When you go into a show called Happy Family, you know right from the get go that it’s probably going to depict the exact opposite of that. Other Life Production’s show as a part of the Toronto Fringe Festival playing at the Franco Boni Theatre did not disappoint — it presented a deeply flawed unit teetering, as they said themselves, on the edge of something big. It left me pondering the lengths we go to in order to save, and sometimes sabotage, our families.
The action takes place in a park where three siblings along with their numerous problems charge in and out of. The play manages to create an air of constant conflict without becoming grating or tiresome.
This is thanks to the expert delivery of the three actors- Adele Power, Kristi Woods and Leonard Scott-Collins. Woods’ middle sibling Van was believably outlandish and extreme, considering her dark backstory. I found that she really found her stride just in time to hit the final scene out of the park (pun fully intended).
As older sister Lindsey, Power gave a lovely depth to what could have been a one dimensional character. You could tell the audience was rooting for her as the show went on, as she seemed to be the only sibling who still had a bit of a footing on solid ground.
Scott-Collins portrayed the sheltered Roland with a very admirable sincerity and it never felt like his presentation was taunting his character’s idiosyncrasies. His beautifully comedic moments brought a nice levity to the show.
As for the story, I found it was effective in what it was trying to present. It explored the complicated dynamics present both between siblings and within the context of the wider family. At one point, Lindsey asks, “what is a happy family anyways?” It made me realize that no matter how hard you try, no clan will ever be picture perfect, and it is within these familial complexities that we have to find moments of beauty.
The one thing I felt could have been improved was how the climax was written into a scene. It often felt as though certain moments were building to a big reveal, only to veer off into another direction. This made some of the scenes lose a bit of momentum, but the actors would then regain it when the big moment did come. With a little editing, I think these moments could be wonderfully gut-wrenching.
I thoroughly enjoyed Happy Family and would definitely recommend it to anyone. It was a thought provoking, interesting show that had moments of both hilarity and growth. The audience obviously loved the show as well, giving the three actors an uproarious applause as they bowed.
- Happy Family plays at The Theatre Centre’s Franco Boni Theatre. (1115 Queen St. W.)
- 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 Warning: Mature Language.
- This venue is accessible.
- Wednesday July 5th, 10:30 pm
- Friday July 7th, 09:45 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 12:00 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 08:30 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 05:45 pm
- Friday July 14th, 02:15 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 02:45 pm
Photo of Leonard Scott-Collins, Kristi Woods, and Adèle Power in Happy Family.