ST. PEON OF PARKDALE by Caroline Azar (Theatre-A-Go-Go/SummerWorks). Outdoors (starts at Toronto Media Arts Centre). Aug 12 at 6:30 pm, Aug 16 at 7 and 9 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Parking Enforcement Officer (PEO) Rita Mae Nelson (Jamillah Ross) holds a training session for wannabe PEOs (aka the audience), leading the group on a neighbourhood walking tour. Rosss enthusiasm and wit make her the Pied Piper of Parkdale. What a joy to follow Rita Mae and her megaphone as she regales us with observations and personal anecdotes about growing up in the community.
Ross never breaks character and even improvises in encounters with real-life locals. Her excursion includes places to rest, and safety always remains paramount (participants need to sign a pre-show waiver), with Rita Mae shouting reminders to keep eyes up and cross like a boss at busy Queen West intersections. (She also has a helper named Moses to herd the crowd.)
Caroline Azars quip-filled script reminisces about Toronto and urges social consciousness without ever getting preachy. Participation is encouraged: in a highlight Ross conducts the audience in a recitation of the tenets of Elmer The Safety Elephant.
An earlier version of the show debuted at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival and it is now part of SummerWorks Lab programming. This walking tour production has legs. Heres hoping for future remounts throughout the city.