Who are the criminals in Write in the Kisser/Dumb Ax Productions‘s new show, In Ireland We Rented A Car From Criminals? Playing at the Streetcar Crowsnest Guloien Theatre as part of the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival, we never do get an answer to that question in this hour-long show.
The play opens by introducing us to married couple Tom (Nathan Coppens) and Mary (Lauren Allen) who are renting a car in Ireland (from a rental agent also played by Coppens). From there, the show becomes a narrative of their vacation, alternating between Mary and Tom regaling the audience through third-person monologues, and the rental agent occasionally becoming an omniscient narrator for various events.
This is a show that is as much parodying the search for ancestry and connection constructed from ancestry.com, as it is trying to understand why Ireland is the way it is. Mary wants to find her roots, but are they truly Irish roots when she’s an ancestor of those who left the country?
Rod Macpherson, the playwright, has hit on an ideal structure for his ideas. I thought the third-person style was refreshing. Despite this strength, I feel like there’s still some polishing that needs to happen.
For me, I thought the biggest sticking point was the tone. I felt like In Ireland wanted to be a dark comedy, but in my opinion, it shifts too much between extremes to find that sweet balance. One moment it’s Tom singing a version of Danny Boy about an overflowing toilet, the next it’s Mary discussing laundries with a local.
While Coppens and Allen are solid (Irish accents aside), I thought the humour felt either forced or inappropriate, coming in on the wrong beats.
Additionally, I think there’s a dated undercurrent to the husband and wife dynamic that could use some revisions. Middle-aged man desperate to have sex with his less interested wife and easily distracted by a good-looking young woman is a trope I can do without.
And yet, the foundation is there. The actual heart of the story—is that connection to our ancestors a good thing? Or is it a type of exploitation?—is genuinely compelling.
Maybe In Ireland We Rented A Car From Criminals still needs a bit of work, but it’s still got a bit of charm to it. Given more time and some more work, I don’t doubt this could be a really solid piece.
This review is based on the July 3 preview performance.
- In Ireland We Rented A Car From Criminals plays at the Streetcar Crowsnest Mainspace. (345 Carlaw 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 (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warning: mature language.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Wednesday, July 3rd, 8:15 pm
- Friday, July 5th, 2:00 pm
- Sunday, July 7th, 10:15 pm
- Wednesday, July 10th, 9:30 pm
- Thursday, July 11th, 7:15 pm
- Friday, July 12th, 5:00 pm
- Saturday, July 13th, 6:45 pm
Photo of Lauren Allen and Nathan Coppens by Judith Schulz Photography