The Bear/Lady with a Lap Dog (Another Theatre Company) 2012 Toronto Fringe Review

Chance encounters lead to unexpected romance in Another Theatre Company’s production of The Bear/Lady with a Lap Dog at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

The Bear/Lady with a Lap Dog is a double bill of work by Anton Chekhov: the first an one act play, and the second an adaptation of a short story. Lisa Hamalainen, who also performs in Lady with a Lap Dog has provided the original translation and adaptation.

Though these two short pieces are paired together in this production, they differ greatly from one another. Both centre on a romantic relationship between a man and a woman, but The Bear is a melodramatic farce, while Lady with a Lap Dog is a dream-like meditation on love and fidelity.

Under Ellen Hurley’s direction the actors handle Chekhov’s challenging text with ease. John Fray’s bold performance as Smirnov particularly stands out for its energy and commitment. Though Hurley’s choice to make the two pieces so stylistically different is a strong one, perhaps The Bear could have used some of Lady with a Lap Dog’s earnestness, and Lady with a Lap Dog some more of The Bear’s humour.

Unlike many Fringe shows which prioritize script and performance over design elements, The Bear/Lady with a Lap Dog is strengthened by whimsical costumes and set pieces.  Designed by Alexandra Lord, the costumes evoke the era in which the stories were written with creativity and style.

Steve Ward provides live accompaniment with a trombone and looping pedal. This unique accompaniment acts as both the soundscape and the score, adding atmosphere and supporting the on stage action, though unfortunately it occasionally drowns out the actors’ voices.

The Bear/Lady with a Lap Dog does not provide any radical new interpretations of these classic works, but it does serve them well. Chekhov’s humour and poetry both shine in this polished and confident production.

• The Bear/Lady With a Lap Dog is playing at Venue 6 – George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Place) until July 15, 2012
• Showtimes are July 6 8:45pm , July 7 2:15pm , July 8 2:15pm , July 10 2:15pm , July 11 6:15pm, July 14 12:00pm
• All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only).
• Tickets are also available online at, by phone at 416-966-1062, or in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
• Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows