ANTOINE FEVAL by Chris Gibbs (Diesel Playhouse). At Diesel Playhouse (56 Blue Jays Way). To November 25. $15. 416-971-5656. See Continuing, page 96. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Chris Gibbs's one-man mystery spoof, Antoine Feval , finds its roots in Sherlock Holmes but, believe me, Watson, writing belly laughs like these is hardly elementary.
The show won best of the fest at the 2005 Winnipeg Fringe festival, wowed audiences at the Edmonton Fringe and sold out its run last year in Toronto. Now Gibbs wisely remounts it for a brief run at the Diesel Playhouse .
It's 1896 London, and the key characters include the utterly witless yet smashingly witty Barnaby Gibbs (the writer's notes hint he's a relative) and the wily Antoine Feval, also known as the Rhyming Bandit, a verbose criminal who taunts inspectors by leaving rhyming notes at his crime scenes.
Gibbs looks like one of those boys who spent hours memorizing Monty Python sketches and performing them back in junior high.
But he's no dead parrot; his love for comedy brings this show to life. With its echoes of stand-up, improv, clown and sketch, the story unfolds at an exhilarating pace that, thanks to the laughter, occasionally results in some inaudible punchlines.
He slaloms seamlessly in and out of scripted and improvised material while weaving in anachronistic pop culture references. And he has an astounding ability to absorb audience cues, riff on them and then pick up where he left off.
The program mentions a possible second instalment at the 2007 Toronto Fringe. But for this version, it's time to cut away the Fringes.
He needs to find a director to spit and polish the piece, and then just one mystery will remain: how long until Gibbs becomes an established force in comedy?