Bakersfield Mist produced by ytheatre Collective playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival is raw, unpolished and not for everyone, but at its heart there’s a fiery passion reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, an artist that features centrally throughout the play.
Written by Lionel Sachs, Bakersfield Mist is a play that explores the ideas of authenticity, both in art and people and it demands that its audience hold some level of appreciation for both in order to truly engage with the material.
Focusing on the authentication of a potential lost masterpiece found at a junk sale, the story pits art expert Lionel (Thomas Gough) against the finder of the painting, Maude (Marie Carriere Gleason), as their classes, experiences and educations come into conflict over the painting and their respective life stories.
Fans of art discussion will love it, and the enthusiasm of both actors shines especially when they are talking about the power and impact of art on their lives. It’s infectious and brings an energy & passion to the proceedings that can occasionally drag in the more mundane moments.
Both actors have put a lot of work connecting with their characters and finding the moments of truth that make both endearing in their own ways, but they sometimes struggle with the humour of the show. There were times where the actors put too much emphasis on these spots, making them come off as “jokes” and not natural dialogue. This was disappointing because there are some genuinely funny moments within the script that fell flat in the performance due to poor delivery.
The company chose to really focus on the claustrophobic nature of their setting of a trailer park, placing the audience on three sides of the stage and forcing the actors to play to all three sections throughout the play. Any staging in the round is hard but the actors do an admirable job with it and even though there are some obstructed seats the amount of movement minimized this issue. Because it’s not a traditional theatre there is no raised seating however, so try to show up early to get the best seats.
For me seeing the show in 32 degree weather was both a blessing and a curse; the room is not well ventilated and the actual watching experience became uncomfortable at times, but that same oppressive heat added to the claustrophobia and desperation that permeates the show.
Bakersfield Mist is not an easy show to watch; it makes demands of its audience that go beyond simply paying for a ticket, but engaging performances and a strong script make it a worthwhile experience once you’ve made it through.
- Bakersfield Mist plays at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church – Chapel Room (427 Bloor Street West)
- 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: Not recommended for persons under 14, Graphic violence and Mature language
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Thursday, July 5th at 2:30 PM
- Friday, July 6th at 7:30 PM
- Sunday, July 8th at 8:30 PM
- Monday, July 9th at 2:30 PM
- Tuesday, July 10th at 5:30 PM
- Thursday, July 12th at 2:30 PM
- Friday, July 13th at 7:30 PM
Photo of Thomas Hough and Marie Carriere Gleason by Winston Stilwell