pool (no water)

oyin_oladejo-allison_price-daniel_roberts-chy_ryan_spain-_sarah_illiatovitch-goldmanpool (no water) is a dark and highly intelligent play by Mark Ravenhill which is given a riveting production at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.

We are introduced to a group of artists, four that stand before us, two more that we hear about only through the other four. They have all been avant garde and passionate in their work, using such muses as the HIV epidemic and heroin babies, living as Bohemians, slaves to an art that romanticizes being poor, being addicts, and feeling extraordinary emotions that careen from adoration and love to the desire to kill in instants. The one named character, Sally, who we never see, dies of cancer, while the other has become so successful that she has risen out of their world and their group and their city and now lives in a grandiose house, in a life full of wonderful excess, with a pool.

And while she is still their friend, and while she is generous to them from her new life, the four friends begin to hate her. They begin to hate her and to feel jealous and all the emotions merge together into a muddle of feeling when suddenly she has a horrific accident that pushes all these emotions to their extreme. While she is lying unconscious at the hospital the four artists, at first, relish in the opportunity to care for her, and then realize that they have been given a muse for an exhibition that could catapult them to the successful life of riches, at their friend’s expense. The result is an interconnected teeter-tottering of feelings, experiences and perceptions, showing how often one person’s success can be tied to another person’s misfortune, and vice versa.

Ravenhill’s play comes alive with riveting performances by its ensemble: Chy Ryan Spain, Sarah Illitovitch-Goldman, Daniel Roberts and Allison Price and it is directed exquisitely by Jill Harper with fantastic physical choreography by Patricia Allison. The result is that the way in which the play is performed captures vividly the state of mind of these four friends. As they drink and take drugs, the entire world of the play morphs further away from the plane of reality and becomes more ephemeral. Each one admits to horrible thoughts and each of them do selfish things, but pool (no water) honours the humanity in is, to be so deeply flawed, yet irrevocably connected together.   

TWISI FRINGE RATING:

5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Cue 6 Productions’ pool (no water) plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Avenue) as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival at the following times:

show times
July 11 at 04:00 PM  buy tickets

Klondyke: Standup Straight from the Yukon

jenny_headshot_gary_bremner_photographer-1Klondyke: Standup Straight From the Yukon, is a standup show by Yukon native Jenny Hamilton, that plays at the Tarragon Mainspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Hamilton is a captivating storyteller and the stories that she chooses to tell are either so specific to the Yukon, that they are fascinating in how unbelievable they seem to the urban Torontonian, or so joyfully familiar because they capture part of what binds so many Canadians together across this great, vast land, such as fucking with bigots and making fun of “Mericans” (our neighbours to the South of the Tea Party variety who visit the Yukon via Alaska and are confused by its Canadian currency, their inability to tote guns around, and its plethora of “Mexicans”).

From sonic poops, to roadkill, masturbation and bear repellent, Hamilton really knows how to make gross things, things many people don’t discuss in public and strong opinions about children, genuinely funny and endearing at the same time.

I will fully admit to my ignorance of the Yukon, and Hamilton’s depiction of it raises it beyond stereotype and makes it sound like an awesomely absurd place to visit, and a little bit magical in its strangeness. One glaring omission from Hamilton’s set is a clear ending with comic punch. Yet, in all I found Hamilton likeable and Klondyke: Straight From the Yukon an entertaining set of storytelling and comedy.

TWISI FRINGE RATING:

5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars-1

Klondyke: Standup Straight from the Yukon plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Avenue) as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival at the following times:

show times
July 11 at 09:45 PM  buy tickets
July 12 at 02:15 PM  buy tickets

A Man Walks Into a Bar

bluerachel_3A Man Walks Into a Bar is a beautiful, smart and biting commentary on gender politics from Rachel Blair, which plays at the Tarragon Mainspace through July 11th, 2015 as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.

The play begins with a woman (played expertly by Blair) attempting to tell a joke, yet her male friend keeps interrupting and offering dramaturgy to her, in a mindless and friendly manner, which she accepts and allows and, at times, apologizes for. The joke is dramatized as the interaction between a man, who walks into a bar, and a waitress with whom he has one friendly and slightly flirty exchange. The man returns to the bar and his expectations concerning this waitress have risen exponentially. He is an average, normal, everyday sort of guy, subtly swathed in white male privilege, and completely oblivious to the ways he contributes to a patriarchal world that serves his needs. Yet, as Blair explores, this white, male privilege, the construction of masculinity and patriarchy, is actually a most fragile concept that cannot handle being laughed at, challenged or analyzed. The crux of the joke, and Blair’s play, is the absurdity that the people who wield the most power are also the most delicate.

Blair is terrific at oscillating deftly between brimming with confidence, charm and playful attitude, and then reducing herself, sometimes only marginally, as she feels intimidated, nervous, judged or lambasted. She makes herself smaller to protect herself in situations she feels uncomfortable in, and the construction of her job, as a waitress, who is paid to be jovial and friendly to all her guests, sets her up for many opportunities for awkward conversations and potentially dangerous situations. Blue Bigwood-Mallin plays both men with what looks like infinite confidence, yet also incredible sensitivity, sensitivity that escalates quickly from whining, to blaming to violence. These men are quick to mansplain, play devil’s advocate and offer excuses, but fail to comprehend the joke.

The play conveys a complex idea creatively and clearly, without undermining its complexity. It is a darkly funny, and sharply insightful piece that I would heartily recommend that everyone try their best to go see.

TWISI FRINGE RATING: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_starsA Man Walks Into a Bar plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Avenue) as part of the Toronto Fringe at the following times:  

show times
July 11 at 05:15 PM  buy tickets

Let’s Start a Country

gerard_harris_al_lafranceLet’s Start A Country, which plays at the Tarragon Mainspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, is a communal, theatrical experience in which an audience works together to create their own country, separate from Canada, with guidance from Gerard Harris and Al Lafrance.

The concept is a fun one and Harris and Lafrance are affable enough that they are able to motivate a group of strangers to really come together and engage and play along. There are some great elements here, the idea of creating our own flag, and there are really interesting anecdotes about small groups of people who have achieved independence from a larger nation.

Yet, there is much unexplored potential for this show. As Canadians we are all familiar with the concept of Separatism and this play gives ample opportunity for Lafrance and Harris to offer a biting satire of Canadian politics— offering the audience reasons why they should want to leave Canada (Stephen Harper, Mike Duffy and Justin Bieber being three obvious examples) and then also exploring the very real challenges that emerge once a small group of people have attained their sovereignty. There is a little bit of that in this show, but the stakes don’t feel real enough.

It’s a fun Fringe game, but it doesn’t leave the audience with a strong, lasting impression.

TWISI FRINGE RATING:

5_Star_Rating_System_3_starsLet’s Start a Country plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Avenue) as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival at the following times:

show times
July 10 at 12:00 PM  buy tickets
July 11 at 06:15 PM  buy tickets
July 12 at 04:00 PM  buy tickets

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