The cast of Shotgun Wedding bust out the ’90s jams nearly every night of the Fringe Festival. Photo by Reese Baguio.
The best Fringe shows are often the ones that play loosest with our preconceptions of theatre. Setting their shows in spaces not normally known for innovative performance, dealing with topics and issues that most people wouldn’t see as ripe for theatrical exploration, these shows are truly out there on the edge. Fringe this year has cut down on the number of “site-specific” shows, and used a firmer hand in accepting applications, so there are less shows set in bars and backrooms. Instead, there are shows in churches, tea houses, and underground parking lots, and while those aren’t firsts for Fringe shows, the intention to set them there has been very specific.
We’ve also included several Fringekids!, shows and musicals (which are rarer this year than at past Fringes) in our suggestions for Fringe-goers looking for something unique.
Quixotic Theatre/Carlos Bulosan Theatre
Alexandra Park Community Centre (105 Grange Court)
A birthday bash set to hot party jams, Shotgun Wedding places you in a community gym for a night of partying that goes awry when a pregnancy is revealed. Director Catherine Hernandez has impressed us before with her own work, and she’s assembled a large and diverse cast to re-create the crinoline-festooned, dark lipstick–smeared, and Toni-Braxton-on-repeat experience of a teen party in the early ’90s.
Photo by Steve Carty.
EXPECT / SPARK
Walmer Baptist Church (188 Lowther Avenue)
This site-specific musical wake, both elegy for those who have succumbed to (and been victimized by) gang violence, and paean for those who have overcome it, is getting a lot of buzz. Based on interviews conducted in Toronto’s St. James Town, and the people who deal with its gang scene on a daily basis—community members, cops, gang members—playwrights Laura Mullin and Chris Tolley used the murder of Amon Beckles as their starting point for a theatrical investigation into the ripple effects gang violence has on people’s lives.
Romeo and Juliet… A Puppet Epic!
Detail of a photo by Tom McGee.
Shakey-Shake and Friends
Palmerston Library Theatre (560 Palmerston Avenue)
Sex and death don’t typically leap to mind as the most kid-friendly of themes, but theatre wouldn’t be theatre without boundaries to push. And really, what better obstacle to broach than the kid appeal (or, let’s be honest, lack thereof) of old Billy Shakespeare? Romeo and Juliet… A Puppet Epic! brings the great bard’s most tragic love story to a young audience as part of Fringekids!, employing a cast of puppets and Henson-style humour for this noble task. In this retelling, young Zip is hankering for true love when his friend Shakey-Shake (oh yes) endeavours to school him—and their friends Len, Lucy, and Shemp—through a jubilantly G-rated version of the dramatic tale. Presented by Shakey-Shake and Friends, this one’s destined to appeal to fans of puppetry, Shakespeare, and creative interpretation alike.
Detail of an image by Scot Bryson.
Triangle Pi Productions
St. Vladimir’s Theatre (620 Spadina Avenue)
We’re really not sure what to expect from this one, but that’s part of the appeal. Including actual quotations, reactions, and recorded footage, this “interactive, absurdist” piece takes a look at folks’ reactions to the infamous 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre. As one of the people who believed Orson Welles when the end of Citizen Kane said that the secret of Rosebud (spoiler alert) was that it was a big yellow robot in Transformers: The Movie, we think we might want to see people pretending to be people who believed him when he told them there were Martians attacking their country. What a Falstaffian goof that guy was.
Detail of a photo by Jackie Shapiro.
Palmerston Library Theatre (560 Palmerston Avenue)
Mazel and Schlimazel are the embodiments of good and bad luck in this eponymous Yiddish folktale-turned-Klezmer musical, part of the Fringekids! festival lineup. In a pissing contest of existential proportions, Mazel and Schlimazel strike a wager to determine which of the two forces of fortune can exert the most influence over a single man’s fate—with Schlimazel having only one blink of a moment to undo his adversary’s year’s worth of lucky deeds. Enter a requisite beautiful princess fit for wooing, and you’ve got the makings of intrigue. Launching from the kid-friendly, moralistic slant of the fable and the inspired whimsy of Yiddish syntax (translated into English, of course), musician Lorie Wolf’s adaptation stars Fringe veteran Geoff Kolomayz and is backed by a raucous Klezmer ensemble aimed to entertain crowds aged five and up.
Photo by Megan Vincent.
This is one of the Fringe’s most anticipated and exciting productions. Beginning at 6 p.m. on each Friday of the festival, David Christo and Eric Craig will act out Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, without pause of any kind, for 30 hours straight in the first session and 54 hours straight in the finale. Audience members can stay for the entire length of the show if they’re new to the story, or leave and come back intermittently to witness the evolution of the play, see new actors fill in for extra roles, or simply check on the mental well-being of the two persistent performers.
Detail of a drawing by Jody Hewston.
Snakes and Lattes (600 Bloor Street West)
An epic battle of the ages finally comes to a head. The weighty question: who is the dorkiest of them all? Dungeons & Dragons geeks vs. drama nerds. At Snakes and Lattes, audience members can bear witness to this gameboard warfare, performed mostly by well-known Toronto actors, comedians, and sound artists, but also by you! However, as we all know, Snakes and Lattes is known for its tight space and resulting wait times (for now, at least) so there is a maximum allowance of 20 audience members at once. Luckily there is a box office on location, and it’ll be open for the full six-hour performance sessions; tickets get unlimited readmission.