Golvareh’s UnTuned (playing now at the Toronto Fringe Festival) is a compelling character study of a 40-year-old Iranian-Canadian music teacher struggling with his fears of inadequacy during the COVID-19 pandemic. On his 40th birthday, Massoud (Amirhosein Taheri) takes phone calls with six different women and each phone call gives the audience a little more insight into his life. (It’s kind of like a more realistic version of Fellini’s 8 ½ and Arthur Kopit’s Nine). The seemingly improvised dialogue and fantastic performances from the whole ensemble cast make watching this intimate portrait of a man a really enjoyable experience.
The strength of this piece is really in its performances and characters. Leading the team, Tehari brought a lot of subtle nuance to his portrayal of Massoud. Whether he is dodging his mother’s questions about settling down, struggling through an interview for a job he is overqualified for, or indulging his sister by ‘talking’ with her infant son, Tehari allows Massoud to be charming and neurotic in equal parts. You can always see in his eyes that something else is going on in his head, even when he’s expressing genuine happiness.
In the supporting cast, Fariba Jedikar is really believable as Massoud’s gentle but worried mother and Faranak Kalantar is equally charming as Massoud’s bubbly, distracted little sister. Farzaneh Soheili also packs a real punch as Massoud’s beautiful childhood friend Bahahreh, especially when Massoud crosses a line and makes her angry.
To make UnTuned feel more realistic and intimate, director Sarah Saberi edited it together using live video calls between the actors from all over the world. The play features dialogue in Farsi, English, French, and babytalk, reflecting Massoud’s own immigrant experience. Saberi and her team really took advantage of the constraints put on the Fringe festival by the global pandemic and filmed on location in California, Iran, Indonesia, and France. It was really cool to see part of a Toronto Fringe show actually take place in front of Tehran’s Pars Hospital!
Overall, I really enjoyed UnTuned. If you want to watch an honest depiction of what it’s like to re-evaluate your life choices at a milestone birthday during a pandemic, they don’t come much more honest than UnTuned.
- UnTuned 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.
Promotional poster provided by the company.