Improvised Therapy (The Barry, Brian & Bean Company) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review

Nina Levy, Rachel Barry and Niamh O’Brien in Improvised Therapy

Hailing from the U.K., The Barry, Brian & Bean Company bring us Improvised Therapy, now playing at the Toronto Fringe.

The three “doctors” Barry, Brian, and Bean (played by Rachel Barry, Niamh O’Brian, and Nina Levy, respectively) grace the stage to take us through our session. What follows is a series of scenes; some of which showcase their outlandish new treatment methods, while others focus on the group’s search for a lost fish. The rest are deemed “filler”, but these are best seen rather than me explaining them.

I can safely say this may be one of the most absurd shows I’ve ever seen at the Fringe. I realized partway through that it was best for me not to overthink it, but to sit back and let it happen. In that regard, it felt liberating to be absorbed in the doctors’ nonsensical world.

One theme that clearly emerges is the absurdity of masculinity, which the company tries to pick away at. A recurring gag revolving around toxic corporate culture makes this quite explicit. On the other hand, I wonder if by having three “professionals” on stage, the show implicitly critiques the arbitrary trust we place in men with power.

The company is comprised of three women who are a tight knit ensemble. It felt like such a joy to watch them perform and made me more curious about their creative process.

As bonkers as this show is, it’s clear to me this was a well rehearsed one – a deliberate, controlled mess, perhaps. I didn’t feel any “dead air” during the performance; even in still, quiet moments I felt like the pacing was just right and that the actors were keeping the show going. I don’t feel like all their jokes landed, but they were never off in their timing.

For fans of clown and absurdist theatre, I would say that this show should not be missed. For all others, I would still highly recommend you allow the doctors to take care of you. It should be noted that this show includes some audience participation.

Details

  • Improvised Therapy plays at the Tarragon Theatre Solo Room. (30 Bridgman 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.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route. Check in at the venue box office at least 15 minutes before showtime, and a staff member will escort you to the venue. Accessible seating is in the 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.

Performances

  • Wednesday July 3rd, 10:00 pm
  • Friday July 5th, 4:45 pm
  • Saturday July 6th, 8:30 pm
  • Sunday July 7th, 3:15 pm
  • Monday July 8th, 4:00 pm
  • Thursday July 11th, 9:45 pm
  • Friday July 12th, 7:00 pm
  • Sunday July 14th, 6:15 pm

Photo by Nina Levy, Rachel Barry and Niamh O’Brien by Charlie Winter

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