Best of the fest

THE FRINGE: TORONTO'S THEATRE FESTIVAL. Runs to July 16. $8 or less, children $5 for kids' shows, some discounts, $2.


THE FRINGE: TORONTO’S THEATRE FESTIVAL. Runs to July 16. $8 or less, children $5 for kids’ shows, some discounts, $2 surcharge on advance tickets. 966-1062, advance sales 862-2222. See the Event Listings section of the site for details. Rating: NNNNN

Day breakout

*NOW THE DAY IS OVER, conceived and directed by Allyson McMackon, with Melinda Little, Siobhan Power, Erik Kever Ryle and Sarah Weatherwax. Presented by Theatre Rusticle at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. July 14 and 16 at 2 pm, July 15 at 9:30 pm. Rating: NNNN

Text, music, movement and a piercing intelligence suffuse director Allyson McMackon’s Now The Day Is Over, a mood-drenched piece inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves.

Evoking ordinary yet heightened moments in the lives of four nameless characters, it plays with perspective and time so we see scenes at different angles.

The performers, drawing on their characters’ childhood and adulthood selves, make a fine ensemble, with Melinda Little’s sheltering country mum and Siobhan Power’s physically expressive woman from the city standouts.

Patric Caird’s mostly percussive score pulses with life, and Fiona Jones’s costumes suggest a blend of eras and sensibilities.

McMackon gives shape and form to the inexpressible. GS

Channel surfing

*HAPPINESS CHANNEL, by Silvija Jestrovic, directed by Dragana Varagic, with Cynthia Ashperger, Jason Jazrawy, Rena Polley, Stephen Sparks, Gregory Thomas and Varagic. Presented by April Productions at St. Vladimir Theatre. July 13 at 1:30 pm, July 14 at 6 pm, July 15 at 10:30 pm. Rating: NNNN

Lies trip over each other in an alarming yet entertaining fashion in Happiness Channel, in which a group of Belgrade refugees and friends mask the truth about their current lives in North America. Dragana Varagic’s slick production of Silvija Jestrovic’s script encourages fine performances from the cast of six, with notable work by Cynthia Ashperger, Gregory Thomas and Varagic. JK

They got Legs!

BREAKING LEGS!, by Aphra Zimmerman, with Tom Albrecht, Valeska Gonzalez, Richard Cronin, Zimmerman, Tim MacLean, Shawne McKeown and Jason Rumley. Presented by Come Together Productions at the Poor Alex Theatre. July 13 and 15 at 4:30 pm, July 14 at 9 pm. Rating: NNN

Full of in-jokes for amateur and professional performers, Breaking Legs! catches the chaotic energy of creating a stage show — and, not by chance, of mounting a show for the Fringe.

Written by Aphra Zimmerman and directed by the seven-member company, the show traces the behind-the-scenes politics, despair, sex and artistic dreams of a mismatched theatre troupe. Two scenes with cleverly overlapping lines bookend a series of fast-paced blackouts about the neuroses of gossipy theatre artists, nicely staged and with more cellphone use than an X-Files episode. JK

Lear prequel luminous

*LEAR’S DAUGHTERS, by Elaine Feinstein and the Women’s Theatre Group, directed by Mary Dwyer, with Vanessa AvRuskin, Jennifer Ciceri-Doyle, Elizabeth Dalgleish, Roxanne Deans and Mary Krohnert. Presented by Red Letter and BANG! at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. July 13 at 6:30 pm, July 14 at 8 pm, July 16 at 3:30 pm. Rating: NNNN

This collectively written feminist revision of King Lear shows what happened to Lear’s daughters before act one of the tragedy. Call it a dysfunctional family backstory.

Given a lush production (Peter De Freitas’s costumes are works of art) that matches the poetry of the script, the show pays attention to the social/economic realities of the time. Men stray, women are married off for political reasons and nurses replace mothers.

Director Mary Dwyer coaxes subtle, layered performances from all the actors. The show takes a while to heat up, but once it does, it’s riveting. GS

Kafka crashes

IN THE PENAL COLONY, by Franz Kafka, adapted and directed by Adrian Truss, with Wynn Howes, Bruce Hunter, Hamish McEwan and Rod Wilson. Presented by Black Dog Group at the Factory Studio Cafe. July 13 at 1:30 pm, July 14 at noon and July 15 at 10:30 pm. Rating: NN

A moral and political parable, Franz Kafka’s In The Penal Colony makes its point but then drags it out to the point of tedium, as an officer in a remote colony shows off a torture/execution machine to a visitor.

Hamish McEwan makes a nervous but proud officer, and Rod Wilson an ambivalent visitor. Director/adaptor Adrian Truss, even with a nod to local politics, can’t keep the show from teaching the same lesson over and over. But the machine, conceived by Truss and built by David Hoekstra and Roger West, is a visual marvel of wheels, gaskets, dials, pipes and needles. JK

Mother may I?

SHE NEVER BOUGHT ME AN EASY BAKE OVEN, by the company, directed by Kerri MacDonald, with Tricia Williams, Keira Loughran, Diane Daniel, Vanessa Hunt and Raven Dauda. Presented by Madrigal Theatre at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. July 13 at 9:30 pm, July 16 at 5 pm. Rating: NNN

Using music, movement, songs and personal stories, six women explore the rituals, embarrassments and joys of the mother-daughter bond, creating scenes that touch on themes ranging from hair and food to abuse and feelings of inadequacy.

There’s plenty of heart here, and some sharp writing. A line like “Shhh, daddy’s home” says more in a few seconds than many plays do in half an hour.

The real joy, though, is watching the women interact, playing against shape, colour and race. Tricia Williams’s mother who rewards with food, Vanessa Hunt’s treadmill-walking manipulator, and performer Keira Loughran’s effective choreography are some of the treats from this oven. GS

Jacobs does Dallas

GODDESS, written and performed by Alex Dallas, directed by Tanja Jacobs. Presented by Theatre of the Repressed and Sansregret Productions at Artword Theatre. July 13 at 6 pm, July 14 at 10:30 pm, July 16 at noon. Rating: NNN

Family foibles and a hidden household history get a delightful airing in Alex Dallas’s one-woman show Goddess, which starts with sex, drugs and ironing and ends with personal liberation. Dallas knows how to tell a story and hold an audience, jumping into a dozen different characters to give a rounded view of her own twisted British family.

Inviting and energetic, Dallas traces the identity of her birth father, evoking lots of warm audience laughter along the way. JK

Artword Theatre (75 Portland) Factory Studio Cafe (125 Bathurst) George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire) Glen Morris Studio (4 Glen Morris) Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79A St. George)

Palmerston Library Theatre (560 Palmerston) Poor Alex Theatre (296 Brunswick) Robert Gill Theatre (214 College) St. Vladimir Theatre (620 Spadina)

Palmerston Library Theatre (560 Palmerston) Poor Alex Theatre (296 Brunswick) Robert Gill Theatre (214 College) St. Vladimir Theatre (620 Spadina)

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