An epic journey of self-discovery presented in Theatr-O-Scope Vision – Polly Polly

Can I tell you how much I love Polly Polly? Of course, you can’t love the play without also adoring its creator/actor Jessica Moss – and I do. I came late to this party, not getting to the box office line fast enough during its Toronto Fringe run, but catching last night’s closing performance on the closing night of The Best of Toronto Fringe. Better late than never.

Written and performed by Moss, and directed by Naomi Skwarna, Polly Polly takes us on an epic, fast-paced one-woman journey of self-discovery. Polly Eschfield’s blissful daydream of a life, one in which she’s the star of her own movie, is thrown into chaos when a narrator’s voice enters her life. Narrating her life! Then, while at her horrible office job, the plot thickens during a phone conversation with mysterious stranger who knows an awful lot about her. Because the stranger is her!

Moss’s script and performance is a quicksilver marvel – but loses none of the thought, expression and emotion along the way. The opening monologue of famous movie lines alone reveals a range of expression and emotion that carries throughout the show, even as Moss plays multiple characters, including Polly’s narrator and the mystery woman. Extremely witty and poignant, Polly Polly is a vulnerable, gutsy and heart-felt turn of soul-searching. Polly feels like she’s going crazy as she deals with that voice and struggles to find herself. And while she may be unhinged, she’s never undone. Polly is an inspiration everywhere for those who daydream of love and a better life, for whom beloved music becomes a personal soundtrack, and for all who love escaping into the world of the movies.

A one-woman powerhouse in Polly Polly, as well as her earlier one-woman show Modern Love, Jessica Moss is definitely a performer/playwright to watch.

What did you see at The Best of Toronto Fringe this year?

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Two great shows at Best of Toronto Fringe: Tales of Whoa! & Stop Kiss

Very happy to say that I’m managing to get out to see some shows at The Best of Toronto Fringe up at the Toronto Centre for the Arts this year, including two last night:

Not Bad Abe Productions’ Tales of Whoa!, written by the company and directed by Ken Hall, was more fun than a barrel full of monkeys as the audience went on a big, wacky, sketch comedy adventure into the titular board game.

Ensemble cast Leigh Cameron, Lara Johnson, Kyle Scott and Stuart Vaughan served up some side-splitting good times as a couple of pals get sucked into the game, encountering two crazy characters, then becoming part of the game/various characters themselves in the process. Think Jumanji meets Titanic meets sketch comedy meets gaming.

Personal highlights: a young man on a hot date has to divulge an unusual condition to his prospective partner; the shaky old lady on the subway who refuses a seat and creates havoc among fellow passengers; and an argument between drug store co-workers turns ugly and hilarity ensues when an aisle-clearing brawl breaks out, with interesting weaponry (especially loved the use of the Star Trek fight soundtrack in this scene).

Big laughs delivered with big heart. Tales of Whoa! finished its run at The Best of Toronto Fringe last night, but keep your eyes and ears peeled for these guys.

I also saw Gun Shy Theatre’s production of Diana Son’s Stop Kiss, for a second time, last night – and I enjoyed it just as much. A very strong, moving, sweet (and funny) production of a great play. Been bugging Alumnae Theatre peeps to take a look at doing this one. If you missed my earlier bloggage on Stop Kiss, you can check it out here. With thanks to MC Thompson for inviting me along on her comps for these two amazing shows!

Will be back out tonight to see the closing night of Jessica Moss’s Polly Polly, which was so popular during its Toronto Fringe run, that I wasn’t able to get in to see it. Back soon with thoughts on this one-woman hit show.

Toronto Fringe – the final five

With limited time on my hands and five vouchers left of my 10-play pass, I needed to hop to it and see shows during the closing weekend of Toronto Fringe. Here are the last five shows I saw, in order of attendance:

Sour Grapes: I’d seen playwright/actor Allan Turner perform as Mullet the Clown before, but never as another character. Playing the trickster Coyote with a decidedly cranky, nihilist edge, Turner took us on a funny, cerebral and philosophical journey as Coyote experiences an existential crisis of sorts. Awesome work from the entire cast, which also included Chloe Payne (Clown), Darryl Pring (Doctor) and Dave McKay (Spider) – directed by Bruce Hunter.

Stealing Sam: Playwright/actor Steven Gallagher’s sharply funny and deeply moving one-man show about a man’s tribute to a dead ex-lover who died of AIDS. Directed by Darcy Evans, Gallagher had the audience laughing one moment and reaching for Kleenex the next as we followed him through the life and times of a gay man of a certain age, dealing with loss and modern-day dating. If you missed this show during its Fringe run, you can still catch Stealing Sam at The Best of Toronto Fringe.

This Play Is Like _____: Written and directed by Glenys Robinson, the company (Tiny House Productions) is made up entirely of members under 20 years old. Using shadow puppets to play out a legend and a live action present day story, the audience goes along on two young female hero’s journeys. Lovely work from the cast: Arden Dunlop, Kya Mosey, Ben Tersigni and Forest Van Winkle, and puppeteers Ana Ghookassian, Haruka Kanai, Patrick Kinhan and Yasaman Nouri, with vocals by Sarah Carmosino. Keep your eyes peeled for these talented, promising young talents. I’d fill in the blank with “Life.”

Fracture: Edmonton company the Good Women Dance Collective performed two pieces for this show: “Pod” (choreographed by Alida Nyquist-Schultz, and performed by Nyquist-Shultz and Ainsley Hillyard, with music by Piotr Grella-Mozejko) and “Shatterstate” (choreographed by Alison Kause, and performed by Kause, Kate Stashko and Alida Nyquist-Shultz, with music by Caleb Nelson). “Pod” was a sensual, otherworldly journey through creation and growth, with the two dancers responding very differently to the transition – creating both tension, intimacy and drama. “Shatterstate” explores perception and déjà vu – the dancers’, the audience’s – and how perspectives can diverge and intersect. Beautiful, cerebral, moving and sexy – Fracture moves on to the Winnipeg and Edmonton Fringe festivals. Definitely a company to watch out for.

Much Ado About Nothing: Shakespeare BASH’d unleashed the Bard upstairs at the Victory Café again this year, this time with the quip-exchanging, clueless wannabe lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Always a popular company, their shows consistently sell out – and I managed to squeeze in on the waiting list for their closing performance. Directed by Eric Double, and time-shifted nicely to post-WWII, this production boasts an amazing cast: Andrew Anthony, Andrew Gaboury, Ellen Hurley, Jamie Johnson, Elisabeth Lagerlöf, Milan Malisic, Brenhan McKibben, Jesse Nerenberg, Julia Nish-Lapidus, Kyle Purcell, David Ross, Amelia Sargisson and James Wallis. Miss them at Fringe? No worries, you can catch their fall production of Romeo and Juliet November 19-23 in the Junction at 3030 Dundas West (Toronto).

I wasn’t able to get in to see Jessica Moss’s one-woman show Polly Polly, but had great fun in the ticket line when Moss paid us a visit – with Timbits for us. Thanks, Jessica! Will do my best to catch Polly Polly at the Best of the Toronto Fringe.

Speaking of, you still have a chance to sample some of this year’s Toronto Fringe programming and perhaps see something you missed during the festival run – check out The Best of the Toronto Fringe, running July 17-31 at Toronto Centre for the Arts.