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Fringe Review: Lara Loves Lightfoot

By Helen Lam on June 18, 2016

60 min | Solo, Musical | PG

Stratford singer-songwriter Lara MacMillan brings a slice of Canadiana to the Fringe stage. The solo show recounts MacMillan’s life as a hospitality worker during her 1986 gap-year in Banff, replete with images of open highways, Lake Louise and Banff in the snow. A selected catalogue of Gordon Lightfoot songs accompanies the play, performed by MacMillan who switches competently between piano, guitar and a capella. As a singer she is generous, encouraging the audience to sing along and share in the performance.

If you’ve ever taken a gap-year or lived in a hospitality town filled with seasonal workers, you will recognize the world young Lara finds herself in. There’s menial labour, awkward housing situations, and loneliness. Oh, and of course drugs. Lara is easy to sympathize with; she is good-natured and resilient (if a little naïve), at times hopeful, then forlorn, both at the mercy of fellow townsfolk and able to take charge of her own fate. In other words, her misadventures and her victories as a young woman alone in the wider world ring true.

However, as amusing as her anecdotes are, much of the drama remains latent. MacMillan reminisces about the events of 30 years before without adding the insight the passage of time can bring. The characters that drop in and out of her life, with their casual cruelties or small kindnesses, seem to have motives and thoughts that are just as opaque now as they must have seemed back then. She embarks on romances, she hops from job to job, but none of these encounters seem to have any formative consequences. And so just like that, they fade into the past and out of mind.

This surface-level rendering of young Lara’s experiences and the people she meets along the way deny the play the much of its dramatic force. The play seems to depend on its Gordon Lightfoot catalogue to evoke emotion in lieu of narrative development. The song snippets are pleasant interludes, but aren’t quite up to that task. Watch Lara Loves Lightfoot if you enjoy singing aloud in the ODD Box.

Lara Loves Lightfoot by Lara MacMillan is playing at the ODD Box (2 Daly Avenue) on Saturday, June 18 at 5:00pm; Monday, June 20 at 11:00pm; Wednesday, June 22 at 6:30pm; Saturday, June 25 at 7:00pm; Sunday, June 26 at 1:30pm. Tickets are $12.