The Toronto Fringe Festival offers such variety, and I’m glad that I chose to see Cheri, produced by Cheri-on-the-Run Productions at the Al Green Theatre. As an aging woman, I can tell you that older women are are invisible in media. Finally, representation! Still, this play can be funny and engaging for all.
The Al Green Theatre was the perfect venue for Cheri. It allowed for a classic theatre experience, with a rich, red curtain behind the set, and elegant rails on the steps to the stage. A colourful couch and a side table with a liquor bottle set the scene. Off to the side is a beautiful grand piano. This was the perfect setting to introduce Lea, an aging courtesan (Theresa Tova). It reflected her: classic, colourful, and a drinker.
Lea is working on a musical about her life, and has hired a new pianist. He reminds her of a lover she had in the past, and she tries to correct the problems of that relationship through the pianist, who becomes her Cheri.
Tova’s performance as Lea is larger than life. She embodies all of the passion of her character, and though Lea needs a cane to walk and has some frailty, when she is passionate about what she is saying, she is powerful. She has elegance, despite her brassy frankness; she has a lot to say about love and she says it.
Dustin Peters as Cheri is more subdued than Lea, and won’t speak and reveal himself like Lea wants him to. However, in some instances the piano speaks for him. At one point, there is a flourish of notes when he is angry.
The piano is like a liason between them. The piano is also used to indicate changes in the scene. In addition to playing Cheri, Dustin Peters composed the music, and the music is beautiful and expressive. I can’t say enough about how the piano and the music added to Cheri.
There were some technical difficulties in the beginning of the show, with what seemed to be a hot mic backstage, and sound that didn’t function properly on stage. Both actors soldiered on, and when the sound kicked in, Tova handled it well, made a funny remark and carried on. Opening night in live theatre can carry surprises with it, but it all worked out.
In Cheri, the character of Lea is seen in all her glory. Older and vulnerable, and desperate to right a wrong in her past, she is also seen as a woman who lived a full life, and who has gained wisdom that she can pass on. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Lea and hearing her wisdom, and the stories behind it.
- Cheri plays at the Al Green Theatre. (750 Spadina 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 Warning: Mature language.
- This venue is barrier-free. Note that only certain building entrances are wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in front of the front row.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday July 4th, 10:30 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 12:00 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 5:00 pm
- Monday July 9th, 8:30 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 9:00 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 7:30 pm
- Sunday July 15th, 1:45 pm
Photo provided by the company