Never Swim Alone (emerGENcee) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

Never Swim Alone at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Theatre FestivalNever Swim Alone is emerGENcee’s Toronto Fringe Festival rendition of the 1991 classic that portrays the bitter rivalry between two longtime friends and their failed pursuit of some sweet summer loving. It opens light-hearted and charismatic, with most of its lines delivered in unison, and some of the best, most intelligent one-liners I’ve heard in years (one example: “If shit had a brain, it would quote Nietzche”).

And then things get real. Oh, how things get real. If ever a play were to capture the rude awakening of adult life, where friends become enemies and spouses cuckolds; where friendly competition becomes bloody contest; if ever anything were to convey how time and age bloody us with a brutal, sudden, merciless reality, it is Never Swim Alone.

The premise: two childhood friends turned rivals, Bill (Sean Jacklin) and Frank (Michael Ruderman) vie against each other to impress a girl-next-door type on the beach (Zara Jestadt).  As the competition ramps up, Jestadt plays referee, with Bill and Frank going head to head in rounds that run the gamut of modern manliness: “Dad,” “My Boy,” “Power Lunch,” and “Friendly Advice, Rounds 1 and 2.”

What’s mind-blowing about Never Swim Alone is its blending of deadpan one-liners, the remembrance of childhood carelessness, and the mounting pressure and moral compromise of adult life. Ultimately, the sacrifice we’re most willing to make is to sacrifice the wellbeing of people we once cared about.

Clocking in at only forty minutes, Never Swim Alone stings like a sudden punch to the gut (of which there are many). Its final lines, repeated over and over, will have you leaving the theatre under the pallor of betrayal, and playwright Daniel MacIvor’s distrusting, introspective mood.


Never Swim Alone  is playing until July 13, 2014 at Theatre Passe Muraille

Show times
July 04 at 07:30 PM
July 05 at 11:30 PM
July 08 at 08:00 PM
July 09 at 06:00 PM
July 10 at 02:15 PM
July 12 at 09:15 PM
July 13 at 01:00 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

LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.

Photo provided by Rulers of the Universe