Moonstruck, an improv show playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, has a fairly simple premise: the company listens to one audience member’s dream and then builds a show around it. The cast–Jess Bryson, Ken Hall, Sarah Hillier, Sean Tabares, Jess Grant, Andy Hull, Paloma Nunez, and Kevin Whalen –not all of whom were present on opening night, then got to work building scenes designed to interpret it.
The style of this particular premise is to follow the flow of whatever is happening. The idea, I think, is that the madcap, unruly nature of improv comedy is pretty neatly translated into worlds of dream logic, where scenes can flow randomly into one another and end absurdly, strangely, or with a sense of the bizarre. The structure actually felt a lot like a dream, moving between scenes with varying connections to the overall story line.
On my evening, the dream on offer was a Pagemaster-style library nightmare about finding keys in books (which also had teeth). The exact details of the dream were then spun out by the cast into a series of interpretations that would be generally hit upon throughout the night.
There was one major plot that developed about a library quest and a goat demon that was wonderfully absurd and perfectly bizarre, anchored by Jess Bryson’s hilariously trope-y bookish protagonist, who mainly name-dropped “written versions” of popular movies (and Moliere, which only made the subsequent references to Jurassic Park and Monty Python more outlandish).
Other scenes, such as a plot involving medieval villagers and their tyrannical king, or a campfire scene between a man who had never seen a fire before and the camper who “liked the cut of his jib”, didn’t quite seem to connect to the overall story. Despite that, I got a lot of hard laughs from these snippets of totally unrelated nonsense (“I’m more of a microwave man myself” and “LONG DEAD THE KING” are some pretty memorable lines from my evening’s show).
This style of improv necessarily means that there’s occasionally some chaos or some shuffling around as the cast susses out the tone or aim of the scene. Once the dream interpretations are established, the show itself doesn’t have much in the way of a set structure or framework, even for improv. For me, honestly, that’s part of the fun; but chances are, you already know if you’re the sort of person who can get into this sort of chaos.
For me, Moonstruck was a ball. While it didn’t fully come together into a cohesive story, I still had a lot of fun with its tangents and willingness to explore. Anchored by a skilled cast, this one is a safe bet for a good time.
- Moonstruck plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. (30 Bridgman Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- This venue is barrier-free. Patrons who use wheelchairs or who cannot climb stairs are seated in the front row.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Thursday July 5th, 6:45 pm
- Friday July 6th, 10:15 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 8:15 pm
- Monday July 9th, 2:30 pm
- Wednesday July 11th, 3:45 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 12:15 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 9:00 pm
Photo provided by the company.