My nine-year-old companion and I arrived excited to Boy vs Fly, our first show of the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival, deep in discussion about whether the performance would feature real flies (we disagreed; I suspected no but he thought certainly yes). Turns out that while there were no live flies, there was certainly a lot of buzzing about.
Boy vs Fly is a madcap collection of shenanigans and gags loosely organized around the idea of a kid, Dean Bean (Spencer Litzinger), who is agitated in the extreme by a fly (played very annoyingly by Simon McCamus) that won’t leave him alone. Dean is just going about the business of being a kid, playing street hockey and giving his parents some mild, age-appropriate sass, and everywhere he goes his nemesis The Fly turns up.
That’s…the plot of Boy vs Fly. Devon Hyland plays a chummy Dad Bean with some very interesting ideas about food and a plummy principal with very interesting ideas about a school song. Mom Bean/the school’s math teacher is a snappy Brie Watson, doing her bit to sow the seeds of family harmony. They’ve got a snappy improv-style give-and-go happening in both pairings, which is cheerful and fun.
It’s fine, and they’re cute — joined by Josh Symonds as Dean’s best pal Johnny C. — but for most of the play we don’t go anywhere much. The Fly continues to annoy Dean Bean, until the very end when a brief encounter with a Be Here Now hippie neighbor gives Dean the idea that he can choose to not be annoyed.
The script is padded out from a children’s book by the same name, and most of the stage business and jokes were much more appealing to me, an adult, than to my child or any of the children around me. Toward the end there’s the bit about emotional regulation and learning not to allow one’s self to be bothered, but it feels tacked on in the stage show after a lot of hopping and shouting and tut-tutting that seemed more like an adult idea of what kids like than a show for actual children. At the end, my nine-year-old (a budding pianist) was most interested in the question of whether Music Director Ayaka Kinugawa, the keyboardist, was improvising the live score or had written it in advance. Overall, I think Boy vs Fly could have benefited from kid test audiences and a stronger adaptation from the book to really, er, fly at FringeKids.
- BOY vs FLY plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre. (15 Devonshire Pl.)
- Tickets for Kidsfest shows are $5 for kids (age 12 and younger); adults pay $13.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warning: audience participation.
- The George Ignatieff Theatre is wheelchair-accessible, and has wide aisles for easy mid-show exits.
- Don’t miss the Kidsfest club located on the lawn adjacent to the venue! Free activities for children (3-12) and caregivers run every day of the festival: see website for details.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Wednesday July 3rd, 6:00 pm
- Friday July 5th, 12:00 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 1:15 pm
- Monday July 8th, 3:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 4:15 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 12:15 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 11:00 am
photo of Simon McCamus and Spencer Litzinger by Daniel Beitchman