Despite the melodramatic nonsense title, The Ashes of Forgotten Rain at the 2019 Toronto Fringe is a comedy — a theatrical comedy. As in, it’s a comedy about working in theatre, full of in jokes and meta-references and pleasingly-headshaking “ah, the theatah.” For this kind of show to work at all, it needs actors that can commit fully to a high level of nonsense and then ride it through the grave and back to life. To the benefit of my funny bone, to say nothing of my spirits, this exceptionally well stage-managed play had them.
The Ashes of Forgotten Rain is exactly what it says on the tin: a funny show about making a show. Overblown egos, cast tiffs, old unconfessed affairs, monologues about monologuing and all the rest of it. It’s not a deep social drama; nothing is being illuminated through humor. It should be a guilty pleasure, but there’s nothing to feel guilty about. The jokes are clean, the comedy punches up, and the performances from the three leads are spot on, chewing the scenery as required until it drips off their chins.
Cam Parkes plays Dick Manning, a pantsless super-Lothario with a B-movie career he’s very proud of. Gloria Rathburn (Jennifer Fahy), considerably wiser and very slightly older, has many high-minded speeches about integrity and stagecraft, and Sadie Grace, played by Laura Mannion, is a tender sweet young thing who turns out to have a few ideas of her own. The trio has great chemistry.
Rounding out the cast are jaded journo Annie Black (Katie Scharf) who takes the piss about theatre reviewers in this click-driven age, and stage manager Emily Abner (a slightly nervous Christina Cortes) who loses her entire cool at a certain point in the proceedings, as stage managers never do in real life. Writer/Director Norman Hussey, with the tiniest and yet most self-important ponytail in all of theatre, makes a final cameo to pontificate, uh, thoughtfully.
The Ashes of Forgotten Rain is well-staged, well-rehearsed, and a fairly tight 50 minutes for Fringe. It’s the kind of piece that works great at a Fringe festival — an audience would definitely feel like they’d gotten their $11 worth of entertainment. It’s a nice bite, sweet and a little salty, that knows its audience and delivers. If you want to take your Great-Aunt Petunia to see something at Fringe, this is a great choice.
- The Ashes of Forgotten Rain plays at the Robert Gill Theatre. (214 College 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 (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warning: mature language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through usage of a painfully slow elevator. We recommend making sure you arrive a few minutes early.
- 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.
- Friday July 5th, 4:00 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 4:30 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 10:15 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 3:45 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 5:00 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 7:30 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 12:00 pm
photo of Laura Mannion and Jennifer Fahy by Norman Hussey