Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
This July, Spencer Litzinger is contending with a pesky fly. In fact, the improv artist and popular host of YTV’s The Zone returns to the stage to take on that fly as Dean Bean in BOY vs. FLY, which debuts at the Toronto Fringe as part of KidsFest. The play is an adaptation of Daniel Beitchman’s beloved 2017 picture book BOY versus FLY: A Dean Bean Adventure. It follows Dean as he navigates healthy food, homework and the problem of the titular crafty fly (played by Simon McCamus). The remaining cast is composed of seasoned improvisors (including Director Kerry Griffin and Music Director Ayaka Kinugawa) – which means lots of laughs to keep young (and old) audiences in stitches.
For starters, smiles Litzinger, “the physical comedy of seeing a grown man play a pestering fly is pretty great”. Litzinger’s warm, lively personality also lends itself to portraying young Dean: “He has so much energy! And that’s really fun to play.” She started her career performing in plays and musicals “all the time” as a young girl, so coming back to stage performance in BOY vs. FLY “feels so good”.
The story centres on Dean Bean, who disrupts his math class by chasing a fly. His impulsive nature lands him in trouble, and he ends up learning a lesson from an unexpected source about owning up to mistakes. The lesson beneath the mayhem counterbalances the frenetic action, and leaves young audiences something to contemplate after the final curtain. It’s a nice, compact package: “story-wise, I’d say it’s a universal lesson wrapped into a fun kids show! In life, sometimes things are going to happen that are out of our control, but we can choose how we react! And that’s a big part of the lesson Dean Bean gets to learn.”
And audiences should expect that lesson to be served up with “lots of laughs” by the cast of comedians and improvisers who are just “so funny”. “Every character in the show is so unique and funny. Principal Spoon (played by Devon Hyland) is a hilarious character! The show itself is wacky, but still has a lot of heart!” As a bonus, “we have some fun songs sprinkled throughout the show!”
Litzinger herself has a strong background in improv. She is a graduate of the Humber College Comedy program and The Second City Conservatory. And her passion and talent for improv run so strong that she teaches it to young people. Improv helps her mine humour from situations, and, critically, to remain truly present at all times. “And in this play, I need to be exactly that, PRESENT” – in order to respond to each character authentically. “I really want to be Dean Bean when I perform. I want to show his legit frustrations that come up as the fly continues to follow him wherever he goes . . . and where his frustrations lead him! And [I want to] play his discovery of what he learns.”
As it happens, portraying Dean Bean has brought home to Litzinger just how much she misses theatre, and a fervent desire to keep doing it. So in the here and now, she is “so, so, so, excited for BOY VS FLY to open!” Asked what final thoughts she would like to add, she laughs . . . and closes with a pitch “you asked me everything! But you could TELL me when you are coming to the show!”
Given the popularity of KidsFest at the Fringe, tickets to BOY vs. FLY will likely sell fast. Best not to chase that pesky fly . . . try to catch the show quickly!
News You Can Use
What: Boy vs Fly the Play (world premiere), written by Daniel Beitchman | Music Director: Ayaka Kinugawa | Stage Manager: Heather Lacey | Director: Kerry Griffin
Performed by Devon Hyland (Dad Bean/Principal Spoon), Spencer Litzinger (Dean Bean), Simon McCamus (Fellini The Fly), Josh Symonds (Johnny C.), Brie Watson (Mom Bean/Ms. Anne)
Who: Audiences 4 years of age and older
When: July 3 – 14, 2019; Running Time: 45 minutes
Where: George Ignatieff Theatre, 15 Devonshire Place, Toronto, ON
Info and Tickets: https://fringetoronto.com/fringe/kidsfest/show/boy-vs-fly
Ⓒ Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya / Sesayarts Magazine, 2019