A Lesson in Gabby (Mark MyWords-Ink) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review

gabbyA Lesson in Gabby is playwright Labe Kagan’s semi-autobiographical comedy about love, an artist’s angst, the Toronto real estate market and new age medicine. It also parodies (for reasons the play does not disclose) the relentless fundraising efforts of 91.1 Jazz FM.  Performed to a packed house on opening night, this comedy may not be for everyone, but it delivers on its promise of laughs, and may be a fan favourite at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival.

The play follows the friendship of Groucho, a washed-up writer with an ex-wife on the rocks, and Melville, his friend and ever-eager realtor.  When Groucho’s ex-wife, Gabby, begins persistently emailing him out of the blue, she sends him spinning into a whirlwind of confusion and introspection from which Melville doggedly tries to free him.

This is a solid comedy, but not without its share of flaws.  In particular, the plot is at times over-complicated, with Flett constantly pitching Groucho condominiums, and Groucho engaging in the odd murderous rampage against a stuffed parrot that acts as a proxy for his ex-wife/mother/subconscious.  With so many sources of conflict, A Lesson In Gabby’s narrative often gets tangled, and doesn’t offer much in terms of resolution.

But if its plot is awkwardly complicated at times, Gabby’s sharp dialogue and believable characters carry it through.  James Robert Woods and Stephen Flett are seasoned performers and have absorbed the characters of Groucho and Melville thoroughly: their banter is natural, their angst is believable.

Woods and Flett performed to a full house on opening night and drew plenty of laughs as they rattled off Kagan’s one-liners.  This one-hour show feels a bit drawn-out as it nears its conclusion, but its charismatic duo kept energies high.  An exuberant Flett invited the opening night crowd to a nearby bar for “a bit of a nosh” eliciting more than a few murmurs of interest.


  • A Lesson in Gabby is playing until July 12 at Tarragon Theatre Extraspace (30 Bridgman Ave.)
  • 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

Remaining Showtimes
July 07 at 01:15 PM
July 08 at 03:30 PM
July 09 at 09:15 PM
July 12 at 01:45 PM

Photo provided by company