In Sidney Needs a Kidney (playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival), a nice young suburban couple have come to the end of the road. The spoiler’s in the title: Sidney needs a kidney, and so far they’re coming up dry. But they have a plan involving a dinner party, her sister’s boyfriend, and an unconventional method of persuasion.
Remember, it’s all for a good cause, so they’re good people. No matter what.
Speaking of good people, there are some fine actors here. Eric Gordon hits some good comic notes, Kat White is the type of performer who can scoop an audience into her hands and carry them around the stage with her, and Jake Settle does some surprisingly heavy lifting, working away at an absolute clusterfuck of a character, and emerging more or less unscathed: no small feat.
For much of the piece, I felt like I was watching interlopers from five different shows inexplicably hanging out in a kitchen. A lot of the dialogue feels like the creators were aiming somewhere near Caryl Churchill, but this aesthetic doesn’t play well with Sidney‘s earthy, small, literal story.
The decision to incorporate elements of bedroom farce is especially curious to me. These comedy elements aren’t cleanly married to the story: it almost feels like we’re cutting away to commercial. The same thing happens with a recurring bit involving a bucket of water prominently placed downstage centre. And for the first half in particular, I found myself hoping they’d just get on with it: fussing about smoke alarms and circular family drama is probably meant to conjure up awkwardness and dread, but there are limits to how far you can take this.
There’s an interesting idea at the core of Sidney Needs a Kidney, but I think it needs to loosen up. There’s too much melodrama for dark farce, too much farce for unflinching realism, and too much lasagne in this one-hour show.
- Sidney Needs a Kidney plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson 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; not recommended for children.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in the very front row.
- 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, 8:30 pm
- Friday July 5th, 3:00 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 10:30 pm
- Monday July 8th, 5:45 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 8:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 9:30 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 3:15 pm
Photo of Max Ackerman, Eric Gordon, Karen Scora, Jake Settle, and Kat White by Kevin Workman.