James Gangl fervently hoped his show Sex, Religion & Other Hang-ups would be included in our Fringe guide—and his prayers have been answered. Image design by Kurt Firla; photo by Kevin Thom.
The purest Fringe experience, for some patrons, is a really good solo show; a great storyteller or character chameleon, who excels at connecting to their audience, is a joy to behold. There are performers—Fringe legends like T.J. Dawe—who have carved out careers from touring Fringe festivals around North America, and the world.
We’ve chosen to highlight performers we’ve seen do great work before, both in and outside of the festival, bringing new (or new to us) shows to this year’s Fringe. And we’ve also included two shows featuring well-known solo performers joining forces with a kindred spirit, just to shake things up.
Photo courtesy of Ted Hollister’s Cow.
Ted Hollister’s Cow
Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79A St. George Street)
Two of Canada’s most provocative and dirty-minded comics, Nikki Payne and Terry Clement, join forces for a show incorporating their stand-up material, new sketch pieces, song, and more. The show posts almost every warning in the Fringe program, so when they say “not a show for children or serious-minded adults,” give that a good ponder; if you fall into neither category, we say go for it.
Detail of a photo by Brian Telzerow.
The LOVE Octagon
Beefy Geek Productions
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
If the world of stellar improvisers with theatre roots were the cast of the movie GoodFellas, Chris Craddock and Ron Pederson would be Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. Your friend who is thinking of taking improv classes would be the guy who plays Morrie. The cast of Whose Line is… Lorraine Bracco? Look, the metaphor’s clearly gone off-track; the main thing is that these guys are good. And this show, in which they play four different couples—all sleeping with each other—sounds like a challenge that should push them to creative heights. The show comes with dual warnings of sexual content and audience participation, as a note for those who either reject or require that combination for an evening of entertainment.
Detail of a photo by Anice Wong.
Cancer Can’t Dance Like This
Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgeman Avenue)
We’ve already written all about Daniel Stolfi’s show, which describes how he won a dance-off with cancer; he was performing the shows between bouts of chemo, he’s now raised more than $60,000 for cancer charities. He’s also currently cancer-free. It’s a great story, and he’s a great entertainer. An integral part of that story is that his cancer diagnosis led to having to drop out of the Fringe; now after three tries, Stolfi and CCDLT will finally get their Toronto Fringe debut. You’ll be doing both yourself and cancer charities a favour by seeing the show—he’s still donating portions of the show’s proceeds to charity.
Detail of a photo by Dan Abramovici.
Brian Froud’s One Man Celebrity Disaster Relief Charity Benefit Awareness Telethon… Show
Brain Fraud Productions
St. Vladimir’s Theatre (620 Spadina Avenue)
Froud, possessed of both vocal chops and a talent for mimicry, has made a big splash at the Fringe in the past with his one-man show Swiss Family Guy Robinson. This year he returns with a purported telethon to raise money after Hamilton is hit by a meteor the size of… Hamilton. Seems like an ideal vehicle to have Froud bring in many celebrities to save the day, including Bill Cosby, Al Pacino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Christopher Walken. With some of the best comedy writing and directing in town teaming up with Froud behind the scenes, the show is bound to entertain.
Sex, Religion & Other Hang-ups
Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
You may have already seen Toronto funnyman James Gangl as one part of an improv ensemble at Second City and Bad Dog Theatre—but now, let’s see how he handles prewritten words on paper all by his lonesome. SR&OH is a true story about his battles between primal urges for an underwear model and a staunchly Catholic upbringing. Directed by Fringe icon Chris Gibbs.
Detail of a photo by Lehran Hache.
Randolph Centre For The Arts’ Solo Room (736 Bathurst Street)
There’s lots of Fringe pedigree wrapped up in this first-person narrative by Andrew Bailey (Putz), mainly due to his and director Britt Smalls’ involvement with Atomic Vaudeville. Theatre-goers might recall that Victoria-based company for their productions of huge Fringe and Summerworks hits Legoland and Ride The Cyclone, respectively. Bailey’s new show promises to reveal the meaning of life in the first 60 seconds (disclaimer: the rest of the hour goes about debunking said meaning.)
Detail of a photo by Janet Shum.
Katie and Pearl Productions
Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Avenue)
Playwright/performer Laura Anne Harris has racked up a phone book’s worth of good to great reviews in North America with her show about Judy Holliday and how the starlet escaped blacklisting at the McCarthy hearings by playing up her ditzy screen persona. It hasn’t played in Toronto for more than a couple of preview performances since she started performing it in 2007… until now.