I am often drawn to solo performances as I am fascinated by how one performer can generate energy and drama as well as stage an engaging story all on their own. After Watching Cold Comfort, presented by Fly on the Wall Theatre playing at St. Vladimir’s Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, my standards have been significantly raised.
This production features an electrifying performance by David Mackett in the role of Kevin Toner, a man confronting his dead father who is lying in a coffin in his living room. From the moment of entry Kevin is obscenely drunk, and the first five minutes are really about trying to figure out what this drunken Irishman is saying. A Glossary of “Terms Used in Cold Comfort” is thankfully included in the program, although, for the most part Mackett’s physicality is enough for me to get the general sentiments. I do begin to wonder, however, how a man this far gone could possibly make for a meaningful and thought-provoking piece of theatre.
What we learn, however, is that Kevin Toner is remarkably creative in his stupor, and as we begin to get lulled into his cadence and physicality we get drawn into his plight. Kevin begins to imagine a compelling stand-off between himself, his father, and various other family members in order to get some closure for himself.
This character demonstrates that every stupor has its moments of poignancy, and that in times of grief-stricken inebriation, there are peaks and valleys the human spirit is forced to ride. Mackett performs these variances in mood and thinking beautifully and with enough idiosyncrasies that it never gets melodramatic. There are several moments that are very difficult to watch in which the character of Kevin all but unravels, and for which Mackett remains fully committed in his performance.
The production is thoughtfully staged. A neutral backdrop and only a modest wooden coffin softly illuminated and some folding chairs provide the object and set off of which Mackett will play. Hats off to director Rod Ceballos who I think balanced the intensity of this character with a poetic and supportive setting.
I particularly appreciated the choice of the folding chairs, and it reminded me of an actor’s rehearsal space. When Kevin begins to imagine various characters sitting in these chairs, for me, it references how he has created a production in his mind. In his stupor, Kevin is workshopping the characters in his life in order to string together a story that can resolve his own conflicts.
- Cold Comfort is playing at St. Vladimir’s Theatre (620 Spadina avenue.)
- Thursday, July 4, 2013 – 8:15pm, Saturday, July 6, 2013 – 11:30pm, Sunday, July 7, 2013 – 9:15pm , Tuesday, July 9, 2013 – 1:00pm, Wednesday, July 10, 2013 – 6:00pm, Thursday, July 11, 2013 – 1:45pm, Saturday, July 13, 2013 – 3:30pm
- All individual Fringe tickets are 10$ ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only) and go on sale one hour before showtime. 50% of tickets are available in advance and are $11 ($9+$2 service charge), these can be purchased online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416 966-1062 ext 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.
Please note that there is absolutely no latecomer seating during the Toronto Fringe Festival
Photo credit: Pictured: David Mackett. Photographer: Richard Van Dine.