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: A City (Necessary Angel)

Necessary Angel explores theatre through tableaus at the Artscape Sandbox in Toronto

A City, based on playwright Greg MacArthur’s experiences in Montreal with a group of young theatre artists, bills itself as a version of a “tableau vivant” (a silent arrangement of human beings that forms a still picture). If you’re worried that means a lot of dead air on stage, don’t be; the emphasis in Necessary Angel’s production at Artscape Sandbox is definitely on the “vivant,” with near-constant motion and intimate connection with the audience in 65 quick minutes.

It’s fitting that the so-called tableaux are in motion, because the show revolves around liminal states, those moments in between when you can feel an ending coming (a life, an era, a friendship), but the realization hasn’t quite arrived. It’s a comment on our desire but ultimate inability to freeze time.

Continue reading Review: A City (Necessary Angel)

Review: Breath In Between (Crow’s Theatre)

Breath in Between vacillates between “artifice and symbolism”, on stage in Toronto

“I’m sick of all this artifice,” proclaims Roger, the main character of Anton Piatigorsky’s Breath In Between. Coming about two-thirds of the way through the Crow’s Theatre show playing at Streetcar Crowsnest, it’s a meta moment, as this is a show that trades heavily on artifice and symbolism.

In fact, it walks a fine line between artifice and painful earnestness, as it attempts to ponder the constantly-switching sacred and profane in human connection. It’s a complicated and dark show about deeply unpleasant people, with a philosophical bent that intrigues and irritates in equal measure. Breath In Between will stay with you, and it’s never boring, but for a show that’s all about the heart, it’s difficult to love.

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Review: In On It (emerGENce Theatre)

In On It is “powerful” experimental theatre, now playing on the Toronto stage

When I saw the first Toronto production of Daniel MacIvor’s In On It in 2002, it blew my high-school-aged mind. It was a piece of meta-theatre about the messiness of endings, living with disappointment, and how our expectations of life and of theatre share some uncanny similarities: we’re hoping things will satisfyingly come full circle, that they’ll work out, that we’ll leave on something pithy or fun or daring. In theatre, we can engineer an ending; in life, it rarely works out so well.

Nearly fifteen years later, I was eager to see emerGENce Theatre’s fresh production of the show at Theatre Passe Muraille. Some things about it have aged better than others, but with age comes wisdom, experience and melancholy. In On It has all of these things, and it’s a show you want to get in on. Continue reading Review: In On It (emerGENce Theatre)

Review: The Gut Girls (Alumnae Theatre)

Cast photo provided by the companyThe Gut Girls, on stage in Toronto, is “funny, philosophical and savage”

It was with a heavy heart on Inauguration Day that I sat down to watch Alumnae Theatre’s production of The Gut Girls, Sarah Daniels’ feminist play about British women who live at the top of the 20th century and the bottom of society. They hang on to a precarious livelihood and some shred of autonomy by taking jobs in the “gut sheds,” where they work in pools of blood, butchering animal carcasses and removing entrails.

The Gut Girls were the original Nasty Women: coarse, rude, fierce, and above all self-sufficient, they attempted to be the masters of their own fates, only to be cut down by a society that adheres to strict social and gender roles. The play was written in 1988 to combat Britain’s trauma from Margaret Thatcher’s election, and as the 45th American President is sworn in to the sound of mass, worldwide protests, it only appears more timely. It’s a vital work that demands to be seen today, to acknowledge the past and try to change the future.

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Review: Sister Act (Lower Ossington Theatre)

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LOT’s Sister Act brings the 90’s classic film to the Toronto stage in musical format

You will likely walk out of Sister Act: The Musical, now playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre, with a smile on your face. However, you might not remember anything ten minutes after you walk out that door. The show has a heartwarming message, but features some exceptionally bland book and songwriting, which energetic performances can only take so far.

The chemistry of the nuns’ sisterhood and the standout performance of the Mother Superior are worth seeing. The writing, is, well… nunsense.

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Review: The Damage Done (Canadian Rep Theatre)

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The Damage Done, on stage in Toronto, stretches the seams of viability

George F. Walker’s characters are people you wouldn’t normally find at the theatre, although thanks to his decades-long writing career, they are certainly people you find on Toronto stages. Concentrating on the stories of Toronto’s East End neighbourhoods, Walker specializes in the theatre of the marginalized, sometimes returning to favourite characters and stories.

The Damage Done—directed by Ken Gass for Canadian Rep Theatre at The Citadel—is the third play in the story of Bobby (Wes Berger) and Tina (Sarah Murphy-Dyson), whose tempestuous teenage relationship resulted in two daughters, hard times, and a permanent split. In this new volume, the two are older (and maybe a little wiser) but at this point their story has stretched as far as it can go.

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Review: Hazel (Port Moresby Productions)

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Hazel, on stage in Toronto, has some sunny spots but could be gustier

Michael Stittle’s Hazel, presented by Port Moresby Productions at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, is set during the 1954 hurricane, the last of its kind to hit and devastate Toronto and southern Ontario. In the midst of heavy rain and wind, two gangsters struggle into a trailer with a bag of stolen cash—and wounds from a car accident—caused when their third attempted a double-cross.

While they figure out what to do with the money, knowing their boss is waiting, other weather wanderers appear, complicating the situation. It’s an intriguing set-up, but unlike great swaths of Ontario countryside after the hurricane, the plot doesn’t entirely hold water.

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Review: Chasse-Galerie (Kabin/Storefront/Soulpepper)

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Chasse-Galerie is a jolly, swear-laden light-in-the-dark, on stage in Toronto

The world can sometimes feel like a dark and unforgiving place and—particularly after the events this week—it may feel like we’ve made a deal with the Devil. Chasse-Galerie, a Kabìn and Storefront Theatre co-production, now playing at Soulpepper’s Young Centre, is a bright antidote to dark times. It’s theatre that feels like a party, and it’s one hell of a ride. Continue reading Review: Chasse-Galerie (Kabin/Storefront/Soulpepper)

Preview: Reflector (Theatre Gargantua)

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This Friday and Saturday at Theatre Passe Muraille, Theatre Gargantua presents a workshop presentation of its new piece, Reflector, which was inspired by the power of the image to galvanize human emotion and action. The heavily visual and physical piece is par for the course for Gargantua, which has been presenting multi-disciplinary works in two-year cycles since its founding in 1992. We asked Artistic Director Jacquie P.A. Thomas to paint us a picture of what the audience might see.

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Review: Toronto, Mississippi (Panfish Productions)

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Unconventional family tale graces Toronto stages… along with Elvis references

Joan MacLeod’s Toronto, Mississippi, presented by Panfish Productions at The Box Theatre, is a show about an unconventional family that revolves around Jhana (Kayla Whelan), an 18-year-old woman whose developmental delay has stuck her in the uneasy space between independent adult desire and a dependent perpetual childhood. It’s a complex and intriguing show that—like its lead character—is both lovable and frustrating, and could use a little more experience.

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