dale beaner and the turtle boy
Sometimes you get sucked into the world of a show as soon as the first actor opens his mouth, and that was the case for me at Dale Beaner and the Turtle Boy, currently playing at the Royal St. George’s Auditorium (120 Howland Avenue) as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. This production was written, directed and starred two incredibly talented performers, Devon Hyland and Connor Thompson. Wow.
The show takes place at a baseball game and Hyland and Thompson play an array of different characters, primarily two sportscasters, an overbearing Stage Dad named Carl Beaner (Thompson), a teenaged child star named Dale Beaner (Hyland), an overprotective father (Mr. Bowman) and a boy named Georgie who had a turtle shell surgically grafted on his spine when he was born. At first glance it may seem a little wacky, and indeed there are definite wacky elements, but none of that overshadows the heart of this story of parental love, monetary greed, and the way that each child struggles to step out of the shadow of expectation cast by his or her parents in an attempt to forge his or her own path in the world.
Hyland and Thompson are extremely gifted actors. Their sportscasters are absolutely pitch-perfect and entirely hysterical. It is also an incredibly creative storytelling strategy to have a portion of this tale being told by the sportscasters at the baseball game. Hyland shines particularly brightly as the wildly misunderstood and astutely sensitive Dale Beaner, and the insane Mr. Bowman, who tries to protect his son from absolutely everything. Thompson is brilliant as Carl Beaner, who stands as the epitome of the Hollywood experience, and as Georgie, a boy whose father’s love has become a turtle prison shell.
As writers, Hyland and Thompson are equally gifted. The dialogue is clever and unique and always hilarious. The world that they have created is slightly off-kilter, but entirely recognizable and familiar as our own. In this way, a story about a fading Cupcake Franchise boy and a boy in a turtle shell resonates strongly as a poignant comment on our obsession with Hollywood, celebrities and reality star figures, and how love and concern within this world can suffocate if taken to the extreme.
The play is also well directed; Hyland and Thompson stated that most of the play stemmed from improvisation, and it does evoke that pragmatic directing style typical of Improv, but it works.
Dale Beaner and the Turtle Boy is just the sort of original play that one hopes to see at a Fringe Festival. It is unlike anything you have ever seen, beautifully executed and uproariously funny. Don’t be a turtle; hasten your way to the Royal St. George’s Auditorium (120 Howland Avenue) to see this show before it sells out, because I think it just might.
Dale Beaner and the Turtle Boy plays at the following times:
Fri, July 2 11:00 PM
Sun, July 4 4:00 PM
Mon, July 5 8:45 PM
Wed, July 7 12:15 PM
Thu, July 8 7:00 PM
Fri, July 9 6:15 PM
Sat, July 10 1:45 PM
all tickets $10 at the door or book in advance by calling the fringe hotline at 416.966.1062 or go online at http://www.fringetoronto.com/.
* this review is reposted from an original entry on Saturday, September 5, 2009 after I saw this production in the Atlantic Fringe Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia.