Fish Shak isn’t what it used to be. Literally. Last fall, that place in Kensington that always advertised enigmatic “fish tea” turned itself into Bread & Circus Theatre Bar, one of the tiniest places in the city to catch a show and drink a beer. And Fish Shak Co-op is the name of the company whose production of Morris Panych’s two-hander Lawrence and Holloman is currently enjoying its second run inside the former seafood haven.
The story is a twisted little fable about two unlikely friends: Lawrence, a Type-A personality suit salesman with an ego the size of a planet, and Holloman, a milquetoast nebbish who may be more than meets the eye. When the play opens, Lawrence is on top of the world, but as it progresses, a series of increasingly distressing accidents befall him, and the luck of the two friends seems to switch. Ryan Hollyman and Paolo Mancini are very entertaining as Lawrence and Holloman, respectively. Hollyman in particular delivers a knock-out performance as the indefatigably optimistic Lawrence, managing to be impossibly obnoxious and hopelessly endearing all at once. Attention also needs to be given to Maryke Simmonds’s highly-creative set design, which is basically just a box the two actors reconfigure in increasingly creative ways.
The choice of script is a bit strange, given how often Morris Panych plays are produced in this city as it is. Thankfully, this is one of his better ones, full of dark comedy and bitter wordplay, although there isn’t quite enough plot to fill the 2-hour runtime, and you can’t help but feel a good half-hour could be shaved off the show without anyone noticing. Even so, this is a well-acted, funny show in an interesting new venue, and it’s definitely worth your time.
Lawrence and Holloman plays at Bread and Circus Theatre Bar until April 27.