by Lynn on July 6, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at various locations of the Toronto Fringe Festival, Toronto, Ont. On until July 14, 2024.

Pretty Beast

Written and performed by Kazu Kusano

Directed by Jane Morris

Growing up in Japan, Kazu Kusano had a lot going against her. She had a schizophrenic mother who hated to be touched, which meant Kazu was not held or hugged, ever, by her mother. Kazu Kusano had an alcoholic father. She lived in a sexist society. And she wanted to be a stand-up comedienne. So Kazu moved to the United States; learned English and began telling jokes in clubs in Los Angeles.

She does not shy away from facing cultural cliches about being a Japanese woman. At an audition she was asked “to be more Japanese, like a Geisha”, and laugh demurely with her hand in front of her mouth. Kazu sent that up with some colourful language and blunt imagery. She talks about being looked after by a plain-speaking grandmother, who put her to bed with an inappropriate bedtime story and usually some blunt advice.

Kazu Kusano is irreverent, self-deprecating and very funny in her perceptions of the world.  

Plays at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace:

July 7, 9, 10, 11, 12. 13.

Check times at

Dead Right

Written by Kate Barris and David Schatzky

Directed by Briane Nasimok

Set by Beckie Morris

Cast: Chris Gibbs

Janelle Hutchison

Allan Price

Kristi Woods

Helena has cancer. She tells her daughter Suzanna, which puts her in a tizzy because she just quit her job to write a play, full time. Suzanna’s psychotherapist husband, Michael wants to be supportive, but always thinks of himself and his practice first. Added to this, Helena and her husband Bud decide on a suicide pact, but then Bud might be changing his mind, or not.

The premise is full of funny possibilities. The cast is hardworking, with Janelle Hutchison as Helena realizing a lot of the humour. Perhaps the writers could give the play another look and trim 15 minutes by tighten up the scenes, after seeing what jokes are working and what isn’t.

It’s a brave and irreverent look at illness and suicide.

Plays at the Alumnae Theatre

July 7, 8, 12, 13, 14

Check times at:

Elephant Song

Written and directed by Kush

Set by Crescent Choudhary, Ezequiel Garcia

Lighting by Eden Philips

Cast: Arjun Kalra

Chirag Motwani

Japneet Kaur

Musicians: Utsav Alok, Dhruv Sodha

“B leads a barren life working as a government clerk in Mumbai. In his quarters, one lonesome night, he sees a white elephant that takes him on a journey in which he begins to question the biases, beliefs and ignorance of the world around him. Sounds of traditional Indian instruments (the sitar) song, and the inspiration of poems of Kabir, permeate the atmosphere.”

Kush’s writing is lush, poetic, esoteric and even mystical. Arjun Kalra’s performance as B is haunted, thoughtful and always compelling.

The script mixes the English dialogue with dialogue in Hindi. The translation of what is being said or sung in Hindi is clearly projected on the back wall of the Backspace so that those not knowledgeable about the language are never left in the dark. Every part of this production was created with care and thought.

Plays at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace

July 8, 9, 10, 11, 13.

Check times at:

Daniel in Love (For One Night Only)

Written and performed by Daniel Tompkins

Directed by Ryan Bjornson

It takes guts to publicly reveal your faults, errors and demons, and Daniel Tompkins has the guts of a bandit. His show begins with a fanfare of the buoyant overture of Sweet Charity. In keeping with that dazzle Daniel Tompkins enters the space wearing a sparkly jacket, and exuding a lively attitude ready to do his standup comedy routine. It turns out to be rather lackluster in jokes that seem tired or forced. Daniel Tompkins finally comes clean. He says that that persona is a mask, a shield he puts on to please people—to present himself as he thinks they see him, rude, smarmy, and irreverent. He then takes off the jacket and hangs it up and presents himself to us as he is.

It’s easy to see why humour is so important to him. His mother was a teenager when she became pregnant by her boyfriend. He abandoned her. Her parents sent her to Ireland at three months to hide their embarrassment. She returned when she gave birth. The Grandfather shunned him as well until a kind uncle shamed the Grandfather by noting Daniel was a beautiful baby. That changed his mind.

Daniel Tompkins takes us on a journey of his own discovery. He says he’s a gay man who likes to date women. One of those women could see him as he really was, saw his good points and the disappointments. He felt that theatre and performing was what he wanted to do, and how he had to contend with the cruel and supportive comments from teachers. He carried on, but drank a lot to mask the disappointment. When he was at an important event that could have shown him in a good light, he drank so much he ruined every possibility. He finally saw the light and stopped drinking then. His journey since has been full of revelation and poetry that gets him through.

Daniel in Love (For One Night Only)the title become clear—is a moving journey of a man who has been through uncertainty, depression, insecurity, alcohol and finally love, in order to find his true self. It takes guts to tell this story and Daniel Tompkins is bringing with it.

Playing at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace

Playing: July 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14.

For playing times:

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1 Zoë July 7, 2024 at 12:47 pm

I had the privilege of seeing “Daniel In Love For One Night Only” and let me tell you, it does not disappoint. Tompkins’ humour and wit are matched by his charismatic stage presence and skillful storytelling. If you see any show durning this Fringe festival, make sure it’s this one.