Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl (B+)
Rebecca Perry’s semi-musical solo show about an overqualified twentysomething slinging coffee to make ends meet is incredibly charming. Advertised as an anthropological study of coffeeshop culture, it’s really more of a modern fairytale, complete with a handsome patron serving as both prince charming and fairy godmother. The storytelling isn’t all that inventive and the resolution’s “keep the faith” angle is neat and convenient rather than hitting on the premise’s more poignant theme of millenial disappointment. But Perry is an utterly winning leading lady, armed with plenty of comic timing and a sensational singing voice and that’s all her solo show really needs to succeed.
She’s Black, He’s Jewish, They’re Married, Oy Vey! (D)
This was the weirdest experience of the festival so far. Awkward, uncomfortable, and often accidentally hilarious, this show is actually just a marriage seminar from two middle-aged Americans who believe they have “the most successful marriage in the world”. In absolutely no need of a marriage seminar (or even the “love thyself” advice on offer), all I really got out of this production was a cultural study. The creators are overwhelmingly American (accents and all) and their show is very clearly meant for American audiences. The Torontonians in Monday’s crowd, meanwhile, were diverse and mild-mannered, as many of us are compared to our neighbours to the south. The crowd showed no interest in shouting “I love my clit!” at the tops of our voices, nor were we particularly ruffled or impressed to find an inter-racial couple in the crowd; and why am I being told with absolute certainty that I, as a woman, am expected to be attracted to black and hispanic men and never jews?! Similar to how Justis felt about Slut, much of the problem here was that the audience wasn’t having the problem the creators assumed they would have. It was the Americans onstage- despite their multiculturalism and abrasive sexuality- who seemed un-evolved. Tip: “the Korean and the Canadian” is an offensive thing to call a pair who are most likely just two Canadians. Cause we’re all just Canadians, except “the black and the jew” they’re very American.
The Common Ground: A Musical Dissertation (B)
Ken McNeilly turned his PhD thesis about the lives of adolescents raised by gay parents into a musical. That’s odd but somehow also very compelling. The result is a middling show that’s charming, entertaining, touching and poignant though not particularly well sung and perhaps not as informative as you might expect from a thesis (it mostly points out how misguided common assumptions are). The songs are super catchy and the cast is delightful (particularly Ben Chiasson and Julia Gartha as kids with gay moms and straight dads who dealt with it in opposite ways) but there’s not a lot more to The Common Ground beyond its good intentions and definite charm.
The good news is that book writer Tabia Lau’s concept is, while not particularly innovative, quite sweet and even a little bit moving at times. Her dialogue is, however, lackluster and fairly cheesy, as are most of the music and lyrics from Greg McLeod. In moments like the pre-finale duet between the bride and groom, McLeod’s compositions are actually the highlight of the production but many of his songs are in ill-advised keys that strain the underwhelming vocalists and point out the flaws in the sound balance. The two most compelling characters are double cast with two less interesting characters, which is both impractical (the actors change costumes constantly) and confusing. There are some honest and interesting themes here (Victoria’s struggle to support her friend as he marries another woman is probably the strongest thread) but the execution is underwhelming at best.
Myth of the Ostrich (A)
Playwright Matt Murray’s Remember, Maggy? Was one of my first truly great Fringe finds a few years back. It was very unlikely, then, that I would miss his latest offering, especially with the great and impossibly consistent Astrid van Wieren in the cast. A simple, emotionally driven and original premise allows Murray’s wonderfully natural dialogue and the exceptional cast to really shine. Laugh-out-loud funny and thought-provoking with top-notch all-round execution and impeccable direction from My Theatre Award nominee Steven Gallagher, Myth of the Ostrich is a cut above the cut above standard Fringe fare.
If It’s Not Too Much Trouble (B-)
Trevor Poelman’s script- written in just one day during last year’s Fringe 25hour Playwriting Competition- is charming and witty. A first time director, Poelman would have been better served by someone with more experience rather than miring his capable actors and strong text with stagnant, amateur direction. Among the decent ensemble, Adele Dicks is the highlight, delivering a wry performance as Poelman’s strongest character Leslie (everyone is amusingly named after subway stations). A charming though somewhat forgettable production made notable mostly for the feat of its quick creation.