XOXO: The Relationship Show


franny mccabe-bennet & meghan chalmers

There is a lot going on in XOXO: The Relationship Show, which plays through July 11th, 2015 as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.

It seems as though Franny McCabe-Bennett and Meghan Chalmers are trying to write a “comedy cabaret” akin to the very popular musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, with witty songs and sketch-like scenes focused entirely on highlighting the absurdity of being a young woman in the second decade of the 21st Century. Unfortunately, XOXO currently lacks the structure and cohesiveness to make this concept come together.

There are a few strong scenes, especially a song about dick snapchats set to Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again,” complete with energetic choreography and McCabe-Bennett is at her absolute best when she engages the audience genuinely and tells the story of her first kiss with Heather. Much of the rest is too forced and falls flat. As voices and craziness escalate it becomes unclear whether the premise here is to parody the concept of the “crazy 20 something girl” or to point out the humour and ridiculousness in experiences that are more universal for women and those who know them.

This show would absolutely benefit from having a director for guidance, and a dramaturg for clarity.



Two Juliets’ XOXO: The Relationship Show plays at Theatre Passe Muraille (Backspace), 16 Ryerson Avenue, at the following times:

show times
July 03 at 06:30 PM  buy tickets
July 04 at 10:15 PM  buy tickets
July 05 at 01:00 PM  buy tickets
July 07 at 01:30 PM  buy tickets
July 08 at 04:45 PM  buy tickets
July 09 at 06:15 PM  buy tickets
July 11 at 04:30 PM  buy tickets

A Nurse’s Worst Nightmare


zabrina chevannes

Zabrina Chevannes’ very funny A Nurse’s Worst Nightmare plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival through July 11, 2015.

The nightmare that Chevannes chronicles in her piece is not an inherently hilarious one. While in an unhealthy relationship with the father of her two young children and working at a nursing home, Chevannes takes us through an intensely escalating situation with her husband, which culminates with him becoming influenced by a religious cult and choking her because he was convinced that she was being unfaithful and performing witchcraft. Yet, in the deft hands of Chevannes, this story becomes an empowering one of both genuine grit and emotion and rapier-sharp wit, that buoys her up and proves that she is the hero of her story.

Chevannes highlights the utter absurdity of her experiences, while also introducing us to a cast of characters that make that absurdity even more delightful (and sometimes unbelievable) to watch. For example, her telling the story of her brother ending up in a Mexican prison becomes hilarious when contrasted with the reaction of her Jamaican father, who sees the silver lining in every situation. In the same way, as her father sees positivity shining out from overwhelming negativity, Chevannes sees the humour in every situation, and can deftly mine it out in ways that sees audiences laughing about babies born with extra fingers, racist old people, and autistic older sisters, all of which are not commonplace subjects for hilarity, but prove that it is all about how a joke is framed that controls the majority of its reception.

Chevannes is an endearing and charming storyteller. There is a little bit of room for her to tighten up the arcs of the stories and for director Paul Hutcheson to play even more with specific movement to help bring the stories to life. Overall, however, A Nurse’s Worst Nightmare had me ardently on Chevannes’ side throughout and cheering for her triumphantly at the end.

TWISI FRINGE RATING: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

A Nurses Worst Nightmare plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue) at the following times: 

July 03 at 03:00 PM  buy tickets
July 05 at 02:45 PM  buy tickets
July 06 at 09:15 PM  buy tickets
July 07 at 05:00 PM  buy tickets
July 09 at 02:45 PM  buy tickets
July 10 at 10:30 PM  buy tickets
July 11 at 06:15 PM  buy tickets

Life Records


rhiannon archer

Rhiannon Archer’s Life Records, which plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace through July 12th, 2015 as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, is a very funny and heartfelt reflection on the way that our memories are often strongly connected to specific songs and soundtracks. Archer uses a myriad of songs from Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets” to Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” as a launchpad for sharing well-crafted, humorous vignettes about the memories that they evoke in her, from a drunken fireworks debacle to a non-sexual one night stand adult sleepover and even a friendly letter to her neighbourhood Metro grocery store.

Archer is an incredibly captivating storyteller. She has mastered the arc of building the stories, layering them with self-deprecating humour, sharp, intelligent, wit, and a casual, amiable honesty, that draws her audience in heart to heart. Archer finds the humour in sadness and fear, but also isn’t afraid to show vulnerability and to acknowledge that sadness and fear at the same time.

Director Lara Johnson does a beautiful job of staging the piece in a way that really brings these vignettes to visual life, especially the image of Rhiannon’s mother crying in the windowsill of the kitchen, which is evoked several different times. The scenes come alive to create a very touching and very funny production.



Life Records plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue) at the following times:

show times
July 03 at 04:45 PM  buy tickets
July 04 at 05:00 PM  buy tickets
July 06 at 11:00 PM  buy tickets
July 07 at 08:30 PM  buy tickets
July 08 at 03:00 PM  buy tickets
July 10 at 07:00 PM  buy tickets
July 12 at 04:00 PM  buy tickets


brad fraser

Today I am attempting to gather my exhausted wits and to celebrate a wonderful playwright and a man that I deeply respect and admire, Mr. Brad Fraser, who has written two pages of a brand new play and the rest will be improvised live in 3D tonight at the Theatre Passe Muraille by those mavericks of mischief, those darlings of deviance the incubators of Improv…. THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF THE WORLD!!!

Brad Fraser. I was introduced to Brad’s work late in the game, although I had certainly heard his name bouncing around much earlier. The first Fraser play I saw was, at that time, his latest, True Love Lies at Factory Theatre, where I had a similar reaction, I think, to most people who see Fraser plays. I was obsessed with the dialogue. He is called a “master” of writing conversations and I don’t care how many plays you have seen, written, directed, acted in, dramaturged or avoided, you see a Fraser play and you immediately have some sort of revelation about how meticulously and accurately the vernacular and rhythms of speech in conversation can be captured for the stage. Fraser’s play made me realize how false and heightened and hugely articulate and poetic most dialogue in plays are written to be. I read somewhere where Fraser’s plays were likened to “overhearing a conversation between two people on the bus” and that seems to me to hit right at the heart of what his plays can do. They don’t seem written, but with a keen eye and knowledge of the theatre, one knows the amount of talent it takes to seem almost invisible.

I next play I saw of Fraser’s was one of his first, a recent non-Equity production of Wolf Boy (1981), which was an ambitious but uneven production, but still highlighted how fascinating and exciting the play is and I came away wishing that I had seen one of its initial performances. Wolf Boy still resonates and is still, sadly, relevant, but I am sure that it must have been a powerful and provocative piece in the cultural and political climate of the early 1980s. His plays are not only political but they belong to the moment they’re being written. Fraser assaults the present moment, he exposes its underbelly with a fierce quest to examine and question the things that people hold sacred, the conventions we cling to and the deep complexities and contradictions inherent in all our daily interactions.

Other Brad Fraser plays include Chainsaw Love (1985, Edmonton Fringe Festival), Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love (1989, Alberta Theatre Projects PlayRites Festival, has since been produced in Edmonton, Toronto, Chicago, New York, Sydney, London, Sao Paulo and Cincinnati, among other cities), The Ugly Man (1993, Workshop West Theatre, Edmonton), Poor Super Man (1994, Cincinnati Ensemble Theatre, since produced in Edmonton, Buffalo, Edinburgh, London, Washington D.C, Toronto, Montreal, Sydney and Sao Paulo, Martin Yesterday (1998), Outrageous (2000, Canadian Stage, Toronto), Snake in Fridge (2001, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester) and San Francisco, Cold Meat Party (2003, Royal Exchange Theatre) also Factory Theatre (Toronto), and his most recent play 5 @ 50 which debuted at the Royal Exchange in 2011. His plays are available in print at Theatre Books in Toronto and I recommend checking them out. Also a very early play of his Mutants is included in Robin Whittaker’s anthology of plays that Premiered at the Walterdale Playhouse Hot Thespian Action. 

Fraser has been internationally honoured and acclaimed for his work. He has twice received the Chalmers Award (Unidentified… and Poor Super Man) and was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poor Super Man, 1996). He is a five-time winner of the Alberta Culture Playwriting Competition and five-time winner of the Alberta Writers’ Guild Drama Award. He also received the London Evening Standard Award for best new play and the Los Angeles Critics’ Award. I wish that his plays were given professional revivals more in Toronto because there are a great many that I have not seen and want to very ardently. I’m especially eager to see Snake in Fridge, which is not as well known as much of his other work, which is likely why I want so ardently to see it. Based loosely on the salacious exploits of Michael Alig, here is an excerpt from the description on Fraser’s website, “Led by the steroid abusing, foul mouthed, unbelievably angry club kid, Corbett, seven people, all working in the sex industry, share a house in Toronto.” Sounds like it belongs at Buddies, right? Can we make that happen? Brendan Healy? Yes?

The media loves Brad Fraser. Or, rather, they love to sensationalize the “Brad Fraser: Bad Boy of the Canadian Theatre” image that they constructed decades ago. What bothers me about this is that too often they write off what he says as being, “just Brad Fraser stirring up scandal” or “Brad Fraser, once again, being subversive” that “rebellious, bad, bad, boy”, instead of actually taking a moment to consider the legitimacy of what he is saying. Could it be that the mainstream Canadian media are typically cowardly and self interested… well we all saw what happened with The Globe and Mail during the recent election. So, what do you think? 

To me, Brad Fraser is a Canadian theatre hero, and one that is not afraid to give voice to the issues that are pertinent in our community. He is smart, he is passionate, he is articulate and he calls out bullshit in a way that is not only refreshing, but necessary for the Canadian theatre to be better, stronger and to bring forth work and artists that are world-class, unique, brave and that fuel and evoke volatile reaction from their audiences which will ultimately keep the theatre alive. Brad Fraser demands better from all of us and he refuses to give in to complacency; he refuses to settle for mediocre. Yet, it all comes from his faith in what this country and its artists are capable of. Brad Fraser inspires me to dig deeper, to never stifle my curiosity and to never, ever be afraid, to consent to being bullied or being made to feel intimidated by anyone with power, money or clout. He helps keep me true to my heart and he helps keep my heart searching for the truth.

According to the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia Fraser “was once a contributor to The National Post, considered a right-wing publication. About this he told Edmonton’s Vue Magazine, in June, 2000, “…I’m really tired of preaching to the converted. I could write for a great many publications where they’d agree with everything I say. But I really want to write for the people who don’t agree with everything I say.”” I think that speaks wonders of him as a man and a human being.

I saw The National Theatre of the World perform a Brad Fraser Impromptu Splendor with special guest Chris Craddock over a year and a half ago. Brad was the first playwright that I know of who attended a Splendor in his own style and his reaction was very enthusiastic and he has been an ardent supporter of The National Theatre of the World and their work ever since. Tonight is sure to be a hot and sexy, wild and foul-mouthed adventure, likely with some bare bottoms and booze. Tickets have sold out, but I would still recommend moseying down to Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue) and lining up early to join the Waiting List. 

The Script Tease Project plays at Theatre Passe Muraille MAY 24-29. 16 Ryerson Avenue. Tickets are $20.00 ($15.00 for students) Get there early, they will more than likely sell out or book ahead at www.artsboxoffice.ca. Here is the complete schedule.

MAY 24-29

Friday, May 27th 8:pm Brad Fraser- SOLD OUT
Saturday, May 28th 2pm Morris Panych
Saturday, May 28th 8pm Mark McKinney- SOLD OUT
Sunday, May 29th 2pm Norm Foster
Sunday, May 29th 8pm John Patrick Shanley- SOLD OUT
Got Splendor? Come see a play that will make you laugh with your heart.

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