Anthony J. Piccione, Contributing Critic - New York City
For the 2nd time in a row this year, I’ve had the pleasure of recently attending the annual FRIGID Festival, best known as the only theatre festival in NYC that lets artists keep 100% of box office profits. Like most festivals, however, they offer a diverse range of content, ranging from the truly innovative and thought-provoking to the completely unimaginative and excruciating. Unfortunately, while Toto Talks wasn’t close to being the most painful festival show I’ve endured, it certainly left plenty to be desired.
The basic concept should be obvious. This solo-show revolves around Toto – Dorothy’s furry companion in The Wizard of Oz – who is revealed in this production to have the ability to talk to audiences. The catch: In this show, Toto is actually a drag queen with lots of dirty secrets to dish from behind the scenes on her adventures with Dorothy and friends.
It’s one of those ideas that might sound nice on paper, but when attempting to actually write an hour-long script for it, it’s hard to imagine how this show could have become anything but predictable and disengaging. While some of the jokes were funny, the vast majority of them could have easily been written by anyone familiar with the classic story that inspired it and with an amateurish sense of humor, yet wit and creativity are hardly required for any of it. The result is a script that gets boring quick, and jokes that you know you’re supposed to be laughing at, but can’t help but feel were obviously coming from the first five minutes. Lead actor Jamison Stern does his best to try and keep the audience interested and enthusiastic, and does a fair job with the script he’s given, despite apparently filling the role just one week before opening night. However, that’s still not enough to make the show more that mildly entertaining, at best.
If there’s ever a such thing as a cliché, overdone type of fringe show, it would have to be this: A show that’s heavy on humor that relies too much of both innuendo and raunchy humor, as well as recycled stories and characters from within the public domain. If you’re a fan of both drag queens and The Wizard of Oz, then maybe you might enjoy spending an hour of your day watching one of this show’s last performances. Otherwise, you’re probably better off looking into one of the FRIGID Festival’s other offerings this year.
“Toto Talks” stars Jamison Stern, and is written by Randall David Cook, directed by Joey McKneely, and assistant directed by Jessica Francis Fichter.
“Toto Talks” runs at the Kraine Theater, located at 85 E 4th Street, New York, NY, as part of the 2019 FRIGID Festival from February 26th-March 2nd. For more information, please visit www.horsetrade.info.