Fringe review: ‘The Big Smoke’

The Big Smoke, Fringetastic!, Vancouver Island, Canada. Pink venue, 60 minutes, $10.

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Jeremy Banks

If you grew up in Wawa, Ontario, you might look a lot like Tommy in The Big Smoke — diffident, eager to please, curious about what’s out there in the wider world but always carrying within you the imprint of home.

But you don’t have to hail from Wawa to fall for Jeremy Banks’ Tommy, the central figure in this heart-wrenching show about a small-town boy moving to the big city and learning more about himself than he ever thought he’d learn.

The Big Smoke (a nickname for Toronto — who knew?) is one of a handful of one-man coming-out shows at this year’s (or almost any year’s) Fringe. But Tommy doesn’t come out, not really, and what he discovers about himself in the Big Smoke may turn your heart to mush.

Banks takes on this role (Ron Fromstein’s award-winning play premiered in 2006) as if he fashioned it himself. As Tommy, he’s so unsure of what he wants that he’s ill at ease in his own body, and his loneliness and confusion make him all the more endearing. Tommy is nice, but he doesn’t always act nicely; he’s searching but he’s not at all sure what he’s searching for.

In a way Banks’ Tommy stands as the antidote to all the I’m-out-and-I’m-proud talk at the Fringe — not that you shouldn’t be proud, of course, but too often the journey is scary. It’s a terrific performance of an honest and lovely play.

Remaining shows:
Sunday May 22, 11:40 p.m.
Monday May 23, 9:25 p.m.
Wednesday May 25, 11:10 p.m.
Thursday May 26, 8 p.m.
Friday May 27, 6 p.m.

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