Robert (Lark & Whimsy Theatre Collective) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Chris Baker and Janelle Hanna in Robert.

To behold the dense universe of emotions that is Robert—a new tragicomedy from Lark & Whimsy Theatre Collective playing at St. George The Martyr—is to discover the kind of undeniable gem the Fringe exists to shed light on.

Chris Baker and Janelle Hanna play siblings, James and Kat, who reunite on their father’s deathbed after ten years apart living radically different lives. As they struggle to reconnect through their grief, gaps in their family history begin to surface.

Hanna’s performance was a clinic in comedic timing and ironic exasperation from scene one. The cracks in Kat’s authoritative facade evolve into first steps toward vulnerability on a tumultuous but gratifying ride.

Baker’s own evolution, from goofy, out-of-touch affluence, to leading the healing of his family, is also commendable because it inverts the reasonable expectation that Kat would occupy that role. The process is so gradual you might not notice it’s happened.

The pair’s ability to sway from jokes to heavy drama and back is a cleansing emotional workout. Among the unresolved childhood issues that arise, there are countless moments of gut-deep laughter that bring the pressure down to normal.

The pair react to one another that split second quicker than people who are thinking too hard about the gestures they’re supposed to be making. This does wonders for the illusion that what you are witnessing is real.

Playwright and co-director Briana Brown sets her actors up for success with carefully constructed work. Her lines are perceptive ear worms that encapsulate the moment down to the inch, “perfectly curated death experience” being my favourite. Her sense of scene composition maximizes intimacy in very efficient ways, Kat’s bagpipe solo being case in point, where a small, private moment commands the audience’s complete attention.

Robert confronts the cold fact of death with a deceptively simple question James and Kat grapple with throughout, which is, “How do you keep building on who you are when everything around you keeps changing?”. Their path to an answer makes for earth-shattering theatre.

Details

  • Robert plays at St. George the Martyr. (197 John 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.
  • Content Warning: Mature language.
  • 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.

Performances

  • Wednesday July 4th, 8:00 pm
  • Thursday July 5th, 8:00 pm
  • Friday July 6th, 8:00 pm
  • Saturday July 7th, 5:00 pm
  • Saturday July 7th, 8:00 pm
  • Tuesday July 10th, 8:00 pm
  • Wednesday July 11th, 8:00 pm
  • Thursday July 12th, 8:00 pm
  • Friday July 13th, 8:00 pm
  • Saturday July 14th, 5:00 pm
  • Saturday July 14th, 8:00 pm

Photo of Chris Baker and Janelle Hanna by Stuart H. Paisley.

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