories of a verbally abusive father to a hilarious sexual encounter with a phone book — on stage and with “protection” — he plays with the fantastically bizarre imagery that arises from the metaphor. It is challenging to keep up with him, as he is always three steps ahead. This is by no means a criticism, however. It is refreshing.
Part way through I realized that the only way to fully enjoy the stream of ideas pouring out of him was to not struggle to grasp every single one of them. If I have one piece of advice for those about to watch his show: sit back, let go of the oars, and trust that he’s in control and will lead you safely to the other side.
Sure, The Cruelest Phone Book in the World is crazy and kooky, but it has a beautiful message and big heart. Weslowski is a true storyteller. You’re in excellent hands.
- The Cruelest Phone Book in the World is playing at the Annex Theatre.
- 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 peformance. 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.
- Warnings: Audience Participation, Recommended 14A
July 03 at 07:00 PM
July 04 at 07:00 PM
July 06 at 05:00 PM
July 08 at 05:45 PM
July 09 at 01:45 PM
July 10 at 09:45 PM
July 11 at 11:30 PM
Photo provided by the company.