Centre of the Universe (Theatre Lab) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review


What if the CN tower was obliterated in a sudden attack? What if an unknown force laid siege to Toronto and advanced neighbourhood by neighbourhood to root out its citizens? Toronto’s Theatre Lab explores this apocalyptic scenario with their Toronto Fringe Festival production Centre of the Universe.

What if you were stuck inside a tavern during the impending doom? What thoughts, feelings and deep existential questions would flow through your mind as you sat there waiting for some unknown fate to befall you?

Centre of the Universe is a site-specific show that takes place in the Annex’s Labyrinth Lounge. David James Brock’s script is less a Godzilla-like disaster movie and more of an introspective character study of the five different individuals we meet throughout the course of the show.

There’s Lee the bartender (Michael Orlando), two musicians (Mark Paci and Amy Marie Wallace), a brooding young patron named Cooch (Lea Russell) and her older sister Sissy (Alexis Hancey). Each character deals with the impending disaster in their own unique way.

I really liked establishment of mood in the show, the blackout curtains over the windows and the grainy broadcasts on the bar’s TV sets are simple yet effective ways to set the ominous tone for the show.

Director Omar Hady made the clever decision to pre-record the characters’ internal monologues; they’re played back throughout the show interspersed with the dialogue and are often funny and revealing.

Lea Russell gives a standout performance as the dark, troubled, smartphone-obsessed bar patron Cooch. Hers is the most fully-fleshed out character in the script and she has the most complete arc of any of the characters.

However, I thought that the playwright’s choice to include five distinct characters didn’t allow for any one character to develop enough depth to really become interesting or engaging. I think the script would have had a greater impact had it been more tightly focused on fewer characters.

Regardless, Centre of the Universe prompts you to ponder how you would react if faced with your ultimate demise. Also, the added advantage of attending a show in a bar is that you can order drinks before the show and stay on afterward to continue your pondering.


Centre of the Universe plays at Labyrinth Lounge (298 Brunswick Ave.)

Show times
July 02 at 07:00 PM
July 03 at 07:00 PM
July 04 at 07:00 PM
July 05 at 04:00 PM
July 05 at 07:00 PM
July 06 at 04:00 PM
July 06 at 07:00 PM
July 07 at 07:00 PM
July 08 at 07:00 PM
July 09 at 07:00 PM
July 10 at 07:00 PM
July 11 at 07:00 PM
July 12 at 04:00 PM
July 12 at 07:00 PM
July 13 at 04:00 PM
July 13 at 07:00 PM

Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), 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 if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.

 To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.

Image Design by Mathew Borrett (originally for Spacing Magazine)