The Clergy Project, produced by SOULO Theatre, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, tells us religion is theatre. Most familiar with both would probably agree. Both have narrative, thematic importance, and the whole range of human drama and emotion. Because truth can be stranger and more compelling than fiction, having a range of religious leaders tell us stories from their life’s work is rife with dramatic possibility. The project’s three clergy, Reform Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, Unitarian Reverend Shawn Newton, and Anglican Father Daniel Brereton, all trailblazers in their own right, share what calls them to the pulpit. As a very lapsed Jew, I wasn’t expecting this show to strike a major chord with me, let alone wreck me emotionally. Call me a convert, because it did.
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The Food Project, produced by Theatre By Committee, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, understands that it’s hard to talk about the convoluted ethical quagmire that comprises the choice of what we eat daily. After all, eating, they acknowledge, is one of the things we do most, and it’s one thing we can’t stop doing if we want to stay alive. It’s particularly hard to talk about this type of ethical choice without being didactic, the death knell of effective theatre everywhere.
The actors, therefore, deliver their lecture with a wink, obviously aware that a show on this topic can never quite lose the aspect of well-meaning lecture. There are a lot of hard truths to digest here, but they’re sure portrayed as entertainingly as possible.
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Interstellar Elder, produced by Ingrid Hansen and SNAFU, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, could be considered a very tenuous sequel to Hansen’s 2014 Fringe smash, Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near-Post Apocalyptic Future. Kitt & Jane explored the destruction of our natural environment through the lens of two precocious and imaginative children on the verge of adolescence, and I loved its sparkling wit and touching character interaction.
In Interstellar Elder, Kit Peterson is back, but instead of being a small child, she winds up hundreds of years old in the semi-distant future, the only unfrozen passenger on a ship set to repopulate the earth after an actual natural disaster has made it uninhabitable. Despite the thematic connection, this is an incredibly different show, nearly silent and solo. However, Hansen manages to say a surprising amount about the human condition anyway; the incredibly aged Kitt still has that spark.
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I knew I had to see Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, co-produced by Slow Blue Lions and The Howland Company, and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, when I watched it receive a Cayle Chernin production award (supporting women in theatre and film) earlier this year, and found myself fascinated by the premise. A couple, lawyer Bernadette (Ruth Goodwin) and musician Oliver (James Graham), struggle against a new law that’s been put in motion: each person is only allowed to speak as many words in a day as there are characters in a Tweet. Yes, that means 140 words are all you get. Words in all their various permutations are my life, so to me this was a horror movie cloaked in a relationship story. The play does manage to marry those elements of romantic comedy and existential dread in ways that are surprising, charming, and poignant. While the concept might seem outlandish, the execution is sharp and thoughtful.
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In Hyena Supbpoena, written and produced by Cat Kidd, and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, the writer/performer stalks about the stage like a predator sizing up her captive audience. She opens by telling us that, were she able to be a hybrid, she would choose to be part hyena. In other languages, the word for hyena also means to vacillate or be in flux, changeable or metamorphic. This state is celebrated in Kidd’s wending, mesmeric piece; derided for their strange laughs, ugly visages and unusual anatomy, we find hyenas are actually practical, efficient, and above all, intense.
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