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


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there’s a theme to the show it’s Larkin’s desire to learn how she changed from a confident, boisterous kid to a more withdrawn and self-conscious adult.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




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