I would highly recommend patrons familiarize themselves with the theatrical form of Commedia dell’arte before seeing Fool’s Gold, presented by Rosy Cheeks Co-op at the Toronto Fringe Festival. After seeing the lukewarm response of some audience members (there were a few walk-outs), this is a show that you want to enter into with some expectations.
The difficulty of reviewing a show like Fool’s Gold is that if you aren’t familiar with the particular style of theatre it’s referencing, it can be hard to tell whether something is just a characteristic of the style or a choice made by the production. This is not to say I didn’t know anything about Commedia dell’arte beforehand, but this is the first time that I’ve seen such a faithful reproduction and I found I had to refresh my knowledge of the form before writing this review.
For example, I was reminded by Google that Isabella was the only one who didn’t wear a mask because female Commedia characters are often unmasked. And while I have previously enjoyed shows that have borrowed from Commedia dell’arte, the classic low-brow verbal humour that is a convention of the style is not really to my taste.
Although some criticisms can be attributed to a difference in preferences, I had some issues with the play itself, which is an original creation. Certain scenes carried on for far too long and a few jokes were repeated to the point of tediousness. I also found their attempts to bring in modern references generally unsuccessful.
The simpler Commedia form of humour may have worked if the references were kept within the traditional setting of the play, but things sounded cheesy when they tried to weave in modern references like how “Kensington Market is stinky.” There were also a few awkward jokes that pinged my equity radar and I feel like the play would’ve been better served if it had just fully devoted itself to the time period.
Jokes aside, I did enjoy the physical humour quite a bit. Commedia dell’arte is famed for creating slapstick comedy – from the literal slapping stick used by the stock Arlecchino character – and there was plenty of it on display. The expansive Randolph stage was well trod upon and the inordinate amount of rolls and jumping in this production was a welcome break from some of the usual talking-heads Fringe fare.
Although my audience was more muted, the actors did try their best to engage with us. Whereas the Italian accents and volume levels fluctuated, the energy did not. Geoffrey Armour as Arlecchino successfully chewed the scenery every time he came on stage and he had fantastic chemistry with the radiant Isabella, played by Rachelle Casseus. Despite being slightly overshadowed by other livelier stock characters, Stephen LaFrenie really dialled up the farcical side of Pantalone during his attempts to trick his daughter.
A special shout-out also goes out to the sumptuous costumes made by Marie-Claire Jutra and Karen Donaldson.
Fool’s Gold may not be to everyone’s taste, but at least I can say that I saw something I have never seen before and doesn’t that make it a true Fringe experience?
- Fool’s Gold is playing until July 12 at Randolph Theatre. (736 Bathurst 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.
- This performance is accessible for non-English speakers (Italian).
July 05 at 01:15 PM
July 06 at 08:15 PM
July 07 at 01:00 PM
July 10 at 05:15 PM
July 12 at 07:00 PM