by Lynn on January 4, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Factory Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

The Harold Experience

Presented by The Assembly

Directed by Rob Norman

Musical Director, Ayaka Kinugawa

Rob Baker, a member of The Assembly, an improv group, tells us at the top of the show,  that The Harold is a little known technique of improv, the centre of a routine. Some members of the group go into the audience and chat up the audience and from that conversation comes the subject of the first improvised skit. After that the group riffs on other unrelated topics: feisty racoons (what other kind of racoons are there?), an awkward bridegroom and his ‘virgin’ bride, a long-absent father returned home, a man with lots of receipts.

If these skits are to illustrate the Harold then I can only assume that it means: the result is cringingly unfunny, goes on long past its best STOP time and is amusing to the cast and some of the audience.

I spent most of the time wondering if the cue to end a skit came from musical director, Ayaka Kinugawa, or the lighting person who just mercifully brought the lights down to end a skit. Deadly.


Birthday Balloon

 Presented by Mauzy May Productions

Written by Steve Cochrane

Directed by Steven Gallagher

Cast: Craig Pike, Renée Hackett

David and Millie’s marriage is in crisis. She learns that he has cheated on her while he was away working in Fort McMurray and she remained in Newfoundland. There are ghosts lingering in the background. Incriminations bubble up. Anger and hurt prevail with moments of tenderness and compassion. And it is also wildly funny.

Playwright Steve Cochrane has created a compelling story that unfolds gradually revealing two wounded, fully fleshed out and alive characters. Cochrane has captured the Newfoundlander’s speech patterns and the turns of phrase that are killingly funny. For example, Millie says that Dave is “..built like a bag of milk.” A line you can tip your hat to. Craig Pike as Dave and Renée Hackett as Millie are both glowing in nuance, subtlety, detail and heart. Steven Gallagher directs this with tremendous sensitivity. There is a piece of business with a balloon that is breathtaking, both literally and figuratively. Wow!

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