J.H. (Scribe and Shooter) – 2010 Toronto Fringe Review

By Crystal Wood

The good thing about J.H. is that the actors really give it their all. The other good thing is that you can order food and drinks before the show.

I’m afraid that’s all I can say about this play before I inspire people to angrily disagree in the comments below. Listen, I wanted to like this play. I was ready to see some drama after a day of watching comedies. I was intrigued by the idea of using T Cafe on Bloor Street as a venue. I even liked the menu that doubled as a playbill. But despite that, I left the show feeling unsatisfied by what I had just seen.

J.H. bills itself as a drama. It’s really a melodrama, with each line dripping with much too much angst and mystery. At one point, I had echoes in my head of “My sister is my daughter!” from the movie Chinatown. This is a Greek tragedy set in a tea shop. But wait, why is it in a tea shop? After a throwaway line to suggest that that one character bought his dad’s old tea shop, it’s never mentioned again.

There are so many hidden family secrets, unanswered questions and brooding looks that there’s not enough actual plot for us to consider. For every answer that was finally given, we had to ask ourselves three more questions. Some generous people might argue this is clever writing; I would argue it’s careless writing.

I feel compelled to mention though that this is a perfect example of the Fringe experience. The festival really is a mixed bag of shows, some that you’ll like and some that you won’t. I didn’t happen to enjoy this play – no sweat, after 60 minutes, I’m off to the next one! If finger-puppet musicals or cab drivers doing improv isn’t your thing, then maybe a family melodrama like J.H. will be.

Details:

­– Venue 18, T Café, 511 Bloor Street West

– Showtimes:
Thu, July 8 7:00 PM – 1803
Fri, July 9 7:00 PM – 1804
Sat, July 10 7:00 PM – 1805

– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by Phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 ($10+$1 convenience fee)

– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows

0 thoughts on “J.H. (Scribe and Shooter) – 2010 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. Hi Crystal,
    I appreciate the honesty of your review. I’m glad you could find at least a few things you liked in a production that otherwise seemed to you emotionally overblown and/or over-the-top.
    I agree that there could have been more of an injection of the cafe atmosphere into the dialogue. However, I will say there was more than one ‘throwaway line’ about the nature of the shop in accordance with the plot.

    Regardless, I still agree that more could be done. There are, however, only 2 elements I disagree with in your analysis of the play.
    For one, calling this play a ‘melodrama’ is misleading. Comparing it to Chinatown is reducto ad absurdum; the emotional development and plot events do not come from left field as an attempt to evoke emotion. Rather, they are a natural consequence of the overall story. Which brings me to my second concern: that there were many questions left unanswered for you by the end. I am not sure what these questions could be except for that concerning the basement. I would love to answer any questions you may have if you still desire to know the answers. Please e-mail me in this case.
    Otherwise, I will say that it is unfair to pidgeon-hole this play as a melodrama just because the emotional interaction/action goes from 0 to 100 in 40 minutes or less. It moves quickly and is layered to have you constantly questioning what the real truth is regarding these people and their past. This was done on purpose so that the audience (hopefully intellegent enough to follow the action) was at least somewhat intrigued, but certainly not for the sake of evoking a strong emotional response from the audience like a melodrama is known to do.

    In any case, you were honest in your response and I am grateful for it.

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