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Review: TORONTO FRINGE FESTIVAL: DAY 4

Review: TORONTO FRINGE FESTIVAL: DAY 4
Review: TORONTO FRINGE FESTIVAL: DAY 4

GRINGA’S

GRINGAS is exactly what I hope for when I go to the Fringe: a thoughtful, distinctive, and energetic new play, with a dynamic, enthusiastic cast that makes me excited about the future of theatre. In Mercedes Isaza Clunie’s thoughtful and well-timed new play, seven Spanish-speaking teenage girls are sent against their will to a summer camp in Muskoka to perfect their failing Spanish skills. A scene of their insulted attempts to argue that they don’t have to go, which quickly disproves their claims that they don’t need the instruction, is a highlight of the show.

I fell in love with the characters, who are all clearly drawn without feeling like teenage stereotypes. Their fears and hopes are completely realistic, with dialogue that rings true, and their slowly growing bond with each other is a joy to watch. It’s refreshing to see a teen drama without clichéd “mean girls” – the antagonist is their own insecurities, and the world that brought them there. Still, the show explores the tensions between the students who are Spanish because of colonization and the student who is “Spanish from Spain” (Gloria Freire) in unique and interesting ways, particularly in the latter’s honest and slightly chilling monologue.

A budding romance between two of the characters is explored sensitively and with great heart, with both isi bhakhomen and Rachel Quintanilla (the only one of the young women who almost completely rejects speaking Spanish) shining in their heartfelt performances. The entire cast does a great job, both in the monologues and in collective scenes, some of which have the young women speaking in unison with choreographed movements.

GRINGAS doesn’t quite hit the mark. While the needlessly dark ending is powerful, it feels unearned in the context of the rest of the show, like an easy out for a playwright worried the work would be less meaningful without it. But what comes before it is so delicately, beautifully meaningful. So go see this rich and heartfelt new work, and catch at least one season of GRINGAS , the TV series—I would watch it.

Photo of (center) Julianna Olave, (left to right) Rachel Quintanilla, Alejandra Angobaldo, Katarina Fiallos, Gloria Freire, Mercedes Isaza Clunie by Trinity Lloyd

FAR AWAY PEOPLES

We all know one thing about Toronto: the rent is way too high, and it’s even worse for refugees who have come to the city after losing everything. In Aylin Oyan Salahshoor’s FAR-FLUNG PEOPLES, Turkish refugee Elias (Parsa Hasanzadeh) and Iranian refugee Anjeer (Salashoor) are struggling to make ends meet; he’s trying to become an actor with little success, and she can’t find a job at all. In their attempt to pay the rent without getting evicted, they each get an extra roommate without talking to each other—so when both Syrian Tariq (Fadi Dalloul) and Rwandan Forêt (Skyler Petrah) show up at the same time for a space that’s not even big enough for one person, drama ensues.

Salashoor’s script starts off slow and a little awkwardly in the first scene, but gains depth and humor as the roommates increase and the space shrinks—the physical overcrowding of the room adds to the tension. The coherence then falls apart in the final section, where monologues outnumber the faster dialogues. It would be wiser to sprinkle the monologues throughout the play, rather than have a monologue section that stops the action before it dies down altogether. The problems with coherence may have something to do with the fact that the play, at least during my viewing, had one fewer character than was listed in the original program.

The performances are mixed and sometimes can’t keep up with the snappier dialogue, but I enjoyed Forêt’s entertaining conversations with the downstairs neighbors, who speak a slightly different kind of French. Dalloul’s poetic Tariq, a photographer and dreamer, helps balance the others’ frustrated realism—and their plight is definitely real—as do the hilarious, offended conversations about which food originated in which culture. Note that the show is only about 80 minutes long, rather than the advertised 90, if that makes a difference in your Fringe planning.

picture of Aylin Oyan Salahshoor, Fadi Dalloul, Skylar Petrah, Parsa Hasanzadeh and Kimia Kalantari by Hana Havary

PARENTAL GUIDANCE

A fun sketch show, Summer Dad’s PATERNAL GUIDANCE may not teach you the facts of life or how to shave or tie a tie, but it does offer energetic jokes about parents, friends, love and sex. Musical numbers are the business’s forte, with catchy, memorable tunes and coordinated dance routines about being judged on your restaurant order or being “on the border” between Millennial and Gen Z. Summer Dad also delivers plenty of jabs at the various foibles of living in the expensive, line-lined city of Toronto.

Audience participation is minimal, but one sketch effectively brings an audience member forward to offer some of the fatherly advice the show lacks—which is nice, because otherwise the thematics are weak at best. But who cares when you’re laughing?

Graphical representation by the company

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