Last night I went to see the opening of Theatre On A Thought’s “Excuse You!”, written and directed by Bryce Alexander Dudley and performed at the George Ignatieff Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe. The play is a collection of customer service horror stories, loosely linked together through an over-arching plot about a bunch of theatre employees; it runs about 90 minutes.
“Excuse You” was a fairly typical Fringe experience for me; the script needed some work, and the show felt a little under-rehearsed, but the actors were funny, enthusiastic, and seemed thrilled to be performing.
The structure of the play was a little odd; the concept of an over-arching story to link various anecdotes about customer service in general was good in theory, but wasn’t executed as smoothly as one would hope. There were however, a few stand-out moments.
Matt McGrath as Stephen was hilarious. His monologue about the horrors of cleaning the woman’s bathroom was one of the highlights of the show. McGrath had excellent comedic timing and a great stage presence. He also played some of the stronger roles in my favourite part of the show; the bar scene.
One of the play’s strongest scenes was where the actors swept around the stage in a flurry of different characters, each appearing with a one or two-line joke before switching out and reappearing as someone new. This was where their actor abilities shone brightest; each character, despite very minor changes in costume, was distinct and amusing. Kudos goes to Peter Nicol who had some of the funniest parts, and skillfully played both young and old characters.
Erynn Brook was unfortunately given a rather unlikable character, Deborah, the typical “bitch” staff member, who in this play lacked the redeeming qualities such a role usually relies on. Despite this, Brook was funny, had strong comedic instincts, and wowed the audience with several perfect accents, something that is rarely seen in amateur theatre.
In stark contrast was the character Michelle, aptly played by the bubbly Heather Sande. While the part of Michelle was two-dimensional and a little dull, Sande stood out in the smaller roles, especially as the aloof drunk-girl dragged to the theatre by her irritating mother. Her energy onstage was contagious, and helped to push along some of the slower moving scenes.
Rhonda, played by Sarah Cervinka was the most believable of the main-plot characters. As the jaded, tired, wannabe-writer, Cervinka best captured the dry humour and sarcasm the role required. Her part as the overweight restaurant patron who demanded to know the ingredients in every item, was also a highlight.
Finally there was Chai Lavie as Tony. While Tony was more of a caricature than most of the other main-plot characters, Lavie’s physicality made him a joy to watch.
Overall the show’s greatest weakness came from a general sort of “messiness”. Actors bumped into the set, took a little too long setting props, exited too slowly, and the lights were poorly aimed, making it difficult to see a lot of the action clearly. However, Dudley has clearly assembled a talented cast, as each actor had moments of brilliant comedy and I did find myself laughing at much of the show.
If you’ve ever worked in customer service, or if you’re just looking for a good laugh this Fringe, this is one I’d recommend.
Check out their website at ExcuseYouToronto.com
July 4, 8:15pm
July 5, 3:00pm
July 7, 10:00pm
July 9, 10:30pm
July 10, 12:00pm
July 11, 7:30pm
July 14, 5:15pm
All fringe tickets are $10 and are available in advance at the fringe tent or at the door, while supplies last.