Death Meets Harlequin delights family audiences at Toronto Fringe

Unspoken Theatre brings a remount of the comedy “Death Meets Harlequin” to Toronto Fringe KidsFest this July, with a bonus circus pre-show. The commedia dell’arte style performance delighted critics and audiences last year, who called the show “comical” and “striking”, and praised the “great acting”. Award-winning playwright Nina Kaye, identified as one “of our city’s best emergent playwrights” by Mooney on Theatre, treats serious themes with a light touch in an original script that brings both thought and laughter.

Family audiences or youth groups will have the added attraction of a Toronto Fringe KidsClub outside the theatre to play all day and enjoy balloon animals, face painting, and free workshops with MakerKids before or after a matinee performance. Show tickets are only $5 for kids and $12 regular, and can be purchased online.

“Death Meets Harlequin” is fun and meditative, using comedy, dance and archetype to explore themes of family, love, loss and transformation. Harlequin is a wide-eyed boy who loves to chase butterflies and play guitar while his strict father the Doctor, despairs at his son’s lack of work ethic. A musical encounter with a singer named Butterfly awakens the father and son to new perspectives. The play is performed in English with some Spanish language.

Toronto indie theatre favourite, Thomas Gough, reprises his role as the Doctor, a man struggling to find a work-life balance in order to improve a relationship with Harlequin, his son. Gough has a wide range of acting experience from classical to contemporary and comedy to drama with credits at Alumnae Theatre, Hart House, Soup Can, Single Thread, and Storefront. Mooney on Theatre praised Gough’s performance of “the red-faced and angry father figure” as a delightful caricature.

Tom Beattie returns to Unspoken Theatre in the role of Harlequin after his performance in last year’s Toronto Fringe showing of the award-winning play Mood Swings. Raised in Stratford, Beattie has a life-long passion for theatre. He has directed with InspiraTO Festival, and his own company Orphaned Egret. As an actor he has performed with Hart House and Alumnae Theatre. The talented actor was praised for the “credibility” of his acting by Ontario Arts Review, and his “grounded, honest performance” by Mooney on Theatre.

Aleksandra Maslennikova completes the line-up with her elegant and beautiful interpretation of Death. In the poetic interpretation by playwright-director Nina Kaye, the character of Death is a young woman with a flower in her hair who goes by the name of Butterfly. Maslennikova, who was praised by Life With More Cowbell for her “ethereal and bright performance” in Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival, brings both delight and magnetism to the role.

Nina Kaye, the playwright-director, has had her writing produced in New York, Washington, and by Toronto companies Alumnae, Second Strike, Unit 102, Social Capitol, and Sterling Studio. Her plays received awards or recognition from Hart House Players, Sterling Studio, Panfish Productions, and NuVoices. She is the artistic director of Unspoken Theatre.

Unspoken Theatre was founded in Toronto in 2011 by sisters, Natalie and Nina Kaye. The company has produced and developed award-winning plays in a wide variety of genres including children’s theatre, 1920’s cabaret, and raw adult drama. The company has a focus on new work by local female playwrights which contains a historical, classical, or mythological element. Past productions have been praised for poetic imagery, believable characters, inventive staging and powerful performances. The company is pleased to return to Fringe for the second year in a row.

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