Click Here to read the rest of our reviews from Toronto Fringe 2023. 


The Family Crow: A Murder Mystery (A)

Adam Francis Proulx and The Pucking Fuppet Co. have spread their wings for a pun-drenched whodunnit that stands out as a clever and entertaining highlight of this year’s Fringe. The central figure in this saga is a crow puppet perched on his hat – Horatio P. Corvis, Sorter Outer of Murders, whose title is an early warning to prepare for an hour of crowan-inducing wordplay. Flitting around the stage, Proulx-as-Corvis inhabits a murderer’s crow (you get the gist) of characters from the Crow family as he investigates the suspicious death of their son Russell. The low-tech staging enables the high drama. In a dark theatre lit only by foot-operated stage lights canonically wardrobed from Amazon, Proulx keeps the attention on him as he darts around imitating every side of every conversation. Playing a character who is playing a character who in turn is playing five other characters at once is no easy feat but he revels in the challenge with a seamless showmanship. It’s an incredibly silly, difficult idea that works. You can tell that Proulx is having a wonderful time – and he makes sure his captive audience does too.


Good Old Days (A)

A Michael Ross Albert show featuring Cass Van Wyck is one of the safest bets in Toronto theatre but Good Old Days still exceeds all expectations and is a proud successor to One Four One Collective’s previous Fringe triumphs like The Huns. Wyck stars as Wendy, whose uneasy slumber in her cramped apartment is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of her former roommate Alison (Brianna Wright). After a clumsy catchup and reconciliation fails – and everything else that can go wrong does – we follow them as they search for each other and for closure in an adventure that feels like a bizarre, enchanting dream. Director Jill Harper and set designer Denyse Karn give the pair a captivating backdrop for this drama, using a moon-like orb and careful projections against the boxes of Wendy’s cramped apartment to send us around the city with them without set changes breaking our immersion. Van Wyck and Wright play off each other wonderfully as they bring to life the strangers that the other encounters in this world. Van Wyck is perfectly convincing as the drunk partygoer who instantly and insistently makes herself Alison’s best friend; Wright jumps from exhausted bartender to delightfully deranged psychic without missing a beat. When they finally reunite, there’s no neat forgiveness but there is a new understanding and an agreement to meet each other again as the adults they are now. Watching that journey was surprisingly affecting – I left wishing I’d somehow had those deep, youthful friendships without the mistakes that tear them and thinking of all the people I knew that I want to meet for the first time as myself. Good Old Days is the rare (well, not for One Four One Collective) Fringe show that already feels ready for and deserving of a sold-out run in its own program somewhere. For now, find a way to see it while you can!


Ms Titaverse (B+)

Filipina artistic troupe Tita Collective are taking their talents to the Toronto Fringe for this lively musical extravaganza. Filipinas have taken global beauty pageants by storm and their success is at once an inspiration and an impossible standard for young girls. The unconventional pageant of Miss Titaverse is the backdrop for these women to share their stories as Filipinas and Canadians (Etobicoke and Scarborough are even farther apart than they seem!) and as girls finding their way in the world. Their early look back at the obsessions and crushes of their teenage diaries is funny and relatable even if you were on Myspace rather than AsianAve. Sketches vary in quality and accessibility but the hits are hilarious and there’s enough going on to shrug off the misses. The uneven sound quality lets down a show that lives in its songs but the overall staging (and the lighting in particular) adds the intended colour to a fun hour.


James & Jamesy- Easy as Pie (C)

If you’re scared of clowns, don’t worry – accomplished clown duo James and Jamesy will put you at ease. Unfortunately for the more uptight James (Aaron Malkin), this fear of clowns is coming from inside his own psychedelic mind palace. When he can’t bring himself to take a pie to the face – a simple staple of any clown’s act – he must confront that mental block to rescue his act and repair himself. It falls to his friend and co-clown Jamesy (Alastair Knowles) to climb inside his id and over the audience in search of answers. The whole endeavour fell flat for me. The meandering plot tripped over itself too often and detours into physical comedy (that had to veer away from embracing the absurdity of most clown shows in service of that plot) couldn’t distract from that. This sad clown story is an intriguing premise but lacked focus – by the end, the struggles to ‘remember’ lines felt more convincing than charming. The lines snaking around the block for a sold out show and the standing ovation at the end tell a different story – if you find yourself in this packed crowd, you will surely like it more than I did. I hope I can find someone to jump inside my bewildered (and bewildering?) psyche and let me in on the joke.


Hermaphroditus (C)

Hermaphroditus is an ambitious retelling of power struggles in Greek mythology through the lens of trans people’s fight against a deluge of discrimination and legislation aimed at them in our world. Gods and mortals alike are targeted when Zeus forces his prejudice into law; it falls to obscure Goddex Hermaphroditus to challenge the immortal – but not immutable – power structures on Mount Olympus. The production is a work in progress that suffered major setbacks in development, with a key performer and a stage manager each unable to continue. This bad luck punishes the work’s biggest swing of delivering much of the dialogue in verse, with some performers on-book and others taking time to ease into the medium. The wider pantheon offers some of the show’s best performances. Award-winning actor Margo MacDonald guides the proceedings well as nymph prophet Chariclo despite joining as a late stand-in while relative newcomer Jan Jennings steals the show as imperious matriarch Hera. A more confident lead and tighter script could tease out the potential here.