Algonquin Highway (17 Syllables) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Stylized photo of a road running through the woods.

Algonquin Highway is a charming one-act play about identity and the difficulties of love. It is produced by the 17 Syllables Theater Company and is playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

This show handled several difficult topics such as gender identity and Indigenous identity, but does so in a respectful and appropriate way. I was very relieved to find out that they did actually cast actors whose identities and lived-experiences could inform these roles.

The two leads Smith Purdy and Haley Vincent were excellent in their parts. Both were able to naturally switch between comedic scenes and heavier topics, as well as show the vulnerability needed to make each character believable.

The script itself makes the characters of Nic and Alex very three-dimensional right away which helps bring the audience into the story and keeps them engaged. It also does an excellent job of switching from serious conversations to fun moments with a pacing that worked well for the show.

Unfortunately, there were many technical issues that still needed to be worked out. Since I saw the first performance these will hopefully be sorted out as the week goes on.

First of all the microphones were not picking up sound well, that made it difficult to hear what was being said for me as well as other members of the audience who I asked.

I also found there to be a lack of ambient noise, which took away from the setting. Every time they mentioned that they were in a forest it came as a surprise to me because I kept forgetting, due to the silence and the simple staging. However, the chosen music did well to set the tone, especially for intense moments.

The usage of the stage was minimal. It felt like the play was created for a much smaller venue and as such there was a large amount of unused space. This created a void-like feeling. The large black curtain and lack of set design only increased this feeling of void. It would have been nice to have some trees or a fall backdrop to make you feel like you are on a highway in Algonquin.

Overall, I believe that “Algonquin Highway” has a lot of potential to be a heavy hitter at this year’s Fringe Festival, but the company must work through some of the technical difficulties soon so that the excellent script and performances by the actors are not overshadowed.

Details

  • Algonquin Highway plays at the Al Green Theatre. (750 Spadina Ave.)
  • Tickets are $12. 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 Scadding Court, 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: Sexual Content, Mature Language.
  • This venue is barrier-free. Note that only certain building entrances are wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in front of the front row, and may have poor sightlines for certain productions.

Performances

  • Wednesday July 5th, 06:30 pm
  • Friday July 7th, 08:15 pm
  • Saturday July 8th, 01:45 pm
  • Monday July 10th, 10:15 pm
  • Wednesday July 12th, 05:15 pm
  • Friday July 14th, 12:30 pm
  • Sunday July 16th, 01:45 pm

Photo provided by the company.

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