This afternoon, I had a chance to see the Adventureland show Zach Zultana: Space Gigolo at Tarragon Theatre Mainspace, part of the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festival. It’s an ambitious production that tells the tale of a space miner turned lover turned union hero, but… sometimes ambition just ain’t enough.
If you’re looking for a racy story about a miner-turned-male-escort in space – like I was – this isn’t it. Zach Zultana: Space Gigolo is a whirlwind of a show, with a diverse range of characters, all played by the talented powerhouse Jeffrey Leard.
Instead, it’s about a love affair, and the disruption it causes to Zach, a regular dude, going about his work in space – which, surprise surprise, has been taken over by greedy corporate overlords for profit. After realizing that his space comrades need a hero, Zach – recently made infamous by a news story – steps up.
While the premise is full of potential, the performance fell short for me in many ways. Perhaps it has to do with my lack of knowledge about sci-fi films and culture, but some jokes which seemed to resonate with the audience flew right over my head. Many of the jokes did, and not only for me: there seemed to be many tense laughter-less moments after what I’m assuming were meant to be punchy zingers.
The music, while hilarious given the context, was a bit too loud, and made hearing the dialogue almost impossible, including during the post-show wrap-up.
Jumbled lines were also an issue, and there were a fair number. They were painfully obvious, but as the performance went on, Leard started to acknowledge them, and oddly, those mistakes became some of the funniest moments for me (and from what I could tell, the audience too). He also acknowledged, with humour, humility, and improvisation, when his characters blended together. This happened a few times.
Those points aside, his characters were easily differentiated and well-developed. That acknowledgement was funny, endearing, and charming, and leads me to think this show just needs a bit more polishing, and either less repetitive dialogue or a slightly longer runtime.
A longer runtime might also allow Leard to slow down during the verbal montages he sets up to describe the space scenes for us, which for me, weren’t terribly effective at conveying visuals. His sound effects (of jazz music, crowds cheering , bleep-blooping space buttons) are spot-on and hilarious. His rambling descriptions, less so.
All this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the show. I did. I did find myself bored at times, but highly amused at others.
Leard brought such intense energy and passion. I’d love to see him perform in the future, and if I hadn’t had to rush off, I would have stayed for the next show (which I believe he said he was in, though the name escapes me at present). If not for the few points mentioned above, he would have flawlessly pulled off the multiple characters.
This show might be better suited to sci-fi loving folks, and fans of over-the-top dramatic scenes. If, like me, fast-paced run-on style sentences aren’t your thing, and you want constant laughs, you may want to skip this one. Given the crowd in the space today, and the other reviews I’ve seen, you may not even be able to get a ticket!
- Zach Zultana: Space Gigolo is playing until July 11 at Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Ave.)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment
July 06 at 04:30 PM
July 08 at 09:15 PM
July 09 at 04:00 PM
July 10 at 11:00 PM
July 11 at 12:30 PM
Photo of Jeff Leard by Kris Gower