Cowboy Mouth (Frolick) 2016 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Matthew Kirst and Emily Dickinson

If you’ve ever thought you might enjoy seeing someone “trip balls” onstage (or if you partake in such shenanigans yourself), then Frolick Theatre’s production of Cowboy Mouth is everything you could want. This is a rather strange production being put on in the Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue) at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Written by the famed American playwright Sam Shepard in 1971 with help from singer-songwriter Patti Smith, Cowboy Mouth is a bizarre journey into the minds of two lovers at the mercy of what must be some pretty potent substances. Though I came in with a bias of generally preferring to see original shows at the Fringe, I enjoyed Frolick’s take on the play.

The programme refers to the play as a “psychedelic love story”. Just walking into the theatre you can immediately understand this description. The set is lavish and extremely impressive given the limited setup time and storage space allotted to Fringe shows. There’s garbage strewn all over the stage; as well as drums, mics, and an electric guitar set up for the actors. To my great pleasure, these instruments were quickly picked up and put to use throughout the production.

The acting was on point, and I was consistently impressed by the two leads: Emily Dickinson and Matthew Krist. Dickinson’s character, Cavale, was sultry and sexy; an absolute joy to see onstage. Krist’s “Slim” was a fascinating, raunchy fellow. The nonsensical banter between the two was very funny to watch.

Cowboy Mouth is not for everyone though. By the nature of the source material, this play can be rather hard to follow. There are moments in which the characters reach clarity. The writing becomes quite beautiful at these points, and for me this really brought the show together.

If you prefer conventional, linear storylines, I don’t think you’ll enjoy this production. The audience response to the show seemed to confirm its divisive nature. Half gave it a standing ovation, and the other half stayed in their seats; they were rather slow to applaud.

Simply put, this was a strange show. I enjoyed it, but my friend who joined me found it alienating at times. I think that the subject matter appeals to a very peculiar set of tastes. I certainly wouldn’t take my mother to this show, but I’d love to come back to it after having a few drinks on a Queen West patio.


  • Cowboy Mouth plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson Ave)
  • Tickets are $10 at the door, $12 in advance. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
  • Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
  • Content Warnings: Fog or Haze Effects, Nudity, Sexual Content, Mature Language.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible.


  • Thursday June 30th, 06:30 pm
  • Saturday July 2nd, 05:45 pm
  • Sunday July 3rd, 09:15 pm
  • Tuesday July 5th, 09:45 pm
  • Thursday July 7th, 05:45 pm
  • Friday July 8th, 12:30 pm
  • Sunday July 10th, 05:00 pm

Production Photography by Frolick