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Gringas (A-)

Funny, thoughtful, and executed with precision and passion, this ensemble work about a group of young Latinas sent to a Muskoka camp to work on their Spanish is one of the Fringe’s strongest new plays. No one works harder than teenage theatre girls and this cast recalls that energy, occasionally overplaying as they bring to life the diverse concerns and preoccupations of their high school-aged characters with ambitious storytelling and some of the tightest pacing we’ve seen all festival. Rachel Quintanilla is particularly compelling as Carmen, standing out in the enthusiastic ensemble with a mature blend of intensity and subtlety. She delivers the play’s final speech entirely in Spanish and gives a performance so strongly communicative that I didn’t understand a word but I understood her completely.


Aala Tamasha Aala (B)

This engaging drama about a consummate dreamer coming to terms with a smaller life than he’d imagined features one of the most charming casts at the festival. Jumping between characters, locations, and even artistic forms, the trio of Tushar Dalvi, Neha Poduval, and Amlan Das illustrate the bittersweet contrast of the main character’s inner and outer lives. The story gets a little muddled towards the end but its emotion is consistently clear.


Paternal Guidance (B)

More balanced and consistent than last year’s outing, sketch troupe Summer Dad brings a ton of energy to their second consecutive Fringe show. Musical numbers are one of the troupe’s greatest strengths and they show that off well here with a solid opening/closing tune and a standout boy band-inspired sketch about being a millennial/gen z cusper. Paternal Guidance lacks much thematic cohesion or recurring concepts and not every sketch is a home run but the standard is pretty high.


Cabaret of Murder (B-)

The concept of this touring show that compiles the art of some of the world’s most famous murderers is a very clever pitch. The reality, however, is that the vast majority of that art is bad so there’s not a lot that can be done to solve for the fact that the audience is, in practice, mostly just sitting and listening to lousy poetry and offensive playwriting. I craved a more thoughtful throughline about the connection between violent people and creativity, expression, and even failure. Cabaret of Murder is about mediocre art but with more of an authorial voice it could itself be better art.


The Kid Was a Spy (B-)

Fringe stalwart Jem Rolls joined the festival as a last minute fill in literally days before opening night and I saw his show at only its second performance. I assume this fact accounts for the great number of memory lapses and mishaps that derailed the performer throughout his elaborate monologue (even if he had the show ready in his repertoire when he got the last minute call, he had very little time to refresh it in his memory and get it back on its feet). That said, the Jem Rolls model of a long, fast-paced, elaborate story told with no visual aids or other theatrical elements lends itself to being easily derailed, even with more rehearsal time. The Kid Was a Spy is a fascinating story but its presentation is too straightforward, as if the audience is being read an audio book that’s been memorized rather than seeing a live theatre piece. Even a small diversification of style like the addition of projected images would lend Rolls a more generous margin of error.


Escape from Toronto (C+)

Tamlynn Bryson’s all-out commitment to this wild parody is admirable and Rod Peter Jr is an excellent multi-character sidekick but the execution isn’t tight enough and the jokes aren’t sharp enough for a comedy this broad to land. The 1997 soundtrack, however, is A+.


Dead Right (C+)

A comedy about suicide is a bold undertaking but an old fashioned farce on the topic strikes me as impossible. Under-speed slapstick and toilet humour take up far too much space here, allowing very little room for realistic emotion. There’s a secondary angle on the play that works quite well, however, in the story of how the son-in-law character centers himself in every event. The subtle humour and groan-inducing humanity of this gentle feminist critique elevates an otherwise off-the-mark effort.