My Big Fat German Puppet Show

my_big_fat_german_puppet_show-web-250x375Frank Meschkuleit’s My Big Fat German Puppet Show, which plays through July 12th, 2015 as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival is a hilarious and strange performance which includes puppetry and songs and stand up, but it’s the ways in which Meschkuleit uses his puppets that makes him so unique and magical to watch.

Our host for the evening is a large, portly German fellow by the name of Franz Poopenspiel, and the puppet shows emerge as little vignettes out of his comedic interactions with the audience. The first is a parody of Bob Marley’s “Jammin’” (“I’m German”), then there is a very funny sketch about a zombie magician, who also begins a sing a long, a pun-filled sketch imagining Stephen Hawking’s as a physics standup comedian, and a joyful muppet number. Meschukuleit is continually unexpected, has a lovely singing voice, has beautifully command of his puppets and entirely entertaining to watch. I recommend checking this show out, you’ve likely never seen anything like it.

TWISI FRINGE RATING:  5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

My Big Fat German Puppet Show plays at the St. Vladimir Institute (620 Spadina Avenue) as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival at the following times:

show times
July 12 at 01:00 PM  buy tickets

Folk Lordz

folk_lordz-web-250x222

Rapid Fire Theatre’s Todd Houseman and Ben Gorodetsky build a funny and captivating evening of long-form improvised storytelling in folk lordz, which plays through July 12th, 2015 a part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.

As with most Improv shows, folk  lordz begins with Houseman and Gorodetsky asking for some suggestions from the audience, upon which they will create the evening’s stories. For this show two concepts have already been established, one story will be told in the style of a Cree Origin Story (taking liberties with this genre for, as Houseman explains, these Origin Stories are usually memorized meticulously and handed down identical from generation to generation) and a Chekhovian drama that explores the general darkness of the human condition, and the third is left entirely up to the audience. From there the audience suggests the more specific details for each of the three stories,  which left us with an Origin Story of How Birds Fly, a Chekhov play about the toxicity of sibling relationships and an Anime story about the PanAm Games.

The three stories are woven together, with incredible pacing and a simultaneous raising of the stakes as the scenes in each of the three stories unfold. The plot points in each are tightly integrated, sometimes so much so that one marvels at Houseman and Gorodetsky’s memory for details. They both fluidly slip into all the parts, which is really neat, and of course, since it’s improv, the audience delights just as much when something goes a little awry (like having difficult maintaining a funny voice) as they do when everything is flawless. Houseman and Gorodetsky are also able to snap out of the scenes to break the fourth wall and further comment on these moments, which usually makes them even funnier.

These two performers have excellent energy, a playful rapport with one another and great, creative, physicality. Truly, anything is possible in this room, and the magic is palpable. 

TWISI FRINGE RATING:

5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

Folk Lordz plays at the Factory Theatre Studio (125 Bathurst Street) as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival at the following times:

show times
July 12 at 01:45 PM  buy tickets

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

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