South Park creators Trey Parker & Matt Stone’s religion-skewering musical returns to Toronto
The Book of Mormon, the 2011 musical by South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez, is widely known for its incisively offensive humour, catchy tunes, and serious skewering of the Mormon church and its relentless proselytizing. Winner of nine Tony Awards, it has toured relentlessly ever since, ringing our doorbells and demanding our attention. Unlike most missionaries, however, it’s a guest I’d happily invite in to stay a while.
Continue reading Review: The Book of Mormon (Mirvish)
Toronto’s Factory Theatre closes its season with Erin Shields’ searingly feminist satirical play
On Wednesday night, a few friends and I watched a popular sci-fi movie in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Though the film had positive aspects, we were struck by how terribly it treated the few women on screen; they seemed to be there almost solely either to give birth to more important characters, undress for viewer enjoyment, or die in horribly violent ways to create pain for the male protagonists. Erin Shields’ Beautiful Man, the last show of Factory Theatre’s 49th season, is a searingly feminist reaction against the long-standing male gaze in media, which tends to reduce women to objects, or a means to an end.
Continue reading Review: Beautiful Man (Factory Theatre)
The Second City Toronto presents a sequel to its first all-female sketch comedy show
She the People: The Resistance Continues, is The Second City’s sequel to its first all-female revue, featuring the same cast of Kirsten Rasmussen, Ann Pornel, Ashley Comeau, Karen Parker, Paloma Nuñez and Tricia Black, but with all-new material. Putting issues of sexism and misogyny front and centre, this is a highly political show that also deals with a host of current social problems. It’s sharp and incisive, and funny as hell.
Continue reading Review: She the People: The Resistance Continues (The Second City)
Greg Campbell’s one-man play is a celebratory, gay coming-of-age story now onstage in Toronto
Out, by Greg Campbell and presented by Big Bappis Productions, now playing at Buddies in Bad Times, was a hit of the 2016 Fringe Festival, where it was chosen for Best of Fringe. It’s Campbell’s one-man, gay coming-of-age story (coming of gayge?) from 1977, as teenaged Glen attends Vanier College, hangs out with high school best friend Mario and college buddy Dimitri, and, dreaming of The Village People, attends the Gay Pride parade in NYC while satirizing anti-gay activist Anita Bryant. Continue reading Review: Out (Big Bappis Productions)
Soulpepper 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)
A 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)
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)
Ukraine’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)
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)
Bears, 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)