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.
Continue reading Review: Breath In Between (Crow’s 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)
The 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.
Continue reading Review: The Gut Girls (Alumnae Theatre)
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.
Continue reading Review: Sister Act (Lower Ossington Theatre)
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.
Continue reading Review: The Damage Done (Canadian Rep Theatre)
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.
Continue reading Review: Hazel (Port Moresby Productions)
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)
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.
Continue reading Preview: Reflector (Theatre Gargantua)
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.
Continue reading Review: Toronto, Mississippi (Panfish Productions)
Meta-production Late Night tackles entertainment industry discrimination on Toronto stages
Kat Sandler’s Late Night began life as the winner of the 2014 Toronto Fringe 24-hour playwriting contest. It’s been given a site-specific production by Theatre Brouhaha at the Zoomer Live Theatre and TV studio, decked out as New York’s Early Late Night talk show, where Marty O’Malley (Alon Nashman) is about to give his final performance of 22 years. Hitting 60, he’s been gently pushed out by the producers in favour of a Millennial, Sarah Goldberg (Kat Letwin), his one-time intern and now a successful edgy-raunchy comic in the vein of Sarah Silverman and Amy Schumer.
With things already resting on a knife edge of tension, a live-broadcast Freudian slip throws things into utter upheaval. The transition proves to be anything but smooth over the course of the evening, which proves extremely topical in its exploration of ageism, sexism, racism, and homophobia in the entertainment world and the intersectionality between them. It’s also sharply observed, brilliantly performed, funny as hell, and it would be nonsensical to miss it.
Continue reading Review: Late Night (Theatre Brouhaha)