I was really, really excited to see Excuse You at the Fringe this year. I love funny shows, I love memoir/biographical shows, and I love storytelling. As it turned out, Excuse You is a funny, fast-paced 50 minutes of comedic theatre and storytelling. Unfortunately, the show is 90 minutes long.
Let’s cover the show’s good points first, shall we? The cast is sturdy and game, with Erynn Brook (as Deborah) giving the whole business a little extra shine with her talent for character and accents and Chai Lavie, as Tony, holding it down as her classic foil, the Male Chauvinist Pig. And by golly they all tried.
Unfortunately, a pretty good cast was somewhat thwarted by a very, very text heavy script which literally required the actors to memorize and recite paragraph upon paragraph of what was supposed to be – and may indeed actually be, as stultifying as it was – the employee handbook for the ushers at a theatre. Bless each and every one of the actors, for they tried their best, but there’s just no way to make that kind of text interesting, and it’s extraordinarily hard to memorize because there’s no motivation, or plot, or anything to help. Writer/Director Bryce Alexander Dudley might have been a victim of his two hats on this one; a director who had not also written the piece might have cut most of the first twenty minutes of the show and excised a further five here and there as he went. That would have been a good decision.
For sure, there are laughs. “Kicking the Cat” is wall-to-wall funny. And Lavie’s bartending scene, played alongside Sarah Cervinka as Rhonda, invokes oh so many of the particular and extravagant dumbnesses that seem to afflict people in bars. Peter Nicol, playing a phlegmatic Jack, gets some good bits in answering phones at the box office in an extended, funny scene. The funny parts are full of laughs, no doubt.
But the not-funny parts are really…not. And whoever decided the bartenders should play half their bits facing upstage could stand a talking to. Talkings-to might not come amiss either for Matt McGrath, who seems to be only one foot into a flamboyantly gay manager but keeps backing away from it, and for Dudley again who gives us the first laugh of the show about… menstrual blood.
Someone’s got a brilliant thirty-minute comedy show here (it should probably go to Brook, who could carry it like crazy) but this isn’t really enough for a 90-minute Fringe show, which lags and sputters. Interestingly, on the way out of the show, people were animatedly telling their favorite stupid-customer stories from their time in retail or other customer-service jobs and I’ll tell you what – the stories I overheard were hilarious.
Excuse You is playing at George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Place)
July 07 10:00 PM
July 09 10:30 PM
July 10 12:00 PM
July 11 07:30 PM
July 14 05:15 PM
- Tickets for all Mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only.
- Advance tickets are $11, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062 ext. 1), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West)
- Money-saving value packs are also available; see website for details.
- LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
4 thoughts on “Excuse You (Theatre On A Thought) 2013 Toronto Fringe Festival”
Thanks for the review Bear! I love that the Fringe is the sort of place to get this kind of feedback.
I really enjoy the concept of the show, and performing it is a blast. I totally hear what you’re saying about text, though. It’s a good thing I love talking!
Unfortunately we only got one rewrite with our dramaturg, and you wouldn’t believe how much the show changed just with that edit. With any luck we’ll get a chance to edit it more. I wish there were more ways to develop shows in the city, like Fringe, where people understand that what they’re getting may be a work in progress.
Been getting some good compliments on my accents, and they told me in theatre school that I would never need them. Ha!
Thanks for coming, enjoy the festival, and I’ll see you at the tent!
Please note that the writer/director’s name is BRYCE not BRYAN as you have cited here in your review
Thanks for notifying us about the error. It has been corrected.
Although I agree with a lot of what the reviewer said, I have to disagree about the length of the play. I have seen some shows of an hour that were too long. This was not. I could not believe the 90 minutes flew by as they did (perhaps the show I saw was faster paced?) and yet none of the actors swallowed lines or spoke TOO quickly as I have seen in other shows. This is the best Fringe show I have seen this year, and although I suppose it COULD have been cut, I don’t really see where, not without disrupting the pace of the show.
I disagree. There was nothing FLAMBOYANT about matt’s stage manager; he came across as barely gay, at least to me, a straight theatre actor with zero gaydar. But monologues are the norm in this play and there was not one weak link in it, which amazed me. Each performer was interesting to watch when s/he was alone on stage and each had a presence and worked well with their partners. I am sorry Mr. Bergman did not enjoy the show as well as most of my audience did (and, I \suspect, as most will all week)!
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