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.

Spawn (Wild Woman Theatre) 2017 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Samantha Brown by Blair BouskillSPAWN, presented by Wild Woman Theatre and inspired by the Coast Salish story of the Salmon Spirit, got off to a bit of a rocky start as the first SummerWorks Performance Festival show in the Factory Mainspace.

Swimming upstream, it started nearly half an hour late. It was fitting for a show that is ultimately about surviving and even thriving through adversity.

SPAWN is a sweet (yet hard-edged) story of family, though the family is patchwork and at times either grudging or makeshift. It features complex characters and a refreshing lack of true villains, and it gets by on its earnestness and the genuine desire it provokes to see all its characters succeed. With all that said, I found myself wanting a second act from this tale.

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Reality Theatre (QuestionMark-Exclamation Theatre) 2017 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Krista Morin by Brynna Reilly

Reality Theatre (QuestionMark-Exclamation Theatre), now playing at the SummerWorks Performance Festival, begins with a fantastic framing device; Akosua Amo-Adem brings her own chair to the front of the stage and proceeds to watch the audience with great interest.

Popcorn bucket in hand, she appears the physical embodiment of a GIF signifying drama going down on the Internet. She coolly and hilariously surveys latecomers desperately trying to find a seat in the packed house (a strong argument for featuring the show in SummerWorks, which allows latecomers, instead of Fringe, which does not.) Things only get better when a second character enters the stage and is disconcerted by her hungry gaze.

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Review: Hogtown: The Immersive Experience (The Hogtown Collective)

Photo of Laura Larson, Karen Slater and Emma Wiechers provided by the companyImmersive play Hogtown opens its doors to the Toronto public

Hogtown: The Immersive Experience (The Hogtown Collective), now playing at Toronto’s historic Campbell House, embraces the concept of participatory choose-your-own-adventure theatre that has been so popular with audiences in such shows as Sleep No More. It’s a site-specific formula that works extraordinarily well: give the audience a set-up, and then let them roam around as stories unfold simultaneously, following whichever characters intrigue them. Hogtown delivers this intrigue in spades. Continue reading Review: Hogtown: The Immersive Experience (The Hogtown Collective)

The Clergy Project (SOULO Theatre) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, Reverend Shawn Newton and Father Daniel Brereton by Dahlia Katz

The Clergy Project, produced by SOULO Theatre, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, tells us religion is theatre. Most familiar with both would probably agree. Both have narrative, thematic importance, and the whole range of human drama and emotion. Because truth can be stranger and more compelling than fiction, having a range of religious leaders tell us stories from their life’s work is rife with dramatic possibility. The project’s three clergy, Reform Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, Unitarian Reverend Shawn Newton, and Anglican Father Daniel Brereton, all trailblazers in their own right, share what calls them to the pulpit. As a very lapsed Jew, I wasn’t expecting this show to strike a major chord with me, let alone wreck me emotionally. Call me a convert, because it did.

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The Food Project (Theatre By Committee) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Veronica Barron by Owen Fawcett

The Food Project, produced by Theatre By Committee, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, understands that it’s hard to talk about the convoluted ethical quagmire that comprises the choice of what we eat daily. After all, eating, they acknowledge, is one of the things we do most, and it’s one thing we can’t stop doing if we want to stay alive. It’s particularly hard to talk about this type of ethical choice without being didactic, the death knell of effective theatre everywhere.

The actors, therefore, deliver their lecture with a wink, obviously aware that a show on this topic can never quite lose the aspect of well-meaning lecture. There are a lot of hard truths to digest here, but they’re sure portrayed as entertainingly as possible.

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Interstellar Elder (Ingrid Hansen, SNAFU) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Ingrid Hansen by Laura Dittmann

Interstellar Elder, produced by Ingrid Hansen and SNAFU, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, could be considered a very tenuous sequel to Hansen’s 2014 Fringe smash, Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near-Post Apocalyptic Future. Kitt & Jane explored the destruction of our natural environment through the lens of two precocious and imaginative children on the verge of adolescence, and I loved its sparkling wit and touching character interaction.

In Interstellar Elder, Kit Peterson is back, but instead of being a small child, she winds up hundreds of years old in the semi-distant future, the only unfrozen passenger on a ship set to repopulate the earth after an actual natural disaster has made it uninhabitable. Despite the thematic connection, this is an incredibly different show, nearly silent and solo. However, Hansen manages to say a surprising amount about the human condition anyway; the incredibly aged Kitt still has that spark.

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Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons (Slow Blue Lions/The Howland Company) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Ruth Goodwin and James Graham by Dan AbramoviciI knew I had to see Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, co-produced by Slow Blue Lions and The Howland Company, and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, when I watched it receive a Cayle Chernin production award (supporting women in theatre and film) earlier this year, and found myself fascinated by the premise. A couple, lawyer Bernadette (Ruth Goodwin) and musician Oliver (James Graham), struggle against a new law that’s been put in motion: each person is only allowed to speak as many words in a day as there are characters in a Tweet. Yes, that means 140 words are all you get. Words in all their various permutations are my life, so to me this was a horror movie cloaked in a relationship story. The play does manage to marry those elements of romantic comedy and existential dread in ways that are surprising, charming, and poignant. While the concept might seem outlandish, the execution is sharp and thoughtful.

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Hyena Subpoena (Cat Kidd) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Show graphic for hyena subpoena provided by the company

In Hyena Supbpoena, written and produced by Cat Kidd, and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, the writer/performer stalks about the stage like a predator sizing up her captive audience. She opens by telling us that, were she able to be a hybrid, she would choose to be part hyena. In other languages, the word for hyena also means to vacillate or be in flux, changeable or metamorphic. This state is celebrated in Kidd’s wending, mesmeric piece; derided for their strange laughs, ugly visages and unusual anatomy, we find hyenas are actually practical, efficient, and above all, intense.

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It’s My Penis And I’ll Cry If I Want To (Jamie Black) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Jamie Black by Shepsu Aakhu

It’s My Penis and I’ll Cry If I Want To, written and produced by Jamie Black and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, isn’t particularly bawdy, as the title might suggest. Instead, it’s a sweet, earnest show about gender roles, far more Lesley Gore than Lady Gaga in tone (though the latter is what’s on the soundtrack). It’s charming and heartfelt, but feels oddly unfinished, a bit like the conversation about gender itself.

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