Toronto Fringe: Into the mouth of the sea lion with the absurd surreal sketch comedy of Swallowed Whole

Carly Telford, Chris O’Bray & Raechel Fisher. Photo by Laura-Kate Dymond.

 

Irrelephant Productions takes us into the mouth of the sea lion for 55 minutes of absurd sketch comedy, peppered with drag performance and social satire in the wacky, surreal Swallowed Whole, written and directed by Rachel Perry, and running at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse.

Sketch comedy trio Chris O’Bray, Raechel Fisher and Carly Telford take us through a series of comedic, sometimes bizarre, scenarios: a cooking show for poor people, hosted by O’Bray in old lady drag; and a pair of entitled, dick-obsessed slackers (Fisher and Telford in drag) get broromantic to the tune of You Don’t Bring Me Flowers—returning later with O’Bray in a three-man boy band. There’s the misadventures of Calvin (O’Bray), who finds himself trapped in the oddest places—and his pissed of (recent) ex (Fisher), Olive Garden manager (Fisher), and even his mom (Telford) and dad (Fisher) refuse to help. And then there’s the Ouija Board Dating Game, where bachelorette Demi (Fisher) poses a series of compatibility questions to three dead celebrity bachelors (Telford, O’Bray and a surprise guest).

Shouts to the cast for going all-out in their commitment to character and outrageous antics. Telford and Fisher are especially funny as the two slacker bros; and O’Bray’s cooking lady is something of a low-rent Julia Child. And nice work from the trio on the boy band harmonies!

It’s a mad, mad work of bizarre wacky times. And you can wash it all down with a Dougie Ford Buck a Beer beer while you bop your head to the music and marvel at humanity’s endless quirks.

Swallowed Whole continues at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse for two more performances: July 13 at 6:45 and July 14 at 8:00; check the show page for advance tickets.

News & upcoming hiatus!

As promised, I’ve got some news, including an accompanying Spring hiatus for the blog…

Back in January, I was invited to join the cast of an indie production of The Sad Blisters, a new play by Andrew Batten, directed by Victoria Shepherd. It’s a quirky, funny, poignant family dramedy with an all-female cast—so, of course, I loved the script immediately. Our first read-through is tomorrow!

It’s been almost 11 years since I performed in a theatre production (Wit at Alumnae Theatre); I’ve done staged readings, stand-up and singing performances in the meantime, as well as seeing/reviewing a lot of theatre. So I’m very excited to be returning to the stage—and working with this team!

Since we’ll be rehearsing and performing on weeknights and weekends, I’ll be putting the blog on a two-month hiatus for March and April so I can focus time and energy on the play. I’ll still be seeing a few shows—and shouting out shows on social media—just not reviewing or interviewing.

The Sad Blisters runs April 12-27 at The Commons—so save the dates! Stay tuned to Facebook, Twitter, etc. for details, including performance dates/times and advance ticket purchase info. I’ll be posting info here on the blog as well.

Happy March! Here’s hoping Spring arrives soon.

 

A yin & yang of fluidity, strength, beauty & connection – Kaeja d’Dance’s 25th Anniversary Concert

allen and karen kaeja photo by aria evans
Allen & Karen Kaeja of Kaeja d’Dance – photo by Aria Evans

“25 years feels like a masterpiece. One that has flaws, failures, good fortune and gratitude, colour splattered in unrecognizable textures that weave together an incredible human experience!” – Karen Kaeja

“25 years is encompassing growth, struggle, intimacy and it’s terrifying. It’s tenderness, and support – with passion and imagination!” – Allen Kaeja

Kaeja d’Dance premiered its double bill 25th Anniversary Concert last night, running until Saturday, March 28 at Harbourfront Centre Theatre.

Kaeja d’Dance co-founders/choreographers/husband and wife team Karen and Allen Kaeja each choreographed a piece (and dance in each other’s pieces) for this double bill premiere celebration performance, tackling the “notions of fate, coincidence and choice.” The dance company includes Michael Caldwell, Zhenya Cerneacov, Ana Groppler, Allen Kaeja, Karen Kaeja, Merideth Plumb and Mateo Galindo Torres.

.0 (by Allen Kaeja, with Caldwell, Cerneacov, Groppler, Karen Kaeja, Torres & Plumb) – Immediacy, instinct and the vulnerability of our senses
An athletic, robust, yet beautifully vulnerable and at times comic piece – and accompanied by a haunting soundtrack (composed by Edgardo Moreno, featuring violinist Jessica Hana Deutsch), and featuring sharp atmospheric lighting and fog effects (by Oz Weaver) – .0 plays on the tension of opposites. Holding back/explosive action. Isolation/engagement. Effervescent/exhausted. Playfully confrontational, aggressively gentle, the piece plays on cause and effect, incorporating movement from contact improv, martial arts (judo) and balletic, gender-neutral lifts to powerfully dynamic effect.

TAXI! (by Karen Kaeja, with Caldwell, Cerneacov, Groppler, Allen Kaeja & Plumb) – Things I forgot to tell you: That I love you. That I love you. That I love you. (from Anaïs Nin, A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller, 1932-1953)
Playing on the theme of coupling – and navigating romance in the midst of a challenging world – TAXI! Is whimsical and poignant, cheeky and sexy, and full of languid, sensuous and playful movement and interaction – not to mention sharp comic timing – as the choreography brings the dancers together and pulls them apart. This piece weaves original composition (Sarah Shugarman and Phil Strong, performed by Strong), pop music and text, allowing the dancers to engage with the theme physically, verbally and vocally – with overlapping relationship storytelling and singing along like nobody’s watching to Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’ (In and Out of Love)” – as well as voice-over recordings of a young boy (Willem Kerr) offering general life advice and reciting marriage vows (from the mouths of babes…). As I left the theatre, with “Fallin’ (In and Out of Love)” running through my head, I know I’d never hear that song the same way again. With shouts to lighting designer Oz Weaver.

Kaeja d’Dance’s 25th Anniversary Concert is a yin and yang of fluidity, strength, beauty and connection. Get yourself out to see this marvelous, innovative dance company.

Kaeja d’Dance’s 25th Anniversary Concert continues this week till March 28 at Harbourfront Centre Theatre – check out the details and buy tickets online here.

Look out for Kaeja d’Dance’s Porch View Dances this summer (Aug 19-23). You can also keep up with Kaeja d’Dance on Twitter – and check out the trailer for the 25th Anniversary Concert:

Stand-up & sing – inspired by Tracey Erin Smith’s The Burning Bush

As some of you know, I started doing stand-up comedy this past spring, starting with Dawn Whitwell’s Comedy Girl class at Comedy Bar. Since performing in our class show on June 18, I’ve been back on stage a few times, including open mic at Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir, a guest spot on Whitwell’s weekly show Dawn Patrol and a feature spot at the WonderFest Comedy Series.

As I’ve been expanding my set and working on new material – I decided to incorporate something else I love a lot into my performance: singing. In this case, funny songs. And it occurred to me the other day that I should include “Rabbi School Washout.” Inspired by Tracey Erin Smith’s The Burning Bush one-woman shows, I wrote the lyrics (7 years ago) to the tune of “Beauty School Drop-out” from Grease; I sent it to Tracey and she posted it on The Burning Blog.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tracey Erin Smith, SoulOTheatre or The Burning Bush, take a look at this awesome promo/interview vid. Even if you are familiar, check it out anyway – if you’re like me, it will remind you why you love Tracey and her work so much. (Toronto Fringe fans will also recall Smith’s most recent one-woman show Memento Mori, which she mounted at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival.)

Here are the lyrics to “Rabbi School Washout.” If there was a movie version of The Burning Bush, I picture Jackie Mason singing this to Tracey’s main character Barbara. Tracey Erin Smith, this one’s for you. xo

RABBI SCHOOL WASHOUT

Your story’s sad to tell,
Yeshiva ne’er do well,
Most mixed up shayna maidel in the school!
Your future’s so unclear now,
What’s left of your career now?
You’ll never get a job down at the shul!

Dancers: (La lalala lalala lalala…)

Rabbi school washout,
No graduation day for you.
Rabbi school washout,
Terrified seniors, what’cha do?
Well at least you could have taken time to sit and have a chat, now.
But instead it’s: “Death, just deal with it.” You think that will impress, now?

Baby get movin’ (Baby get movin’),
Just keep your feeble hope alive.
Know you can do it! (Know you can do it!)
You’ve got the dream, now show the drive!

If you go for it, go do the strip, you won’t feel like a fool.
Go shake your booty, don’t just sit there on that stool.

Rabbi school washout (Rabbi school washout),
Hanging ‘round the peeler bar.
Rabbi school washout (Rabbi school washout),
It’s about time you were the star.

Well they couldn’t teach you anything,
You think you’ve got such chutzpah
But no congregant would go to you unless they were meshuga!

Baby don’t sweat it (Don’t sweat it),
Preaching at temple’s not for you.
Better forget it (Forget it),
You’ve got a chance here, take it – nu?

Now your Torah’s learned, Kabbalah’s earned, babe you’re on a roll.
Come on, just be a mensch, and go straddle that pole!

Baby don’t blow it,
Don’t put my good advice to shame.
Baby you know it,
Even Dear Abby’d say the same!

Now I’ve called the shot, get off the pot, I really gotta go!
Just get up there and dance now – don’t you be a schmo!

Rabbi school washout, (Rabbi school washout)
Get up and dance now.
Rabbi school washout, (Rabbi school washout)
Get up and dance now.
Rabbi school washout, (Rabbi school washout)
Get up and dance now.

Who – and who’s work – inspires you?

Let this also serve as a teaser for my upcoming stand-up gigs:

Thurs, Oct 23: WonderFest Comedy Series @ Habits Gastropub (928 College St., near Dovercourt) – doors at 8 p.m.
Sun, Nov 9: Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir @ The Central (603 Markham St., around the corner from Honest Ed’s) – doors at 7 p.m.