All posts by Sam Mooney

Always a theatre lover Sam realized in middle age that there's more to Toronto theatre than just mainstream and is now in love with one person shows, adores festivals, and quirky venues make her day.

Review: Oslo (Studio 180 Theatre production, presented by David Mirvish)

Omar Alex Khan, Sanjay Talwar, Alex Poch-Goldin, Jonas Chernick & Marla McLeanin the Studio 180 Theatre production of OSLO

Exciting negotiations take centre stage in Oslo, playing in Toronto

Oslo – a Studio 180 Theatre production playing at the CAA Theatre as part of the Off-Mirvish Season – is remarkable theatre.

Who would expect that a play about peace negotiations would be so thrilling, engaging, and witty, that almost three hours would pass in what feels like no time?

Continue reading Review: Oslo (Studio 180 Theatre production, presented by David Mirvish)

2019 Progress Review: The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale (Ted Witzel)

Haley McGee in The Ex-Boyfriend Yard SaleAn interactive look at breakup recovery at the 2019 Progress Festival playing in Toronto

Haley McGee’sThe Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale, curated and presented by the red light district and Outside the March for the 2019 Progress Festival, is a lesson on how to turn sentimental value into cold, hard cash. ‘Can’t be done.’ you might say. Yes, it can, and McGee has the formula to prove it. Continue reading 2019 Progress Review: The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale (Ted Witzel)

Review: Mary’s Wedding (Solo Productions, Mary Young Leckie and Derrick Chua)

Kate Ross and Fraser Elsdon Dancing in Mary's Wedding at Streetcar Crowsnest Feb 2019

Mary’s Wedding opened this week at Streetcar Crowsnest. It was first performed in 2002 and even though it’s been performed professionally more than 100 times across Canada and around the world this is the first time it’s been professionally performed in Toronto. Director Kent Staines production is wonderful, worth waiting for.

The play is set just before, during, and just after World War I. It opens with one of the characters, Charlie (Fraser Elsdon) telling the audience that this is June 1920, the night before Mary’s (Kate Ross) wedding and what follows is just a dream. He says that it begins at the end and ends at the beginning. It took me until I was writing this to understand what that meant. Continue reading Review: Mary’s Wedding (Solo Productions, Mary Young Leckie and Derrick Chua)

Review: 1979 (The 1979 Group)

Christopher Hunt as Pierre Trudeau and Philip Riccio as Joe ClarkTight, accessible politics in this engaging Toronto production

Michael Healey’s play, 1979, opened at the Berkeley Street Theatre on Thursday. As I wrote this, I realized that 1979 was 40 years ago. I know that, but I hadn’t really internalized it; to me it feels a lot more recent than that. I’m pretty sure that to a lot of the audience it feels like the olden days. Before the play started, I wondered how many of them would relate to the subject matter: Joe Clark’s short lived term as Prime Minister. Joe Who?

It doesn’t really matter. Political machinations are easy to recognize even if they’re 40 years old. It was great for the older crowd, a walk down a political memory lane. My friend Patricia has always been very involved in the community side of politics and I’ve always been a political observer. This is our kind of play. For younger people, it was terrific political satire. Continue reading Review: 1979 (The 1979 Group)

Review: Every Brilliant Thing (Canadian Stage)

Photo o f Kristen Thomson in Every Brilliant Thing, torontoThis audience participation-heavy play on stage at Toronto’s Berkeley Street Theatre is a delight

The two things that are central to Every Brilliant Thing are a list of wonderful things that make life worth living, and audience participation – which would never make any list of mine. Director Brendan Healy and actor Kristen Thomson make audience participation – a lot of participation – seem normal by making the audience a necessary part of the play. It would be fair to bill it as “Every Brilliant Thing featuring Kristen Thomson and 50 audience members”.

Healy makes the play feel unusual by staging it in the round and having the lights on through the performance. It’s a very bare bones set, just the stage with a few strings of light bulbs overhead, so it doesn’t feel particularly theatrical. It felt more like a lecture theatre. As they arrive, some members of the audience are given a slip of paper with a number and a word or phrase on it. When Thomson says a number whoever has it reads what’s on their paper. Audience members are also chosen to be a vet, the father, a teacher, a professor, and a boyfriend. They all do fine jobs. Continue reading Review: Every Brilliant Thing (Canadian Stage)

Review: Escaped Alone (Soulpepper and Necessary Angel Theatre)

Photo of Kyra Harper, Brenda Robins, Clare Coulter, and Maria Vacratsis

When you’re a woman over 60 you rarely have an opportunity to see a character like yourself on stage. If you do they’re usually playing a minor part. What a gift to see the Soulpepper / Necessary Angel production of Caryl Churchill’s 2016 play, Escaped Alone. There are four characters in the play, all women, all over 60.

Churchill was 79 when she wrote the play. In it the characters are over 70. It’s wonderful because we see fabulous actors that we don’t very often get to see in ‘big’ parts any more. Continue reading Review: Escaped Alone (Soulpepper and Necessary Angel Theatre)

Review: Secret Life of a Mother (The SLOM Collective and The Theatre Centre)

Photo of Maev Beaty in Secret Life of a Mother October 2018Secret Life of a Mother is a ” jewel of a play” on the Toronto stage

You should get your tickets for Secret Life of a Mother right now. While you’re at it, get one for your friend. The one who says she doesn’t like ‘theatre’, — “all that drama and those fake sounding voices.” It’s playing at The Theatre Centre and it’s wonderful. I loved it. You’ll love it. Your friend who doesn’t like things that feel dramatic will love it.

It’s hard for me to think of this as a play. Even though it was in a theatre with an audience it felt like an intimate evening with close friends, sharing stories about pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, and being a mother, the way that good friends do. Continue reading Review: Secret Life of a Mother (The SLOM Collective and The Theatre Centre)

Review: Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua (Theatre Passe Muraille)

Photo of Pearle Harbour in Tent at Theatre Passe MuraillePearle Harbour’s variety show meets self-help seminar is now on stage at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille

Are you ready to feel safe? To feel loved? To feel happy? Come on up to Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua at Theatre Passe Muraille and feel great, for 80 minutes. And smile every time you think about it afterwards.

The show is a combination of the best an old-time revival meeting, a self-help seminar, and a variety show. You might ask ‘does Pearle Harbour really make every single person in the audience feel as if she loves you?’ You betcha! Except when, every now and again, the ‘mask’ slips and you might wonder, just a tiny little bit, if she really does. Continue reading Review: Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua (Theatre Passe Muraille)

Review: The Nether (Coal Mine Theatre Studio 180 Theatre)

Photo of David Storch A dark play about the impact of technology on human relationships is now on stage in Toronto

The Nether, playing at Coal Mine Theatre, is the first joint production between Coal Mine Theatre and Studio 180 Theatre. I hope it’s not the last. It’s an exceptional production, a study in contrasts. Given that Jennifer Haley is a playwright whose work “delves into ethics in virtual reality and the impact of technology on our human relationships, identity, and desire” it’s no surprise that the play leaves us asking ourselves some tough questions.

Before you decide to see The Nether, and maybe even before you read this review, you should definitely read the Audience Advisory. Continue reading Review: The Nether (Coal Mine Theatre Studio 180 Theatre)

Review: A Little Black Lie (Crossfieldhouse Productions)

Photo of the cast of Little Black LieTroy Crossfield’s new play; a live “soap opera” is playing at Toronto’s Berkeley Street Theatre

After I got home from seeing A Little Black Lie at the Berkeley Street Theatre I took a minute to look at the program. In the playwright notes Troy Crossfield says “Looks like we’re creating a soap opera and you get front tickets.” He’s referring to his play, A Little White Lie which was on stage a year ago. It’s referenced a fair bit in A Little Black Lie but you don’t need to have seen it, the references are self-explanatory.

He’s right for a couple of reasons. While I was watching the play last night I thought more than once that it should be a TV show or a movie or three plays. Continue reading Review: A Little Black Lie (Crossfieldhouse Productions)