Friday, 3 July 2015

Toronto Fringe review: The Philanderess

By Nick May

The Philanderess is a modern feminist take on George Bernard Shaw’s The Philanderer. First time playwright, Sophia Fabiilli, has stayed comically unfaithful to the original; and without complaint this adaptation is a quick, clever and brash theatre piece that still leaves room to provoke thought.

‘Meet Charlotte. She has a PHD in feminist philosophy, just asked her lawyer boyfriend to be her life partner, and authors a wildly famous blog about sleeping with men on the side. She has it all! Until one of her lovers – and his entire family – crash her engagement party.’

In addition to writing the show, Sophia Fabiilli also commands the stage as the character of Charlotte. Sophia brings amazing stage presence to the role; there is urgency in her story that makes this a dynamic piece of theatre. Her comic timing is impeccable especially when on stage with boyfriend, Grayson (Amos Crawley). The two have a great chemistry that sets the tone for a well-paced show.

Charlotte’s story resonates with an LGBT audience because of her beliefs about sexual oppression in relationships/society, but more importantly her views on marriage break all barriers of tradition. Her wanton need to better herself and strive for something more in life is what makes her truly likeable.  Charlotte says, “I don’t want to be Carrie Bradshaw anymore, I want to be Gloria Steinem!” but my takeaway from this show is that in the year 2015, you can be the Bradshaw and the Steinem.

The character of Julian (Charlotte’s lover) is a lot to handle at first. The dumb hot young lover spouts off lines filled with mistaken clichés and it can seem a bit overbearing at first. But Jakob Ehman’s commitment to this extreme character is so strong that it becomes charming and all is forgiven.

Julian’s gay brother Sylvie is played by Seth Drabinsky. The character nails some really good one-liners and is comfortable enough in his own shoes to stray from stereotype. But I was left wanting more from this character. He could have been used to up the ante in this farce, or at least be the figurative ‘straight man’. Instead he just sort of blended in amongst the other heightened characters.

The actors worked wonderfully as an ensemble but standout performances by Fabiilli, Crawley and Ehman make the show truly memorable.

This show couldn’t have asked for a better theatre to perform in. Director Michelle Alexander took full advantage of what the Annex Theatre has to offer. The fight direction was wonderful. The choreography of movement in this show was so fluid, it gave me what I wanted from farce.

As a first time playwright, I was blown away by Sophia Fabiilli. I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve next.

Get your tickets fast because The Philanderess will definitely sell out!
Info and tickets for all Toronto Fringe shows can be found at

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