What Are You Supposed to Be?
(All Day I Dream About…Theatre)

What Are You Supposed to Be? is an experimental comedy currently running at the 2021 Toronto Digital Fringe Festival. As a collective creation, this piece explores a tense, mysterious conflict in a world of challenging characters.

The story follows Leah, a novelty birthday party princess played by Leah Cherniak, as she accepts a gig at her next-door neighbour’s house. From the moment she arrives, she’s met with absurdity. The birthday girl appears to be an adult, the adults are incessantly rude, and out of nowhere, a princess apprentice has arrived to “shadow” Leah as she dresses in a Rapunzel costume for the most awkward birthday party ever.

The show playfully questions our societal assumptions of age and womanhood. For example, Leah’s characteristic fear and discomfort juxtapose her neighbours’ youthful culty witchcraft freedom. Though we learn that the “little girls” who live beside Leah are magically hundreds of years older than her, Leah has assumed the role of “old woman,” cornering herself into uninspired, uncomfortable behaviors. While it is unclear why the neighbours have specifically chosen to target Leah, it is fascinating to watch Leah struggle as her neighbours challenge her expectations of “little girls” and their mothers.

The characters in this show pronounce one-dimensional tropes, which commits great tension and cringe-worthy conflict. The performances are dedicated to strange, brilliant fun. Although stylistically, the video edits are abrupt, the camera work is still crafty. The composition of the entire show is erratic, almost like a first-person camera horror with a twist of live-action children’s entertainment.

I was a little disappointed that the intriguing title cards, which had me hooked at the start of the show, referencing a series of library fires in 2017, never pay off. If I were to sort the show into devices, a lot of them don’t directly pay off. Instead, the tension that builds is fun, and the overall experience of watching is engaging.

What Are You Supposed to Be? is a wildly fun, creative exploration of video, dark humor, and the notion of adulthood.

What Are You Supposed to Be? is playing on demand at the 2021 Toronto Digital Fringe Festival.


Mangoes from the Valley
(Junebug Productions)

Mangoes from the Valley is a 30-minute dramatic film presented at the 2021 Toronto Digital Film Festival. Creating and directed by Aryana Mohammed, this piece is a beautiful example of female devastation.

Mangoes from the Valley is based on the Venezuelan economic crisis as female migrants seek financial refuge and opportunity in Trinidad and Tobago. Desperate for the chance to support their families, many of them get tricked into sex work. The story features one young woman’s experience of being met with violence and loss as she engages with the sex economy.

The one-room, one-lightbulb home, the suitcase full of belongings under the bed, the single mango she celebrates as her only nourishment, this play commits to exploring traps, restrictions, and unavoidable regrets. Title cards beautifully set us up for empathy and, as the plot unfolds, equipped with the knowledge that she has no other options, we feel as constricted as the woman in the play.

Renee King’s performance in this show is unbelievably strong, physically masterful, and heartbreaking. There is no language in the piece, but an audio supplement written and performed with a delicate authenticity accompanies it. The original music is beautiful, giving saddened life to the backstory and context of the play. Overall, the show’s marriage between content, direction, and performance is forceful.

Mangoes from the Valley is a fantastic example of digital theatre, featuring gut-wrenching physical work, a sensitive and complementary soundscape, and a skilled, must-see performance.

Mangoes from the Valley is playing on demand at the 2021 Toronto Digital Fringe Festival.


Standing on the Miraculous Field
(Terra Storyteller/Studio Brandstof)

Standing on the Miraculous Field is a 15-minute solo show featured at the 2021 Toronto Digital Fringe Festival. Written and performed by Terra Norihiro Terazawa, this piece sings with gentle symbolism and a magnificent nod to nature.

Terra Norihiro Terazawa is nursing a sick lemon tree back to health. He refuses compost to help the tree grow because he’s learned that it overly-nourishes trees. Instead, he gives the tree over to nature, allowing it to flourish in its own time.

The play discusses themes of overabundance, lending an alternative philosophy to our social assumption that “bigger is better .” It uses the ideologies of nature farming to challenge the flaws of commercialism. With simple storytelling but bold symbolism, this show gives an excellent reason for self-sustenance and natural growth.

Disembodied narration is paired with beautiful footage of Terra Norihiro Terazawa farming, biking through scenery, relaxing in the sun. The result is an inspiring call to relax our constant strive for more.

Standing on the Miraculous Field is a warm call to action wrapped in a beautiful tribute to nature farming. The rhythm is gentle, and the video is satisfying as Terra Norihiro Terazawa gifts us with an intimate example of gentle mercy.

Standing on the Miraculous Field is playing on demand at the 2021 Toronto Digital Fringe Festival.


Success Horizon
(Gavilán Theatre)

Success Horizon is a 30-minute absurdist puppet show presented at the 2021 Toronto Digital Fringe Festival. Written and directed by Nawi Moreno-Valverde, this show features the simplicity of mobile figurines and voice-over dialogue to explore the complexities of Toronto’s housing market.

A young woman moves to Toronto from Manitoba and finds her first apartment, but building management refuses to print her a lease because the owners have recently gone paperless. Instead, she accepts a plant-based agreement,planted in the building’s smart garden, and she moves into a room, soon meeting her roommate: A holistic spa. A sworn business student and finance enthusiast, the woman attempts to uncover everything she can about her living arrangement. Still, the only authority she has contact with is KODA, a SIRI-Esque disembodied voice situated in a toilet-like box who aspires to be a house musician.

From within the play come discussions of displacement and systemic disorganization. The absurdity of the play aligns with how little is reliable and rational in the housing market.

The main character struggles in an Alice-like way, reacting to the characters who have already settled into the world. She remains uncomfortable throughout but finds, in the end, an ok-ness with her discomfort.

The artistry in this play is beautiful. The puppets are each unique, captivating characters. The settings are satisfying landscapes decorated with a skewed reality. The show’s rhythm is meditative, as the puppets are mostly static while the dialogue soars overtop their structures. Without music, the effect is slightly halting, but the narrative is so complex, it works well to keep the action simple.

Success Horizon tackles a complex topic with whimsical wit and refreshing visual craft.

Success Horizon is playing on demand at the 2021 Toronto Digital Fringe Festival.