Last night, I was back at Tarragon Theatre, to the Extra Space this time, for Mark My Words-Ink’s Toronto Fringe production of A Lesson in Gabby, written by Labe Kagan and directed by Jacqui Burke.
Playwright Jerry Kessler aka Groucho (James Robert Woods) is famous – or, rather, infamous – for his offensive, but radically funny work; and he’s finding himself in a rut both personally and professionally. Stuck in the memory of failed marriages and past wives, he’s unable to disentangle himself from his ex Gabby. Enter his friend, real estate agent and amateur actor Melville (Stephen Flett), who he offers to write a monologue for so Melville can nail his next audition. Enter a parrot and the seed of a new project is born. Enter some transcendental practice and positive thinking – with some angels thrown in – and Groucho has an opportunity to extricate himself from said rut.
Really nice work from Woods and Flett, who manage the comedy nicely while keeping the humanity of the characters and avoiding getting too shticky with the material. Woods’ Groucho is a grumpy, manipulative, cheap and talented bastard, with a sweet guy under there somewhere. Flett’s Melville is Groucho’s wise-ass father confessor – and a pragmatic mensch who will not be trod upon.
A Lesson in Gabby is a quirky fun two-hander featuring some snappy dialogue between two middle-aged Jewish guys as they hash out life, love and show business.
A Lesson in Gabby continues at the Tarragon Extra Space until July 12; check here for exact dates/times.