Jell-O creates great yarn
August 23, 2013
(5 0UT OF 5 SUNS)
Maybe merely remembering history isn’t enough to avoid repeating it. You need context, depth and humanity to understand it or you ‘re doomed -which is why it’s been such a pleasure to see so many worthy plays at the Fringe whose creators have taken such leaps of imagination and poetic licence on historical l events. Maybe it’s not EXACTLY what happened, but it’s instructive to imagine the feelings and motivations behind the people who were actually there. A story that got attention in 2012 concerned a group of high school cheerleaders from upstate New York who mysteriously came down with Tourette’s-like symptoms at the same time. The cause is unclear.
And that ‘s a ll Toronto’s Steady State Theatre needs to weave a ripping yarn that tackles a number of issues, from the phenomenon of “mass hysteria” to the plight of small-town America to the debate over vaccination to the evils of Jell-O. That’s right, delicious, beautiful, wiggly Jell-0. It’s made from boiling down the remains of farm animals into a disgusting, bubbly mucus. The powdered form that made Jello popular wasn’t invented until 1959, but it still contains rendered animal by-products. Yuk.
Learning the Truth About Jello is only one of the entertaining angles delivered with punchy acting by Ashley Comeau and Melanie Hrymak, who play a myriad of characters, each more tightly-wound than the last. Each exchange is a satisfying skit in its own right, but there is a serious story at heart. It involves two workers at the Jell-O factory who know the truth of why those teen girls started twitching. Expletive-laden dialogue adds an extra comic touch to what turns into a gripping whodunit rich in nuances and insight. You’ll never look at Jell-O or cheerleaders the same way again
Ashley Comeau and Melanie Hrymak play a host of characters in 18 Twitching Cheerleaders.