In addition to the abundant number of productions, there are workshops, networking sessions, outdoor concerts, themed dance parties and a creativity playground for families. And each of the 55 to 90 minute long plays is available for only $10, or less if you buy in bulk.
Since this Fringe's productions are chosen by lottery, the quality varies, all the way from rank amateur, (thankfully precious few) to brilliantly written, directed, designed and produced. The recent Broadway hit musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, is an example of a show that originated at the Toronto Fringe several years ago.
And now for something reasonably different!
Gold Fever by The Keystone Theatre is a play in the style of a silent film. A sort of Charlie Chaplin-like Gold Rush, but beautifully performed & produced as a play on stage.
The company of white-faced mimes are disciplined and superb.
The obviously physical story begins with a ragtag group of both male and female prospectors trekking through the hazardous Chilkoot Pass in winter in the 1890's in the ultimate hope of "winning a Yukon lottery", so to speak. Following a beautifully mimed wild canoe journey through rapids by two women, we watch the prospectors stake their claims and try their hand at panning for gold. Then on to Dawson City and the booze.
And all of this action unfolds clearly & dramatically accompanied by the ingenious use of props, as well as highly appropriate cue cards, film, slides and music, mostly live and brilliantly performed on honky-tonk piano and guitar.
The plot involves stock gold rush characters, covering the gamut of prospector personalities, from the innocent farmer and cut throat villain to the Dawson City saloon piano players and dancing gals.
It all adds up to a genuinely original and highly entertaining evening in the theatre.
Director: Richard Beaune
Cast: David Atkinson, Sarah Joy Bennett, Dana Fradkin, Stephen LaFrenie, Phil Rickaby, and The Young Company
Production Designer: Kimberly Beaune, Music Director: David Atkinson, Assistant Costume Designer: Sarah Joy Bennett, Fight Director: Matt Richardson, Lighting Designer: David Fox Procenko
Genre: Physical Theatre
Theatre: Al Green Theatre. (At Spadina and Bloor, enter off Bloor St.)
Runtime: 85 minutes
Confessions of a Red Headed Coffeeshop Girl
Confessions is a solo show with music and was the first Fringe production I attended.
Written and performed by Rebecca Perry, this play is the all too common tale of the university grad today who is forced to take a job way below his or her qualifications. Or more specifically, this play is focused on a week in the life of an anthropology grad who is forced to work as a barista and tries to make the best of a bad situation. She applies her anthropological skills to this menial job, by portraying for us via dialogue and song, the variety of characters whom she encounters each day when they come in for their shot of caffeine.
Additionally, we learn that it pays to be optimistic, since things can and do often change for the better.
Perry is an energetic and very likeable performer with a reasonably good voice. But the writing, while relevant and certainly of great appeal to its primary target audience of 20 something year olds, is ordinary and the resulting show is thus, cute, obvious and sophomoric. Nevertheless, the audience of all ages loved it! For me, twenty to thirty minutes max of this feel-good venture, would have sufficed.
Writer: Rebecca Perry
Theatre: The Annex
Runtime: 55 minutes
Peter n' Chris and the Kinda OK Corral
Fringe faves Peter Carolone and Chris Wilson are sketch comics who do a highly schticky number, replete with puns, non sequitars, add libs and truck loads of slapstick physicality on the topic of the Wild West and a blossoming friendship between two lonesome cowboys. Contending that the story's thin, would be a massive understatement.
The two versatile actors play off each other beautifully, portraying animals and multiple stereotypical characters, playing poker, stealing cattle, milking cows, plus a myriad other Wild West cliché activities.
This type of extremely broad humour is not to everyone's taste. But once again, very much like the previous production I attended, the audience loved it.
Writers: Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson
Theatre: Randolph Theatre
Runtime: 60 minutes
Time Stands Still
This is an extremely well-written, relevant & accessible, four-handed drama by Donald Margulies, for an audience who prefer thought-provoking theatre. The play deals with reasonably mature contemporary topics, like motherhood versus careers for women, older men marrying younger women, are war correspondents/photographers really serving a positive purpose by photographing people dying rather than trying to help them, and will the photos and reports of atrocities in war torn countries really affect positive change?
In fact, in a moment of self discovery, the war photographer actually says, "I live off the suffering of strangers."
Each of the characters is trying to find a comfort zone, how can they live with themselves, as well as with a partner, given each individual's emotional & physical needs. And by creating diametrically opposed individuals who all inhabit the stage at once, playwright Margulies has set up the perfect theatrical equation for dramatic fireworks.
The four talented actors (Kirstin Hinton, Carleigh Beverly, Jason Jazrawy and Sam Rosenthal) are excellently cast. Jordan Merkur's production is superbly directed and he gets excellent moment to moment performances from his four superior actors.
This is an excellent play for those of you who love theatre that allows for intelligent discussion.
Theatre: Passe Muraille
Playwright: Donald Margulies
Running time: 90 minutes