The 2008 Toronto Fringe Festival debuted this week, with over 135 plays running in more than 25 venues across the city. The festival runs from July 2 to 13, and The GATE will have fresh capsule reviews from some of the most talked about productions. Reviews today include: The Movies (Abridged), The Swearing Jar, and Bluebeard.
The Movies (Abridged)
Rated: 7 out of 10
Until July 12 at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
The lowly video clerk at Bigbuster finally gets his shot at a management job. But can he pass the exam? That’s enough of a premise to launch the cast (writer Elan Wolf Farbiarz, Joshua Levind and Rob Gee) into an exuberant warp-speed exploration of moviedom that spans the genres from gangster films, epics, and horror to romantic comedies. The duelling thespians Daniel Day Lewis and Robert de Niro are a highlight, and the complete Die Hard franchise is cleverly sketched in a few deft line of dialogue. But instead of just an entertaining melange of movie mockery, the production goes deeper, delivering a mainstream-versus-indie-film screed set against its own pathos parody. While the production could be smoother, the first night musical miscues and overlong scene changes didn’t really mar the enjoyment of what was a safe bet for Fringers. Using the universal vocabulary of movies, the play provides guaranteed chuckles and even the occasional guffaw.
The Swearing Jar
Rated: 9 out of 10
Until July 12 at Tarragon Theatre
The Swearing Jar is a richly textured drama, with well paced staging and sharp and engaging dialogue. On the eve of parenthood, Simon and Carey decide they need to practise their role modelling by paying a fine every time they utter an expletive. As the story unfolds in a seamless series of flashbacks and vignettes, the jar becomes a symbol of the emotional capital invested in a marriage. It’s well-trodden territory for sure, (think Love Story meets Mad About You) but the four actors all give outstanding performances, enlivening playwright Kate Hewlett‘s bright banter. Indeed, Hewlett has written a gem, complete with plaintive songs, that clearly touched the audience.
Rated: 8 out of 10
At Tarragon Theatre
British playwright Pericles Snowdon has created an eerily Orwellian tale of a group of women raised in an abandoned church and imprisoned inside by their despotic maternal leader, Blue, and her somewhat menacing matron, Miss King. It’s a challenging and ambiguous production that keeps the audience guessing about the truth until the very end, while peeling the onion of the story layer by layer. Is Blue a saviour or a liar? Every child’s worst nightmare of a parent? Or is there a dangerous toxic and immoral world beyond those locked doors? The script allows actors to riff Dylan-Thomas-like on their fanciful imaginings. The tattered costumes enhance the post-apocalyptic ambience, and the acting is powerful, notably from Christine Horne as the luminous stranger, Mignon. Professional and polished.
For more on the Toronto Fringe Festival, and to view the schedule, visit www.fringetoronto.com.
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