Review: Eating With Lola (Sulong Theatre Company) – Next Stage Theatre Festival

by George Perry

Catherine Hernandez in Eating With Lola

My journey to see Eating With Lola (Sulong Theatre Company) began by trudging through the slush of a half-clean Toronto. My mood improved dramatically as my streetcar approached The Factory Theatre. Seeing the outdoor rinks made me feel like a kid driving into the exciting city from Dullsville.

Eating With Lola is written and performed by the very gifted Catherine Hernandez. The play begins with Hernandez sort of singing. I wasn’t sure if this was recorded music or Hernandez at first, her voice is magnificent. There is immediately a sense of urgency and passion in her voice.

Granddaughter Grace spoon feeds her bedridden Lola (Filipino for Grandmother). Hernandez uses a puppet to portray Lola. This works incredibly well, which comes as no surprise since the play is directed by Ann Powell of Puppetmongers.

After Grace and Lola share some unpleasant words, Lola begins to tell her life story. It is largely a tale of Lola’s lifelong pursuit of obtaining food for her family. It begins in The Philippines in 1944 and ends with Lola’s death in The United States many years later.

Hernandez portrays many characters with the creative use of props. She does so with the honesty and passion of a child driving into the city that I felt earlier. I really like how she does this, leaving so much up to the imagination of the audience while at the same time painting a vivid picture. She turns simple props into believable and familiar characters.

When Grace addresses the audience at Lola’s funeral, it feels very personal. Hernandez is immediate and charismatic. I wanted to say hello to her after the play, she felt like an old friend by then.

Eating With Lola is like a greatly satisfying meal. Catherine Hernandez’ fantastic performance certainly made my wet shoes and socks worthwhile. My journey was a few miles and insignificant. Lola’s journey was a few thousand miles and important.

Next Stage shows are selling out, so get your tickets early.

I just wish some recipes for Philippine cuisine were included with the playbill!

Details:

-Eating With Lola is part of The Next Stage Theatre Festival and is playing at the Factory Theatre Studio Space at the corner of Bathurst and Adelaide.
-The show runs for 60 minutes with no intermission
-Tickets are $12 to $15. There are also packages available.
-Tickets can be purchased online, by phone – 416-966-1062 or 1-866-515-7799, or at the box office inside the heated McAusland Beer Tent at Factory Theatre
-Eating With Lola runs until January 16, 2011. Check the schedule for days and times.

photo of Catherine Hernandez