Drink of Choice (HollyWould Productions) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review

photo of Holly Wyder in Drink of ChoiceIn the new Fringe venue at Streetcar Crowsnest, in the east end (!!), I caught Drink Of Choice, the last show of my day at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Everyone hopes to end on a good note, and my wishes were granted – this lively, well-crafted solo show was an absolute blast.

Performed and written by Holly Wyder, it’s a story of love, sex, (a)sexuality, heartbreak, communication, mental health, self doubt, and occasional but unmistakable filaments of self-love set in a frame of coming to terms with (and trying to explain) her asexual identity. The piece is set in a bar, with a twist – in the front row, audience members are given the job of being bar customers, and the drinks they order form a sort of jukebox for the possible stories and endings of the piece.

This comes with consent cards, an innovation I thoroughly adore, in which the audience members in the bar seats have literal cards they can turn over at any time if they no longer want to participate.

Wyder, as both a writer and performer, has tremendous range – there’s really no other word for it. In Drink Of Choice she’s ten pounds of feelings in a five-pound sack, but all of the feelings are interesting, if sometimes exhausting. She moves quickly but the moments aren’t facile; they make emotional sense interspersed with great physical comedy, a little live music, and some tender musings/draft tweets. Director Amanda Cordner (on the other side of the footlights after two stunners last summer) has done Wyder well here, helping her find the shapes and edges of expression and a thoughtful, elastic pace.

The show makes good use of some solo-show classics – a wryly-delivered explainer in character to catch audience members up on relevant facts (asexuality, in this case), occasional dropped asides to the audience, and invoking the television game show. I’ve seen them all plenty of times, but Wyder’s takes are as fresh and useful and you’d want. Of all the things I thought during Drink Of Choice, which included “yes, that,” and “of course you did,” and “oh no don’t shake it,” I never thought “ugh, this again.”

The whole piece is fully-cooked, fresh, warm and well-seasoned. Wyder doesn’t list much in her past theatre credits, but I’d guess that’s definitely about to change.

This review is based on the July 3 preview performance of the production.

Details

  • Drink Of Choice plays at the Streetcar Crowsnest Studio. (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 Warnings: mature language; sexual content; audience participation; for adult audiences.
  • 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.

Performances

  • Wednesday July 3rd, 10:15 pm
  • Saturday July 6th, 3:15 pm
  • Sunday July 7th, 6:45 pm
  • Wednesday July 10th, 9:15 pm
  • Thursday July 11th, 7:45 pm
  • Friday July 12th, 6:00 pm
  • Sunday July 14th, 12:45 pm

Photo of Holly Wyder by Tyra Sweet.