FATHERLY by Sam S. Mullins (Mullins/Next Stage). January 10 at 6:45 pm, January 11, 15 and 18 at 8:15 pm, January 12 at 4:15 pm, January 13 at 8:30 pm, January 16-17 at 6:15 pm. See listing. Rating: NN
Sam S. Mullins has brought polished productions of his solo plays Tinfoil Dinosaur and Weaksauce to the Toronto Fringe, but people who loved those shows will be disappointed by Fatherly. The subject is promising, but it's unformed. It's notes towards a first draft.
Inspired by his father, Bill, who's very much alive, Mullins set out to write and perform something that would capture the spirit of the man, kind of like a eulogy. What stories would he remember about the motorcycle-riding, self-made man?
Well, there's the time Sam was under stress as a waiter in a high-end restaurant, not able to properly uncork expensive bottles of wine. His father stepped in and found a solution. Then there's the time Bill travelled to North Carolina and, in a bar, got into a conversation with a down-on-his-luck baseball player named Josh Hamilton, and then gave the man advice which may have turned around his life.
Another baseball anecdote - also about a father and son - is meant to resonate with the other stories, but it doesn't. Mullins hasn't yet found the shape or structure for this show. Odd musical cues - granted, this was opening night - only distract from the already unpolished show. And there's no emotional core - no reason we should care - to the piece.
Let's hope Mullins, an engaging and charismatic storyteller, deepens the piece before bringing it back to a future Fringe.