At the Fringe Part 1: Redefining Wonder

Last night I went to the Toronto Fringe and Chris Funk's Redefining Wonder. I felt some sympathy because I've had my own Thursday 10PM opening night at a theatre festival, but the show came recommended to me so I went to go see. Magic shows tend to be slightly out of place in theatre festivals. Maybe it's just a phase, but independent theatre seems to lean such that if you're not coping with abuse, death, coming out of the closet or thoughts of suicide, they don't really want to hear from you. That's not to say that some people don't take those serious issues and address them in upbeat and genuinely uplifting ways, but a huge swath of the theatre community is unable to distinguish between sombre and serious. I remember reading the Summerworks program when I was accepted and my own show (which had to do with lying to people non-stop) was the single most cheerful thing in there.

Magic shows also have a tendency to be more like rock concerts - a collection of individual songs. If you add one in, take one out or mess with the order no one would really notice the difference. As such, they tend to be theatrical without necessarily being theatre.

All that being said, Redefining Wonder, is a wonderful and fun magic show. The protagonist, is a charming and disarming caricature of a stage magician; chuckling at his own bad puns, striking a few too many Copperfield-like poses, and dripping with a bit too much ego for someone with the complexion of a sixteen year old.  He calls himself the "wonderist" — a word he had to invent himself — so he appears at first blush to be a bit too pompous to be taken seriously. Then the magic will start to hit you. This is cutting edge stuff with a nice balance of sneaky gizmos, modern technology and good old fashioned cleverness.

What I appreciate most is that it's magic for magic's sake. I'm going to make your $50 appear inside this sealed back of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish because why not, not because of [insert awkward overextended metaphor here].

Although the show does nothing to "redefine" wonder (although one person sitting near me remarked audibly that she left feeling a mixture of astonishment and terror seeing what he could do) it's certainly worth the climb up the stairs to the third floor Robert Gill Theatre (inside the UofT Bookstore building).

There are six shows left between now and July 11. Buy tickets to Redefining Wonder at the Toronto Fringe.