TO Fringe Review: Mister Baxter

Toronto – Mister Baxter, the character, has got problems. He’s a lonely man, though a driven high school teacher, but his biggest problem is that he’s having a nervous breakdown and he thinks he’s going to lose his job because of inappropriate contact with a student.

Mister Baxter, the play, has also got problems. It’s just an ok play, though well-staged, but its biggest problem is that the scenes without the title character aren’t nearly as strong as the ones with him.

Mister Baxter has three settings: a subway platform where Mister Baxter speaks to a high school student, a bedroom where a married couple argue about the course of their lives, and the inside of a subway car where one of Mr. Baxter’s students travels with his girlfriend. Each gets about the same amount of “screen time,” and as the three stories move along, the audience gradually discovers how they’re interconnected. You can see the climax coming well in advance, but find yourself hoping that it doesn’t happen.

It’s a good show, but when the spotlight shifts from Mr. Baxter, the quality dips noticeably. The married couple are ok, but rely a little too much on TV drama clichés about adultery and miscarriages rather than feeling like fleshed-out characters. Still, their part of the story dovetails well with Mr. Baxter’s and comes to a satisfying conclusion. The two high school kids in the subway car, on the other hand, seem like they’re largely there just to describe prior events in Mr. Baxter’s story, rather than having a story of their own. The characters are paper-thin, and the play would probably be better if their parts were just eliminated entirely.

It is staged pretty effectively and the dramatic tension builds nicely. The potential is there for a great show, but it needs some work.

Mister Baxter plays at Venue 10. Check your Fringe program or the online play listings for showtimes.

Posted on by Brian in Fringe, Reviews, Theatre

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