Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Genesis and other Stories (Fringe)

The Palette Cleanser
by Colette Shaw

Something about the Fringe makes me more open to comedy than the rest of the year. With the short running times, and cramming so many shows into so few days, a rambunctious comedy can be the perfect palate cleanser between heavier idea-driven works. Rosamund Small’s Genesis and Other Stories fits that bill exactly. I knew I was in for some metatheatrical comedy when the show opened with in-show director Christopher (played by Hayden Finkelshtain) trying to coax newly heartbroken Gavin (Jared Bishop) down from a window ledge: an actual window ledge, outside the Trinity-St. Paul’s Chapel where we’re seated to watch the dress rehearsal and then performance of Christopher’s deceased father’s last play. His lack of success talking Gavin down anticipates how ridiculously, amazingly terrible the rest of Christopher’s undertakings will be.

Metatheatricality can be off-putting in a lot of contexts: for occasional theatregoers, it can feel like a bunch of in-jokes that outsiders aren’t welcome to. At the Fringe, however, nearly everyone is seeing (or has seen, or will see) many other shows, and inevitably some of them will fizzle. How refreshing it is then, to see something not fizzle but gloriously flop! The performances are all fantastic, from Finkelshtain’s bewildered director, to Jared Bishop’s distraught and unhinged Gavin, to Tess Dingman’s long-suffering actor Cathy, to Wesley. J Colford and Katie Housley’s preening divas. The lighting, costumes, and properties have an appropriately amateurish aesthetic, and the “performance” includes a self aware moment of Front of House face-saving that is refreshing in a more literal sense for the audience. First-time director Vivien Endicott-Douglas somehow keeps the whole thing from spinning into actual chaos.  This is a brilliant, funny show. See it.

Genesis and Other Stories is at the Toronto Fringe

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