Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Burnt and Toasted (Fringe)

Morality Plays
by Lisa McKeown

“What constitutes success?” asks Donna Greenberg at the close of the piece.  

Well, unfortunately, not this production. This is a story of a woman who married the wrong man, realized too late, and struggled with the decision to leave. A common story, and likely quite relatable to many women. Unfortunately, the manner of its telling invokes distant memories of the kinds of morality plays I was forced to watch in middle school. 

Greenberg’s strength is in her singing, and she’s clearly the most comfortable and confident in her songs. But the narrative peppered throughout the show is stilted, as though she’s making up what she’s saying as she goes along. She converses intermittently with a nameless interlocutor whose identity is ambiguous and a bit confusing – perhaps it’s a conscience? A superego? Her older self? Her mother?  An imaginary frenemy? Meanwhile her younger self recounts most of the story – a good idea but badly executed. She’s not comfortable with her lines, or with straight monologues, and that comes across in the awkward tone of her acting.  

As the story develops her younger self learns what the audience has seen coming from the first song – her husband is not really a nice guy. In fact he’s pretty terrible. Or at least, so it seems from this recounting. What’s needed is more dimension to the story, though, because as it stands she’s simply a victim of a bad man. Unfortunately life is a bit more complicated than that, and we have to take responsibility for our own actions. The character obviously musters up the courage to leave him, which does, admittedly take guts. But there’s little acknowledgement of the responsibility we all have for the course of our lives, which is what the story needed to focus on more, to be a more satisfying journey for both the audience and the creator. 

Burnt and Toasted is at the Toronto Fringe

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