32 Short Sketches About Bees (Clear Glass Productions) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Jessica Greco, Andrew Bushell, Leigh Cameron, Shannon Lahaie, Chris Leveille and Cameron Wyllie in "32 Short Sketches About Bees", presented by Clear Glass Productions at the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival.

Clear Glass Productions’s performance of 32 Short Sketches About Bees is a fast-paced mash-up of ridiculous scenes all tied together through the incredibly simple (but surprisingly diverse) theme of “bees” (or “Bea”, “B”, “be”… you get the idea). Playing now at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

I was psyched to see 32 Short Sketches About Bees as soon as I knew the cast; some of Toronto’s best sketch artists have come together for this incredibly bizarre and funny show that comes up with more bee sketches than you ever thought possible. While the sheer volume of sketches packed into this performance made it, at times, feel a little rushed, each scene kept us laughing; I was impressed by some of the unexpected tie-ins that popped up throughout the show.

Shannon Lahaie set the tone of the show as a mother flower in the opening scene, and showed off her improv skills when faced with a malfunctioning costume piece. As the “straight man” in a lot of the sketches, Lahaie kept the energy up and the show flowing, something essential when you’re trying to cram 32 sketches into 55 minutes.

Andrew Bushell, with whom I’d been a bit underwhelmed at the start, stole the scene in the Mars sketch, as the unlikely candidate for a human settlement on Mars; the bit had the audience roaring with laughter.

Jessica Greco stood out in one of the eerier scenes, as half of a southern farm couple who took their motto of living like the bees a little too literally, and later as a woman who finds that the Plan B she purchases at the drugstore isn’t quite what she was looking for.

Chris Leveille showed his range, playing everyone from Roosevelt to Bea Arthur (he really nailed her strut), though I think my favourite moment of his may have been him “making love to his tonic and gin” in the final musical sequence, a la Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”. The song, sung by Cameron Wyllie, wrapped up the show beautifully, reminding us that even spending the rest of your life in a swarm of bees is “better than drinking alone”. Another notable character of Wyllie’s was Buzz Aldrin, who we learn is not only a total buzz kill at a party, but someone who can be summoned like Bloody Mary if you say “moon” 3 times in a row.

All of the performers were excellent, but it was Leigh Cameron who really stood out in this one. I think it was a combination of her comedic timing and animated facial expressions. Plus, she was featured in the best written scenes; Beeman’s Bar and Grill — “where the bees are on purpose!” — was definitely my favourite sketch of the night, and she played the part perfectly.

Honourable mentions go to the somewhat confusing, but still horribly funny, Jelly Sketch (how can you not laugh when a grown man yells “wiener jelly”?), and to Dr. Wilson, who may or may not have just been a lab coat full of bees. In a sketch show like this, it’s such a collaborative effort that you really just say kudos to all involved, so to all the performers, and to writer Claire Farmer and writer/director Paul Bates, bravo. This show has earned its buzz.

Details

  • 32 Short Sketches About Bees plays at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79A Saint George 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 permitted.
  • Content Warnings: Parental Guidance Advised, Gunshotsm Sexual Content, Fog Machine, Audience Participation, Mature Language
  • This venue is accessible.

Performances

  • Thursday July 6, 10:30pm
  • Saturday July 8, 3:30pm
  • Monday July 10, 4:30pm
  • Wednesday July 12, 8:45pm
  • Thursday July 13, 11:30pm
  • Friday July 14, 7:30pm
  • Sunday July 16, 12:00pm

Photo by Connor Low.