The name “TJ Dawe” has become ubiquitous at the Fringe. In any given summer, it seems like not only are we bound to see one of his famous one-man shows, but probably when we search through our programs at the end of various other shows we will undoubtedly discover that he has directed them or been in some way involved. This summer is no different. Not only is his new 90 minute one-man show Totem Figures playing, but so are Greg Landucci’s Mr. Fox and Keir Cutler’s Teaching the Fringe, both of which he directed.
Totem Figures is very much a TJ Dawe show. Previous audience members will be unsurprised to enter the performance space to find Dawe already on stage, casually playing some guitar, dressed in the kinds of clothes he would probably be wearing anyway that day. His relationship with the audience is friendly and informal; he breezes through his mountain of memorization with the relaxed yet focused patter of a hip University professor. But there is something about this tone that signals a change that has been developing in Dawe’s work. Earlier shows like Labrador, A Canadian Bartender at Butlin’s, and The Slip-Knot were all TJ playing himself, but they also told stories. Totem Figures and last summer’s Maxim & Cosmo are closer to lectures than plays. Oh, sure, the odd story does get told—anecdotally—as in any good lecture, but the focus of the play is TJ’s ideas about totem figures and myths and having a personal Mt. Rushmore; a philosophical combination of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung by way of Robertson Davies. Which is all very interesting and entertaining. At the same time, 90 minutes is a long time to sit in on a lecture for a course you aren’t taking. There’s also a lot of introspection here as Dawe explains how people always ask him what, now that he has made a success with his one-man shows, he intends to do next? And it doesn’t seem like he’s quite figured out an answer yet.
Totem Figures plays tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Glen Morris.
One-Woman Show stars Marco Timpano (not a woman) as a female performer dealing with the kinds of “women’s issues” popularized by Oprah and The View and has been garnering great reviews. Catch it at 4:00 p.m. at the Robert Gill. Gemma Wilcox‘s The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over (on tonight at 10:00 p.m. at the Glen Morris) in which she plays dozens of different characters has also been generating impressive buzz.
Photo from TJ Dawe’s website.