Scientology. It’s a very hot topic subject these days – science fiction in the form of a religion. Is it a cult? Do they take all your money and work their members to the bone? Do they worship aliens from outer space? Is there a special place for Hollywood A-Listers at the top of their food chain?
Leah Remini has recently become very vocal about this organization’s highly destructive practices and beliefs and now former Scientologist Cathy Schenkelberg is doing the same in her one-woman show. Playing at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, Squeeze My Cans, directed by Shirley Anderson, will make you laugh and reveal further truths that Scientologists don’t want you to know.
The title Squeeze My Cans is a nod towards the Scientology practice of Auditing, a version of psychotherapy using a device called an E-meter whereby the person being tested squeezes a set of electrodes (or “cans”) attached to a meter that measures the electrical resistance within the body. The auditor asks the subject a series of questions relating to their current and past history in order to trigger emotional responses that may affect the current.
The performance is Schenkelberg’s story of how she innocently longed to seek spiritual freedom and found the complete opposite as Scientology closed in around her. Through the projections used throughout her show, we see a running dollar counter calculating the precise amount Schenkelberg spent towards the church in her efforts to go “clear” and ascend the “bridge”. The amount quickly skyrockets well beyond $500 000.
Schenkelberg details the church’s use of promises used to further lure her in and then their coercion tactics used to keep her in place. We venture with her as she details being ostracized by loved ones as she becomes disenfranchised by the church.
Schenkelberg is incredibly animated in her storytelling. She’s fun and lively, greatly entertaining. There are moments where she can go off on lengthy tangents and often I found myself losing track of her narrative before she returned to her main trajectory.
The projections are a great addition to the performance, not just to keep track of her running tab but in particular when she demonstrates her auditing sessions. The spotlight on her being back lit onto the screen provides a great sense of mounting pressure when she acts as both auditor and herself.
As far as one-hander shows go, Squeeze My Cans is a great one. This show is lively and engaging and Schenkelberg is a great performer. She has a background in providing voiceovers for both commercials and film which she throws references to throughout her show adding just that much more whimsy into her performance. This is worth seeing.
- Squeeze My Cans plays at the St. Vladimir Institute. (620 Spadina 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: sexual content.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route. After the building’s business hours, a staff member will need to escort you through this route, so plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early for evening shows.
- 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, 6:15 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 8:00 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 12:30 pm
- Monday July 8th, 4:15 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 5:45 pm
- Friday July 12th, 4:00 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 10:00 pm
Cathy Schenkelberg in Squeeze My Cans at the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival. Photo by Michael C Draft