The main conceit of ArtworldStudioProduction‘s A Perfect Romance, currently playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, is this: two statues of Mars and Venus–also known as Marte (Aldo Milea) and Venere (Ilaria Passeri)–come to life and reminisce about their past together through the decades, lamenting the fate of the world but also looking forward to the future. This time-transcending meeting between two lovers is told through live music, dance, and poetry.
Full disclosure: ordinarily, this show takes place in the courtyard at the Italian Cultural Institute. Heavy rain threatened to close our show, so we were moved inside. As such, I can’t comment much on how the staging might be different at a regular outdoor showing, which is a real shame.
What I did see, however, was a little difficult to define. As the classic couple from Greco-Roman mythology, Marte and Venere move from poetic monologues musing on the nature of love, to dancing together through different genres of music, to sipping wine and sharing ‘love chocolate’ with the audience. It has the feel of a dream, where poetry bleeds into dance and nothing ever quite focuses.
It’s all very cerebral and often abstract, and unfortunately I found that it didn’t really congeal into a clear narrative or collection of themes, aside from being more or less about the pair’s love. The show moves from one topic to another, or rather one memory to another, with several shifts in tone and style, and at times I struggled to fully understand the shape of the story at play.
There’s a lot of poetical invocation in the style of ancient Greek theatre, which I appreciated. The poetical lines are often beautiful, but musings on the nature of love and the state of the world feel vaguely directed, as though the two are musing on themes such as love, passion, and power only generally or theoretically. Similarly, when the tone shifts to more lighthearted scenes of Marte and Venere dancing to pop songs throughout the decades (including the Austin Powers theme), it feels distinct from the more lofty monologues. Throughout it all, I was never fully sure what was at stake.
The show hints at the pair’s intriguing past in this way, but again, the details feel hazy. “Do you remember this song?” Venere asks Marte as they swing about to some jazz standards. There’s such an interesting story being teased there that never feels fully developed, despite Milea and Passeri’s warm chemistry. Their intimacy feels so private that I never felt like I was actually invited into their story.
I’m not opposed to shows that are more abstract in nature, or that lack a more straightforward narrative. Two ancient gods with history talking and dancing in a room together for an hour is a concept I can really get down with. But I never felt like the show ever truly let me into these characters or their passions, and throughout it all I felt like I was watching from the outside, interested but unsure of how to connect to the piece.
I think A Perfect Romance certainly has an audience out there, perhaps those who are interested in taking an adventure with something a bit strange in a unique venue, but unfortunately I found it a little out of my wheelhouse.
- A Perfect Romance plays at the Italian Cultural Institute. (496 Huron St.)
- 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.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday July 4th, 6:00 pm
- Thursday July 5th, 6:00 pm
- Friday July 6th, 6:00 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 6:00 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 5:00 pm
- Friday July 13th, 6:00 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 6:00 pm
- Sunday July 15th, 5:00 pm
Photo provided by the company.