All posts by Ilana Lucas

Ilana Lucas has been a big theatre nerd since witnessing a fateful Gilbert and Sullivan production at the age of seven. She has studied theatre for most of her life, holds a BA in English and Theatre from Princeton and an MFA in Dramaturgy and Script Development from Columbia, and is currently a professor of English and Theatre at Centennial College. She believes that theatre has a unique ability to foster connection, empathy and joy, and has a deep love of the playfulness of the written word. Her favourite theatrical experience was the nine-hour, all-day Broadway performance of The Norman Conquests, which made fast friends of an audience of strangers.

Review: Copenhagen (Soulpepper)

Photo of Diego Matamoros, Kawa Ada, and Kyra Harper by Cylla von TiedemannSoulpepper presents a new production of Michael Frayn’s Tony-winning play in Toronto

“Math is sense. That’s what sense is.” So says Kawa Ada as Werner Heisenberg, a somewhat unwanted visitor to the home of his former mentor Niels Bohr (Diego Matamoros) and his wife Margrethe (Kyra Harper), in Soulpepper’s production of Michael Frayn’s Tony-winning Copenhagen. Frayn’s sophisticated, devastating play imagines the basis of a secretive meeting between Heisenberg and Bohr in German-occupied Denmark in 1941. Heisenberg, one of Bohr’s protégés, has a question to ask the older, more cautious physicist, which may prove a turning point to the war. The half-Jewish Bohr is apprehensive as to which of Heisenberg’s dealings with the Nazis are for show, and which carry the potential for true, civilization-ending harm.

Existing in a suspended purgatory, long after the deaths of all three, they dissect in free-wheeling debate what may have happened, writing endless drafts akin to Bohr’s constantly-updating papers. It’s a kind of physicist’s No Exit, where they are most perfectly able to torture each other about the morality – or lack thereof – of using nuclear power to form weapons, an issue that has regrettably become timely once again.

Continue reading Review: Copenhagen (Soulpepper)

Review: Guarded Girls (Tarragon Theatre/Green Light Arts)

Photo of Virgilia Griffith and Vivien Endicott-Douglas by Cylla von TiedemannA fascinating, keenly-observed new play by Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman is now on stage in Toronto

“What do you like?” Bubbly inmate Britt (Virgilia Griffith) asks this of wary new transfer Sid (Vivien Endicott-Douglas) in the first moments of Guarded Girls, by Governor General Literary Award-nominee Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, now playing at the Tarragon Extraspace in association with Green Light Arts. Nineteen-year-old Sid, who has been bounced around from prison to prison for her aggressive behaviour, likes cramming packs of gum into her mouth, long-necked giraffes, and pretending to be other people. It’s better than being herself.

Continue reading Review: Guarded Girls (Tarragon Theatre/Green Light Arts)

Review: A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Mirvish/Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre)

Photo of Deborah Hay and Kate Hennig by Leif Norman
Ibsen’s play is a jumping off point for a new piece of philosophical theatre now on stage in Toronto

A Doll’s House Part 2 by Lucas Hnath, currently being presented by Mirvish Productions at the CAA Theatre in conjunction with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, suggests a theoretical sequel to the 1879 Henrik Ibsen classic. Although Ibsen said that A Doll’s House was not consciously intended to be an explicitly feminist work, it has come to stand as one. Inspired by the idea that modern society forced women to abandon a sense of true self, it shocked audiences with its portrayal of Nora, a wife and mother, who, dissatisfied with her limited life, abandons it entirely. You do not need to know all the ins and outs of the original work to enjoy Hnath’s update, just an open and curious mind.

Continue reading Review: A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Mirvish/Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre)

Review: Blood of Our Soil (Pyretic Productions/Punctuate! Theatre)

Photo of the company by Dahlia KatzUkraine’s past and present are explored in Lianna Makuch’s play now onstage in Toronto

Blood of Our Soil, by Edmonton’s Lianna Makuch and presented by Pyretic Productions in association with Punctuate! Theatre at the Tarragon Extraspace, is based on her grandmother’s journal accounts of fleeing Ukraine during the Second World War. Like a carefully-preserved box of mementos, the play feels like a discovery of buried treasure. It has been in development for years, and the writing and production have been meticulously, finely honed in that time by the playwright/director Patrick Lundeen, and dramaturg Matthew Mackenzie (writer of the Dora-winning Bears, currently at Factory).

Hania (Makuch) has recently placed her Baba (grandmother) Kateryna in an assisted-living facility. A woman whose past contains severe trauma, Baba says it is easier to forget, but has never forgotten. One of her secrets, concerning her flight to Canada decades ago, is killing her. Horrified by news reports of the Russian incursion into Ukraine that coincide with the cessation of letters from a relative she had to leave behind, Baba causes mayhem in the nursing home, inspiring her granddaughter to go in search of her past.

Continue reading Review: Blood of Our Soil (Pyretic Productions/Punctuate! Theatre)

Review: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Eclipse Theatre Company)

Photo of Kawa Ada and Jonathan Winsby by John Gundy
Eclipse produces a site-specific production of the Kander and Ebb musical in Toronto’s Don Jail

Eclipse, a new theatre company with a mission to produce site-specific musical theatre, chose the historic Don Jail as the site for its inaugural production of the Tony Award-winning Kiss of the Spider Woman, the Kander and Ebb show with book by Terrence McNally, based on Manuel Puig’s novel. The jail, now an administration building for Bridgepoint Health, is an appropriate, eerie match for the musical set in a brutal Argentinian prison in the 1970s during the Dirty War. Directed by Evan Tsitsias and billed as a staged concert production, this instead feels fully realized – and near-perfect.

Continue reading Review: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Eclipse Theatre Company)

Review: Bears (Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts and Punctuate! Theatre)

BEARS by Matthew MacKenzie_(back) Christine Sokaymoh Frederick (centre) Sheldon Elter and chorus-Photo by Alexis McKeownBears, created by Matthew MacKenzie and Monica Dottor for Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts and Punctuate! Theatre, and now back at Factory Theatre after winning Doras for Outstanding Production and Outstanding New Play (Independent Theatre) last year, is a controlled explosion of a show. A longterm, trusted tar sands employee often trotted out as a token Native supporter of Big Oil, Floyd (Sheldon Elter) is now on the run to avoid the company and government’s retribution for a workplace “accident” that seems a deliberate act of sabotage.

The play starts with the action already in progress as Floyd flees, and this rapid pace, tension, and excitement don’t let up for the full, quick 75 minutes. As this sensory treat flies by, you may have to catch yourself, like Floyd does, and remember to breathe.

Continue reading Review: Bears (Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts and Punctuate! Theatre)

Review: Kitchen Chicken (L’Orchestre D’Hommes-Orchestres)

Photo of the Kitchen Chicken company by Charles-Frédérick OuelletPreparing food is one of the most everyday experiences in the world. Yet, seeing it happen on the limitations of a stage, a space that was never designed be a kitchen, is strangely thrilling. Kitchen Chicken, performed by Québec City’s L’Orchestre D’Hommes-Orchestres at The Theatre Centre, is a wonderfully madcap demonstration of this phenomenon.

The group has a long association with The Theatre Centre, helping it open its new Queen West space five years ago. In creating tableaux vivants (living pictures) set to themed music, they intend to illustrate moments that thrive on both precision and chaos, and both were completely evident here. There is no dialogue, but a nonstop spate of songs, and the story is a simple concept: a ragtag group prepares an elaborate chicken dinner.

Continue reading Review: Kitchen Chicken (L’Orchestre D’Hommes-Orchestres)

Preview: The 40th Rhubarb Festival (Buddies in Bad Times)

Photo of Kaleb Robertson and John Paul Kane provided by the company

Everyone get ready for Rhubarb! Buddies in Bad Times Theatre presents the 40th installation of the wild and wonderful bite-sized theatre festival from February 13-23, featuring a host of talented creators doing what they do best.

The anarchic and experimental nature of the event, Canada’s longest-running new works festival, makes it a review-free zone. Artists – and there are more than 100 involved this year – are encouraged to run, play, and even cavort with their creative impulses. Some works remain festival-specific, and some go on to expansion and remounting.

Continue reading Preview: The 40th Rhubarb Festival (Buddies in Bad Times)

Review: Cock and Bull (Nic Green)

The Progress Festival presents a play by Scotland’s Nic Green in Toronto

Cock and Bull, conceived and directed by Scotland’s Nic Green and currently being presented by FADO Performance Art Centre as part of the Progress Festival at The Theatre Centre, was originally devised for the eve of the 2015 UK General election that saw the Conservative Party’s David Cameron re-elected with an increased share of the vote. Winner of the 2016 Total Theatre Award for best visual/physical theatre at Edinburgh, the show sees three women (Green, Laura Bradshaw, and Rosana Cade) create their own party conference, slipping into the role of vacuous male politicians with mushroom cuts and savage aplomb.

Continue reading Review: Cock and Bull (Nic Green)

Review: In the Next Room (RedWit Theatre)

Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) is now on stage in Toronto

In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play), being presented by RedWit Theatre at the Tarragon Extraspace, is the Sarah Ruhl play about the Victorian treatment for “hysteria” that earned three Tony nominations in 2010. Set in 1880, as the world begins to electrify, the play takes place in the home of Dr. Givings (Christina Fox), who has introduced his (utterly clinical) invention to reduce depression and languor in the lives of Victorian women. The device, essentially an ur-vibrator, induces a restorative “paroxysm” in the woman to relieve congestion in the womb. Continue reading Review: In the Next Room (RedWit Theatre)