Derrick Chua’s Fringe picks

If you’re a theatre-lover living in or near Toronto, you know what this time of year means:  FRINGE time!  This year’s edition of the Toronto Fringe Festival opens next week Wednesday, July 4, and runs to Sunday July 15.  Over those 12 days, 155 shows will compete for audience attention.  Tickets are only $10 each (less if you purchase a pass – see http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/tickets for the various types), but there’s no way you can see everything.  So how can you possibly choose?

Well, Derrick Chua may be able to help.  Entertainment lawyer, theatre producer, and Past President of the Fringe’s Board of Directors, he’s probably seen more theatre than most of us can dream about.  He’s compiled a handy-dandy list of plays likely to please, with the disclaimer that “These recommendations are made, for the most part, solely due to the people involved in the shows, since I won’t have seen or read most at this point.

I reproduce his list here (he posted it on Facebook last night) – the page numbers refer to the Fringe program.  The program is available FREE at a bunch of places in Toronto, including various Book City stores, Wine Rack locations (!)  and at TheatreBooks – see http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/maps/programpickup/ for the full list.   Now get that scrolling finger ready – here are Derrick’s picks…

FRINGE VETERANS

 This group of performers represents the closest to a guarantee of quality as you can get at a Fringe! They’ve all toured and performed in many Fringes and other festivals across Canada and beyond, and have all earned strong reputations for terrific work.

Of Mice and Morro and Jasp (p. 16)

Recent Dora Award winners Morro and Jasp present their clown take on the Steinbeck classic. Let there be rabbits.

jem rolls: TEN STARTS AND AN END (p. 31)

High energy performance poet returns with his latest charge into the joys of language.

Peter n’ Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel (p. 32)

Vancouver based winners of Toronto SketchFest Audience Choice Award in their most mysterious comedy yet.  (ps. The motel manager is the murderer!)

Medicine (p. 46)

TJ Dawe is a Fringe legend for good reason.  Story teller extraordinaire.

Raw (p. 49)

Rob Salerno’s past Fringe hits include Fucking Stephen Harper, Balls and Big in Germany, so looking forward to this latest darkly comic and political play.

snug harbor (p. 62)

Tracey Erin Smith (The Burning Bush, Two In The bush) returns with her latest and most personal work.

THE MUSICALS

 ONE IN A MILLION (a micromusical) (p. 26)

Okay, it’s a story of four sperm struggling to get to the egg.  But it’s a musical!  Written by Ron Fromstein, composed by Samuel Sholdice, directed by Steve Morel, with a strong cast of Mark Allan, Shaina Silver-Baird, Aurora Browne, Russell Tyson Clark, Jeff Giles, David Lopez & Blair Irwin.

The Wakowski Bros. (p. 43)

Very excited for this new Canadian Vaudeville musical, written by Wesley J. Colford, directed by Alex Fallis, music direction by Chris Mounteer, and with a terrific cast of veteran performers: Derek Scott, Duff MacDonald and Lorretta Bailey.

Tam Lin (p. 59)

Based on a traditional Scottish ballad, there’s a terrific group of young performers involved with this musical by Màiri Mason which also features highland dancing and live music, including bagpipes, fiddle and bodhrán.  Staged by Alexander Offord, choreographed by Courtney Simpson and performed by Wesley J. Colford, Linnea Currie-Roberts, Vaughn Harris, Renée Haché, Màiri Mason, Iain Stewart and Amy Marie Wallace.

 THE SOLO / MONOLOGUE SHOWS

 Mahmoud (p. 19)

I enjoyed this show when I saw it previously as an indie production at Tarragon Extra, with Tara Grammy playing different characters trying to get by the day-to-day grind in this multicultural city of Toronto.

Greg Ellwand’s BREAD! (p. 29)

Veteran award-winning performer Greg Ellwand makes this production of his first play a family affair, directed by his wife Toni Ellwand, with a cameo by his daughter Ellie Elwand. And his 98-year old dad did the graphic!

The Judy Monologues (P. 30)

This docudrama is based entirely on tapes recorded by Judy Garland, and performed by three male actors as a tribute to her impact on the gay community, including Philip Cairns, Darren Stewart-Jones and past “Best of Fringe” performer (for his solo show Mickey & Judy) Michael Hughes.

Fishbowl (p. 44)

Also enjoyed this show when I saw it at Buddies a couple of years ago, and writer / performer Mark Shyzer has continued its development with director Evalyn Perry, so should be tighter and better now.

that boob show (p. 62)

Mandy MacLean performs this intimate story about one girl’s dilemma with size, sexiness and… well, the show is being performed at bra fitting boutique Secret From Your Sisters. Nuff said.

THE PLAYS (COMEDY)

 There are a LOT of plays which sound fantastic this year, with lots of terrific people involved. So I’ve broken them down even further, into “comedy”, “dark / dramatic comedy” and “drama”, according to how they are categorized in the Fringe Program or their press release.  If you think your play belongs in a different category (remember, I probably haven’t seen it yet!), let me know.

PornStar (p. 16)

Written by one of Canada’s best, Chris Craddock, PornStar is an old play being re-interpreted by four terrific performers, including Fringe faves Morro and Jasp appearing as their alter-egos Heather-Marie Annis and Amy Lee, along with Lynne Griffin and Sarah Mennell.

Mum And The Big C (p. 25)

Billed as a romantic comedy (with tears), a no-strings attached, playgirl lesbian, Ripley, is relegated back to the sedentary burbs to nurse her boob cancer-riddled mom, neurotic psychologist Donna, who’s hell-bent on marrying her off. Great cast including Elvira Kurt, Janet-Laine Green, Megan Fahlenbock and Trevor Hayes.

Tick (p. 32)

This family friendly comedy about ten-year old Tick Summers leading her friends in a revolution when her local library is slated to be closed is written by award-winning playwright Matthew MacKenzie, directed by Jajube Mandiela, and stars Jessica Moss (so great in Modern Love at Next Stage!), Jenna Harris, Nathan Barrett and Tony Ofori.

Neighbours (p. 32)

Winner of Pat The Dog’s 24-hour playwrighting contest, this absurdist comedy dealing with innocent people accused of horrible crimes is directed by Luke Brown, with Mirian Katrib, Robert Fulton, James R. Woods, Mary Elizabeth Wilcott, Nathan Younger.

The Other Three Sisters (p. 42)

This Chekhovian melodrama is set in today’s Toronto… well, Etobicoke, as three sisters desparately want to leave and move downtown.  From the team that brought Redheaded Stepchild and A Maude-Lynne Evening, written & directed by Johnnie Walker starring Morgan Norwich, Alexandra Parravano, Jamie Arfin, and Julian De Zotti.

Then He Wakes Up (p. 54)

This fast-paced 40-minute absurdist comedy fearing sleep-walking through life is written by Matthew Sarookanian, directed by Joanne Williams (who directed last year’s Fringe comedy Finally: An Epic Cycle), featuring Jordan Mechano, Matthew Sarookanian and Alex Sims.

With Love and a Major Organ (p. 57)

Book your tix in advance for this piece playing in TPM’s small Backspace, a comedy with guts – about pheromones, fates and the TTC, written by Julia Lederer, directed by Andrew Lamb and featuring Robin Archer, Julia Lederer & Martha Ross.

THE PLAYS (DARK / DRAMATIC COMEDY)

 Help Yourself (p. 31)

Winner of the Fringe New Play Contest, writer & director Kat Sandler follows on her Next Stage hit LoveSexMoney with this dark comedy about a man who is in the business of clearing consciences.  Featuring Tosha Doiron, Daniel Pagett and Tim Walker.

Like A Dog (p. 49)

This eccentric new play written and directed by Matthew Gorman stars Canadian theatre legend Peter C. Wylde, whose acting career started at the Bristol Old Vic Company in 1953, returning to the stage after almost ten years.  Also featuring Andy Trithardt and Jennetta Lamb.

The Bear / Lady with a Lap Dog (p. 31)

Chekhov’s classic farce is paired with his famous short story in these brand new adaptations by Lisa Hamaleinen, directed by Ellen Hurley, featuring a live acoustic and electronic soundscape by Steve Ward, and performed by Lisa Hamalainen, Jaime Polatynski, James Patrick Pettitt and John Fray

Release the Stars: The Ballad of Randy and Evi Quaid.  (p. 64)

Set in the Six20Seven Gallery on Queen Street, where Randy and Evi Quaid are curating an art show… let the fun begin.  Directed by Jack Grinhaus, written & performed by Amanda Barker & Daniel Krolik.

 THE PLAYS (DRAMA)

 Dirty Butterfly (p. 56)

Bound To Create has brought past Fringe hits Saved and The Complex, and now returns with this piece by Jamaican British playwright Debbie Tucker Green about domestic abuse and racial economic divide. Directed by Jack Grinhaus and featuring Kaleb Alexander, Lauren Brotman and Cherissa Richards.

The Dinner (p. 58)

Full disclosure – I am involved with this production, which was chosen as one of the Fringe’s inaugural Culturally Diverse Artists Program shows.  It’s a dining room drama set during Thanksgiving dinner amidst old friends and some new guests, and as you may imagine, tensions arise.  It’s written by Jason Murray, with dramaturgy by Ed Roy, directed by Jordan Merkur, and there’s a terrific cast on board: Rick Jon Egan, Kirstin Hinton, Jason Jazrawy, Jeff Madden, Farah Merani, Scott Stephenson, Lisa Waines and Dale Yim.

little tongues (p. 65)

Performed in the 35-seat Loft 404, this first play by young writer Sasha Singer-Wilson takes place the night before Tess goes abroad, as she gathers her estranged family for a farewell dinner. Directed by Paul Lampert, with a terrific cast including Karen Glave, Melee Hutton, Sarah Jurgens, Niki Landau, Jamie Maczko, Sasha Singer-Wilson & Mark Wilson.

EVENT SHOWS

 I’m calling this group the “Event Shows” because of the large groups of performers involved in each!

Rare (p. 16)

Documentary theatre piece co-created and directed by Judith Thompson, with nine performers who happen to all have Down’s Syndrome. Featuring Nick Herd, Suzanne Love, Krystal Nausbaum, Sarah Carney, Nada Mayla, James Hazlett, Dylan Harman Livaja, Andreas Prinz and Michael Liu.

Piecing Together Pauline (p. 16)

Historical drama about 19th Century opera singer Pauline Garcia Viardot, written by Fringe vets Chris Coccoluzzi and Roxanne Deans, with Elva Mai Hoover, Kristen Zaza, Bil Antoniou, Tara Baxendale, Rob Candy, Stephen Flett, Damien Gulde, Chris Irving, Alex Karolyi, Scott McCulloch, Shannon Shura, Brenda Somers, Steve Switzman, Blake Thorne and Jan-Michael Weir.

Antigone

Soupcan Theatre returns with their adaptation of Sophocles’ tragedy tying ancient Greece and modern day Toronto through images of the 2010 G20 Summit protests and the Occupy movement. Directed by Scott Dermody, with Cyndey Penner, Thomas Gough, Leah Holder, Glyn Bowerman, Kathryn Malek, Michael Mcleister, Chloe Payne, John Chou, Adriana Crivici, Daniel Kim, Heather Motut, Aaron Rothermund.

The Soaps – A Live Improvised Soap Opera (replacement show for Chuckin’ Guffs, p. 40)

Last year’s sold-out hit returns, this year celebrating the bicentennial by exploring the timely setting of 1812 York.  Should be hilarious with this group of performers: Jim Annan, Matt Baram, Paul Bates, Lisa Brooke, Christy Bruce, Jan Caruana, Chris Gibbs, Sandy Jobin-Bevans, Lisa Merchant and special guests each show!

Transit Diaries (p. 55)

Exciting piece which started as a third year Humber Theatre project, and has been developed with help from Marjorie Chan and Ruth Madoc-Jones among others, written by Meesha Albano, directed by Victoria Urquhart, featuring Alexandra Barberena, Kayla Brattan, Shawna Edward, Sebastian Marziali, Michelle Nash, CJ Pryce, Robert Rainville, Joseph Recinos, Monica Serodio, David Simor, Vanessa Trenton, Celeste Van Vroenhoven, Marika Warner.

[ZED.TO] Byologyc: Where You Become New (p. 62)

No cast list for this one, but it’s being described as the first public event in a six-month story spanning immersive live and digital media that will engage audiences in the launch of ByoLogyc’s latest near-future consumer technology product – ByoRenew – through a multimedia narrative experience, interactive quests and activities, and a story that blends reality and fiction.

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