Timely and engaging Moll arrives on the Toronto stage
In this current world of #metoo, when it comes to sexual violence and predation, there are a few common themes. One, people in power tend to get away with things. Two, women who are victimized are often seen as tainted, and three, the onus appears to be on the woman to prove she is good enough, special enough, trustworthy enough not to have somehow deserved it. Cue the very timely Moll, a world-premiere musical being presented by the Randolph College for the Performing Arts at the Annex Theatre. A loosely-inspired, modern Canadian update of the 1722 novel Moll Flanders, it’s about a woman trying to become self-reliant with the deck stacked against her.
Written by Leslie Arden and the late Cathy Elliott, with Anna Theresa Cascio, Moll is a complex, catchy, and consummately professional show that I hope will have a life outside of Randolph. Even if not, like #metoo, it reminds us of the importance of listening to women’s voices in the here and now.
Continue reading Review: Moll (Randolph College)
Poison explores the human relationship with loss, playing at the Coal Mine Theatre in Toronto
The Canadian premiere of the award-winning Poison by Dutch playwright Lot Vekemans, Coal Mine Theatre’s first commissioned translation, features a gaping hole at its core by design. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, it’s one of the most fulfilling plays I’ve seen this year. Continue reading Review: Poison (Coal Mine Theatre)
Theatre Passe Muraille presents a politically driven ‘surrealist vaudeville farce’ on stage in Toronto
Watching “Grab ‘Em By The Pussy” – Or How To Stop Worrying & Love The Bomb, a “surrealist vaudeville farce” presented by Theatre ARTaud in conjunction with Filament Incubator at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, is like scrolling through the political parts of your Facebook feed. Alternately depressing and satisfying, it provides plenty of stimulation to keep the viewer entertained and feeling outraged, guilty or virtuous. However, after you look up and realize hours have passed, there’s the overarching feeling of emptiness: what have you accomplished in that time?
Continue reading Review: Grab ‘Em By The Pussy (Theatre ARTaud/Filament Incubator)
The Tragedie of Lear presents a contemporary imagining of Shakespeare’s play in Toronto
The Tragedie of Lear, presented by the eponymous company at the Palmerston Library Theatre, seeks to help audiences connect to the supposedly “modern problem” of how adult children care for their parents, particularly those with mental illness, through the lens of a venerable tragedy.
Because of the age of the actor playing Lear, Walter Borden, the play has an alternate in case of illness. This was the case the afternoon I saw the play. If nobody had told me, I would have assumed Christopher Kelk was the original Lear all along. Surrounded by cast members who seemed to tower over him, he showed a mercurial disposition conflicting with subtle physical degeneration (the production worked with a neurological consultant). Moments of respite remind us that decline is not necessarily predictable or linear. I wish I’d been able to see both Lears for the full experience, but as Lear himself proves to us, time waits for no man.
Continue reading Review: Tragedie of Lear (Tragedie of Lear)
how to drown gracefully is “captivating” and “strong” theatre playing in Toronto
Kat, the main character of Becky Tanton’s how to drown gracefully (presented by Filament Incubator at Kensington Hall) spends most of the play getting in and out of a bathtub. She’s having a hard time leaving the water, which represents both a safe haven and dangerous escape. Kat (played by Tanton) wants to drown, though not in a suicidal way, just to disappear for a while. A disastrous love quadrangle has her nursing hurt feelings while confronting her own less than stellar actions. While the navel-gazing angst in the show feels very familiar, the writing made enough of a splash to make me want to wade in.
Continue reading Review: how to drown gracefully (Filament Incubator)
Compelling Pets takes to the Toronto stage
The opening night of Pets, presented by Changeup Theatre and Shadowland Theatre, started at a distinct disadvantage. The site-specific piece, set in a garage next to Trinity Bellwoods park, was wracked with winds and rain strong enough to blow over the box office tent. It was an evening suitable for the hardiest of theatregoers, as the play is presented both outside and in an unheated space, with a runtime of about two hours, and an intermission where patrons are asked to stand around in an alley. Nonetheless, those who stuck it out were rewarded with a visually inventive and passionate show about what happens when our furry and feathered friends are forced to make it on their own.
Continue reading Review: Pets (Changeup and Shadowland Theatre)
Lela & Co., on stage at Toronto’s Theatre Centre, is a powerful story of abuse
When Lela (Jenna Harris), the protagonist of Cordelia Lynn’s searing drama Lela & Co., (currently being presented by Discord and Din Theatre at The Theatre Centre), turned thirteen in her small village, her father ordered “the Messiah of Cakes” for her birthday party. The night before the party, a small strip of pink icing went missing, and Lela has been blamed for it ever since.
The story of the cake is told and retold, ever exaggerated, throughout Lela’s harrowing life of subjugation, as she experiences war, abuse, and forced prostitution. A tiny slice of life, it’s nevertheless a symbol both of what happens to a girl who steps out of line, and how the lies we tell ourselves to survive eventually become the truth. Lela, in direct address to the audience, wants us to know the real truth – and what a fascinating and stark truth it is.
Continue reading Review: Lela & Co. (Discord and Din Theatre)
SPAWN, 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.
Continue reading Spawn (Wild Woman Theatre) 2017 SummerWorks Review
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.
Continue reading Reality Theatre (QuestionMark-Exclamation Theatre) 2017 SummerWorks Review
Immersive 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)