The Miserable Worm is a modern reimagining of Anton Chekov’s first untitled play (often called Platonov). It’s being put on by Let Me In Theatre at the Toronto Fringe Festival. That original piece has a runtime of about five hours, is apparently very nuanced, and to be honest I didn’t know anything about it going into this.
The Miserable Worm follows Platonov, played by the show’s creator Justine Christensen, an intellectual who’s gathered her friends for a weekend of debauchery in celebration of her birthday. Christensen gives us an aloof, arrogant, and deeply selfish character who ruthlessly turns her friends against her over the course of the show.
Even without prior knowledge of Platonov, watching this play felt a lot like seeing an antique that’s been spruced up. The characters are hip twenty-somethings who would never use the word “hip”. The actors are a very charismatic bunch who make a great ensemble. I only wish that I could have seen more scenes of them all together on stage.
My biggest criticism was that the production had a selection of musical numbers that felt wholly extraneous. I enjoyed the core of this show including the very modern-sounding parts I assume were added by Christensen and her team.
I did really appreciate the artists playing instruments as the show opened, though I wasn’t crazy about the sparse singing spaced throughout the show. It wasn’t clear if I was watching a musical, or a play with some songs thrown in. All of the singers were very talented, it’s just that I didn’t need to hear it in this context and I felt it didn’t fit with the rest of The Miserable Worm.
Moving beyond the constraints of the Fringe Festival, I’d love to see a longer version of this show that takes some more moments from the source material—as well as some of Christensen’s writing—and uses that to flesh out the characters I enjoyed.
All in all, without knowing much about the source material, I can tell that this was a very challenging piece to put together. I’m impressed by how Christensen’s adaptation made a hundred-year-old story seem fresh, and I enjoyed seeing this cast really gel together onstage.
- The Miserable Worm 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 admitted.
- Content Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route which requires a staff escort. Check in at the box office at least 20 minutes prior to showtime.
- Friday July 7th, 04:45 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 06:15 pm
- Monday July 10th, 08:00 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 02:15 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 09:15 pm
- Friday July 14th, 12:00 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 07:30 pm
Image of (from left to right): Justin Mullen, Emily Howard, Seamus Easton, Michael Ruderman, Justine Christensen, Philip J. Geller, Tymika McKenzie-Clunis, Geneviève DeGraves by Rae Ormshaw.