Fringe Plays I Apparently Should Not Have Bothered Seeing

Bizarre article in the Star/Toronto.com on how to avoid seeing bad plays at the Fringe. Apparently there are ten things to avoid so you can only see good shows. I posted this note on Facebook last night, and got some good comments back, comments that made me think.

” Isn’t the entire point of the Fringe that you can’t apply rules to theatre? That’s called “formulaic” and is generally considered bad.”

“He misses the essential point(s) of the fringe and what we grapple with post-fringe in order to make our work. I think (my) company has broken all the rules and played to sold out houses and high praise even from his newspaper.”

“Is the author involved aware of the rules involved in staging a show at the Fringe? Is the author aware that it would be a tad difficult to store the set for Miss Saigon in a 3’x6′ space backstage at Tarragon Backspace? I saw Ian McKellen do “Acting Shakespeare” but I guess it was a dud, because it violated Rules# 3 and 6…Ditto Julia Sweeney in “Letting Go of God” and Tracey Erin Smith-Alter in “The Burning Bush” but I guess only that last one counts because it was a Fringe show…”

and from another post on said article from the amazing Sharron Matthews“It is like the writer is encouraging patrons and audience members to NOT come to the theatre…to not be adventurous or have independent thought when choosing a play or musical to see at the festival…to only go to pieces that are endorsed by critics…to not take a chance on something different…to basically go against the whole spirit of what the festival is.”

Maybe it was tongue in cheek. But what about the readers who believe it, who are hitting print and tucking it into their Fringe programs? The more I thought about it the article, the more I realized that some of the shows I’ve seen over the years clearly WERE duds according to the 10 reasons listed in the article. I didn’t know I was seeing duds at the time – I know better now. Some highlights/duds I saw are listed below – I hope you weren’t fooled as well. If you were and I’ve missed one, please let me know. We only have each other to rely on.

The NOAM CHOMSKY LECTURES breaks rule 7. (A variation of No. 6). Two names everywhere.  I don’t care if those names are Daniel Brooks and Guillermo Verdecchia it’s only two names and there needs to be more.

THIS IS A PLAY violates #6, and #4. “A play about a play about a play about itself. Deconstructivist hilarity.” Too ambitious based on the tag line and Daniel MacIvor all over it.

THIS HOTEL # 2. Really?  The Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse? How am I supposed to find a theatre when there’s a bloody TENT in front of it, and these people dressed in shirts that say Fringe Volunteer are selling tickets and yelling “tip the fringe!!” all over the place?

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE Don’t get me started. #1, #4, #6, #7 everywhere. Did this show even go anywhere after the Fringe?

DA KINK IN MY HAIR – same as above. And same question – no idea if this piece had any shelf life.

ROMEO AND JULIET REMIXED – #4 with a bullet – the description says toss in glitter, glow sticks and throbbing house music. Add a club kid named Romeo, and a raver named Juliet. Mix in a DJ, a dance floor, and you’ve got Toronto’s most innovative environmental production ever! YOU WILL DANCE! content, language, gunshots, strobe lights, audience members may get wet! Too much! Too, too much!

OSCAR REMEMBERED  – I saw this, I don`t quite remember,  but I bet it broke Rule 1.Avoid dramaturgy. And that`s coupled with 2. Crappy Venue. If you didn’t, I apologize for my accusation. Still – crappy venue.Thank God Bruce liked it.
(Recommended)Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St.
   Working from the excellent script by Montreal playwright Maxim Mazumdar, Denis Couillard ably performs this one-man show tracing the tragic downfall of Oscar Wilde from the perspective of the man who brought him down, Lord Alfred Douglas. Historically speaking, it was young Lord Douglas, nicknamed Bosie, who goaded Wilde into suing his own father for calling the flamboyant playwright and famous wit a “sodomite.” The subsequent trials led to Wilde’s imprisonment, disgrace and an ignominious and impoverished exile. But instead of exposing Bosie as the true villain he is, Couillard’s fey and affected portrayal, while unsympathetic, doesn’t generate the outrage in the audience that it should. – Bruce DeMara

PHONEY-   # 2 and “one woman mixed media” clearly violates #4. Again – thank God Bruce liked it.
(Recommended) Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St.  A late bloomer to the comedy scene, Shelley Marshall presents herself in a one-woman mixed-media show filled with pathos and humour that doesn’t fully satisfy. At 30 minutes, it’s just long enough to give us a sense of Marshall’s comic talents, mostly seen on the screen behind her, which replays slices of her tragicomic earlier life. In fact, too much of the funniest stuff is on the screen, in the form of her acid-tongued old nanny, a man-hungry mother and Marshall as a young child with a mannish hairstyle and oversized glasses that cause everyone to mistake her for a boy. Starting out in frumpy pyjamas and fuzzy slippers, she eventually emerges from her chrysalis as a strong and happy adult through one of the most side-splitting onstage costume changes ever to grace the stage. Then all too soon, it’s over. A little longer and stronger and Marshall could become a real comic gem. –  Bruce DeMara

My point being besides poking fun at the article is  – go. See what you like. See what looks promising to you. Take a risk. It’s at the most an hour and a half and ten bucks. Stretch yourself. Use your imagination. Fringe.

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