Events / Fringe

Fringe 2017: Nicole's Top 5

05 July 2017 / by Nicole Di Donato (author)
Toronto Fringe Festival 2017 (photo: Toronto Fringe)
Toronto Fringe Festival 2017 / (photo: Toronto Fringe)

The Toronto Fringe Festival returns today with a wide selection of shows from comedy, drama and mystery to musicals, dance and physical theatre. Celebrating its 29th year, the Fringe Festival is presenting 160 shows chosen by lottery at multiple venues across the city from July 5 to 16. 

Last summer was the final Fringe in the back alley of Honest Ed's. Since Honest Ed's has closed and its glitzy retro signs have come down, Toronto Fringe has rebranded itself, going for a more downtown vibe, showcasing the city's diversity. The festival has also changed the Fringe Club location to Scadding Court Community Centre, where there will be an outdoor stage, local food vendors and a late-night beer garden. 

In addition to the ticketed shows, the festival also has over 50 free, drop-in events including the 24 hour playwriting contest, sunset yoga, stand-up comedy, dance parties and more. 

Whether you're looking to get some laughs or to engage in some thought-provoking theatre, the Fringe Festival offers something for people of all ages. Tickets are no more than $12. 

Before you head out, take a look at Nicole Di Donato's top 5 shows to watch at this year's Toronto Fringe Festival. 


Maddie's Karaoke Birthday Party

First on my list is Maddie's Karaoke Birthday Party, created and directed by Byron Laviolette (best known for his work on Morro and Jasp productions). With karaoke in the title, you already know it's going to be a fun and immersive show. The audience, who are treated as party guests, are invited to celebrate Maddie's 25th birthday party at the Monarch Tavern. But, there's one problem: the birthday girl is missing. This is when things start to get weird and secrets get spilled.

With the guest of honour nowhere to be found, Maddie's five best friends search for her while trying to keep spirits high at the party. As her friends get to know each other, they soon realize that Maddie isn't as perfect as she seems. The story unfolds over a series of hilarious and heartbreaking karaoke-style songs. The interactive show takes the audience through the tension, traditions and broken trust inside of a 20-something social circle.  

The music and lyrics were written by Barbara Johnston and Suzy Wilde, who have worked together on previous Fringe hits Summerland and The Fence. The show also has a stellar cast with some of the best musical theatre performers in town: Mark Andrada, Tess Barao, Kelly Holiff, Shane Hollon, Jeigh Madjus, Erica Peck and Jospeh Zita. 

The first performance is July 5 at 8:45 p.m. at the Monarch Tavern. 

About Time

Award-winning sketch comedy duo The Templeton Philharmonic (Briana Templeton and Gwynne Phillips) are back with a new show about time travel called About Time. The dark comedy takes the audience on a funny, chronological ride through history with stops in different eras.

The show was co-written by Templeton and Phillips, who develop their work through improvisation, sketch comedy techniques and traditional playwriting methods. The iconic pair also star in the show and directed it - as they've done with their past productions Unbridled & Unstable and An Evening In July. They will be joined by guest performer Thom Stoneman, who functions as an occasional narrator, male presence and voice of reason. 

Starting off the show, the narrator invites the audience to imagine "time as cake," "time as a pile of laundry" and a variety of other objects, ending with "time as a clock." Through these meditative exercises, the audience is encouraged to think about the concept of time.

Throughout the show, the zany duo plays various characters from different time periods such as Stone Age women, Renaissance men and uptight Victorian ladies at a tea party. Although About Time does not promise to be historically accurate, the sketches play with tropes of different time periods and poke fun at contemporary society. 

Be sure to check out About Time at Tarragon Theatre Mainspace. The show premiers July 7 at 10:30 p.m.

Hands Down

Another show you need to watch at this year's Fringe Festival is Warren P. Sonoda's Hands Down. Although this fellow hasn't written a play since his 1992 high school drama class, Sonoda has made his mark on the Canadian film scene (he directed Trailer Park Boys, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Coopers' Camera).

Hands Down is a twisted comedy that follows four contestants who hold onto a car for 100 hours in the hopes of winning a new vehicle. The show is about ambition, endurance and testing your limits. During the competition, truths, secrets and a supernatural power are revealed, jeopardizing each contestant's chance of winning. 

The show has a great cast made up of Xavier de Guzman, Mathew Isen, Jane Luk, Colin Petierre, Jen Pogue, Christian Potenza and Lauren Vandenbrook. 

Running from July 5 to 16 at the Factory Theatre Mainspace, Hands Down is a show you won't want to miss! The first show is taking place July 5 at 8:15 p.m. 


Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

 by Sam Steiner.

This next show will remind you of novels such as George Orwell's 1984 and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the books explore the idea of constantly being watched and living in a dystopian world. Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is about all of those things and enables the audience to see political change in a personal, more intimate way. 

Bernadette (played by Ruth Goodwin) and Oliver (played by James Graham) meet right before the government is about to pass a new law that limits the number of words people can say in a day: max 140. As a result, the pair must allow their love to grow within its limits. If you thought 140 characters on Twitter was hard, try getting to know someone in only 140 words. 

The law poses many challenges for the new lovers, forcing them to learn how to make each word count and how to speak without saying anything at all. They struggle with obedience, with themselves and with the future of their life together. 

As a whole, the play shows the importance of communication through not only words, but through body language and physicality.

The show was written by Sam Steiner and is making its North American debut at the Toronto Fringe Festival. 

Catch Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons July 6 to 16 at The Theatre Centre - Franco Boni Theatre. The first performance is July 6 at 8:15 p.m. Be warned, Big Brother is counting.


Perfect Couples

Next on my list is Pencil Kit Productions' Perfect Couples, created by Mitchell Janiak. The show follows four couples as they navigate the impact of mental illness on their intimate community as one of their friends, Valencia, unravels in the wake of trauma.

Valencia believes that her partner Janine is cheating on her with their mutual friend Rachel. As a result, Valencia's behaviour becomes unpredictable, putting her relationship in jeopardy. Both witty and dark, Perfect Couples explores young adulthood and provides insight on important issues such as domestic struggle and mental health. I think a play that directly acknowledges the rise of mental illness among young people as well as the impact it has on both the individual and those who are close to them is worth seeing. 

The show was directed by Claren Grosz and is scored completely by GTA musicians. The cast is comprised of Felix Beauchamp, Belinda Corpuz (fun fact: we play her EP All I Am here at CJRU), Kaleb Horn, Claire Keating, Meara Khanna, Ariana Marquis, Arun Varma and Hannah Whoitmore. 

Don't miss your chance to watch Perfect Couples at Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. The show premiers July 5 at 6:30 p.m. You can also catch it at the Hamilton Fringe Festival at the end of the month. 


The author

Nicole Di Donato

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