Review: FRINGE FESTIVAL: DAY 2 at Toronto Fringe

Reviews from Day 2 of the Fringe

By: Jul. 08, 2023
Review: FRINGE FESTIVAL: DAY 2 at Toronto Fringe
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Here's our roundup of Day 2 of the 35th Annual Fringe Festival!

THE FOURTH R: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, REVOLUTIONIZE

The message of Dance Fachin’s ecological dance-plus-projections show is so desperately earnest that it makes one want to run straight from the theatre to Queen’s Park with a “Save the Greenbelt” sign. Dancers Emma Bartolomucci, Derek Souvannavong and Abigail Hanson are veterans of the high school assembly circuit, and their determination to break through to that most cynical of demographic leads to a high-energy, fluid and engaging presentation of their message. A pas de deux between Bartolomucci and Hanson as a suppressive businesswoman versus a fearful scientist is particularly athletic, and Souvannavong movingly portrays one of the world’s most disadvantaged, who contribute the least to climate change but suffer the most from it.

The show’s beginning, with a welcome nod to the paralyzing force of “climate grief,” could be addressed further in the rest of the show; the argument that larger, collective and governmental action is needed breaks down in the “what you can do” section, which mostly focuses on small individual lifestyle choices. While the overall message is about as subtle as a brick—and, on opening, came with a guest speech from Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner—perhaps the time for subtlety on this issue is over.

HERMAPHRODITUS

Rosalind Goodwin’s HERMAPHRODITUS presents a trans rights story by mythological means that’s somewhere between allegory and polemic, as the titular character (also Goodwin), “living outside the gender binary,” seeks to gain entrance to the Pantheon to reverse vicious anti-trans legislation. The rules are introduced by an angry Hera (Jan Jennings) and a placating Zeus (Titus Androgynous), who wears queerness as a performance, but refuses to stand up for the rights of his queer humans below.

The show is in process, and is powering through the last-minute replacements of both its stage manager and an actor. However, despite having script in hand, it’s actually replacement actor Margo MacDonald as nymph Chariclo, parent to wrong prophet Tiresias, who shines brightest in the show with quiet righteous fury, gracefully trailing a blue sheet of fabric like disturbed waters. Fun elements of burlesque and Zeus’ sly flirting also elevate the play, which works best when it develops the allegorical structure of the Greek gods or arguments between characters in plain speech, but stumbles a bit when it turns subtext into bolded text, and in some rhyming portions.

HYMNS AND HEARSE

Three employees of a funeral home on the verge of bankruptcy face a difficult moral decision in this comedy by Tricia Williams. When their current corpse of honour at tomorrow’s badly-needed expensive funeral turns out not to be as deceased as previously believed, they must choose whether to call the family, or to proceed with the funeral by any means necessary.

With a few fits and starts, the cast largely bounce off each other well. Justin Hay in particular has a natural delivery and clear backstory that makes his fussy, fastidious character seem real.

The script features plenty of groaners and some effective gallows humour, as the characters pass the time by detailing betting on whether they can guess a family’s choice of hymns for a service or identify the most inappropriate funeral songs. The script could, however, trust that we’ll get the jokes without calling attention to the fact that they’re jokes. There’s a lot of potential fodder in the ethical dilemma of what amounts to euthanasia of the elderly that doesn’t get explored. For a comedy about such a dark subject, the treatment is surprisingly mild, focusing on light riffs until the choice is made.




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