I arrived to AWKWARD HUG at Theatre Passe Muraille, looking forward to my first Fringe show of the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival season, and curious, curious, curious. I have seen a long list of “my weird relative, let me tell you about them!” shows, and generally I find them aggravating and one dimensional. Every once in a while, though, someone comes to the work with a thoughtfulness that redeems the concept for a minute. AWKWARD HUG was (mostly) one of those shows.
Cory Thibert, the son of parents who both have physical and cognitive disabilities, tells a story of understanding his parents’ experience (and his own) through the frame of his family’s impending move. After his brother moves out, some bureaucrat declares them “overhoused” in subsidized housing – too much space for the number of people – and so the winnowing and preparing has to begin, and along with it some discovery.
This is the good part of AWKWARD HUG. Thibert, who is likable and engaging as a storyteller has a real gift for a funny throwaway line, and tells the stories as they ought to be told – with tenderness, with asides, with exasperation and humor both. He’s best when he’s revealing and realizing; it struck me as having a real freshness, as though he has kept the memory of how it felt to learn or understand a thing awake and fizzy in his mouth. The stories and revelations about his parents never felt rote.
Somehow, there’s a robust subplot about Cory’s girlfriend, Zoe, and her various shenanigans during this same period, which I felt the show could have lived happily without. It’s funny about the mouse, okay, but I couldn’t help but feel like most of the parts about his now-ex girlfriend were distracting and irrelevant. I could think of twenty things I would have rather heard about, including more of his screamo music (a thing I learned about during the performance. Don’t google it if you’re in a quiet space.)
Overall, though, I enjoyed AWKWARD HUG. It avoids both pity and “inspiration,” such common tropes in work about (not by) disabled people, and stays real and grounded and often pretty funny on the way.
- AWKWARD HUG plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: Mature language; Sexual content.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in the very front row.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday July 4th, 8:45 pm
- Friday July 6th, 11:30 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 1:45 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 1:00 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 3:30 pm
- Friday July 13th, 7:30 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 3:30 pm
photo of Cory Thibert by Log Creativity Bureau