Operation SUNshine (Jennifer McKinley) 2017 Fringe Review

Jennifer McKinley in her play Operation SUNshineJennifer McKinley is a phenomenal storyteller and expert wordsmith. Her one-woman show Operation SUNshine, in this year’s Toronto Fringe, is as radical as it gets.

It’s an arresting dark comedy that sheds light on the seedy underbelly of Toronto crime in the 1980s and 90s. Join Jennifer as she shares a devastating part of our collective memory we’d rather not think about, even though the conditions that enabled these crimes to happen haven’t gone away.

Operation SUNshine comes out of McKinley’s ongoing obsession with the pictures of the Toronto Sun Sunshine Girl newspaper clippings that lined the basement bathroom of her childhood home. McKinley goes through the process of salvaging the Sunshine Girls after her father’s death, scraping each one off the wall of the bathroom. This play, however, is just as much about the news articles on the other side of the Sunshine Girls pictures as it is about McKinley’s ever-shifting interpretation of what the Sunshine Girls themselves represent.

McKinley goes through the horrific stories of child snatchings, rape, and murders from the 1980s and the 1990s found on the underside of the Sunshine Girls newspaper clippings, all the while weaving in her own experiences of growing up as a young female in Toronto during that era. McKinley still miraculously manages to turn this show into a comedy.

What makes this show particularly compelling is how visceral her performance is. McKinley thoroughly uses her body to enliven her stories. For example, McKinley draws on the fictionalized personalities she gave the Sunshine Girls when she was a kid, and acts each one out– with different voices, gestures, etc. (it’s a riot). Even when she’s describing her frustrations of scraping the pictures off the bathroom wall, she flits between “doing” the scraping as Jennifer, and “being” the Sunshine Girl who is scraped off the wall. This is one instance that suggests just how intricately her identity is bound up in the identity of these unknown women.

McKinley’s prose is full of sensory details and captivating descriptions — I would listen to her talk about anything. But listening to her tell this story is especially important. She opens up a much-needed conversation about the correlation between the objectification of women and the violence that inevitability follows. And again, McKinley is no feminist killjoy. It’s funnier than I bet you’d expect.

If you’re only able to catch one Fringe show this season, Operation SUNshine would be a more-than-worthy contender. Don’t miss out!

Details

  • Operation SUNshine 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.

Performances

  • Friday July 7th, 01:00 pm
  • Saturday July 8th, 05:15 pm
  • Monday July 10th, 08:30 pm
  • Tuesday July 11th, 04:30 pm
  • Wednesday July 12th, 09:15 pm
  • Thursday July 13th, 05:45 pm
  • Saturday July 15th, 11:00 pm

Photo of Jennifer McKinley by Lana Missen.

 

One thought on “Operation SUNshine (Jennifer McKinley) 2017 Fringe Review”

  1. This review is bang on. It’s an excellent show, and it’s also indisputably a Fringe show, not slick or pretentious. But it’s not a cliché Fringe show. There are so many one-person Fringe shows, and you kind of know how the good ones (and the bad ones) will go. Well, this is the best one I’ve seen, and it doesn’t really go the way of the usual one-person Fringe show — in a very good way.

    It’s as Toronto as it gets (never mind the Toronto SUN, the Annette Public Library gets a mention). Definitely worth seeing and supporting.

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