2013 Edmonton Fringe Review: Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

In order to pay her crippling student loans, Joanie Little ("there's nothing Little about me!") works in an independent coffee shop in downtown Toronto (the first sign you're in a fictional universe is that of course all downtown Toronto has is Starbucks and Second Cups duking it out for the last scraps of caffeine-junkied folks in the world's worst city), and dreams of something bigger. A huge fan of Jane Goodall, Joanie decides that she'll endure the mists of vapour being spit on her from outraged customers ("seriously, soy and lactose-free are the same thing!"), and try to document her life in the jungle of King and Simcoe.

For the most part the show works well, playwright Rebecca Perry carries her character effortlessly (this is one of the dreaded semi-autobiographicals, so sadly no points to be awarded here) and the style, where she part sings and cleans shop while telling the story of her life passing by and the characters that inhabit her world, is breezy and easy to sit through. Perry's style is part Felicia Day, part Rose McGowan, and part Meg Ryan and as she talks about the events that happen to her, we're drawn quite effectively into her story.

If there's a problem with Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, it's that she's not really the driving force in her own narrative. Too often things just happen, and she's there to witness them. This might have worked, particularly with the Jane Goodall analogy, if the analogy had made an appearance at any time during the middle of the play: it was at the beginning, and at the end, and then not much else. Sure Joanie worked on her journal, but if she wanted to study the Toronto gorillas properly we needed to be given that experience. As such, we're enjoying the story but at the end wishing there was a little more meat: kind of like the breakfast snacks sold at high-end coffee shops, come to think of it.

Perry plays the parts of those around her mostly though coffee mugs with the relevant faces on them, from her airy boss to his entitled brother: and the love interest in the last third of the play is appropriately enough Michelangelo's David (played against Venus de Milo): a granite symbol of the man of Joanie's dreams, but almost as motionless as her life narrative seems. Marco is his name, and he flirts with her through notes in the tip jar. His departure at the end seems to mark...the end of the adventure? Sadly, a little epilogue wraps up the ending that should have been experienced, and we see more of this fictional universe where Marco moves to Vancouver and marries a "beautiful environmental consultant" (which don't exist).

With a soundtrack featuring soft-guitar coffeeshop versions of hits like Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk or Zing Go the Strings of My Heart, Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl is an enjoyable light romp that will definitely entice you into a fun hour of light comedy, wishing you could have spent a little more time in it.