Fringe review: The Chels Stands Alone is a first-rate solo comedy

Rising star Chelsea Larkin's show about reclaiming the confidence she lost after childhood is funny, relatable and full of human truths


the chels stands alone fringe 2022
Photo by Dahlia Katz

THE CHELS STANDS ALONE written and performed by Chelsea Larkin (Cbot Inc./Toronto Fringe Festival). At the Tarragon Solo Room (30 Bridgman). July 15 at 9:15 pm, July 16 at 10 pm, July 17 at 8 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN


I’ve always admired talented character comics – people like Jessica Holmes, Gavin Crawford, Allana Reoch – who can, with a wig, a costume change, an accent and a whole lot of gumption, transform themselves into completely different people in each scene. Their art often reminds me of childhood pretend sessions where they use their grown-up experience to find the human truths in everyday situations.

Chelsea Larkin belongs in that fine company.

After an amusing, high-energy introductory song about mounting a one woman show, she begins with a portrait of a chatty Hamilton bus driver named Barb who, between hazardous swerves on the road, overshares with the person she’s addressing – who turns out to be Larkin herself. The performance is affectionate and empathetic, never judgemental.

If there’s a theme to the show it’s Larkin’s desire to learn how she changed from a confident, boisterous kid to a more withdrawn and self-conscious adult.

We get a good look at that kid in one of the most fully realized scenes, where the young Chelsea – looking as she herself points out like a cross between Harry Potter and Sally Jessy Raphael – prances around to New Kids on the Block and shows off for her babysitter.

Larkin occasionally reads from her childhood journal – called Secrets – and learns about her history of attracting male “douchebags.” She pretends not to know things so as not to offend boys and men. This links up with a later song where, to Roy Orbison’s song Crying, she admits to lying to seem cool.

She pulls no punches in her monologue from the deluded, entitled POV of a guy she meets on Tinder who criticizes her profile and looks.

A few sequences don’t quite fit in – a repeated bit about funny props she’s purchased over the years feels laboured. And a story about her current boyfriend could be better integrated into the narrative.

But this show, efficiently directed by Stacey McGunnigle – yet another first-rate character comic – is a delightful showcase of a rising talent. With luck we’ll be hearing more from her very soon.

@glennsumi

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