Lest avid readers of Mooney on Theatre begin to feel a concern that I don’t like anything, let me be clear: I unreservedly adored Virginia Aldrige, BSc, produced by quoi quoi quoi – a name you may remember from last year’s Fringe smash Raven For A Lark. It’s charming, well-told story of a young woman who follows her dream – sort of – and takes off for Africa.
While telling the boy she likes about her childhood worship of Victorian biologist Mary Kingsley, he responds so positively that she impulsively tells him she’s planning to go there, to West Africa, to follow in her footsteps. Upon arrival, however, it’s not quite what she bargained for.
There are a thousand things to like about Virginia Aldrige, BSc. Janelle Hanna is wonderfully cast, bringing Aldridge to life as an utterly charming and authentic combination of plucky courage, lovesickness, hero worship, great ideals, and questionable decisions. She takes full advantage of the good writing, building a world of meaning with her tone, inflection, and gestures onto Elise Newman’s text. We watch her resolve to be brave, fail, and try again; make decisions and then consider how they would work as a story retold to the boy she likes; waffle and repent and resolve again.
Some of the physical business of the show is pee-your-pants funny – especially watching Hanna attempt to push the water back into a flooded shower. There’s also the extended bit with a cockroach she smashes with a book. I laughed helplessly the whole time.
If I had any criticism, it might be the sound design. It was well-enough done and well-cued – Lindsay Naft clearly has talent for the aural landscape – but I found it sometimes superfluous in such a simple show, and certainly with this actor. Hanna has more than enough talent to make us believe we hear a red-tufted something-or-other in the distance.
Clocking a short 45 minutes, I also got to savour the delicious – and rare – Fringe experience of leaving the theatre wanting a little more. To be clear, I think Newman, as writer and director, paced the show marvelously. I’m not sure there was much more to the story. But Virginia Aldrige, BSc felt sweet as a summer ice-cream-truck cone: nearly as fleeting, and definitely worth getting excited and running outside for.
Sat, July 9 7:45 PM
Mon, July 11 11:00 PM
Wed, July 13 12:30 PM
Thu, July 14 9:30 PM
Fri, July 15 2:00 PM
Sun, July 17 2:45 PM
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only).
– Advance tickets are $11, available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street
– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows