HANDS DOWN (Shoot Good Films) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Image of: Xavier de Guzman, Mathew Isen, Jane Luk, Colin Petierre, Jen Pogue, Christian Potenza, Lauren Vandenbrook by Megan Vincent Photography.

When five strangers are huddled around a car for 100 hours, things are bound to get a little weird. In HANDS DOWN by Shoot Good Films at the Toronto Fringe Festival, things get very weird.

HANDS DOWN is written by Warren P. Sonoda, an experienced television comedy director with credits like Trailer Park Boys and This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Going into this show, I was excited to see how someone with a high-caliber, albeit slightly different, professional background would tackle the Fringe Festival as writer and director.

Did Sonoda pull it off? I wish I could punch the air and say ‘heck yeah’, but my answer is more of a flaky ‘yes and no’. I loved some things about this show, but I certainly have my gripes with it.

The premise is fantastic and provides the set-up for a lot of jokes. But I felt that a lot of the punchlines fell flat. I felt as though the show could have been condensed into a shorter time span, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless.

HANDS DOWN held my attention though, everything’s there but it’s just a bit stretched out. And I’ll give it this: despite my gripes it felt very polished. Sonoda’s writing was fine, but here he shines more so as a director.

The script had its moments, they just didn’t happen with the frequency I expected. Some parts felt a bit extraneous; for instance, some characters gave us backstories that never really became relevant later in the play. Some threads were lost, and I’d have forgotten about them, only it was sad seeing that those threads that were picked back up made for some fantastic comedy.

I thought the cast was likable and that they had a lot of heart. Overall, these weren’t jaw-dropping performances but the ensemble was well constructed, and Sonoda’s direction and casting fleshed the characters out and played them off each other very well.

I did find Jen Pogue and Xavier de Guzman especially captivating, demonstrating some fine acting chops. Both characters seemed to have less to do than the others, but the actors really brought them to life with some grounded acting that still managed to fill the stage.

There was a lot to like with HANDS DOWN. I was very impressed with Sonoda’s premise and his excellent direction. While I think the follow-through fell a bit flat, I’m still glad that I saw it and did enjoy myself.

Details

  • HANDS DOWN plays at the Factory Mainspace. (125 Bathurst St.)
  • 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: Audience Participation, Mature Language.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route.

Performances

  • Wednesday July 5th, 08:15 pm
  • Friday July 7th, 10:15 pm
  • Sunday July 9th, 01:15 pm
  • Tuesday July 11th, 06:30 pm
  • Thursday July 13th, 12:00 pm
  • Saturday July 15th, 09:15 pm
  • Sunday July 16th, 01:45 pm

Photo of Xavier de Guzman, Mathew Isen, Jane Luk, Colin Petierre, Jen Pogue, Christian Potenza, Lauren Vandenbrook by Megan Vincent Photography.

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