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culture

Toronto Fringe Festival Reviews: Tuesday, July 10

Dinosaurs, serial killers, and romantic entanglements are all on the menu in today's Fringe reviews.

We’ve got six new reviews for Toronto Fringe Festival attendees to consider, including two large ensemble comedies, two one-person shows, a “dansical,” and Shakespeare set in a pub. (For our more than forty reviews to date, you’ll want to check out our Fringe coverage here.)

MAHMOUD
Pandemic Theatre

Tara Grammy. Photo by Dan Epstein.

PERFORMANCES:
Wednesday, July 4, 8:45 p.m.
Saturday, July 7, 1:45 p.m.
Sunday, July 8, 1:15 p.m.
Tuesday, July 10, 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 11, 11 p.m.
Friday, July 13, Noon
Saturday, July 14, 8:45 p.m.

VENUE:
Tarragon Theatre Extra Space (30 Bridgman Avenue)

Tara Grammy knocks it out of the park in this one-woman play in which she acts as a trio of seemingly unconnected characters. Grammy steps effortlessly between personas, from the talkative Iranian taxi driver Mahmoud, to the flamboyant Spaniard Alejandro, to a histrionic teenage version of herself. Amidst uproarious laughter, the characters slowly steer themselves into each other’s paths, coming upon a few personal insights along the way. Grammy uses each character as a window through which to view Iranian culture, as well as to explore her own sense of connection to her past. Even if you’re not up for some superb character acting, the show is worth catching for the reenactment of the moving conversation between Grammy and Mahmoud that served as the show’s inspiration.

(Ryan West)

The Taming of the Shrew
Shakespeare Bash’d

Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis. Photo by James MacDonald.

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, July 5, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, July 6, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 7, 9 p.m.
Sunday, July 8, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 10, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 12, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, July 13, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 14, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 15, 5:30 p.m.

VENUE:
Victory Cafe (581 Markham Street)

All Fringe shows carry a disclaimer that latecomers won’t be admitted. In the case of The Taming of the Shrew, arrive well in advance of the curtain, as the framing induction scene of Shakespeare’s comedy is played out while patrons wait to go in. The bar setting lends itself to the bawdy nature of the material, and enhances both the relaxed, confident manner in which the Bard’s words roll off the cast’s tongues and several broad characterizations (old Gremio portrayed as a 1970s-style hustler with a too-tight vest, while Lucentio’s tutor channels Steve Urkel). Though the straightforward presentation doesn’t mask the flaws or misogynist moments of the script, its no-frills, spirited energy and strong cast chemistry create an engaging interpretation enjoyed with a beer or two.

(Jamie Bradburn)

U.S. Drag
Zaw Theatre Productions

Samara Stern and Chad Thurlow. Photo by Darlene Huynh.

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, July 5, 8:45 p.m.
Saturday, July 7, 5:15 p.m.
Monday, July 9, 12:45 p.m.
Tuesday, July 10, 6:45 p.m.
Wednesday, July 11, 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 12, 5:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 14, 11 p.m.

VENUE:
Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)

In a Y2K precursor of sorts to the HBO series Girls, over-educated and underemployed best friends Angela (Zoe Gamache) and Allison (Samara Stern), desperately seeking to maintain their hard-partying lifestyle and climb the socio-economic ladder in the Big Apple, fall in with a victim’s advocacy group obsessed with a buzzed-about serial attacker dubbed “Ed.” None of the victims can recall any details about their experience, so his wanted poster profile is purposefully androgynous and vague—and there’s some suggestion that “Ed” could be random different attackers, or might not exist at all. Gina Gionfriddo’s 10-year-old black satire is starting to show its age, but there’s still plenty of pizzazz in her skewering of the “fame at any cost” mentality, and it’s a true ensemble comedy, with almost every character getting a chance to shine; consequently, the eight member cast is of a higher calibre than usually seen at a Fringe show.

(Steve Fisher)

Love, Lyrics and Life…Do You Remember Me? The Black Family Through History
G.I.A. Productions

Photo Courtesy of G.I.A. productions.

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, July 5, 9 p.m.
Friday, July 6, 7 p.m.
Saturday, July 7, 9:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 8, 1 & 4 p.m.
Monday, July 9, 9 p.m.
Tuesday, July 10, 9 p.m.
Friday, July 13, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 14, 9:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 15, 4 p.m.

VENUE:
Band Gallery and Cultural Space (823A Bloor Street West)

In this concise and cleverly written history lesson, a living exhibit of black archetypal families share lessons with a modern black couple struggling to support each other. The cast compares notes about identity, pride, and legacy almost exclusively through rhythmical spoken word poetry. The acting is strong and the characters mix in some appropriately humorous touches within the more serious overall tone; unfortunately the dancing interludes are somewhat hampered by the layout of the tiny Bloor Street venue.

Writer Greg Birkett creates an affirming, even healing, space for his target black audience, and invites all audience members to reflect upon the roots of colonialism that continue to reverberate through the African diaspora. The presumed religious underpinning of black family strength is at times clichéd, but it complements the production’s positive vibe and clearly articulated message of hope. Due to an enthusiastic audience response, the producers have added three more dates this coming weekend.

(Desmond Cole)

Tinfoil Dinosaur
Sam S. Mullins

Sam S. Mullins. Detail of a photo by Alex Waber.

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, July 5, 6 p.m.
Friday, July 6, 4:45 p.m.
Saturday, July 7, 10:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 8, 2:45 p.m.
Tuesday, July 10, 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 11, 6:30 p.m
Friday, July 13, 10:30 p.m
Saturday, July 14, 8 p.m.

VENUE:
Tarragon Theatre Solo Room (30 Bridgman Avenue)

Actor and writer Sam S. Mullins spends an entertaining hour describing a truly humiliating experience in theatre school, his first attempts to establish himself as a TV and film actor in big city Vancouver, and how a bizarre interaction at his soul-destroying serving job helped him gain some perspective when he was at a low point in his life. Since the events of his story, Mullins has become a sketch comedian and noted storyteller on the West Coast, and his strengths in those disciplines are evident. While an actor talking about their theatre school and early career experiences is among the most common clichés in the Fringe, Mullins adds enough detail and refreshing candour to make this particular show worth recommending.

(Steve Fisher)

With Somebody Who Loves Me: A Gay Dansical
Manzo Entertainment

Brenner Smith. Photo courtesy of Manzo Entertainment.

PERFORMANCES:
Friday, July 6, 2012, 1:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 7, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
Monday, July 9, 2012, 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012, 1:15 p.m.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 9:15 p.m.
Friday, July 13, 2012, 5:45 p.m.
Saturday, July 14, 2012, 11:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 15, 2012, 12:30 a.m.

VENUE:
Factory Mainspace (125 Bathurst Street)

With Somebody Who Loves Me: A Gay Dansical is a noble experiment. A no-words, all-dance production with short videos linking the scenes together, Somebody Who Loves Me sets out to prove that you can create real, relatable characters and a fleshed out plot without ever speaking. Unfortunately, it falls short of that lofty goal. At the end of the play, we don’t really know much more about the main characters than we did at the beginning, and the plot is birdbath shallow. Thankfully, the dance sequences are athletic and visually arresting enough to rescue the show from being a total waste of time, but you still can’t help but feel you’re watching something that’s only half-finished. That said, if there’s ever an award for “Best Use of T-Shirt Tux in a Fringe Play,” this would win it.

(Chris Dart)

CORRECTION: July 11, 2012, 5:25 PM This post originally had an incorrect photo credit accompanying the review of Mahmoud. The photo was taken by Dan Epstein.

CORRECTION: July 12, 2012, 10:00 AM This post originally credited the U.S. Drag photo as being Samsara Stern and Josh Vokey, when, in fact, the photo is of Samara Stern and Chad Thurlow. The spelling of Samara has also been corrected in the review. The corrections have been made above.

Comments

  • TAD

    Thanks you so much for the lovely comments about Mahmoud. We are very flattered.
    Just a small correction, that photo actually isn’t by Nir, it is by Dan Epstein.
    Thanks again!
    -Tom Davis

    • Anonymous

      The photo credit has been corrected! Thanks for letting us know.

  • Farnaz

    I was amazed by the performance of Tara Grammy! She is such a talented actress with an open vision towards the presence barriers & able to twist it into a comical shape!!! Energetic, enthusiastic, & BOLD!
    Also, so many thanks to Tom Davis for his wonderful job on stage managing!
    What a mighty team… compliments to all! Bravo
    Farnaz Amry