Lover Lover is an intimate 2-hander dramedy produced by Subverting Something playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Charismatic performances and clear storytelling clash with questionable politics to make for a love-hate experience.
In the romantic din of Night Owl bar’s delightfully spacious basement, a smattering of glittery white patio tables and folding chairs make up the audience seating, as well as the stage.
Upon every table is a little white box, reminisicent of a TimBits container, with pieces of paper and pens beside for us to use. My box was labeled ‘worst breakup.’ It was a fun, strategic touch of engagement and emotional prep for what was to come.
Among us the actors perform and a small, real stage stands unoccupied, under the pretence that the characters will soon be using it for a poetry reading event.
What develops is essentially an exploration of age old questions: what is love? What is made possible by love? Is love even possible? As told through the lens of two people seeing the same woman.
From my seat, I could only see one half of the table, leaving me with the other actor’s rear skull to interact with. This was not problematic, however; indeed, it gave me the opportunity to watch Mark (Eric Mrakovcic) intently, an experience I quite enjoyed.
Even when the actors eventually swapped sides of the table, I found my gaze wandering to the back of Mrakovcic’s head, so compelling was his telling.
Elizabeth Adams (who played Marina) was nothing to sneeze at, either. I found she shone brightest during her moments of heated anger, expressing with specificity and authenticity.
The script flowed easily and effectively. This well-written story was an engaging circumstance I’ve not experienced before in theatre. The relationships and voice were distinct and natural.
Repeated expressions of destructive commentaries regarding sexuality left me wondering what the intent of such expressions was. Perhaps writer/director Veronika Gribanova was playing devil’s advocate, or perhaps she really believes the sexual themes she presented. Either way, I couldn’t find a reason for their prominence.
For example, the idea that bisexual people are just confused gay people, or that they cannot be fulfilled in a monogamous relationship, or that LGBTQ+ people in general are inherently promiscuous or unable to love ‘normally’, like our hetero, white, cis-male character can. I wasn’t upset or angered by it, more just a bit baffled.
Why express these sentiments only, with no counter-perspectives? Having different political opinions is a beautiful freedom of democratic living. Needlessly fixating on regressive bisexual erasure and the like is just reckless.
Of course, Gribanova may not have felt it was a representation of her beliefs, intentions, or of any group in general apart from these characters. However, with nothing to support that hypothesis, I’m inclined to think this writer just didn’t consider her slant in this way.
Nothing can take from the talent of this team, in story, direction, and characterization. I was engaged and curious about where we would go next in this bizarre anti-date.
I greatly appreciate this team’s willingness to escalate emotionally. Too often politeness gets in the way of meaty conflict, the delicious fuel of all good theatre. These folks get that.
The story did feel like it was wrapping up several times. The last few scenes felt like many alternative endings, all of which were interesting.
Minimal and character-driven, this kitchen-sink dramedy made me laugh, hum, and grimace in sympathy. Quality talent on and offstage made for a seamless experience that feels exclusive. The warm, whimsical atmosphere lends that final special touch. I definitely recommend Lover Lover, especially with a drink in hand from the bar.
- Lover Lover plays at Nightowl. (647 College 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: Sexual Content, Mature Language.
- The Fringe Festival does not consider this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Wednesday July 5th, 08:00 pm
- Thursday July 6th, 08:00 pm
- Friday July 7th, 05:30 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 05:30 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 08:00 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 08:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 05:30 pm
Photo of Eric Markovcic and Elizabth Adams by Shashwat Sharma