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REVIEWS: Toronto Fringe 2023

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A white Toronto skyline set against a bright pink background. Behind the silhouette of the buildings is a slice of lemon positioned like the sun, radiating triangles of blue, green, orange, fucshia, and purple.

The 2023 Toronto Fringe Festival has wrapped up after a wonderful and wild 12 days of theatre. It was a huge year, with over 100 shows across 16 venues. For the second year in a row, Intermission published mini reviews on our Twitter page, but now it’s time to spread the love!

Below you’ll find all the reviews we wrote for the festival, organized by reviewer. You can also check out reviews from this year’s New Young Reviewers here and here.


Aisha Lesley Bentham

THE FAMILY CROW: A MURDER MYSTERY

Did you know three or more crows is called a murder?! The Family Crow: A Murder Mystery, is created by Adam Francis Proulx, who returns to the Toronto Fringe with a pun-filled, quick witted, one-man puppet show directed by Byron Laviolette.

Horatio P. Corvus, “the sorter outer of murders,” tells the story, perching high above the audience as he recalls a murder that took place in the Crow mansion. Be warned: Horatio may call on an audience member to play the most important role in the whole show!

Proulx is no novice in the puppetry world, a sought-after puppet builder with international accreditation. His fast-tempo approach and rapid comebacks keep the audience’s attention — but be prepared, the puns never stop coming!


EMO MAJOK: AFRICAN AUSSIE

Another sold out show here at Toronto Fringe, and I am not surprised! Emo Majok: African Aussie is a stand-up show by Sudanese comedian Emo Majok and the amusing journey that has brought him to gracing stages around the world.

Majok does not hesitate when sharing his experience of becoming a father, and how his children were a big part in encouraging him to leave the factory job he hated in order to become an awarding-winning comedian.

Majok keeps it real when talking about being a minority in Australia. But it’s his ability to maintain a connection with the audience that kept me curious. He is invested in us, and wants to make sure we’re enjoying the ride. Majok is not only thoughtful, but never misses a beat!


AMOR DE COSMOS

Taking the saying “you can be anything you want” to a whole new level, Amor de Cosmos, born William Alexander Smith, served as the second premier of British Columbia. This is by far the most interesting Canadian story you will ever learn!

Amor de Cosmos is a one-person musical by Joe Clark Productions and written by Richard Kelly Kemick. The show takes you through the life of Amor De Cosmos as he transitions from a photographer to journalist before landing in politics.

Kemick speaks only in iambic pentameter; the beautiful text moves quickly from scene to scene. His characters switch back and forth, and costumes change as Amor De Cosmos steps into news roles. Accompaniment from pianist Lindsay Walker helps the audience move between events.

But holding it all together are songs like “You Must Be Unforgettable,” where Kemick’s voice really shines. Amor de Cosmos is a must-see new Canadian musical!


THE FOURTH R: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, REVOLUTIONIZE

Using dance as the mirror to reflect the ways humans contribute to climate change, The Fourth R: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Revolutionize, choreographed by Emma Bartolomucci, is a fast-paced show that uses dance to explore the realities of our changing world.

Each scene keeps you moving in your seat. Themes such as excessive waste, big business supporting science research, small nations being the most affected by climate change, and political protest are all reminders of how climate change affects us all.

Although the show addresses a grim reality, it does so with so much care and attention. And at the end of each show there is a guest speaker from the community talking about how we can be involved. You can continue to support this work at http://dancefachin.com.


FRANKENSTEIN(ESQUE)

5 artists bring to life a 6-foot puppet while blurring the lines of reality and fantasy. Frankenstein(esque), created by Silent Protagonist Theatre, tackles a complex, nuanced topic we don’t often see in theatre: being both a parent and an artist.

Loosely based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the theme of confronting oneself is an undercurrent of this play. The show brings together five actors as they discover how to create the very show we are watching.

Elements such as the original song from the 90’s Fabricland commercial, a risqué sex scene, and a graceful movement sequence with the limbs of Frankenstein and a single red balloon represent places of reflection.

Each character faces the same question: is Frankenstein the creator, or the monster? This show is a blend of high energy, political expression, daddy, and dark comedy, with something for everyone. Embrace the chaos: it’s all part of the journey!


Aisling Murphy

ABSOLUTE MAGIC WITH KEITH BROWN

Abracadabra! Absolute Magic with Keith Brown falls somewhere in between a classic Fringe solo show and more theatrical fare. Well-paced stories, studded with impressive sleight-of-hand tricks, are equally delightful for both seasoned Fringers and their kids.

Brown’s been around the block — an accomplished touring artist, he’ll complete his 45th Fringe this summer — and some of his stories are almost too out-there to be true.

Thank goodness there’s photo evidence of him performing for a certain head of state on Canada Day; like many of Brown’s tricks, the tale is just this side of improbable.

There seems to be a sweet spot in terms of who will get the most out of Brown’s act — it’s perfect for a 10-year-old, and maybe a little too complex for a 6-year-old — and the most impressive trick by far is at the end of the show. A rock-solid Fringe outing.


JUNE

Pulling together thematic elements of true crime and structural signs of a well-made play, June follows its titular character through the final days of her life before her execution. She’s on trial for the murder of an ex, but of course there’s more to the story.

Gillian R. Edwards’ story is well developed — there are echoes of the high-stakes murder trial of “Where the Crawdads Sing” — but there’s room to further develop the characters, who oddly speak in contemporary jargon like “fave” and “on the down-low” despite a 1958 setting.

Strong performances by Daniel Christian Jones and Jesse McQueen anchor June in the “just fine” category of Fringe shows, with plenty of promise for its next outing. Under a less regimented directorial hand and with a few rewrites, June has the capacity to further captivate.


Hélène Crowley

FEATHERHEAD

If you’ve ever felt insulted by pigeons, Featherhead is for you. Rooney talks to birds, but tries to befriend humans too. Playwright Sydnie Philips’ comedy demonstrates the challenges of being a good person, contrasted with the dry, goofy humour of pigeon life.

All 4 actors playing pigeons must have watched the city’s birds for hours, and spend the entire show bent over, pecking at the stage, and jerking their heads with impressive commitment. These feathered leads take the cake (literally), showing the subtle nuances of being a pigeon.

Rooney’s over-eagerness to make friends reveals the heart of the play: relationships are complicated and life can be lonely. We’re all trying to understand each other — maybe pigeons are too. No matter what we look like, or how broken our wings are, friendship is crucial.


DO YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME?

When life gets tough, the best way to manage is to sing a song about it. And that’s just what the cast of Do You Think You’re Better Than Me? does. Performing a slew of skits parodying how we engage with pop culture, this comedy revue is lighthearted and quick.

Pointing to all things toxic, we see terrible dating options, morally twisted yoga instructors, and corrupt corporate industries. The cast of five doesn’t hold back with their loud voices, physical comedy, and goofy accessories. Not to mention the cute coordinating denim outfits.

Although the jokes are not always effective, and a few voices slip off-key in places, the group is assertive in its energy. Their stage presence is admirable, and the use of space (with cheeky sound effects and projections) is great. This spirited show will make you giggle.


DANIELLE TEA’S INFERNAL LATTE

Who knew getting through hell would involve a mix of Britney Spears and Joan of Arc? Fans of Dante will either cringe or laugh watching Danielle Tea’s Infernal Latte, as the satirical comedy mocks topical issues. It’s hilarious, and as camp as it gets.

As Danielle Tea, a barista and aspiring singer, helps Britney through the nine circles of hell, they encounter violence, magic, and historical figures-turned-unlikely comrades. Creator Victoria Sullivan doesn’t hold back with punchy jokes and Toronto-centric references.

This fast-paced epic brings in friendship, selflessness, and 21st-century wit, despite its slightly jolty ending. The chaos at first hides its intent, but ultimately, the good-versus-evil narrative is uncovered — and we find that we’re all a bit evil, even Britney (bitch).


BACK TO THE BAR

It’s easy to fall in love, but harder to stay in it. In Stephen MacDonald’s Back to the Bar, friends reminisce about what they could have been, and what they might be now. Some, like Don, fret constantly while others reflect on their dreams.

The boredom of small-town life leads to an unlikely yet believable romance. The lighthearted mood reveals the actors’ strength, all working seamlessly together to shift between present-day selves and characters, and decades-old stories.

From conversations about how to improve world issues, to romanticizing meet-cutes, to criticizing past decisions, intelligent jokes invite the audience into the characters’ lives. Being in a bar shows how community is central to our lives — and our dreams.


SWEATY, BLOATED, AND STRESSED

Worst case scenario — getting stood up or murdered? Jill Goranson’s musical improv comedy Sweaty, Bloated, and Stressed is weird, zany, and hysterical. Alongside musician Bjorn Kriel, topics range from dating to tough conversations to unexpected bodily fluids.

Goranson tells personal stories of struggling to be ‘normal’ as a young adult in a tough world, while improvising songs based on prompts from the audience. Though perhaps not a typical Fringe performance, there are no filters or boundaries in what Goranson is willing to share.

Along with consistent jokes, this show offers the thrill of optional audience participation. Be prepared to share personal stories, followed by elaborate, dramatic songs. No show will be like another, and you’ll get a workout from laughing so hard to Goranson’s charm.


ILANA LUCAS

RETROGRADE: THE CONCERT EXPERIENCE

Retrograde: The Concert Experience takes full advantage of its site-specific stage in Kensington’s Supermarket club to tell the story of a band — some old members, some new — trying to re-form in the period between COVID lockdowns.

The story is free-wheeling and the dialogue may be a bit crass for some (incurable chlamydia is a recurring plot point), but playwright Jackson Doner precisely captures the mid-COVID feeling of awkwardly learning how to “human” again while desperately seeking connection.

Highlights include James Llewellyn Edwards’ lawyer-turned-conspiracy-theorist, the Millennial-vs.-Gen Z way of relating to art, and some fun punky jam-band numbers. As a love letter to the precarious life of a musician, it’ll make you want to put some money in the tip jar.


THE BAD MITZVAH

Salt Theatre’s The Bad Mitzvah, about a girl’s attempt to fix her Bat Mitzvah speech in the hour before she reads from the Torah, is a zany ride with a large cast of wacky characters that delves into some serious philosophical material about sacrifice and purity.

Abigail’s struggle to find meaning in her portion is hilariously familiar; playwrights Stephanie Zeit, Brad Gira, and Ahlam Hassan do a great job capturing the cadence of a self-important 13-going-on-30, and Zeit is believably awkward as the girl of the hour in her pink dress.

Interactions with the stern, sage rabbi, an equally awkward Bar Mitzvah boy, and a weepy quinceañera celebrant, are delightful. Others, like those with her mother, strain credulity, or are jarringly dark. A more consistent tone would elevate this Mitzvah from good to great.


CAEZUS

Comparisons of Nam Nguyen and Chernilo’s hip-hop concept musical Caezus to HAMILTON — only with Julius Caesar and Brutus instead of Hamilton and Burr — are inevitable and accurate; while the format and cadence feel familiar, the onstage energy is electric and new.

Polished, precise performances from everyone include a creepy, distorted refrain of “beware the Ides of March,” Brutus’ tortured guilt, and Marc Antony’s blissed-out bacchanal, leading to a steamy three-way with Caesar and Cleopatra (who radiates haughty disdain while twerking).

Haunting tunes, flashy lighting, and thunderous sound design make this one of few Toronto Fringe shows I wish were longer. Too bad a power outage took out the closed captioning, since the clever, rapid-fire lyrics, halfway between Shakespeare and Shakur, are sometimes a blur.


NO ONE SPECIAL

No One Special, standup comedian Julie Kim’s first storytelling show about her upbringing in a convenience store, is very much a work in progress, with more material than fits in her slot — the night I attended, it seemed we didn’t get to large portions of it.

Kim’s stories are promising, with jabs at another, more famous “Kim’s Convenience.” Kim offers flashes of self-awareness, pointed observational humour, and vivid descriptions of her childhood — plus her feuding parents’ attempts to raise their children above the poverty line.

However, as it stands now, No One Special feels more like a confessional than cohesive storytelling, delving into difficult topics while seeking a clear purpose and arc; particularly as it builds to a deliberate lack of resolution, the story’s trajectory needs some shaping.


MUSE: AN EXPERIMENT IN STORYTELLING AND LIFE DRAWING

Cameryn Moore’s muse: an experiment in storytelling and life drawing is likely the most unique experience you’ll have during TorontoFringe, and the only one where you’re handed paper and charcoal at the door (while supplies last). The show is a life drawing session, with Moore as the nude model.

Suitable for artists and non-artists alike (no judgment), the hour is broken up into poses ranging from 1-8 minutes, along with some extra challenges. Meanwhile, Moore shares stories about her time as a life model in Berlin, largely inspired by audience questions and her mood.

It’s pleasantly meditative to join in the act of creation, and Moore’s honest happiness about the adulation she’s received in this setting, a stark contrast to how larger bodies are treated societally, spreads joy. After a day of more passive watching, this was a treat.


Janine Marley

KILLING TIME: A GAME SHOW MUSICAL

The second best game show on TV becomes the deadliest in Killing Time: A Game Show Musical. When the host is murdered mid-taping, everyone is a suspect in this hilarious whodunnit. Catchy tunes, great choreo, and a twisty plot makes Killing Time a must-see!

The cast gives passionate, upbeat performances throughout; their physical comedy gets the audience roaring with laughter. A live band playing the score really elevates the experience. The witty dialogue is carried over into the lyrics, giving a united feel to the production.

Killing Time: A Game Show Musical is ready for a mainstage production. Smart, funny, and gripping, it’s certainly well deserving of its sold out run at Toronto Fringe! Hopefully you have a ticket to their final performance on July 16th — everyone should be dying to get in!


AN ODE TO HOME

What does home mean? Is it a physical place, or more of a feeling? Natalia and Marijke search through their memories and shared experiences for the answer using shadow puppets and beautiful artwork in their play An Ode to Home.

This impressive two-hander delves into Natalia’s story as an immigrant from Colombia as well as Marijke’s story of growing up feeling trapped in her own home. The narratives intertwine as more of their pasts are revealed. Poetic text, music, and art bring their stories to life.

Visually stunning and impeccably performed, An Ode to Home is a beautiful look at the importance of belonging and friendship. These young artists are certainly ones to keep on your radar! This show left me thinking about where, and who, makes me feel like home.


BUNNY!

Internet sensation Bunny has graced us with her presence in her one-woman show at @Toronto_Fringe this year! A satirical comedy about the rise and fall of a content creator, Bunny! is everything we love, hate, and love to hate about social media and the internet.

Created by and starring Krista Newey, Bunny! feels like scrolling through someone’s instagram feed in real life; each segment showcases one of Bunny’s “unique” talents, and she’s happy to tell you how marvellous she is at each and every one of them.

Delusional yet delightful, Newey’s performance is superb. Her physicality is impressive and her dedication to her character, even when she forgets lyrics, is commendable. Bunny! is witty, smart, and timely — full of songs, poetry, and laughs. Add Bunny! to your Fringe list.


THE WOMAN WHO ATE FALAFEL

From the land of the pyramids to the CN Tower, Fatma Naguib’s life turned upside down when she moved to Canada with a dream of becoming a performer. She talks about her struggles and triumphs in her show The Woman Who Ate Falafel, on right now at Toronto Fringe.

Naguib holds nothing back in this realistic look at her immigration process, and the racism she faced once she arrived in Canada, especially at school. While she’s more free to express and discover herself, it certainly wasn’t the kind of welcome she expected it to be.

Astute, amusing, and enlightening, The Woman Who Ate Falafel is a frank look at what it’s like to be an immigrant today while also celebrating Naguib’s tenacity. Being of Syrian descent myself, I have to agree with Nagiub: no one is louder or gives better hugs than us Arabic girls!


FATAL CHARADE

Bringing the traditions of ancient Rome to the Alumnae Theatre stage is Fatal Charade. Don’t let the title fool you: this show is full of laughs! A witty script, fabulous actors, and riveting plot make this showa must-see at Toronto Fringe.

Fatal Charade tells the story of a man whose death sentence is going to be carried out by way of acting in a new play by Virgil. Throughout the play we watch as the cast becomes unhappy with the idea of having to kill their castmate. One of them will fall on their sword, but who?

As much as this story is about the art of theatre-making, it’s also about finding community and our capacity to change our minds. I was captivated with this production; the whole ensemble has really come together to create a unique, fun experience for their audiences.


Jessica Watson

‘JAMES & JAMESY’: EASY AS PIE

Vancouver-based British clowns James & Jamesy are back in Toronto, serving up a fresh slice of comedy in their latest show, Easy as Pie. The duo has taken an age-old concept and turned it on its face as they try to solve a mystery: why can’t James stop dodging the pie?

We meet James & Jamesy at the end of a show as they realize they forgot the cherry on top of their act: the pie in the face. In a delightful display of physical comedy, the two clowns go on an adventure into James’ mind to solve the mystery and complete their show.

Aaron Malkin (James) and Alastair Knowles (Jamesy) are an absolute treat to watch. The two are deliciously at ease, masterfully navigating blacklights, crackling mics, delayed cues, and crowd work with humour. It’s a light hour of fun that’s appropriate for the whole family.


MORNING AFTER

CW: sexual assault.

“Am I an embarrassment for letting six minutes of my life consume me?” The question still rings through my head the day after seeing Katarina Fiallos’ and a front company’s Morning After, a striking, hyper-theatrical production.

The dramatic movement piece follows eight women navigating their lives after sexual assault. Choreographed by Annika McCabe to a score by Olivia Neary-Hatton and Hanna Mulak, the performers oscillate between past and present, reliving the past as they try to move forward.

Morning After’s greatest success is in its delivery: bursts of appropriate humour keep the story from becoming too difficult to watch and remind us that healing can take many shapes and forms. Fierce and moving, this show is well worth a watch at Toronto Fringe.


ELEMENTS WITHIN US

Fringe regulars may recognize the L’Arche Toronto Sol Express performers from Birds Make Me Think about Freedom, a 2018 Patron’s Pick. Their new show, Elements Within Us, takes an abstract approach to performance in a touching production with a beautiful score.

The 50-minute piece is a multidisciplinary collaboration from a collective with and without disabilities. Using instrumentals, interpretive dance, projected art, and spoken word, the ensemble explores the four elements — fire, water, earth, and air — and our connections to them.

Each performer has their moment to shine in a short solo or duo performance, highlighting the collaborative nature of the piece. The music selections perfectly complement each scene: I laughed, cried, and smiled throughout the whole show. Not to be missed.


CONSTELLATION PRIZE

Every year, at least one standout musical emerges from Toronto Fringe, and I think I’ve found 2023’s hit. Constellation Prize is a charming, laugh-out-loud funny hour of catchy tunes, punchy puns, and stellar performances from an iron-clad ensemble.

The 55-minute show finds characters based on signs of the zodiac at a seemingly informal zodiac permit review after one of Sagittarius’ epic ragers. The tables turn when a lesser constellation, Ophiuchus, shows up to plead his case for why he deserves his moment in the sun.

Created/directed by Alessandra Ferreri and co-written by Steven Suepaul, Constellation Prize stars Merritt Crews, Dave Miller, Anna Smith, Lou Currie, and Megan Miles as seven of the zodiac signs, while Suepaul plays Ophiuchus, the party-crashing snake bearer.

The production sparkles from start to finish, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour and impeccable comedic timing. The actors lean into their sign’s cringiest traits without ever falling into caricature: it’s relatable, hysterical, and an absolute delight.


DANA + TIM = COMEDY

Dana + Tim = Comedy is… mildly chaotic. I don’t know how else to put it: the sometimes scripted, sometimes seemingly improvised comedy mashes stand-up, sketch comedy, and storytelling together with a dollop of something akin to dancing on top. And boy is it fun.

Real-life married couple Dana Smith and Tim Gray take their love story to the stage in an hour-long comedy special that ranges from sweet and funny to unhinged. From Parisian proposals to toilet-busting bowel movements, they run the gamut of stories you shouldn’t tell at a party.

Directed by Stacey McGunnigle of Second City and This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the show is a casual experience that feels like hanging out with some really weird but fascinating strangers at an associate’s birthday. It’s a fun way to spend an hour, and you’re guaranteed to laugh.


GOOD OLD DAYS

The always dependable One Four One Collective has done it again with Good Old Days. The 60-minute play is a complex love letter to times gone by and even more complex friendships, featuring solid performances and stunning but simple visual elements.

Cass Van Wyck and Brianna Wright are Wendy and Alison, former roommates whisked into a surreal dreamscape as they rehash old grievances, relive old experiences, and reconnect in real life. The plot can be hard to follow, but the grounded acting makes their bond feel familiar.

Denyse Karn’s set of benches, boxes, and a perfectly spherical “moon” are highlighted by the lighting and projection design — the final image of a cityscape buffeted by gently falling snow is one I won’t soon forget.


Kemi King

LEVELS THE PLAY

Levels the Play is like if High School Musical was set in Toronto in 2023. The play follows a group of drama kids as they take on their final year, exploring topics such as queerness, race, and healing.

As a play with music, the songs are intertwined nicely within the piece: used as audition pieces, and as a part of performances they held for the school. The “levels” in the show refer to the complexities of everyone’s situations, and intersectionality of identity.

There are also many layers of talent within the group — as not only actors, but as musicians and dancers. The work does a great job of tackling the everyday trials faced by today’s youth.


HERMAPHRODITUS

This show is capital Q queer, both as a politic and an aesthetic. Hermaphroditus uses the gods of Olympus as an allegory for the ongoing anti-queer legislature that specifically targets trans folk.

Through burlesque, drag, and very fun text, audiences follow Hermaphroditus (Rosalind Goodwin), a gender-non-confroming Greek Goddex, as they fight for a seat on Olympus. They aim to protect trans people and convince the governors that trans people deserve to live as they are.

The play sets out to determine the best way of making change happen. While each individual might have their preferred method of making a difference, it is only through collective, community-based action that change can occur.


JESSIE AND ME

Jessie and Me is a hilarious, heartfelt story about an almost-40-year-old in 2020. Most folks aren’t interested in reliving the lockdowns, but this story is not about the pandemic: it’s about Agatha, who’s about to get a reality check.

Agatha speaks directly to the audience, as if we’re her diary. The audience becomes the keeper of all her thoughts: the good, bad and ugly. With work no longer in the way and CERB coming through, Agatha does what most of us did in 2020: have an existential crisis.

Jessie becomes Agatha’s emotional support doll, encouraging her to go out on a date, and acting as a loud reminder that Agatha isn’t where she had hoped to be as a child. The two go through a brilliant arc of growth and discovery, in a moment where all they have is time.


SARAH AND RACQUEL RULE THE WORLD

To be a silly little girl is to hold the world in your hands. Sarah and Racquel Rule the World is a brilliant sketch comedy for the gurls. Part scripted text, part improv, the duo take the audience on a wild ride through their imaginations.

Each sketch is filled with silly characters and a respectable number of sex jokes. The girls who get it, get it, and the ones who don’t, don’t. With each scenario more absurd than the last, the two are able to keep it real with relatable. Highly recommended.


ARE YOU CATCHING WHAT I’M THROWING?

Am I catching what they’re throwing? If that’s impostor syndrome, then yes. Are You Catching What I’m Throwing?, created by William Alex Larson, is, at its simplest, a juggling performance.

The lonely juggler bounces between a love-hate relationship with juggling. With no friends and no one to share their work with, the juggler finds themselves wanting to give up on their passion.

Larson’s performance is endearing and impressive: it’s always fascinating to see someone do something you can’t. The character, perhaps Larson themselves, juggles the balls life throws at them. And life throws hard.


Robyn Grant-Moran

SADEC 1965: A LOVE STORY

In Sadec 1965: A Love Story, motorcycle travel has the power to transform and heal souls.

After the death of her absentee father, Flora Le embarks on an epic 3500KM ride through his home country of Vietnam in effort to better understand him and learns about healing and letting go.

In her solo show, Le weaves between the lead up to her father’s death and stories from her time on the road with incredible vulnerability. Le tackles intergenerational trauma, cycles of abuse, and forgiveness when none feels possible with bravery and grace. A must-see!


MS. TITAVERSE

Award winning Fringe fave the Tita Collective is back and it’s a battle for the crown. Who will win Ms. Titaverse? It’s a sketch comedy celebration of all things Filipino, including the beauty pageant. A new Tita is introduced— but will she be accepted?

The night I attended, everyone (Titas included) was in stitches from start to finish. The jokes are polished, the parodies on point. It’s that rare kind of Fringe show, one that feels complete and ready for any stage in the city.

The collective is made of accomplished multidisciplinary artists with distinct comic voices. The Titas want everyone to know that they are not a monolith — Filipinos are diverse AF, even if they can agree on bubble tea.


THE BRIDGE

In The Bridge, Kara is running from her captors. A Cree woman, a victim of the 60s scoop, finds herself desperate to fill the void of being taken from her culture through the usual suspects, drugs and alcohol, only to find herself tangled up with traffickers.

Telling the story from the perspective of someone experiencing human trafficking is important — so many exploited women don’t get to speak for themselves on the stage or in real life.

Pesch Nepoose (writer and actor) rushes through her lines, more rigid onstage than when some may have last seen her in Tarragon’s My Sister’s Rage.

I was left wondering if the content might be causing too much stress for Nepoose, and if the story of Kara could be told as effectively, but in a kinder way for her.

Perhaps I’m projecting my own anxieties around artist safety, and the rushing came from the jitters of performing one’s own work.

Nepoose offers a lot of insights, laughs, and humanity to a difficult story. Kara is a sweet girl who is traumatized and lost. Telling these stories is imperative, but it’s a tough line to walk between honesty and safety for the performer.


THE EXORCIST: AN OPERETTA

Imagine if famed operettists Gilbert and Sullivan wrote The Exorcist. Reagan would be sweet 16, have a boyfriend and be caught in a love triangle with a demon. It would be filled with romance, charming rhymes, peppy melodies, and devilishly funny jokes.

Thankfully Eli Pasic has done just that and created the best operetta no one asked for. The Exorcist: An Operetta is written and performed entirely by Pasic, his baritone and affect sounding straight from a 1900s phonograph is perfect for the genre.

He cheerily describes the plot, giving a lesson in the form of operetta as he deftly navigates the multiple characters. He’s an unsuspecting-looking fellow with a wicked sense of humour who channels Gilbert, Sullivan, and Pazuzu with diabolical accuracy.


PYRAMID

Capitalism preys on the quirky and insecure — nowhere is this more apparent than in multi-level marketing, the more reputable version of the pyramid scheme. We all just want to fit in, our self-worth defined by the money we make and the people who buy in.

This is the premise of new musical Pyramid by Steve John Dale and Katie Miller. As they wait for guests to arrive at their MLM party, two disparate women confront the fears that drove them to MLM life.

The show begins with a critique of MLM but ends up a lesson in self-esteem – which is important, but we can’t just love ourselves out of toxic capitalism.

Miller and Lauren Mayer have great singing voices, but the score is at times lacklustre. Pyramid is a fun idea that could be taken to another level in its next iteration.


Stephen Low

DANCER

It worked for Cats the musical. Why not for horses? Dancer, a fictionalization of Canada’s actual Kentucky Derby winner’s rise to glory, is also most captivating when people are choreographically zoomorphized. Some songs entertain while adding depth to the drama.

The dancers wow as they trot, gallop, and leap; actors impress, singing catchy songs, and Stacey Tookey (director/choreographer) arranges the cast to create stunning imagery. But the book that structures this horserace dance drama doesn’t yet match the ensemble’s talent.

The source material, the talent, and the staging all suggest that Dancer has potential. And like the hero of its story, I hope the show continues to be championed. Who knows? Dancer, like its hero, might just make it big, too.


INSIDE

Gentle, but dangerous. Contained, but bursting. Funny, but disturbed. Jonathan Wilson as Tom, the maybe-stalker of pornstar Ryan Russell, is intriguing to watch in Sky Gilbert’s new realist drama Inside.

Inside includes the art film, by Keith Cole, that prompts Tom to find the pornstar after it sparks a sexual identity crisis in him. Gilbert’s script, which clocks in at 40 minutes, doesn’t really go anywhere, leaving the central story frustratingly unresolved.

Despite the fact that Tom is desperate for Russell to help him get to the truth of his sexual identity, the play ends without a significant event or reckoning. Tom hounds Russell until the end, when he lets him leave without resistance.

There’s potential for Inside — all it needs now is an ending.


CHOIR

Most of them are losers at school, but at least some of them are “choir cool.” CHOIR, a charming, clumsy, full-of-heart musical about the year-in-the-life of a Toronto children’s choir, tells stories of adolescent friendship, puberty, romance, self-discovery, and ultimately hope. 

The cast of kids, like their characters, are inexperienced and awkward, but that adds to the charm. Anika Johnson’s beautiful choir music and musical theatre songs are aptly funny, touching, and absurd. This Choir teaches us how, despite everything, harmony is possible. 


AN INCOMPLETE LIST OF THE THINGS I’M GOING TO MISS WHEN THE WORLD IS GONE

Parts family drama, queer romance, sci-fi, and dance party, An Incomplete List of the Things I’m Going to Miss when the World is Gone is full of joy, energy, drama, and existential dread. The musical rave tells the story of characters preparing for the last day on earth. 

The well-scored electro-pop songs have emotional impact. The dynamic choreography creates rave-like energy. The audience participation is joyous. But the overlapping stories that complement it are underdeveloped. The emotional drama seems at odds with the sense of celebration. 

The cast and creative team are brimming with ideas, angst, and talent. If harnessed and nurtured, they could no doubt develop this material into Hair for Gen Z. And lucky for us all, the world is not ending just quite yet, and so there’s time for this to happen.


Aisha Lesley Bentham
WRITTEN BY

Aisha Lesley Bentham

Aisha Lesley Bentham BFA, MA is an internationally trained artist-scholar, vegan chef, and wellness coach. Aisha’s research and passion examines the intersections of cooking and performance and aims to integrate notions of care, eco-somatics, and cookery from the perspective of a first-generation Black Canadian. Her new work will premiere at SummerWorks August 2023.

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Aisling Murphy
WRITTEN BY

Aisling Murphy

Aisling is Intermission's senior editor and an award-winning arts journalist with bylines including the Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, CBC Arts, CTV News Toronto, and Maclean's. She likes British playwright Sarah Kane, most songs by Taylor Swift, and her cats, Fig and June. She was a 2024 fellow at the National Critics Institute in Waterford, CT.

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Hélène Crowley
WRITTEN BY

Hélène Crowley

Hélène is a queer musician, editor, and writer in Toronto. She is currently an intern at Intermission. She holds a BMus from Wilfrid Laurier University and an MSt in Musicology from the University of Oxford. Currently, Hélène is actively involved in the Canadian publishing industry through volunteering, writing, and freelance editing. When she has free time, she loves to go for runs, play piano, crochet, and travel.

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Ilana Lucas
WRITTEN BY

Ilana Lucas

Ilana Lucas is a professor of English in Centennial College’s School of Advancement. She is the Vice-President of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association. She holds a BA in English and Theatre from Princeton University, an MFA in Dramaturgy and Script Development from Columbia University, and serves as Princeton’s Alumni Schools Committee Chair for Western Ontario. She has written for Brit+Co, Mooney on Theatre, and BroadwayWorld Toronto. Her most recent play, Let’s Talk, won the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival’s 24-Hour Playwriting Contest. She has a deep and abiding love of musical theatre, and considers her year working for the estate of Tony-winners Phyllis Newman and Adolph Green one of her most treasured memories.

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Janine Marley
WRITTEN BY

Janine Marley

Janine Marley is an independent theatre reviewer born in Kingsville, Ontario and has been a Torontonian since November 2020. She holds Honours BA and MA Degrees from the University of Windsor in English Language and Literature with her studies primarily focused on theatre. She began acting at a young age and continued acting in productions until 2018. She started her blog, A View from the Box, as a personal project to share her passion for theatre.

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Jessica Watson
WRITTEN BY

Jessica Watson

Jessica is a former associate editor at Intermission, as well as a writer, classically-trained actor, and plant enthusiast. Since graduating from LAMDA in the UK with her MA in acting, you can often find her writing screenplays and short plays in the park, writing extensive lists of plant care tips, or working on stage and screen (though she uses a stage name). Jessica freelances with various companies across Canada, but her passion lies in working with theatre artists and enthusiasts.

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Kemi King
WRITTEN BY

Kemi King

Kemi King (she/her) is a writer, director, and performance artist. Her work has been produced by Obsidian and Canadian Stage. She has also created and performed works with Soulpepper Theatre and as a part of the Paprika Festival. She is one of the co-founders and artistic director of YIKES, a theatre company founded in her second year of undergrad. Kemi is passionate about the arts and how they can be used to help shape social consciousness.

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Robyn Grant-Moran
WRITTEN BY

Robyn Grant-Moran

Robyn Grant-Moran (Métis Nation of Ontario) is a classical singer, writer, and a jack of many trades who has recently met the requirements to call herself a Bachelor of the Fine Arts (thank you, York University and Indspire!). Along with her BFA, she has also completed the Performance Criticism Training Program with Generator, has studied with some beloved Canadian classical singers, and been in a opera or two. Robyn currently resides in Toronto with her tiny adorable rat dog.

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Stephen Low
WRITTEN BY

Stephen Low

Stephen Low received his PhD from Cornell University in April 2016, where he also received his Masters in Theatre Studies in 2014. He received his first Masters from the University of Texas at Austin in the Performance as Public Practice Program. His scholarly interests include twentieth-century theatre and performance, dance, musicals, queer theory, sex and sexuality, gender, critical race studies, and gay culture. His current book project, Hail Mary: The Theatrical Constitution of Gay Culture, identifies theatricality as the constitutive feature of contemporary gay culture. His essays have been published in Modern Drama, Theatre Research in Canada, Canadian Theatre Review, Queer Theatre in Canada. Critical Perspectives in Canadian Theatre in English Series, Opera Canada, and Intermission.

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