ComMUTE (Deaf Spirit Theatre) 2021 Toronto Fringe Review

Promotional photo for ComMUTE featuring Alexandra Hickox, Juan Jaramillo, Theresa Upton, Jose Gaspar Sanabria, Hayley Hudson, Elizabeth Morris, and Robert Bhola

Deaf Spirit Theatre’s ComMUTE (playing in this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival) is a highly enjoyable series of short plays written by Deaf playwrights about Deaf characters played by Deaf actors. This collection of plays embodies everything I love about theatre. Over the course of the hour-long runtime, there are plenty of moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity, thought-provoking social commentary, and poignant human storytelling. Something for everyone!

It is hard to pick favourites out of the six plays in ComMUTE. Every one of them had its charms. 2058, a sci-fi vignette about two teenagers on the subway playing with an app that translates environmental noise into ASL, is a really goofy, campy, high-energy way to start the show. Commute, a play where three deaf people meet by chance in a subway car and talk about life, is an intelligent meditation on a litany of philosophical topics. In a Haunting Memory of Jamie, an urban legend/ghost story about a deaf boy who died on the subway, is a fun and inventive take on explaining why accessibility features are necessary in public spaces.

Impressing the Boss, about a man who oversleeps and ends up taking a video conference call on the subway, is a riotously funny comedy. Schrodinger’s Commute is a cute little palate cleanser about the things we miss in the world around us when we don’t look up from our phone. Finally, But the truth is… is a moving depiction of the struggles various Deaf people faced (and continue to face) through the pandemic.

There are so many stand-out moments for me that I have trouble choosing the right one to illustrate why I liked this show so much. I definitely loved the philosophical conversations about meaning-making and what makes a valuable life in Commute. I laughed the most at all of the physical comedy in Impressing the Boss. And I was most moved by the stories of the Deaf nurse and Deaf child and youth worker in But the truth is….

There are also several stand-out performances that are made all the more impressive by the range that each of the five actors is asked to display throughout the six plays. Again, I will say that the entire ensemble of actors is fantastic, but I really have to give a shout out to Juan Jaramillo, who gives both the best dramatic performance and comedic performance of the night. He had me laughing my head off in his performances as the malfunctioning Enviro-ID interpreter in 2058 and the wily late-for-work businessman Bruno in Impressing the Boss and he had me crying my eyes out as the child and youth worker in But the truth is….

Given the variety in this collection of plays, I can’t guarantee that you’ll like every one of ComMUTE’s offerings as much as I do. That said, I can’t recommend ComMUTE enough!

Details

  • ComMUTE is playing on-demand at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival.
  • Purchase a $5 Membership to access the On-Demand programming on the Fringe website, then Pay What You Can to each show as you go, with the suggested price of $13 per show.
  • Memberships can be purchased here. View the virtual on-demand show listings here.
  • Accessibility notes:
    • On-Demand shows: videos are closed captioned, transcripts are available for all audio content, documents are screen-reader friendly, and all digital images are provided with alternative text descriptions. These access supplements have been generated by the company and reviewed by the Festival. They may vary slightly from company to company.
    • Fringe Primetime presentations will feature Auto-Transcribed Captioning.
    • Content Warning: the festival considers this show unsuitable for audiences below the age of 18, and notes that it contains depictions of death, discussions self-harm, and mature language.

Photo courtesy of Deaf Spirit Theatre.

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