A two-in-one show of slapstick followed by Commedia dell’Arte, In The Trenches: A Double Feature by That Dog Was a Band Now, is a physical romp about war and love. It is playing at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace as part of the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival.
Slapstick doesn’t always land well, but this show mostly hits the mark.
Divided into two completely different shows emphasizing physical comedy and mask work, In The Trenches: A Double Feature is refreshingly progressive in its politics, and freeing in its energy.
Skit one follows three soldiers in the trenches of the war, where the death of their general sets off an unfortunate series of events. Skit two is a love story revolving around the dastardly scheme of a young woman’s father to marry her off to get out of his own debts.
Sadly a lack of programmes means I can’t directly reference each actor, but altogether Dustin Allen, Jared Mongeau, Brittny Rebhuhn, Patrick Stagaman, and Linus Wiberg make a pretty good team. They are a likeable crew, and even if I wasn’t totally satisfied, I’ll admit they managed to make me laugh a few times.
Actually, if I had to point to one big problem with That Dog Was a Band Now, it’s that they haven’t quite found where to stop a joke. In The Trenches: A Double Feature involves a lot of slapstick- being hit by helmets and falling off boxes. When the team nails it, it’s great…at first. After a few more minutes of the same gag, things get tedious. It’s the most consistent complaint I had throughout.
Otherwise, I appreciated the heart of the work. Both skits took the norm, how I expected it to play out, and twisted it, just slightly, bringing a pleasantly progressive delivery to old ideas.
In the war scene there is a surreal moment where the three soldiers, somehow balancing in a single, tiny wooden box, travel by boat, plane, and finally, spaceship, away from the battlefield. When they are thrown brutally back into the trench, it’s poignant and funny.
Similarly, their Commedia dell’Arte story, while not perfect, strove to say something about gender roles and sexuality and clearly tried to avoid some of the lazier comedy traps.
For me, the highlight of the second sketch that I really want to talk about involves a game of broken telephone between the dastardly father who is hiding from his debtor, his illegitimate son trying to hide him, and a servant speaking directly to a guest—the father’s debtor. What a genius little bit; the father’s curses and excuses travel down the line of people, becoming an invitation to dinner, an invitation to stay in the house, and an agreement to pay off his debts.
I saw that scene and knew I had to pass it on. If you enjoy slapstick and want two shows for the cost of one, go check it out.
- In the Trenches: A Double Feature plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace. (30 Bridgman 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 Warning: Gunshots.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Friday July 1st, 05:15 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 11:30 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 04:45 pm
- Wednesday July 6th, 07:30 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 12:00 pm
- Friday July 8th, 07:45 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 02:15 pm
Photo courtesy of That Dog Was A Band