THE BIG THOUGHT OF MR. FITZSIMMONS written, directed and performed by Dave Backus and Graham Vogt. Presented by Painted Words at the Poor Alex Theatre (296 Brunswick). Runs to December 23, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $12, Sunday pwyc. 416-324-9863.
call them brainiacs. in the big Thought Of Mr. Fitzsimmons, writer/performers Dave Backus and Graham Vogt leap graphically into the mind of their solo character, battle head to head and emerge at the other end as one of this year's most intriguing theatre duos.Tracing Fitzsimmons's search for happiness from childhood to adulthood, the pair bifurcate the character into the cautious, rule-following realist (Vogt) and the experimental, dreamy imaginer (Backus). Using overlapping lines, contrasted thoughts and a clever structure, leaping over or squeezing through the invisible wall separating their two realms, the actors play out the internal conflicts facing the unseen but very present Mr. F.
Some of the material -- when they play elderly fathers or have a gay exchange -- is unnecessary, and the underlying philosophy about the shaping force of society has a simplistic ring, but the two share a wonderful chemistry and generate great onstage energy. Their physical work and line deliveries have the rat-a-tat drill of a military band, all the more remarkable since they work without an outside director.
Young and enthusiastic artists who happen to be cousins, Backus and Vogt have a house-painting company that supports their work in the theatre. With more shows as strong as this one -- and material that doesn't tread such familiar territory -- they'll be able to hang up their paint brushes for good.