TO Fringe Review: Trotsky & Hutch

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Photo by Kevin Thorn

In this fully-improvised, one-hour romp, Impatient Theatre Company Founders Kevin Patrick Robbins, and Sean Tabares play two beat-cops deciphering life. Each improviser gets a suggestion off the top of the show and uses that one thing to fuel his perspective for the next hour. What’s wonderful about Tabares and Robbins is their chemistry. They have worked together tightly for over 10 years, and it’s obvious because either one of them will suddenly transition into another character in another place and time and the other will follow without hesitation. It’s simple premise, it’s good improv, and it’s worth your time.

TO Fringe Review: Sex, Religion and Other Hangups

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In this one-man show, Toronto writer, actor, and improviser James Gangl turns a years-old personal journal into 60 minutes of hilarious, honest, tightly-woven theatre. Gangl performs most his show with the familiar style of an improviser. While he never asks the audience for a suggestion, one feels like he might at any moment – that’ s how at-ease he makes his audience feel. In a five-minute period he goes from manic, unbridled flow to crisp, tight, rhythmic spoken-word poetry to one-man, two-person scenes and back again. Under the capable direction of Chris Gibbs (whose own one-man shows have won over audiences across the country) Gangl gets very personal with an underdog point that makes his message universal. Many people who’ve lived their lives under the hovering thumb of the Catholic Church end up with repressed fetishes and guilt-laden desires. Thanks to Gangl, his journal, and his guts, we end up with one of this year’s must-see Fringe shows.

TO Fringe Review: When Harry Met Harry

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Toronto – If you’ve spent much time around the Fringe so far, you may have seen When Harry Met Harry performer Allan Girod handing out flyers or seeing other shows. I think I’ve seen him every day so far. A 6’9 Australian, he’s hard to miss. His pitch when he’s flyering is pretty good, I saw him get a positive response from a lot of people, and quite a few people at his sold-out show on Tuesday were there because he’d personally handed them a flyer.

Girod’s personable nature when handing out flyers is in stark contrast to his regimented, socially awkward character Harry. Harry lives for his job as a print specialist, goes through his checklist precisely during every phone call, won’t answer the phone before 9:00, and won’t speak for a second past noon. He favourite possession is his clock, and he times everything precisely.

Unfortunately for Harry, there’s been some complaints about his conduct, and he has to go to a “Personal Development Workshop,” which he dreads so much he tries to step in front of a car to get out of it. The workshop is where Girod really shines, playing both the over-the-top facilitator who urges everyone to repeat the mantra “conflict good, avoidance bad” and Harry, who’s called on as a volunteer for every exercise and can’t refuse because his boss is watching. It’s an exagerrated version of the sort of workshop many of us office and cubicle dwellers have been forced to attend at one time or another, and at this particular showing the audience really responded to it.

It’s a pretty good show, even though Harry’s story feels a bit unresolved at the end.

When Harry Met Harry plays at Venue 2. Check your Fringe program or the online play listings for showtimes.

TO Fringe Review: Bursting Into Flames

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Toronto – Martin Dockery has gotten some pretty high praise in the past for his shows at various Fringe festivals in the past, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s an energetic and engaging performer, a rapid-fire storyteller who can easily hold an audience for the entirety of an hour-long solo show.

That said, I’m just not wild about his material here. Dockery is in heaven, and describes to the audience all the great things he’s been doing since he got to heaven. He hosts cocktail parties every night. He has a girlfriend. He goes to his friend’s horn recitals. And everybody’s just so nice all the time.

Of course, the same people at the same parties every night gets tedious. He actually finds his girlfriend incredibly irritating, but he keeps going out with her and even gets married to her out of politeness. He doesn’t even like the horn. And everyone’s just a little too nice for comfort.

There’s certainly laughs, and a pretty compelling bit when Dockery describes what torture in hell is like. But some of the gags go on far too long without really being that funny, and the monologue really rambles at times. Dockery is fun to watch, but as good as he is, his script here isn’t that strong.

Bursting Into Flames plays at Venue 9. Check your Fringe program or the online play listings for showtimes.

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