Playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival: Young and the Limbless, a new comedy by Morgan Frey, highlights the work-life frustrations of Jenna, a multiple amputee who is so very over being a token diversity hire for a magazine. Her roommate Robbie struggles through the dating scene. And, after a break-up with his now ex-girlfriend, their friend Luke is crashing on their sofa .
Oh, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is behind their sofa; well, a poster of him. They vent their frustrations to his larger-than-life face and he seems, weirdly, to be a very real presence.
The laid back, casual scenes are broken up with theme songs from the television shows they watch together: Grey’s Anatomy, Gilmore Girls, Dawson’s Creek, etc. This all plays like a hang-out sesh between close friends. All three—Morgan Frey (as Jenna), Kayleigh Poelman (as Robbie) and Will Atwood (as Luke)—have their own unique charms and their chemistry together is endearing. I was particularly fond of Frey’s soft-spoken, witty come-backs.
Jenna laments being pigeonholed as a writer of solely disability issues. Luke recovers from his break-up. Robbie tries to find a romance. There is a lot of natural and playful banter. There are some sit-com moments that feel a little phoney. In the context of an all-out farce, these would land well, but some of director Noémi Parenteau-Comfort’s gags aren’t suited to the laid-back, mostly naturalistic feel of this play.
With the title an obvious riff on the soap opera format, it does seem appropriate that the action lumbers along without much momentum; but I didn’t find it all that compelling as a story. There are some solid set-ups and pay-offs—Jenna finally escaping her mundane job, Robbie and Luke sorting out a disagreement—but there aren’t really any stakes or underlying tension.
The play is quite short, somewhat shorter than the 60 minute listed run-time, so it certainly isn’t tedious or frustrating, but I wasn’t given a reason or opportunities to get significantly invested in these characters’ lives.
I do really love the joke they end on though; the final lighting and music cue are on the nose, but gloriously so.
Young and the Limbless is, for the most part, understated and amusing. It is refreshing to see disability represented without kid gloves and with affectionate attention paid to the mundane realities of daily life.