Fringe 2011: So You Want To See An Ensemble Show?
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Fringe 2011: So You Want To See An Ensemble Show?

Andre Sills and Esther Jun are among the accomplished cast members of Ins Choi's Kim's Convenience. Photo by Ian Liwanag.

Fringe shows are always produced on a shoestring budget, so when you have more than one or two participants, it means that the creators of the show had a great idea to pitch, and that the performers are invested in it for reasons other than monetary (we have it on good authority that some of last year’s most popular shows with large ensembles barely managed to give their performers gas money and a cheap meal on the town). When you have a large group of people committed to a cause, that can often translate into a really entertaining and interesting show. These shows stood out from the pack for us because of the people involved, or because their “pitch” was intriguing.

Kim’s Convenience
Ins Choi
Bathurst Street Theatre (736 Bathurst Street
July 6, 6:30 p.m.
July 8, 10:30 p.m.
July 10, 1:15 p.m.
July 11, 8:15 p.m.
July 12, 1:00 p.m.
July 15, 5:15 p.m.
July 17, 7 p.m.

The winner of the Fringe’s New Play Contest, the playwriting career of actor and recent Soulpepper Academy member Ins Choi is off to a great start. His debut project explores the struggles of the Kims, a Korean family living in Toronto, as they confront issues of tradition, honour, love, and generational change when a generous offer is made on their family-run convenience store (which, according to Choi, is based largely on Regent Park’s former Bob’s Convenience, now a condo building). (Carly Maga)


Detail of a photo by Chris Best., The Nation of Brohams
Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst Street)
July 7, 10:30 p.m.
July 9, 1:45 p.m.
July 10, 7 p.m.
July 12, 4:45 p.m.
July 14, 9:15 p.m.
July 15, 2:15 p.m.
July 16, 9:45 p.m.

Everyone has their own story about the time their heart first fluttered, were struck by Cupid’s arrow, or in other words, swooned. So it makes sense that a show about just that includes a mega-ensemble of noteworthy contributors to the script, like Jordan Tannahill, Jessica Moss, Jason Maghanoy, Chris Mitchell, Ryan Griffith, Paul Robinson, Haley McGee, and Alisa Palmer. It is described as a “highly theatrical and wondrous look at young people, desire, and the absolute moments of our lives”…with nudity. We’re swooning already. (Carly Maga)

Raton Laveur

Detail of a photo by Pierre Gautreau.

Fracas Theatre
St. Vladimir’s Theatre (620 Spadina Avenue)
July 8, 3:30 p.m.
July 9, 4 p.m.
July 10, 7:30 p.m.
July 11, 6:30 p.m.
July 13, 11:15 p.m.
July 15, 9:45 p.m.
July 17, 2:45 p.m.

Raton laveur—the French for “raccoon”—translates literally to “cleaning rodent,” an homage to the oddly meticulous washing habits of the creature our city loves to hate. Raton Laveur, the play, is a distinctly Toronto vignette of relationships and paranoia, fixed on one character’s obsession with (what else?) a nest of raccoons, a natural consequence of following love to the Big Smoke. What sounds like the makings of some wacky psychological clusterfuck is maybe just that: a black comedy with warnings of graphic violence that we can only hope means man-on-rodent fight scenes. Written by Amos Crawley, David Patrick Flemming, and Caitlin Stewart (who also direct and star, respectively) Raton Laveur marks the first production for Fracas Theatre. (Kelli Korducki)

The Soaps—The Live Improvised Soap Opera

Detail of a photo by Sharilyn Johnson.

The National Theatre of The World
Bathurst Street Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)
July 8, 3:30 p.m.
July 9, 9:15 p.m.
July 12, 5 p.m.
July 13, 7:30 p.m.
July 15, 7:30 p.m.
July 16, 4 pm
July 17, noon

Anybody fortunate enough to have caught the ongoing weekly soap opera at Comedy Bar will not miss this. Presented by National Theatre of the World, whose resume includes several Canadian Comedy Awards, and with an all-star cast including Paul Bates (Dan For Mayor), Ron Pederson (Mad TV), and more improv and sketch stars than can be named, this show promises love, romance, and heartbreak alongside the inevitable greed, lust, and probably even pestilence. The production’s plotline will unfold through the week in true soap fashion, with guest stars rotating in and out of a single role. Definite multiple-viewings potential on this one. (Jeremy Woodcock)

Detail of a photo by Jeremy Bobrow.

Uncalled For presents… Hypnogogic Logic
Uncalled For
Bathurst Street Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)
July 8, 8:45 p.m.
July 9, 1:45 p.m.
July 10, 10:30 p.m.
July 11, 6:30 p.m.
July 12, 3:15 p.m.
July 14, 7:30 p.m.
July 15, 3:30 p.m.

This innovative Montreal-based sketch and improv troupe previewed this, their latest sketch creation, for one night only in Toronto during last year’s Fringe, and the audience went wild for it. A collection of brilliant, witty sketches that flow seamlessly from one to another, using a surreal dreamscape setting, it’s light years beyond typical sketch shows, where three out of four sketches “hitting” is a high percentage. This is one to line up for, early. (Steve Fisher)

Detail of a photo by Joe Bucci.

Eos Theatre
Factory Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst Street)
July 8, 9 p.m.
July 9, 3:45 p.m.
July 10, 1:45 p.m.
July 11, 4:45 p.m.
July 12, 8:30 p.m.
July 14, 12:15 p.m.
July 16, 10:30 p.m.
British playwright Edward Bond’s 1965 debut of Saved! was one of the most controversial stage events of the 20th century; a scene involving infanticide had censors and the general public up in arms. It’s now considered one of the most ground-breaking productions of its era. EOS Theatre has updated it a bit; it sets the scene in ’90s rave culture. Director Jack Grinhaus (who was involved in The Grace Project: SICK and last year’s Fringe show The Complex) has assembled a cast of young up-and-comers, many of whom are recent York theatre grads, to tell Bond’s shocking and darkly funny rabble-rousing play. (Steve Fisher)

Tyumen, Then

Detail of a photo by Aviva Armour-Ostroff.

October Theatre
Robert Gill Theatre (214 College Street
July 8, 11 p.m.
July 11, 8:45 p.m.
July 12, 4:30 p.m.
July 13, 12:15 p.m.
July 14, 7 p.m.
July 15, 6:15 p.m.
July 16, 1:45 p.m.

Being stranded in a standstill train car somewhere in the USSR in 1941, with the deceased body of Vladmir Lenin—a revived body of Vladimir Lenin to boot—doesn’t really seem like the best way to spend 90 minutes. But with a strong all-male trio of Toronto performers and Andrea Donaldson directing (Montparnasse, The Atomic Weight of Happiness), it’s one of the year’s must-sees. Besides, the show was invited by the Fringe to help raise $2,000 for the festival, so to not go would just be mean. Think of the greater good, after all. (Carly Maga)