2012 Toronto Fringe Festival: 21 Days
Life is precious in Bad Dress Productions' heartwrenching new musical
Presented by Bad Dress Productions
Created and directed by Jessica Kostuck
Written by Tabia Lau
If you found out you only had 21 days to live, what would you seek to accomplish? Who would you spend your time with, and how? These are the difficult questions that young Julie (Elizabeth Conway) is faced with in 21 Days, a new musical playing at Robert Gill Theatre as part of this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival.
After being diagnosed with an undisclosed disease, Julie only has 21 days left to live, a fact she laments in a fast-paced opening song. Working in her parents’ bakery with sassy co-worker Dorothy (Alex Mealia), she is admired from afar by a shy writer named Ben (Ryan Anning), who desperately wants to ask her out but cannot find his nerve. Happy couple Dan (Brendan Doherty) and Dal (Peter Perri) encourage Ben to “Try Again,” a song replete with upbeat choreographed steps, which gives Ben the courage he needs. Julie ultimately turns him down, but the next scene with her parents (played by Elyse Lewis and Mark Piggot) reveals that she has been taught to stay home and “Stay Safe,” since she has so little time left. However, Julie’s feelings for Ben prevail, and on their first dinner date, amid his nervous stammering, she explains to him the significance of the next 21 days.
Ben and Julie’s short timeline forces them to make a quick decision for their future, and they become engaged very quickly and find themselves preparing for their wedding in a scene of nervous energy and comedy. What ensues after their nuptials, however, is quite heavy and intense, with the two characters each wanting different things from their hasty marriage. The first half of 21 Days is upbeat and funny, while the second half is quite the opposite, offering the audience a glimpse into the terrifying reality of a terminal illness at a young age.
Elizabeth Conway is sincere and endearing as Julie, keeping the audience hopeful that she will somehow defy the odds that her doctors have set against her. Clearly smitten, Ryan Anning’s lovably awkward Ben delivers some of the best lines in the show, and Brendan Doherty gives a breakout performance as one half of Dan and Dal, his excellent singing voice setting him apart.
Full of heart, 21 Days is a thought-provoking, clever production that forces the audience to ask themselves what their own priorities would be in such a short timeline.
21 Days is playing until July 15th at Robert Gill Theatre. Visit fringetoronto.com for a full schedule and to buy tickets.