Toronto Fringe: Do you want to believe? Sharp, dark comedy in Bright Lights

 

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Theatre Brouhaha’s production of Kat Sandler’s Bright Lights opened to a sold out house of super enthusiastic folks at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace late last night.

Written and directed by Sandler, Bright Lights is set in a community centre, where members of the Alien Experience Support Group gather for their regular meeting to share their experiences of alien encounters in a safe, supportive space. The arrival of newcomer Zoe (Heather Marie Annis) shakes the group to its foundations; her abduction memory includes group organizer Ross (Colin Munch) – and his true identity and motive for forming the group come into question.

The action is fast-paced, and the storytelling is equal parts hilariously funny and darkly edgy; collegial turns combative as the heat gets turned up. Sandler’s outstanding cast is laser-focused and mercurial, weaving tight comedy with fringe society paranoia – and features the creative forces behind Punch Up, Morro and Jasp, Peter n’ Chris and Shakey-Shake & Friends.

Amy Lee is delightfully kooky as the group’s snack baking den mother Laurel; earthy and nurturing, she’s pregnant by a man who isn’t her husband and describes her abduction in terms of a classic rock song. As Zoe, Annis brings a bright-eyed sense of curiosity and tightly wound nerves as she steps into this strange world of those who believe. Peter Carlone is hilariously paranoid as Dave, who’s turned survivalist after suffering multiple probings, a family tradition; dressed in militia gear, he carries a duffle bag of weapons at all times – just in case. Equally hilarious is Chris Wilson’s Wayne; a former child actor who starred in a legal procedural TV show, he fancies himself a legal expert and claims to have been gifted psychic powers during his abduction experience. (Carlone and Wilson are also performing Peter vs. Chris at this year’s Toronto Fringe). Munch gives Ross an affable, welcoming vibe and keeps us guessing as he reacts to the group’s accusations against Ross’s humanity and intentions; Ross has definitely been hiding something.

The only thing for certain is that the dynamic of this group is permanently altered during this meeting – with suspicions, theories and alliances unfolding in unexpected ways. And, in the end, you’re asking yourself: What and who do you believe?

Do you want to believe? Alien abduction, conspiracy theory and suspicion in sharp, darkly funny Bright Lights.

Bright Lights continues at the Tarragon Mainspace until July 9; advance booking for this one is strongly recommended. For ticket info and advance tickets/passes, check out the Fringe website.

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Toronto Fringe: Puberty in all its awkward, tragic & baffling glory – Morro and Jasp do Puberty

Morro and Jasp do Puberty - photo by Alex Nirta
Morro and Jasp do Puberty – photo by Alex Nirta

Getting your first period. Shaving your legs. Hair removal cream/bleach. Growing boobs. Boys. School dances. Kissing. Feeling funny “down there.”

All the female pubescent highlights are shouted out in Up your Nose and In your Toes (U.N.I.T.) Productions’ Morro and Jasp do Puberty, by Heather Marie Annis, Amy Lee and director Byron Laviolette, which opened to a packed house on the Tarragon Theatre mainspace on the first day of the Toronto Fringe Festival last night.

Clown sisters Morro (Annis) and Jasp (Lee) are tweens locked in the throes of puberty and all its accompanying changes, but couldn’t be more different. Morro is a rough and tumble, soccer baseball champ and badass tomboy who wants nothing to do with boys. Jasp is more cerebral, refined and girly, a diary-keeping daydreamer who longs for a date to the dance. And when it comes to the first onset of “that time of the month,” that “visit from Aunt Flo,” Morro is mortified and perplexed when she sees red while sitting on the toilet. Jasp has been anxiously, and happily, awaiting this rite of passage into womanhood since infancy.

It’s puberty for girls in all its awkward, tragic, baffling (and gross) glory – with all the feels. Brilliant, charming and poignant performances from Annis and Lee, accompanied by some big, bright, colourful costume and set design, and a bang-on soundtrack.

Morro and Jasp do Puberty pees your pants and warms your cockles. And you’ll never look at a tampon the same way again. I can’t wait till these guys do menopause.

Morro and Jasp do Puberty continues on the Tarragon mainspace until July 11 – see their Fringe page for exact dates/times. Advance booking strongly recommended.

After this, they’re taking the show to Edinburgh Fringe and have launched a crowdfunding campaign in support of their trip. Please consider donating to their Indiegogo campaign, open till July 15. You can also keep up with the Morro and Jasp shenanigans on Twitter.