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Our Little Secret: The 23&Me Musical (A)

This solo musical tells the true story of Noam Tomaschoff’s discovery that his parents used a sperm donor and he has 35 secret siblings. It’s an amazing story almost too wild to believe but Tomaschoff’s earnest delivery and grounded storytelling keep the action rooted in emotion and identity even as the tale spins to comedic heights. Ryan Peters’ songs are incredibly catchy and Tomaschoff sings them beautifully. Perhaps best illustrating the strength of the piece is an 11pm number sung from the perspective of Tomaschoff’s dad worrying about how “people will talk” if his son puts on a musical about their family secret. It’s a darkly funny spitfire of a song that takes a moving turn midway through when Tomaschoff counters with the suggestion that people will talk but that doesn’t have to be a terrible thing. Tomaschoff’s writing doesn’t shy away from being critical of the decisions his parents made and is bold in reclaiming their secret as his story, so there’s extra-textual catharsis in seeing his parents beaming from the audience. Our Little Secret is a light, fun musical that drags the unspoken onstage to be sung about and in doing so makes a dark secret a bright light.


My Evil Twin, a new cabaret musical (A-)

Jim and John Demler are identical twins who tell the story of their lives as though in an operatic cabaret. Jim is an overachieving bass keen to embrace his dark side. John is his ne’re-do-well brother late to learn that his real range is a hero’s tenor. Their story is interesting and their voices are beautiful but their show could use a bit more of a dramatic structure to make the tension between them as urgent to the audience as the underlying love that is My Evil Twin’s most consistent force.


Jackes and Jills (B+)

What appears to be a stand-up performance unravels to reveal a well-observed tragicomedy about the tropes of women in comedy and how the expectations and demands of our contemporary social structures often make us into less than we are. Brynn Bonne delivers a fantastically nuanced performance as a struggling comedian, unafraid of fully embodying ugliness and ineptitude. The passages of purposefully bad comedy stretch on a bit too long and not enough time is spent trying to discover who Jackes really is beneath her performance of self but it’s an evocative concept and Bonne truly shines even if Jackes doesn’t.


Back to the Bar (B+)

Playwright Stephen MacDonald’s tender drama about the occupants of a random bar on a random night is a beautifully conceived and well-acted gem. A little scruffy around the edges perhaps, but its heart is inventive, sweet, and just the right amount of sad. As the customers collaborate to imagine a romance that might have been, they grow closer in the life they do have. The play’s unassuming, unpolished nature might result in it getting lost in the shuffle but make some room for this hopeful but melancholy piece if you can.


No One Special (B)

There’s an aching bitterness to how Julie Kim tells the story of her childhood in this slide-supported solo show. It’s an interesting story and she’s a compelling storyteller but her strong feelings about her own history are not utilized in a compellingly dramatic way. No One Special is a work in progress and there’s a lot that’s really intriguing about where it could go from here. I’d love to see a more creative director harness Kim’s complicated emotions to get her out from behind the projector and fully embracing the subjectivity of her narrative.


Family Road Trip (B-)

Our grade for this ragtag sketch show from up and coming troupe Summer Dad is an average. Most of the sketches are silly or strained and most of the troupe can’t act, a key quality of a great sketch artist that for some reason gets de-prioritized by too many comedy troupes. The show is well structured with a recurring set of main characters to frame the rest of the sketches and quick reprises of other concepts to pull the piece together. But a lot of the sketches, recurring and nonrecurring, lack fresh insight and tight performance. They do have a star player, however, and Kevin Forster’s precise physical comedy and grounded approach to big concepts elevates the show as a whole. His rap about pizza toppings (which is actually about fear of judgement/inability to ask for what you want/compulsive maximalist impulses) is the highlight of the show by a mile. The team has a few other good ideas (a sketch about a haunted house that preys on the fear of growing up has an insightful final twist, there’s a kernel of something in the concept of self check-out as a forced self check-in) but few things come together with much finesse.


Emo Majok: African Aussie (B-)

In his fairly standard stand-up show, Emo Majok relies a lot on audience interaction but doesn’t do much with the information he receives from endless inquiries into where people are from and what they do for a living. He’s a charming stage presence but his jokes are neither frequent nor fast enough to stand out in a crowded field.


B-Max & The Re-Revolution Presents: Magic on the Mic an Acoustic Evening of Theatre (D)

This loosely linked set of vignettes ostensibly chronicling Bryce Volrath’s move from small town USA to Toronto is painfully self-indulgent as Volrath surrounds himself with a cast of decently talented women to celebrate his own staggering theatrical genius (evidence of which remains undiscovered). Stage directions are read from an onstage music stand lest the audience miss a single word of the written brilliance. If the nonsense is meant to come with a wink, that self-awareness is certainly never communicated.