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Fringe Festival Review: Real Time

Take your typical boy meets girl story. You know the one: they meet, they woo, they fall in love.

Now make a few slight modifications, and--ta da!--you have Real Time.

...a few slight modifications, that is, being:

-the boy is a Dungeons and Dragons type with a soft spot for Whitney Houston
-the girl is a pill-popping, bar fighting broad from the wrong side of the tracks
-they meet over the Internet, with emoticons being their initial PDAs of choice
-"wooing" may be too strong a word for what they engage in at first; awkward mating dance is more like it.

But minor details aside, it's not too far off from your typical boy meets girl story. Updated for the 21st century, Real Time wrestles with the lust, the desire, the highs and the lows at the heart of every love story. It probes the universal yearning to find our chimeric other half, the one that will love us through thick and thin. Not necessarily the one understands us completely, but the one that, even when they don't "get it", will love us unconditionally anyhow.

This gem of a play is by turns poignant in theme, inspired in execution and just flat-out hilarious in content. Its clever script hits your heart at bull's eye, its inventive, intricate staging earns it mad kudos from this writer and the knock-your-socks off performances from the two leads cement its position as a must-see of the Fringe this year.

Matt Alden's script is demanding for both the performers and the production team. It requires each actor to play multiple characters, as well as creative manipulation of lighting and minimal props to create its scenes. Director Murray Utas and his cast not only step up to the challenge, however, they go above and beyond. Dan PF Jeannotte delivers an amazing performance, going from shy, awkward computer geek to tough-as-nails-but-dumb-as-bricks thug to pot-smoking gramps, all without so much as batting an eyelash. And he nails each one. Caitlin Howden is equally--and impressively--versatile, and the rapport between the two makes for a high-charged, boisterous romp through the mysterious modus operandi of love.

This alt-fairytale romance starring two misfits from the outskirts of society appeals to the misunderstood outsider in us all. In this oft cold and lonely world, you can't help but cheer when two souls find each other against the odds. Real Time is funny, beautiful and heartfelt. You'll leave grinning like a fool, complete with warm fuzzies sighing contentedly in your tummy.

Rating: *****

Venue 3 - Theatre Passe-Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue, at Queen)

Remaining showtimes:
Friday, July 14, 2:15pm
Saturday, July 15, 10:30pm

Psst: The show has been picked up for another run by a theatre here in town so if you don't get a chance to catch it during Fringe, you best make sure you do the next chance you get. I didn't catch which theatre it was when the actors announced the news, but keep your eyes peeled. Congratulations to all involved!

Psst #2: Jeannotte and Howden are also members of Montreal-based improv troupe Uncalled For, which also has a show in the Fringe. Remaining times: Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 1:45pm at Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman).

The Toronto Fringe Festival features local, national and international companies at 28 venues. Tickets are $10 or less ($2 surcharge on advance tickets) and discount passes are available. Advance tickets sold up to three hours prior to showtime by phone, online or in person at the Fringe Club (292 Brunswick, at Bloor). At least half of all tickets for each performance go on sale one hour before showtime at the venue. Festival runs until July 16. Fringe Hotline: 416-966-1062.


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