In The Resistance Improvised (playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival), six characters attempt to overthrow a tyrannical government through sabotage. The “resistance” will scheme, share intelligence, and attempt up to five missions, all improvised by a slate of CBC-online-content-famous comedians. But there’s a catch: two members of the resistance are double agents, and will do all they can to wreck the operation from within. Will the resistance succeed, or will this betrayal prove fatal?
The resistance changes up every day: there are 8 people in the cast, and you’re getting a set of 6. My standouts were Kat Letwin as a crotchety survivalist, Anne McMaster as a spoiled techno-princess, and Carley Thorne as a wide-eyed and dangerous teenager — but there are no weak links here, and with a new combination for every show, today’s supporting character will be tomorrow’s star.
The madness is overseen by narrator and director Maddox Campbell, who sets up scenes around resistance HQ (“Stevia and V1RU5 meet in the warehouse to compare notes and huff helium”), announces the latest operations (“Your mission is to break into the CBC and steal Jann Arden”), and helps the improvisers navigate the missions themselves. He keeps three steps ahead of his cast, and consistently steers them in funny directions without pulling the spotlight — which is harder than it sounds.
The only point where I’ll fault The Resistance Improvised is on set design. The cast has a set of five road cases in various sizes and shapes, and re-arranges them to create furniture, walls and other obstacles. I don’t think this really gels: I appreciate the simplicity of the idea, but given how much effort the cast puts into moving and rearranging them and how short most scenes are, the payoff just isn’t there. In many cases describing an obstacle is enough, and stacking up five boxes to represent the thing you’ve just described mostly just means people have five more things to re-arrange before the next scene.
This show is inspired by one of the most popular grown-up board games of the last decade: it’s long been one of my own problematic faves, because while the mechanics are a lot of fun, playing with your friends can get real heated. (You’re a spy! No, you’re a spy! That’s what a spy would say! No, THAT’S what a spy would say!)
Watching it in this new format is an absolute delight, replacing all of that drama with some of the city’s best improvisers sizing each other up, comparing information, building alliances, and trying to ferret out the mousy rats within the molehill.
If you’ve got a date, a group of gamer friends, or a hole in your schedule, The Resistance Improvised won’t let you down. (That is, if you believe I can be trusted).
- The Resistance Improvised plays at the Randolph Theatre. (736 Bathurst 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 Warnings: mature language; gunshots; fog or haze effects; not recommended for children.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route. We recommend checking in with the venue box office at least 15 minutes before showtime.
- 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.
- Monday July 8th, 4:00 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 1:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 2:45 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 10:15 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 3:30 pm
Production art by Jon Blair.