By Christopher Douglas
Exposure by John Lazarus, staged at the Robert Gill, dramatizes the moment that led to the first known photograph in this gentle and pleasant production.
The opening moment of the show, as Mme. Brillante (Laurel Paetz) sets up her shoe-shining booth, sets the tone for a surprisingly good play that comes out of nowhere. Her voice remains strong even when hidden behind a disguise, though her character isn't quite as sure-footed.
Craig Walker had a strong presence as Louis Daguerre, inventor of the first camera device. He frequently intoned Robert Preston's Music Man baritone, selling a bill of goods with such charm that we may not notice he's a fraud. Walker's performance adds some flair to this Fringe show.
The period costumes by Kathryn MacKay evoke the 1830s in Paris, though MacKay's direction allows the pace of the piece to proceed a little too slowly sometimes, turning the play into something mildly quaint instead of an active theatrical experience.
Lazarus' script effectively drops a lot of exposition in the opening scene without feeling forced. His characterizations seem a bit flimsy however, and the plot twists alternate between being too thoroughly introduced and too surprisingly enacted. Nonetheless, his premise for the show - taken from a seemingly insignificant historic detail - remains one of the strongest creation impulses I've witnessed this Fringe.
Info and tickets for all Toronto Fringe shows can be found at fringetoronto.com