Beautiful Man (Groundwater Productions) 2015 SummerWorks Review


Beautiful Man is a high-concept performance piece that has a point to make. It’s an interesting point. Erin Shield’s script broaches an important subject. I won’t tell you what it is, but I’m sure you can guess the intent of this SummerWorks entry by my description of what I experienced.

Three women, smartly dressed in almost identical outfits but just different enough to be considered individuals. These women have just seen a recent movie—a movie about a cop. She’s a haunted, hardened professional hunting a serial killer—a woman—who preys on young, beautiful men.

They describe the images in this film while a beautiful man—conventionally attractive by North American standards—is the eye candy in the background. Brett Donahue portrays whichever male presence they are discussing, the point being that each of the male characters serves pretty much the same purpose: titillate the audience and advance a woman’s story.

Then, there isn’t just the film, but a television series within the film that deals with a historically “accurate” period drama (with dragons and whatnot) that consistently victimizes its male characters.

Then they discuss a real-life scandal with the highly respected female director of this series and the young, naïve men in her employ.

Then there is a play within the series within the film—don’t forget the real-life scandal. All of this is swirling about until their recitation reaches a fever pitch and all three reach climax together, exhilarated by the eroticism of sweaty, wounded male bodies writhing in agony (and ecstasy—oh, the blurred lines!) under culturally-accepted female power, and they shoot their load.

Conceptually, this is tight and relevant. The problem for me was that I couldn’t connect to any of it emotionally. This isn’t a drama. There are no stakes. The people on stage aren’t really characters. Director Andrea Donaldson gives them plenty of business to keep their bodies in motion, but it never felt to me like anything more than a stylishly performed essay.

There were brief moments when I thought something would snap and some real, immediate conflict would arise. I was particularly drawn to Ava Markus’ manic intensity; her wild eyes and tense body language suggested that she was just barely keeping her shit together and would suddenly create a problem for the other two. But this piece isn’t concerned with that sort of drama; it wants to stay on point.

Beautiful Man is frequently funny, always clever, but it just didn’t resonate with me.


Beautiful Man plays at The Theatre Centre Mainspace (1115 Queen Street West)

Show times:

  • Sunday August 9th 4:15 PM
  • Monday August 10th 9:45 PM
  • Tuesday August 11th 7:00 PM
  • Thursday August 13th 9:30 PM
  • Saturday August 15th 8:45 PM
  • Sunday August 16th 3:00 PM

Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series tickets are free – $20. Tickets are available online at, by phone at 888-328-8384, Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 4-16 from 10am-7pm (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)

Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows

Photo of Brendan Healy by Tristan Ginger