Toronto Fringe: Privacy and identity in the digital age in sharply funny, edgy Cam Baby

cambaby.groupfunny.beaudixonbrandoncoffeychristinehorneashleybottingandrewcameronkarlang - cam babyJessica Moss and Theatre Mischief get into the guilty pleasures and discomfiting side of social media consumption and interaction in Moss’s new play Cam Baby, running now on the Factory Theatre Mainspace for Toronto Fringe. Directed by Charlotte Gowdy, assisted by Taylor Trowbridge, Cam Baby is the 2016 Toronto Fringe New Play Contest winner.

Joseph (Andrew Cameron) and Matabang (Karl Ang) are bros and business partners, running an Airbnb business with a little something extra on the side called Cam Baby, where the guests become the show. Joseph’s conscience gets the better of him when his crush Natalie (Christine Horne) moves in after breaking up with her boyfriend. Meanwhile, guest Clara (Ashley Botting), in town for three months while taking a course, is navigating a burgeoning romance with Tim (Brandon Coffey). Things all go to hell when new guest Ezra (Beau Dixon) outs the Cam Baby operation. Schadenfreude, voyeurism, commodifying other people’s lives – for money or social currency – and issues of identity on and off screen all play prominently, as does the meaning of connection in an age when our devices become an extension of ourselves.

The sharp social commentary, which shifts between hilarious and discomfiting, is delivered with lightning speed by an outstanding cast. Ang is a manic, despicable sleazebag as Matabang; a slick fast talker with an amoral sensibility – as Tim mentions at one point, he is Red Bull personified. Cameron does a great job with Joseph’s inner conflict; the good guy to Matabang’s bad guy, his hands are just as dirty. He wants to come clean, but does he have the balls to walk the talk? Botting does an awesome job with Clara’s see-sawing between self-possession and low self-esteem; articulate and smart, she’s basically a good person, but even she crosses the line at times. Horne is delightfully quirky as the conflicted, self-absorbed Natalie; the “beautiful one” of the female guests, she is happy to consume and use the lives of others, but does little with her own life. Coffey is adorkable as the sweet, sensitive Tim; he is the most genuine of the bunch, but even he’s not entirely innocent, as he gleefully watches videos of people taking a bad tumble. And Dixon brings a lovely, child-like innocence as the lonely, socially awkward Ezra; he’s a troubled guy, but is he dangerous?

In the end, we’re all culpable; judging by appearances and gossiping about others online and in person to gain attention and social standing. And maybe if we stopped being such lookie loos and turned our gaze inward more often, we’d see that we’re all so much more than the sum of our likes and followers, and more than our body shape, job title or hotness rating. Maybe we might get a better idea of who we really are – and who our friends really are.

With shouts to set/costume designer Brandon Kleiman for the trippy, modular set – the apartment spaces delineated in part by a structure of boxes painted with a QR code design, which carries over into the chairs.

Who are we when others are watching? When nobody’s watching? Do we even know? Privacy and identity in the digital age in sharply funny, edgy Cam Baby.

Cam Baby continues at the Factory Theatre Mainspace until July 10; definitely book ahead for this one, folks. For ticket info and advance tickets/passes, check out the Fringe website.

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In time so long ago, adventure so passing awesome – Driftwood Theatre’s fundraiser reading of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

So much big time awesome fun WSSW 2014 Poster Artwork webat Whistler’s Grille last night for Driftwood Theatre Group’s 20th season fundraiser reading of Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars (Quirk Books): Play in a Pub: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.

Driftwood A.D. Jeremy Smith put together an incredible cast for this hilarious and engaging evening of theatrical literature/movie mash-up. Joseph Ziegler* did a marvelous job with Obi Wan Kenobi, all wry wit and wisdom. Oliver Dennis was a delight as the prissy and formal C3P0, and Melissa D’Agostino* was adorably Puck-like as R2D2. Dion Johnstone, suitably attired in a black leather vest, brought the perfect balance of cocky and charm to Han Solo. Michael Hanrahan’s smooth bass voice and gravitas were bang-on for Darth Vader. Sarah Wilson was lovely and sassy as Princess Leia. Richard Alan Campbell brought a nice Shakespearean officiousness to The Chorus. Peter van Gestel used all the colours in the box for Luke Skywalker, from the restless boy longing for adventure to resourceful, brave (and love-smitten) young warrior. Awesome voice work/mimicking from Karl Ang as Jabba the Hutt, Lori Nancy Kalamanski as Chewbacca and Helen King as Greedo (all playing multiple roles throughout); and Andy Pogson did a nice job with multiple roles, including Wedge Antilles and some hapless stormtrooper dudes. Steven Gallagher brought it sly and snake-like – was he channeling Olivier? – as Governor Tarkin. And Steven Burley was awesomesauce outstanding in his role as music and sound effects master – all done with his voice, including the Twentieth Century Fox theme music before launching into the John Williams soundtrack at the beginning of the reading!

Driftwood rounded up some excellent prizes for the evening’s auction and raffles, including a live auction for walk-on roles during the reading and a prize for the best costume.  

We did have a blast. We did feel good. And I’m hoping Mr. Doescher continues writing these Shakespeare/Star Wars mash-ups so Driftwood can do this again. I’d love to hear Burley do “Yoda’s Theme.”

*Casting change: RH Thompson was originally set to play Obi Wan Kenobi and Michael Therriault was to read R2D2.

May the force be with thee – upcoming Driftwood Theatre fundraiser is out of this world

Hey kids! Hope the weekend was good for you. Here’s another fantastic one-night only fundraiser event, and this one promises to be out of this world:

WSSW 2014 Poster Artwork webPlay in a Pub: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Monday, October 28 at Whistler’s Grille. Driftwood Theatre Group presents a reading of Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars (Quirk Books) for this fundraiser for their 20th season of The Bard’s Bus Tour in 2014.

Driftwood has assembled an impressive cast for this unique theatre experience, including: RH Thomson (Obi Wan Kenobi), Oliver Dennis (C3P0), Michael Therriault (R2D2), Dion Johnstone (Han Solo), Michael Hanrahan (Darth Vader), Sarah Wilson (Princess Leia), Richard Alan Campbell (The Chorus), Peter van Gestel (Luke Skywalker), Karl Ang (Jabba the Hutt), Steven Gallagher (Governor Tarkin), Lori Nancy Kalamanski (Chewbacca), Helen King (Greedo), Andy Pogson (Wedge Antilles) and Steven Burley (music and sound effects).

But wait – there’s more! There will be a live auction and a silent auction – plus the opportunity for cosplay to win a prize! Here are the details from Driftwood’s press release: Audience members will be able to get in on the action through a Live Auction offering three walk-on roles as rebels, imperials or interesting creatures. The event will also feature a Mini Silent Auction (featuring 10 boutique packages handpicked by Driftwood Theatre’s board of directors), a Getaway Raffle (win a trip for two to Montreal for some great food, entertainment and luxurious hotel stay) and Best Costume Prize (come as your favourite Star Wars character and you could win BIG).

The action starts at 6:30-8:00 p.m. with the silent auction, with the performance at 8 p.m. Tickets $25 (limited seating). Online at www.driftwoodtheatre.com/event/playinapub/ , by phone at 416-703-2773, or in person at the T.O.Tix Booth (Yonge/Dundas Square). A service charge will apply to all orders.

Seating is limited for this one, kids, so best get yourself online, on the phone or over to T.O. Tix to book yourself a seat on this stellar trip. Hope to see you at Whistler’s Grille (995 Broadview Ave., Toronto)!

You will have a blast. You will feel good. And these are not the droids you are looking for.