When leaving the theatre after seeing Murder In The Cottonwoods, I had stuck in my head a line from Rocky Horror that I think perfectly summed up my experience of the show; “a mental mind-f*ck can be nice.” A bizarre tale of murder set in a town that could be 1950s middle America if it weren’t for the Seinfeld references, Murder In The Cottonwoods may be the strangest show you’ll see at this year’s Fringe Festival. If you are a fan of David Lynch, then this show is for you: it’s Twin Peaks meets Pleasantville in this surreal “romantic nightmare.”
The opening scene was brilliantly staged, a perfect mix of horror and camp. Kudos to sound designer David Sharpe, whose eerie mixes were essential to establishing the surrealist vibe of the show. The lighting design was also very well done (especially for a Fringe show that gets very limited tech time) and helped to elevate the show above the production value usually found at a Fringe performance.
The story was certainly unique, and for the most part I found it intriguing. As a big Twin Peaks fan, I could get behind the weirdness of it all, and was ready for some even bigger, crazier moments. Unfortunately, I found the script always stopped just short of where I felt it should be.
Writer Colin Sharpe clearly understands the elements required for this kind of uncanny, campy story, and all the smaller moments were well executed. However, the story as a whole didn’t have enough time to develop, and I left the show wondering if it was a longer piece that had been shortened to be suitable for the Fringe (as far as I can tell through my Google search, this is not the case). I think that if Sharpe took the time to expand the play somewhat, giving some more thought to character development, and more time for the bizarre moments to breathe, he could end up with a truly spectacular show.
Despite some faults in the story overall, the show was solidly cast. Special mention goes to Guy Bradford, who played “good looking boy” Ricky, for his excellent physicalization and badass moves during the “What Have You Done For Me Lately” musical sequence. And to Paul Aihoshi, whose dead-eyed stare got as many laughs as his freakish, Peter Lorre-esq voice; both well deserved.
As a final note, the opening night was sold out, so if this one is on your list, consider getting your tickets in advance.
- Murder In The Cottonwoods plays at the Annex Theatre (736 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 permitted.
- Content Warnings: Not Recommended for Persons Under 14, Sexual Content, Mature Language
- This venue is accessible.
- Friday July 7, 8:45pm
- Sunday July 9, 12:30pm
- Monday July 10, 2:45pm
- Wednesday July 13, 1:45pm
- Thursday July 13, 6:00pm
- Friday July 14, 7:30pm
- Saturday July 15, 11:30pm
Photo of cast by Paul Aihoshi.