Emergency Punch Up

It was Friday night and I had bought myself a ticket to two “Best of the Fringe” performances which are being staged at the Toronto Centre of the Arts.  The theatre is located on Yonge Street north of the 401 in North York so neither in Toronto nor near the Centre of anything.  It is a nice enough venue but for its northerly locale (I wondered briefly if I should have amended the roaming plan on my cell).

First up was The Emergency Monologues, a one person play by Morgan Phillips.  He is an EMT and appeared on stage with his “Wheel of Misfortune” a contraption featuring a number of wedges on a vertical wheel, each with one line representing a separate anecdote.  The wheel is to be spun and Morgan to recount the story assigned to wherever the peg has landed, so each show is different.  Morgan is charming and personable so it was a fun night but I cannot help but wonder if the act would lose it sense of intimacy and efficacy in a larger venue.  The theatre was about half full and largely populated by seniors. This is a trend I have noticed in more traditional theatre companies (Stratford, Shaw, Mirvish et al) but less so at the Fringe so it came as a bit of a surprise.  A good half the audience looked like they have been on a cruise.  Their wardrobe and mahogany tans supported my theory.

I stepped out to use the restroom before the start of the show and when I settled back in my seat I noticed too late that someone near me had doused themselves in what could be described as a shit tonne of old lady perfume.  The locus was indeterminate but it pervaded my area like mustard gas.  I do not suffer from allergies but the fog of scent started making its way in to my nose and lungs. It felt like a slow but industrious mole was packing my sinuses with damp cotton batten and rotting lily leaves.  I found it hard to concentrate on the performance, especially when the fumes made their way to my eyes, glazing my corneas with the thin lacquer that tightened slowly over the minutes.  I realized I was suffering through essentially an aromatic water boarding.

Once the play was over I made my way to the fresh air where I discovered the perfect visual representation of my experiences, handily located in the gardens off the theatre.

Having survived the gassing I returned for the second event, “Punch Up” by Kat Sandler.  The audience for this performance was almost to capacity and much younger and the work was remarkable.

The play opens with the first of three main characters – the Funniest Man in the World – doing a very poor job at a stand up act.  It transpires that he was once half of a duo with his wife who had left the marriage suddenly and reemerged in LA to great fame and fortune.

The second vignette introduced an earnest and passionate though simple man named Duncan who falls instantly in love with a woman as she is attempting to commit suicide.  He thwarts her attempts and they strike a deal.  She will come to one dinner with him and is he can make her laugh she will promise to live.  If he fails, he will help her end her life.  Duncan dubs the woman “The Saddest Girl in the World” and we learn in a separate monologue that she feels she is cursed as everything she has ever loved dies.  She fears she cannot love for the drastic consequences and does not wish to live a loveless life.  Duncan has an onerous task, made only more difficult by the fact that he has lead a sheltered life and is not funny at all.  Is a desperate move he kidnaps The Funniest Man In The World and chains him in his basement in the hopes he can be taught to be funny to save his new love’s life.

Sounds tricky?    This play was blessed with some of the best writing I have ever experienced, including a riff on the famous “Who’s On First” Abbott and Costello bit that is possibly even more rapid fire than the original:  (Link below for the uninitiated).  Think The Importance of Being Ernest.

I absolutely loved this play and was inspired not only to seek out and shoot a complimentary note to the playwright (If she ever needs a stalker character, I am her guy) but also to sign up for a writing expo in LA in September that I had been considering.  I should thank her.  Not only for the inspiration but for knocking some fresh air in to my previously swaddled cranium.

Leave a Reply