The Death and then Life of Douglass Perish (playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival) is a goofy absurdist play that is more wry smiles than belly laughs. The plot is simple: After being told by his doctor that he has been dead for three weeks, Douglass Perish returns home to his wife, Lilian, and his best friend, Glenn, to break the news. Undeterred by the fact that Douglass is still walking among them, Lilian and Glenn plan Douglass’ funeral and begin to move on.
The absurdist humour of the show reminds me of a pretty typical Gen-Z produced YouTube comedy sketch. It’s clever and kooky without straying so far from familiar tropes that it becomes off-putting. It’s the fluffy kind of brain tingling fun that rewards the audience for following along with its silly premise rather than expressing some deep truth or speaking to the human condition. Is it Kafka? Not really, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it for what it was.
I thought that Will Turner was charming and charismatic as the titular Douglass Perish. His performance gave a me Jason Schwartzman in a Wes Anderson movie vibe. His deadpan delivery of Douglass’ practical responses grounds the other characters and sets the play’s comedic tone. While the supporting cast is admirably zany – especially Christoph Ibrahim as Dr. Thomas Toms (who takes every opportunity he can to try to collect Douglass’ organs) – the play is at its most fun when Douglass’ death is staring the other characters in the face (literally).
My only real gripe with the show is that the mismatched romance between Lilian (Andrea Castenada) and Glenn (Mackenzie Kerr) felt really flat. Their romance is more plot device than genuine human interaction and I wish that the play had given the actors (especially Kerr) more to play with. Personally, I think it would have been more thematically appropriate to have them follow through with Douglass’ wishes out of a sense of obligation rather than setting Glenn up as a genuine romantic rival for Douglass.
With all that said, I did genuinely find this show to be a fun time. If you’ve got 23 minutes and a couple of dollars to spare, I’d suggest checking it out.
- The Death and then Life of Douglass Perish is playing on-demand at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival.
- Purchase a $5 Membership to access the On-Demand programming on the Fringe website, then Pay What You Can to each show as you go, with the suggested price of $13 per show.
- Memberships can be purchased here. View the virtual on-demand show listings here.
- Accessibility notes:
- On-Demand shows: videos are closed captioned, transcripts are available for all audio content, documents are screen-reader friendly, and all digital images are provided with alternative text descriptions. These access supplements have been generated by the company and reviewed by the Festival. They may vary slightly from company to company.
- Fringe Primetime presentations will feature Auto-Transcribed Captioning.
Photo of (from left to right) Mackenzie Kerr, Christoph Ibrahim, Andrea Castenada, and Will Turner by Fenghao B