“Shaun would like you to sign the guest book, and please don’t sit in the first two rows…especially if you’re family,” a sweet-faced young lady told us as we filed in for the Fringe debut of Baggage – A Non-Musical Romp Through One Catholic Gay Man’s Dating History (With Breasts for the Straight Men). This being Fringe, we thought the instruction meant there were projectiles involved, necessitating that everyone (family, in particular) take two giant steps back. The real reason turned out to be much more dear.
Baggage is described as a one-man show where Shaun McCarthy serves up his dating past for your entertainment. It’s a universal subject, to be sure, and one that somehow never gets old, especially when the script is full of small, delicate details of love and loss and is delivered with such subtle comedic timing. We learn only from reading the program that the play is 100% non-fictional, which explains why it just feels so real. Right from the beginning, it’s deliciously dishy, like being let in on secrets told by your best friend…or at least your funniest one; we hung on every word. McCarthy’s performance was so naturally hilarious that most probably missed his debut jitters, manifested only in a slight shaking of the hands. Which made us think the “first two rows” rule was less about flying props and more about Shaun avoiding the distraction of faces, especially those of family and friends who were not just in the theatre, but in the story as well. This vulnerability, in addition to that shown in every nuance of the show, makes Baggage one of this year’s sparkling hidden gems.
The next performance is Saturday, July 4 at 9:30 p.m. at the Factory Studio Theatre.
The Fringe runs until July 12 at various locations around the city. Check back for Torontoist’s daily Fringe coverage throughout the festival.
Graphic courtesy of Shaun McCarthy.