2019 Progress Review: The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale (Ted Witzel)

Haley McGee in The Ex-Boyfriend Yard SaleAn interactive look at breakup recovery at the 2019 Progress Festival playing in Toronto

Haley McGee’sThe Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale, curated and presented by the red light district and Outside the March for the 2019 Progress Festival, is a lesson on how to turn sentimental value into cold, hard cash.  ‘Can’t be done.’ you might say. Yes, it can, and McGee has the formula to prove it.

I loved McGee in I’m Doing This For You so was really looking forward to this show. I wasn’t disappointed. She’s a terrific writer, actor, and storyteller. The piece is funny and honest, and very relatable no matter what your age or gender. There’s a part where she asks the audience to ‘clap if you’ve ever….’ and then fills in a series of relationship situations. Not positive ones. Unfortunately I can’t remember specific situations but I do remember lots of clapping for each one.

McGee’s performance is great. She’s so at home on stage. She moves from calmly describing a relationship to almost calmly making a ‘costume’ out of bubble wrap in the blink of an eye. Her enthusiasm for the formula verges on obsession and her honesty about her director Mitchell Cushman telling her she has to stop adding things if she wants to have a play is a bit sad.

To me this felt like a hybrid of a storytelling piece and a play. There isn’t really a plot but there is a set and there are props. The obvious props are the gifts McGee received from ex-boyfriends. Seven of them are sitting on pedestals on the stage and the eighth, a bicycle is hanging from the ceiling.

The props I loved were the obviously hand made long, narrow, hand-written charts that unrolled from various places; the craft that represented McGee’s relationship with an ex; the brown envelopes that arrives from somewhere on a wire. I’m not sure who to credit but I think it must all be part of Anna Reid’s scenic design.

McGee explains how she needed to put a value on the gifts so she could sell them but she didn’t know how so she consulted a mathematician, Melanie Phillips. Together they started working on a formula. Oh the formula!

After a number of iterations McGee writes the final formula on brown paper that’s about a meter wide and runs the full width of the back wall of the stage. I just looked at it and gave up although the final section has some delightful components.

It’s a great formula. It came up with a very impressive value for McGill’s gifts.

My friend Elaine and I really enjoyed The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale and recommend it highly to anyone. You don’t have to have an ex.  And if you do they don’t have to be a boyfriend.

The show is part of a multi-platform project.  There’s also an interactive art installation – inside the theatre –  which closes 30 minutes before the show begins – it’s open for three hours. Check the schedule for time.  At the same time there’s a wall where you can post your romance stories and a list where you can add your ‘getting over a breakup’ songs. The playlist is on Spotify – The Broken Heart Playlist. There’s also a website with a Cost of Love  survey.

There’s a financial literacy course – Arm Yourself with Capitalism’s Tools on Friday, February 8th from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. You need to take a laptop with Google Sheets. Space is limited and you need to RSVP by the 6th. The workshop is free, space is limited.  Tickets at Brown Papers Tickets.


  • The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale is playing until February 9, 2019 at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St W)
  • Check schedule for performance times
  • Tickets are $25, with 3-show passes available for $60
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-538-0988) or at the box office

Photo of Haley McGee by Matt Peberdy