Spice up your life with the Spice Girls of Comedy with a Filipina twist. Toronto Fringe Festival presents a musical sketch comedy spectacle, and crowd favorite, Tita Jokes at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace. Belinda Corpuz, Isabel Kanaan, Ellie Posadas, Alia Rasul, and Maricris Rivera embody the hilarious family members you wish you had.
The sketch begins with the company sporting iconic Filipino fans, typically used in traditional dance. Each of the five characterize themselves with unique identifiers. Each Tita is an overemphasized characterization of one of the Spice Girls: Baby, Ginger, Posh, Sporty, and Scary.
The underlying theme of each scene highlights Filipino culture, makes light of stereotypes, or debunks common misconceptions within the Filipino culture. The company members grapple with simple misconceptions such as being wrongly classified as Chinese or Mexican, to the more complex, such as the denial of LGBTQ+ in the Filipinx community.
While many of the underlying tones of the piece are culturally specific to the Filipinx-Canadian community, it does dive into themes others can identify with. One scene highlights the complexity of what it means to be mixed race in Canada. Belinda Corpuz plays a mixed-race woman who faces an inner battle of whether to embrace her Filipino heritage or her Canadian upbringing. Isabel Kanaan and Ellie Posadas act as her conscience. The two offer Corpuz words of wisdom, and advise as to which is more admirable – being Filipino or being Canadian.
The scene, though comedic, allows audience members the opportunity to assess their own identity. The struggle to choose one culture or the other is not unique to Filipinx-Canadians. Many people of colour struggle to form their sense of identity in a western society.
Another admirable topic the group takes on is LGBTQ+ visibility within the Filipino community. Western society has opportunities and support systems to encourage members of the LGBTQ+ community. In contrast, same-sex relations are still considered taboo in the Filipino community, and same-sex partners are often referred to as “friends,” as highlighted in the show. I admire the fact that the company uses Tita Jokes as a platform to challenge queer erasure in the Filipino community.
As a group, The Tita Collective is hilarious and irresistible. Belinda Corpuz demonstrates both poise and vocal strength. Isabel Kanaan showcases versatility and sincerity in her portrayal of diverse female and male roles. Ellie Posadas proudly sings about Philippine cuisine with impeccable, comedic timing. Alia Rasul as a female entrepreneur is a crowd favorite. Maricris Rivera has an infectious energy and charisma.
Tita Jokes is a must-see of the Fringe. It allows space to educate while challenging controversial material in a hysterical way. Tita Jokes is an exquisite, hilarious, multi-layered spectacle.
- Tita Jokes plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace. (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 (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; gunshots; audience participation; strobe lights.
- This venue is barrier-free. Designated accessible seating is in the middle of the auditorium.
- 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.
- Thursday July 4th, 8:30 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 4:45 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 1:15 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 9:45 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 8:00 pm
- Friday July 12th, 4:00 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 6:00 pm
Photo of Belinda Corpuz, Isabel Kanaan, Ellie Posadas, Alia Rasul, and Maricris Rivera by the company