Reviewed in this essay:
Mahmoud at the Toronto Fringe Festival (Tarragon Extra Space), 30 Bridgman Avenue, Toronto. Remaining show-times: July 10 at 3:30 PM, July 11 at 11:00 PM, July 13 at 12:00 PM, July 14 at 8:45 PM. Tickets available online or at the door.
It takes a special kind of performer to bring to life a thirteen-year old Iranian-Canadian girl, a queer Spanish man, and a middle-aged Iranian taxi driver in the space of one evening and on one stage – Tara Grammy, actor and co-creator of Mahmoud, manages this feat with outstanding dexterity and charm. In Mahmoud, Grammy plays all of the aforementioned parts in this one-woman tour-de-force which is shaping up to be a Toronto Fringe favourite.
Despite this diverse set of characters and stories, the plot-line unfolds organically, and what appear to be three separate narratives expertly blend into one another by the show’s end. Grammy demonstrates a real performance prowess, seamlessly shifting between characters at the snap of her fingers – the energy and precision of the presentation alone warrant attendance. Visually, the play is sparse, usually minimal props, costuming and stage design – Director Tom Arthur Davis makes an expert call with this decision, allowing Grammy’s stage presence to really inhabit the theatre space.
Mahmoud is comedic and will certainly get your sides shaking, but it also deals with a slew of serious themes: racism, homophobia, the immigrant experience, and most importantly, identity politics. The play expertly manages the tension between the comedic and the dramatic through fine character crafting. With Mahmoud, we’re always somewhere between character and caricature – Davis and Grammy know that the success of the comedy depends upon creating a type familiar to a wide audience, but that cultivating real viewer sympathy demands creating a compelling individual. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how familiar certain characters’ ticks and turns of phrase become by the end of the show.
Catch Mahmoud at the Toronto Fringe this week before it heads to New York City to participate in the International Fringe festival in August.