Preview: Toronto Fringe 2011

Toronto – Fringe is here! Toronto’s annual summer theatre spectacular runs July 6 through 17 with something like a billion shows, with only about a quarter of them by local playwrights with perspectives on last summer’s G20! The problem with so many shows is, especially in the early going before the reviews come out (particularly ours, of course), how do you pick what to see? Fortunately, at the Panic Manual we have anticipated your every need. Here are some humble suggestions, based on nothing more than what sounds interesting from the three line show descriptions on the Fringe website. Our scientifically proven formula!

The Soaps – The Live Improvised Soap Opera (Venue 3, Bathurst St. Theatre)

National Theatre of the World’s Fringe show this year is a long-form improv soap opera, set behind the scenes at the “Shawford” Festival. Featuring NTOW regulars Ron Pederson, Matt Baram, Chris Gibbs and a host of others, including special guest stars, if I didn’t have to see and review a bunch of other shows I’d consider seeing this nightly.

Abra-Cadaver! (Venue 2, Tarragon Theatre Extra Space)

Ever heard of Dorothy Parker? She tried to kill herself a lot but never quite managed it. This play is inspired by her life. It’ll be dark, there’ll likely be a few laughs, Maya Rabinovitch directs it, it’ll be good.

Breaking News (Venue 7, St. Vladimir’s Theatre)

The first thing I noticed about Breaking News’ listing is that it has a HUGE cast. Like, 14 people. I don’t recognize any of the names in the cast. The second thing I noticed is that it’s about Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, featuring real reaction to this cultural phenomenon that had people convinced aliens had invaded. I’ll definitely be interested to see if there’s some insight into how people were so fooled.

The LOVE Octagon (Venue 10, Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace)

I expressed my adoration for shows involving Chris Craddock last year, when PUBLIC SPEAKING was one of my two favourites of the Fringe. The previous year he brought Moving Along to town, and it was also excellent. There’s little reason to think The LOVE Octagon won’t be great too, especially with NTOW’s Ron Pederson co-collaborating in an improv-heavy show.

The Last Rock N’ Roll Show (Venue 3, Bathurst St. Theatre)

Featuring original tunes by show creator Jeff Jones, it’s a rock show AND a solo performance drama AT THE SAME TIME (sort of). A music journalist wants to cap off her writing career with one last review, and decides to make it about the show that inspired her to write about music in the first place. Might it rekindle her love for writing about music? I don’t know! Last time I saw a rock-themed Fringe show at Bathurst Street Theatre it was my other favourite show of last year’s Fringe. Hopefully this one will be just as good. Check out preview clip on YouTube.

Bursting Into Flames (Venue 9, Robert Gill Theatre)

I don’t know much about Martin Dockery, but he’s doing the Canada-wide Fringe circuit this summer and has gotten excellent reviews of past shows, so he must be doing something right. Worth a look.

Trotsky & Hutch: On Patrol (Venue 2 Tarragon Theatre Extra Space)

Another improv show, Trotsky & Hutch is long-form improv about cops, as you might guess from the title. Performers Kevin Patrick Robbins and Sean Tabares are both accomplished improvisers, and cop shows are certainly fertile ground for comedy, so this could be very good.

Boyfriends (Venue 13, Factory Studio Theatre)

What better way to celebrate the recently deceased Peter Falk than seeing a fictionalized play about him? More specifically, this play is about Falk, John Cassavetes and Ben Gazzara gettin’ all wild in New York City in the 60’s. Best of all, two of the three aren’t around to sue for libel anymore! (Too soon?)

When Harry Met Harry (Venue 2 Tarragon Theatre Extra Space)

Another Fringe veteran, Allan Girod has taken When Harry Met Harry across Canada and Australia with great success. His Harry character is a button-down type who’s life unravels on stage. This is definitely the kind of thing that makes for good solo comedy shows with insight.

Dungeons & Dragons, (not) The Musical (Venue 17, Snakes & Lattes) & The Godot Cycle (Venue 19, Honest Ed’s Parking Lot)

Finally, I’m not sure I’ll actually get in to see either of these shows, but man, talk about ambitious. Dungeons has three performances of six hours each with people playing D&D while “live sound artists create a unique soundscape for each tournament.” Godot is “The Waiting for Godot performance that never ends,” with two performances of 30 and 54 (!) hours. Both shows allow you to enter and leave when you like, so check in late in the performances when sleep deprivation has set in for maximum fun!

Whatever you decide to see this year, enjoy the Fringe, and be sure to check back here for reviews once the fest gets rolling.

Posted on by Brian in Fringe, Theatre

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