The Gladstone Variations is taking the Fringe by storm. And with good reason. The 90-minute piece is by Convergence Theatre, who were the team behind last year’s fantastic Autoshow, which was actually a collection of 7 ten-minute plays by different playwrights performed in and around the parking lot at Royal St. George’s. The Gladstone Variations is actually more ambitious and, amazingly, even more successful. The piece is made up of four short plays by different writers and, as the title would suggest, takes place entirely in and around the historic Gladstone Hotel. The 60 audience members are broken into groups of 15 and each is made to follow the actors of one of the plays around the hotel while they perform their show. Each group sees two of the four plays in one performance, constituting one “variation.” And that’s the brilliant marketing strategy of the show: to be able to see the entire thing, you have to go to it twice.
Variation One consists of “The Tearful Bride” and “Requiem For a Hotel.” “Bride” is a curiously-told, ghostly little tale about a concierge who falls off the top of the hotel. Or is it about a bellhop who falls in love with a bride staying at the hotel? Richard Greenblatt (of 2 Pianos, 4 Hands fame) is great as the fast-talking Concierge narrator, and Marc Bendavid provides a passionate turn as the Bellhop. “Requiem” is a very different piece about a crazy old karaoke broad named Rhonda who unknowingly becomes a source of entertainment for two young men who want to make a Youtube video out of her. Janet Amos turns in a very entertaining performance as Rhonda, and Aviva Armour-Ostroff is excellent as event co-ordinator Jenny.
Teasingly, the plays from the other variation briefly cross over with the plays from this one, giving you a taste of what will happen in the other half of the piece. This Torontoist for one will certainly be returning to The Gladstone Variations to find out what the rest of the show is about.
Photo by gbalogh from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.