Before seeing Monsters By Nature at the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival, I described a different show (Blink’s Garden) as being like a camp play, but a very good one. I somewhat wish I hadn’t, because I would now like to describe Kindling Collective’s Monsters By Nature as being like a camp play, but…one that tries to do way, way too much considering the time and space.
The show takes up no less a topic than the concept of the “monster”: how it is understood and created and re-created in the world and in artwork. Famous and quotidian monsters, fictional and real, are invoked and in some cases quite explicitly. The piece sprints from Shakespeare and the Restoration (starring Scooby Doo) more or less all the way to Brock Turner and Donald Trump without hardly catching its breath. There are dances, musical numbers, candy, simulated violence, saxophone solos and close-harmony singing – and the show is 47 minutes long.
Compounding the problem, some of the pieces – though technically correct – just seem to have been shoehorned in to cover them, without any real sense of roundedness or import. They contrast unfavorably with a few excellent moments, especially the insinuating, racist interrogation of a Filipino cast member’s racial and ethnic identity at an audition. It bit in a way that was authentic and though-provoking, really outstanding, and clearly also real to the cast. A long bit about intimate partner violence was very good, by which I mean chilling but also somehow steady. It showed the unexceptionality of most intimate partner violence, the way it becomes workaday business, and it was the other best part of the show.
To take up a topic like “the monster,” I wanted Monsters By Nature to address it in that were either serious or funny. Some of these – the majority – just felt academic at best and perfunctory at worst. There is plenty of talent here, but in the end the show felt like an assignment being completed to satisfy a rubric and mostly not to tell the story the company wanted to tell. Those moments were clarion. The rest I could have done without.
- Monsters By Nature plays at the St. Vladimir Institute. (620 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 wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route. After the building’s business hours, a staff member will need to escort you through this route, so plan to arrive early for evening shows.
- Friday July 7th, 06:45 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 12:00 pm
- Monday July 10th, 01:00 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 07:30 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 11:30 pm
- Friday July 14th, 08:45 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 01:00 pm
Photo of Ellie Posadas, Chelsea Woodard, Parmida Vand, Julia
Vescio, Shannon Murphy, Jillian Hanson, Lauren Pileggi by Geoff Stairs