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Toronto's annual fringe-theatre festival kicks off on July 4, with a record lineup of productions - 140 in total, playing at venues across the city.

Of course, there's a reason it's called the Fringe. Namely, because a certain proportion of the works produced - plays, musicals, one-man shows and variety acts - exist at the margins of conventional theatre, if they aren't beyond the pale entirely.

Let's see ... included on this year's menu is a play about a campaign to take swings out of Toronto playgrounds; a satire about a reality TV show in which the reality is death; a comedy about the 10 worst things in the history of the world - this play, one hopes, not among them; another comedy, You, Me & the Sea, about a couple marooned on the Atlantic Ocean; yet another briny drama, No Land in Sight, which puts survivors of different maritime disasters on a life raft and is performed in a swimming pool (I kid thee not); and a screwball comedy about a drag queen named Busty Gobbler, who thinks she's being stalked by her own vagina (you can't make this stuff up).

The Fringe, in short, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, is like a box of chocolates; you never know ... But on the basis of nothing more than press releases, past performances (of actors, directors and/or writers) and my own shaky theatrical instinct, here's a dozen to consider. Not recommend, necessarily, since I've seen none of them, but consider.

An Inconvenient Musical

By the Rumoli Bros. and Waylen Miki, directed by the Rumoli Bros.

From the creators of the award-winning SARSical, the world's first eco-friendly song and dance extravaganza. Said to be made up of 100 per cent biodegradable music, 30 per cent post-consumer recycled lyrics and organic free-range comedy.

Why it's on the list

A show with Paul Bates, Lee Smart and Doug Morency, all former Second City stars, can't be all bad.


By Harold Pinter, directed by Brian Rintoul

A great play, by a master playwright of the 20th century, mounted by a new company, Do It Yourself Theatre. Cast includes alumni of Stratford, Mirvish Productions, CanStage, Theatre Calgary, The Grand Theatre and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

Why it's on the list

It's Pinter.

Curriculum Vitae

Written and performed by Jimmy Hogg, directed by Peter J. Morey

The Brits do this sort of extended monologue thing very well, as a rule. (Remember Dave Gorman, the man who tracked down 54 other men named Dave Gorman and wrote a book and a show based on his travels?) This piece is said to explore Hogg's bizarre work experiences from the age of 15 onward.

Why it's on the list

It was a sellout in three other fringe venues, including San Francisco, a city that knows something about theatre.

Expiry Dating

By Alison Broverman, directed by Sarah Baumann

Described as a witty and moving comedy about love on a deadline, this won the 2007 Toronto Fringe New Play Contest and was the first play ever serialized in a Canadian national newspaper (though not this one).

Why it's on the list

Pure hunch.

The Fugue Code

Written and performed by Alex Eddington, directed by Alison Williams

Rolling the dice here on award-winning composer/playwright/actor Alex Eddington's new comedy-thriller. Asks the question: Can a conductor, musicologist, singer and organist crack the Fugue Code before the last note of the Well-Tempered Clavier? Probably no one will care, but the journey will be fun and musically rich.

Why it's on the List

Even if the script is weak, there will be Bach.

Funny Business: The Musical

Book by Daniel Falk and Rachel Brittain, music and lyrics by Daniel Abrahamson, directed by Marc Richard

How to succeed in business while trying ... or something like that. Their morale low, five office workers mount a team-building talent show. Romance blossoms, betrayal burns and hilarity ensues, according to the press release.

Why it's on the List

Creators have solid pedigree.


Written and performed by Chris Gibbs

Another one-hour show from another Brit-com lad, Chris Gibbs, the man behind the 2006 fringe hit Antoine Feval. One CBC critic called it hilarious.

Why it's on the List

Won "Best of the Fest" award in Winnipeg.

Hot Pink Bits

By Penny Ashton

What do Divine Brown, enemas and pizza sex have in common? Penny Ashton, a.k.a. Hot Pink, reveals all, in what is billed as a burlesque romp through the knickers of the global sex trade.

Why it's on the List

Did well in Edinburgh, no mean feat.

Kafka and Son

By Franz Kafka, adapted by Mark Cassidy and Alon Nashman, directed by Mark Cassidy

"All my writing was about you," wrote Franz Kafka to his father. He was 36, still living at home, a petty bureaucrat, a failed artist, a timid Jewish son. His father, boorish and overbearing, was his constant nemesis. What to do? Kafka wrote the confessional letter. This show is adapted from this monumental (and undelivered) letter. The show bills itself as a "revelatory visit with one of the architects of the modern psyche."

Why it's on the List

Track records

LOTR: The Musical:

The Musical!

By Nicholas Hune-Brown and Ben King

"The true(ish) story behind the funniest flop in Toronto history!" says the press release. Premise unites a mayor trying to bring tourists back to a city ravaged by SARS, a sinister British director trying to revive his career and a young writer living in his mother's basement, desperate for a break. The apparent answer: a musical about the $27-million stage musical of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy. Why it's on the List

A very smart idea.

Le Spa: The Musical

By Frank Adriano and Rob Ciccotelli, directed by Ciccotelli

Described as "Monty Python meets Mel Brooks ... set in the wondrous world of styling, laser hair removal and bikini waxing." At the exclusive Le Petite Morte Spa, testy Parisian spa workers vie with holistic spa counsellors from California and masochistic spa trainers from Turkey.

Why it's On the List

Another clever idea.

Two in the Bush!

By Tracey Erin Smith

Two in the Bush!, the sequel to last year's smash hit The Burning Bush!, brings back the Stripping Rabbi, who is said to be "saving souls, one lap dance at a time ... but this time, can she save herself?" Called "a saucy, freewheeling good time ... a total crowd pleaser," by one New York reviewer.

Why it's on the List

Prequel won Best of the Fringe 2006, Toronto, and this one won Audience Choice Award 2007 in New York.

For more info about shows and times, please see