by Christian Ledwell
On the second night of its three-week run at the Victoria Playhouse, writer and actor Lindsay Kyte’s Toronto Adventures impressed a sold-out audience with seasoned acting, boisterous humour, and professional production.
Framed as a series of mass e-mails, Toronto Adventures recounts Kyte’s experiences uprooting from Cape Breton to Toronto to pursue an acting career, treating the familiar differences between urban and rural living with comic hyperbole. Life in Cape Breton—awash in booze, Tim Hortons, regional dialect, and featuring such pastimes as ‘meat bingo’—is contrasted with life in Toronto, which is criticized for pretension and materialism.
Kyte departs from Cape Breton with Anne of Green Gable’s braids and romantic vision, and works her way through a series of amusing blunders and triumphs in her acting career, once adding the word “ocean” to every line of the Rankin family’s “Rise Again” when prompted for a Celtic ballad at an audition.
Kyte was supported by an excellent cast of Sherilyn Brady, Stephen MacDougall and Josh Weale, who juggled upwards of five roles each as the various characters Kyte meets in her escapades. Under the Artistic Direction of Erskine Smith, the cast admirably managed their task, keeping their many personae distinct. Brady was memorable as Carmela, Kyte’s Toronto friend who needs to be reminded she has a grandfather and three uncles named Nipper home in Cape Breton, and MacDougall provided musical accompaniment as Kyte’s eccentric roommate.
A veteran of the Victoria Playhouse, Weale gets laughs dressed in drag as Kyte’s hard-living grandmother, who once outdrank a soccer team, thinks her dialysis machine lets her drink more, and is the voice moderation when Kyte is guilty of “channeling the cast of the goddam Sound of Music.” Kyte’s grandmother is the play’s hero, and the story reaches its resolution when the Toronto Star publishes Kyte’s e-mails, a feat accomplished by Kyte’s grandmother hounding the paper’s editor.
Jonathan Smith and Ron Quesnel’s impressive metalwork backdrop economically negotiated the play’s constant shifts in setting; equipped with lights and symbols, the set-piece presented Kyte’s navigation of coffee shops, acting classes, airports from Cape Breton to Toronto with astounding clarity.
Toronto Adventures’ only misstep came after the intermission, with a veer into melodrama in the depiction of Kyte’s struggles as a waiter and call-center employee. This lull was soon corrected by the return of the production’s strong humour, with Kyte’s culture shock on her return to Cape Breton.
Toronto Adventures’ lesson is that an East Coast artist can have success in Toronto through a combination of stick-to-it-ness and quirk—Kyte’s only sacrifice of artistic integrity is the sale of a farcical ass-dance to a cell-phone ad campaign. But despite its promises of Upper Canadian acceptance, Toronto Adventure fits exceptionally well in its presentation here on the East Coast; the drive to Victoria’s cliff-side coastal view and pastoral landscape added much to the theatre-going experience, and the professionalism shown in the small-town theatre was a sure demonstration of the abundant talent outside of Toronto.