In The Night Hart Crane Kissed Me (playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival), three artists meditate upon the life — and death — of the titular Jazz Age poet, drawing upon music, movement, monologue, magic, and more than a little Mae West to explore his complex legacy. It’s a deeply personal meditation, and that may be the rub.
A preliminary: this is an excellent acting company. The three members (Julia Porter, Chai Lavie and Shawn DeSouza-Coelho) move like literal clockwork, and get to shine not only as performers, but as supporters, always elevating and uplifting the person who gets focus at any given moment.
But while many of those moments are profound and dramatically interesting, a great many of them are also so personal and so strongly rooted in textual or theoretical elements that this almost felt like an MFA thesis project, rather than something meant for wider consumption — which is to say that, as a Fringe show, I’m not altogether sure I can recommend it to a wide audience.
In particular, many of the sequences make very little sense unless you’ve done at least a little preliminary reading of Crane’s life and works. After the show, I encountered a group of people who were expecting a more accessible queer-focused show and were mostly left perplexed.
I wouldn’t say they were disappointed: The Night isn’t boring, and these performances are uncommonly strong. Charisma, verve and spectacle can balm over a lot of problems. And, hey, if you’re the one person in a hundred who desperately wanted to catch the Hart Crane show, I’ve got good news! You’ll love it!
But I suspect — unfortunately — that a lot of people are going to struggle to connect here. There’s a target audience for this work, and most of us just aren’t in it.
- The Night Hart Crane Kissed Me plays at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. (79 St. 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 admitted.
- Content Warnings: Sexual Content, Smoking, Audience Participation, Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Thursday July 6th, 07:00 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 01:45 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 10:15 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 02:30 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 05:15 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 04:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 07:30 pm
Photograph of Julia Porter and Chai Levie by Jacob Ahee.