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The top 15 shows at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival

Posted by Keith Bennie / July 1, 2014

Toronto Fringe FestivalThe Fringe Festival is set to get underway in Toronto for 2014. And while the World Cup and World Pride have made the city positively electric this summer, it's now time to add to the mix the city's annual independent theatre jam to really blow the roof off.

The Fringe Festival you know and love features 150 shows and a host of exciting sidebar programming. This year the Festival takes leaps forward, offering 100% of tickets online, in advance via smart phone, more underground dance parties, and a new programme called T.E.N.T. to support emerging artists.

Here are my picks for some of the promising shows at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival.

52 Pick Up / Tarragon Theatre Extraspace / Page 14
One of the more memorable Fringe success stories in recent memory comes courtesy of T. J. Dawe whose fringe play Cigars and Toothpaste was optioned into a film, The F Word directed by Michael Dowse, featuring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. In 52 Pick Up, the subject is yet again about love. Over 52 scenes, each inspired by a new card in a regular deck, a shuffle and flip determines the narrative that unfolds. Will the Queen of Hearts be wooed by the King of Spades?

Parallel Play / Tarragon Theatre Extraspace / Page 16
Pop culture maven Elvira Kurt (Spin Off, Cultural Hall of Shame) lends her considerable talents to the Fringe landscape this year. In Parallel Play, she and Megan Fahlenbock consider the variety of roles that women are called upon to play: sister, daughter, wife, friend, and all around domestic and urban survivor. The satirical portrayals are sure to explode stereotypes with a mix of exaggerated and poignant vignettes.

Toronto Fringe FestivalPotosí / Tarragon Theatre Mainspace / Page 12
This year's Best New Play Contest winner is Alexander Offord whose Potosí considers conflicts of gender, greed, and labour deep within the recesses of the earth. Amidst a raging civil war, tensions boil over when a Canadian mining corporation rep digs deeper into reports of sexual violence at the mine. She soon finds herself a participant in the conflict she was sent to observe.

Lwam is Eritrea's Greatest Hockey Player / Tarragon Solo Room / Page 18
Lwam Ghebrehariat found himself at the centre of controversy in 2010 when the SummerWorks show in which he appeared, Homegrown, was accused of glorifying terrorism by the PMO (the performance festival lost its funding the year following). The National Theatre School graduate and lawyer explores the fallout from the play, as well as the complexities of politics in his home country of Eritrea, in this solo offering.

Hugh and I / Randolph Theatre / Page 21
Expect Hugh and I to be one of the breakout hits of this year's Festival. A talented ensemble of musical theatre folk come together to tell the story of infamous Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner -- Daniel Abrahamson (Music & Lyrics), Kevin McGarry (Book), Ari Weinberg (Director), and performers Jackie English, Gabi Epstein, Alessia Lupiano, Maren Sigson, Lana Sugarman and Jennifer Walls. The musical biopic paints a portrait of the sexual icon through a fitting POV, that of the women who have loved him.

Peter N' Chris and the Kinda OK Corral / Randolph Theatre / Page 22
Comedy duos have a strong track record for making a splash on the fringe circuit with bankable, intelligent scripts. This year, Canadian Comedy Award Winning twosome Peter n' Chris are the duo to catch (with no Morro and Jasp on the bill). They bring with them a host of comedy accolades and a show injected with all the western, tex-mex, dude ranch humour you could ever want.

Common Ground Musical DissertationThe Common Ground: A Musical Dissertation / Randolph Theatre / Page 22
Give this one full marks for a unique journey -- how many fringe plays begin as a 400-page dissertation? Equal parts heartwarming and intriguing, The Common Ground bills itself as a "musical journey through a research paper" where the subject is a group of teenagers and their queer parents and the thesis is likely that love comes in many shapes and forms. Look for this one to be a feel good Festival pick to carry the spirit of pride throughout the summer.

Three Men in a Boat / Annex Theatre / Page 26
Few troupes are as veteran as Pea Green Theatre Group who arrive at the Fringe with their ninth production. An adaptation of Jerome K. Jerome's 1889 British travel journey, Three Men in a Boat follows fearless explorers Jay, George, and Harris as they coast along the river Thames. Sue Miner directs Victor Pokinko, Scott Garland, and Matt Pilipiak in this charming nautical adventure.

Tikva's Orchestra/ Annex Theatre / Page 26
Comedies and well-made plays tend to rule the roost when it comes to Fringe buzz, but each year there's also beautifully rendered dance and physical theatre on offer. Alisa Walton, Ginette Mohr and Thomas Morgan Jones collaborate on Tikva's Orchestra, a physical theatre piece about a Jewish cellist committed to ensuring her fellow musicians survive the Nazi sweeps. The production features an original score from David Mesiha and a narrative that unfolds via climbing and spinning aerial bungee.

Punch Up / George Ignatieff Theatre / Page 28
Annual Fringe darling Kat Sandler (Help Yourself, Delicacy, We Are the Bomb) must not be getting all that much sleep. The young playwright is churning out an average of two plays a year offering audiences a rigorous diet of dark characters behaving badly. In Punch Up, an ingenious romantic kidnaps his favourite comedian to woo the saddest girl in the universe. Sandler directs Caitlin Driscoll, Colin Munch, and Tim Walker.

Redheaded Stepchild & Amusement / Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse / Page 46
You know you're doing something right when audiences are celebrating your shows after ten years on the circuit. That's business as usual for Morgan Norwich and Johnnie Walker whose company, Nobody's Business Theatre, presents a double bill of the well-travelled Redheaded Stepchild and Amusement. If you're looking for proven entertainment rather than the next big thing, you'll find it here.

Loves Labour Lost Fringe TorontoLove's Labour's Lost / Victory Cafe / Page 62
In a few short years, Shakespeare BASH'd has established itself as the most formidable Bard troupe on the block with celebrated productions of Much Ado and The Taming of the Shrew. With pints and play aplenty at the Victory Cafe, expect the same energy and panache in their adaptation of Love's Labour's Lost. A king and his three gentlemen swear off women for three years -- easier said than done in a modern fraternity setting where red cups abound.

True / Citizenry Cafe / Page 64
Celebrated playwright Rosa Labordé explores the confining qualities of memory in True, about three sisters who must confront the past when their estranged father unexpectedly re-enters their lives. Boasting a talented cast, Layne Coleman, Shannon Taylor, Ingrid Doucet, Sabrina Grdevich and Scott McCord, and some of the city's best designers, Thomas Ryder-Payne, Trevor Schwellnus and Lindsay Walker, expect this one to top most must-see lists.

Summer Spectacular / Frankel Lambert Park / Page 64
What would Fringe be without an outdoor walking tour?! Jacob Zimmer and Small Wooden Shoe traverse the grounds at Frankel Lambert Park with giant puppets to explore myths and the qualities of myth-making with a closer look at Daedalus and Icarus, Robert Oppenheimer and Aaron Swartz, and the promise of a brand new Toronto tale. Let your imagination run wild, through a labyrinth of ideas, under the stars.

Chasing Margaret Flatwood / Campbell House / Page 64
Margaret Flatwood? I wouldn't have a clue who she is. From playwright Robert Watson and director Andrew Lamb, comes a comedy described as 1% rich and 99% satire. Vivienne Moore must salvage her social reputation by throwing a gala to win over the hearts and minds of those who matter. But when the honoured guest's attendance is questionable, the whole party threatens to collapse under the weight of unfulfilled promises.

What did I miss? Add your show picks to the comments below.

The Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival runs from July 2-13. Visit the Fringe Festival website for tickets, event times, and additional programming that runs throughout the festival. To claim your own Festival guide, visit one of the locations listed here.

Images courtesy of the Fringe Festival



Rebecca Perry / July 1, 2014 at 09:03 am
Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl! ;)
Kristina Abbondanza / July 1, 2014 at 11:38 am
Cirqular! Puppetry piece at Tarragon Extraspace.
Yury / July 1, 2014 at 11:57 am
Enjoy an evening in a kitchen of a communal apartment in Moscow with seven Russians engaging in real life conflicts around everyday issues: gays and homophobes, working class macho guys and intellectuals, women and men. They fight, drink, and talk about immigration, human rights, the Sochi Olympic Games, Putin, the Ukraine, and gays.

Sit around a table and have a drink with some very real/imagined Russians in Russia today!

A collective creation from an idea by Yury Ruzhyev.
Directed by Sky Gilbert.

Cast and Creators:
Andrew Cromwell, Peggy Mahon, Julia Porter, Andrew Pimento,
Sean Pratt, Yury Ruzhyev, Matthew Sarookanian.

Genre: Drama / Comedy

Warnings: Mature language, Sexual content, Fighting.
Marilla Wex / July 1, 2014 at 12:33 pm
"Lost and Found" at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace! A Glenn Sumi NOW Magazine Hot Summer Guide pick. #justsayin
Jonathan Prag / July 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm
How about a feast of fabulous classical guitar music? JONATHAN PRAG CLASSICAL GUITAR at the Robert Gill Theatre...divine music from around the world
Mike Moss / July 1, 2014 at 12:39 pm
Derrick Chua who sees more Fringe shows then anyone I know also publishes a Fringe Picks list here:
Joel Edmiston / July 1, 2014 at 12:48 pm
Tachycardia at the Tarragon Mainspace. Awesome horror/romance/drama.
sex t-rex / July 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm
If you like comedy westerns you're in luck because as well as Peter n' Chris, Sex T-Rex is presenting Watch Out Wildkat!
Sundance / July 1, 2014 at 01:36 pm
Hey 90s Kids, You're Old #FringeTO
@ St. Vladimir's Theatre

Stephanie Fowler / July 1, 2014 at 01:54 pm
Mother Daughter acting duo present Little Miss Understood, a light hearted look at the 'joys' of raising - and being a teenager. Presented by Sandcastle Theatre at st. Vladimir's Theatre, 620 Spadina
Barb Farwell / July 1, 2014 at 02:05 pm
What happens when good & evil fall in love? A marriage from Hell, literally! Don't miss the great new Canadian musical No Chance In Hell, debuting at the Toronto Fringe Festival. It has dancing devils and a singing Satan. Plus it's directed by Dora nominated Lezlie Wade with music by Kevin Fox - Canada's premiere cellist! Kevin has even worked with the Bieb! #HellOfAGoodTimeGuaranteed
Nathaniel Kent / July 1, 2014 at 02:12 pm
Real Dead Ghosts is a comedic drama about a young married couple from NYC's Shelby Company, making their international debut this summer. Winner of the Audience Choice Award at the FRIGID New York festival and a finalist for the Jeffrey Mackie Best Text Award at Montreal fringe earlier this year. Don't miss it!
Erin / July 1, 2014 at 04:46 pm
emerGENce Theatre's production of Daniel MacIvor's Never Swim Alone! (Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace) Additional details here:
Baby Gumm / July 1, 2014 at 09:08 pm
Emerald City is a Wizard of Oz sequel that finds Dorothy and the gang in group therapy with Dr. Oz, Psychiatrist. Dorothy has lost Toto, Tin Man is depressed, Scarecrow has ADHD and Lion is seeking the courage to come out to his friends. Oh, and Glinda is now Oz's Next Top Model! Join us for this musical comedy that features such song classics as After You've Gone and I'm Always Chasing Rainbows.
Joan Patch / July 1, 2014 at 09:19 pm
Ming Bang Production presents Conversations with Dork, a play about growing up when you don't want to, and loving when it's hard. With the passing of his father, Jeff finds himself responsible for the welfare of both of his grandparents and is forced to confront his grandfather’s outdated beliefs. Based on a true story!
Joan Patch / July 1, 2014 at 09:41 pm
Ming Bang Productions presents Conversations with Dork, a play based on a true story about growing up when you don't want to, and loving when it's hard. ith the passing of his father, Jeff finds himself responsible for the welfare of both of his grandparents and is forced to confront his grandfather’s outdated beliefs. Based on a true story!
Welshgrrl / July 1, 2014 at 10:26 pm
The Assassination of Rob Ford: Dirty Little Coward, written and directed by Adam Bailey, at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace starting July 2
Jackie / July 1, 2014 at 11:40 pm
Strapless Comedy features 4 of Vancouver's Best Sketch Comedians and is an an all female 'Tits in the Hall'! Hot off of kick ass reviews at the Montreal Fringe and a sold out run at the Vancouver Fringe! Four stars! At the Georgia Ignatieff Theatre! July 2-13!
Adam Francis Proulx / July 2, 2014 at 01:14 am
BAKER'S DOZEN is a one man, one puppet, twelve character show about the jurors in a murder trial. Come check it out at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace :)
Susan Freedman / July 2, 2014 at 09:29 am
SPILLING FAMILY SECRETS is a funny and nostalgic love story based on my parents 80 year old love letters. CBC Canada Writes includes it in "10 CAN'T MISS CANADIAN FRINGE SHOWS THIS SUMMER".
At Taragon Solo Room.
Andrea Maclam / July 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm
The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward
from July 2nd to July 12th
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace

Starring: Geoff Mays, Tyler Seguin and Joel Lightman

The Story of Robert Ford, The Assassin of Jesse James, is often told as an epilogue to the famous outlaw’s life. But Robert Ford wandered free as a minor celebrity, thanks to his crimes, before he was also gunned down. This new play looks at the story of Robert Ford from his killer’s perspective, allowing for an examination of the paralyzing power of anger while drawing a comparison between the politics of a post-Civil War America to those we experience today. Performed as a saloon show novelty act, the narrative is accompanied by original music written and performed by Joel Lightman.
dnice / July 2, 2014 at 01:23 pm
She's Black, He's Jewish, They're married Oy Vey! Check it out. Hilarious duo. and they'll be on Canada AM at 8am tomorrow morning!
Kevin / July 3, 2014 at 10:28 pm
50 Times Around The Sun at the Al Green Theatre. Music from over 30 years in the 'biz' performed by TORONTO talents!
Lisa Rose / July 4, 2014 at 07:20 am
Go and see ALL IN THE TIMING. It is hilarious and witty. The timing is wonderful. The audience and the cast had a great time
Chris Jull / July 4, 2014 at 04:10 pm
My two sons and I just came from "Elly's Emotions", a FringeKids show at the Palmerston Theatre. If you want to be astounded at a tight-sounding, smart original musical that's just as much for the parents as the kids, go see this show! I've been seeing shows at this venue as a volunteer, and now as a parent of young children, for many years, and this is among the best shows I have ever seen!
Pavil / July 6, 2014 at 02:41 am
Amusement- Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse: is comedy done by a veteran comedy troupe. It's surreal, touching, has incredibly funny moments, and has some very funny songs sung quite badly.
I recommend it.

Operatic Mute- George Ignatief Theatre:is a long rambling story told by a friend of the family at a dinner party. It seems like it lasts forever, but at the end you can't believe it's over, because there seems to be no point. Only see if you like boredom.

Strapless- George Ignatief Theatre: an all female theatre troop does 16 sketches. Not every sketch is amazing, but the final 2/3s of this show are gold. I threw my head back and howled at a sketch about someone not being able to make up their mind at McDonalds. If you like sketch comedy it is definitely worth your time.

Fantastic Extravagance- Randolph Theatre: Funny, well acted, original, and touching. A show about the intersection of art, business, ego, and the fact that people are weird. Good show. Well worth seeing.

Birdy- Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse: A well acted one woman show. Its ending is not as strong as its beginning. A show about family, loss, and mental illness. It has some funny moments, and some touching moments, but soemtimes just feels like it is wandering. Worth seeing, but might not be to everyone's taste.

Sex T-Rex "Watch out Wildkat!": SO FUNNY. If you like sketch comedy and do not see this show you will spend the rest of your life haunted by a nameless regret... except the regret has a name, you didn't see "Watch Out WildKat!" See it and take a friend. It's day 4, and I've seen it twice.

Aiden Flynn Lost his Bother, So He Made Another- Tarragon Extraspace: A wordless play combining brilliant acting, shadow puppets, and quirky props, this is the kind of show Fringe was made for. I do not know where else you would see something else like this, but if you did you would be glad. The show is funny, cute, and haunted by melancholy. You will not regret seeing this show.

SPilling Family Secrets- Tarragon solo room: This is the true story of a lifetime of love told through loveletters, with interludes illustratig the less successful lovelife of their daughter... all this is presented by that same daughter. Do you like charming, romantic, and funny? If "yes" this is a good show to see. If "no" how's that cynicism working out for you?

An Ode to Dyads- Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace: I should not have liked this show, but brilliant comic expression, and beautiful body language from two dancers turns what should have been pretentious, and indulgent into half an hour of surprised delight. Try to fit this into your schedule. It's another show that you're unlikely to see anywhere else, but at the Fringe.Comedy, tragedy, and love, all expressed through dance without a moment wasted.

Silent Party- Robert Gill Theatre: The story of a woman looking for direction, and maybe not finding it, but finding something worthwhile in ten days of silent meditation. This is not a show for everyone, but features really good original music. One woman show, good music, interesting.

Don't Tell My Dad- Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace: This show is full of lies, hilarious lies. It may also contain truths, but who cares. Funny songs from a very funny lady. Do not bring children to this show. Really, really enjoyable. Date material for people with a slightly evil sense of humour.

Radical- Tarragon Main: The Story of the pioneering female oncologist who fought for women and patients rights. This is a story that should be told, and is told very well. This play is dramatic, funny, engaging, sad, and finely acted. This is a show to see.

Dreams of Summer's End- Robert Gill Theatre: This play opens and closes with a rape. The bits in between aren't too fun either. The actors are good, but i spent the entire time kind of wishing i was somewhere else. If discomfort, failure, terrible relationships, and sad people are your thing then this play is for you.

Mr and Mrs Alexander...- Tarragon Extraspace: Do you like the idea of a Victorian Era magic show combined with a true story of mystery and crime? If not what is wrong with you? A seriously good time. Well acted, executed, and presented. Bring someone you like to this show.

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffee Shop Girl- Annex Theatre: A one woman show with musical back up. It's a love story, a story of triumph over mediocrity, and of how people behave in coffee shops. The play part is good. The singing is great. If you like the idea of a funny one woman show with a beautiful voice then book tickets soon because this show is selling out every performance.
JR Cribs / July 6, 2014 at 08:27 am
SLUT at The Annex Theatre. Just amazed by the writer/star's honesty, bravery, and talent. Great writing, lots of laughs, catchy tunes, and a very raw performance make it a can't-miss.
sweet2th / July 6, 2014 at 04:05 pm
Memento Mori - What would you do if you had 1 year left to live?
Dia Frid / July 11, 2014 at 08:43 am
WATCH OUT WILDKAT! Don't miss it!!
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