Review: Cosi (Alumnae Theatre Company)

Get Cosy with Cosi at Alumnae Theatre

Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre is the perfect place to stage Louis Nowra’s Cosi.

The theatre is a converted firehouse in old Toronto. It’s wood and it is organic and it has always been maintained by people. It’s not a condo. It’s not a skyscraper. Its real, it is accessible and I love it. You should too.

Built in 1900 as a fire hall, the building has a fantastic history. It is home to a ghost or two. Cosi, written by Louis Nowra, has also been floating around for a while.

Cosi is set in Australia in the early 1970s, during the Vietnam “war”. I didn’t know that Australia fought that confrontation. Did you?  I love that theatre teaches us so much.

Cosi is the story of a young director fresh out of college. His first gig is at a mental asylum. His cast is the patients at the asylum. The idea of producing a centuries-old Mozart production is eventually agreed upon. That opera is Cosi Fan Tutte.

When you enter the theatre, it is ironic. The stage is a burnt-out stage inside a fire station.  You forget that quickly. For a while, until the “inmates” turn Alumnae Theatre into American Idol. This inmate does that. That inmate does this. We get to know them all well.

The play, and the opera, asks an age-old question for young people. Do you fight the war, or do you protest? Are you faithful to one person or not? Real life mimics the ancient opera.

The cast is great. They are full of energy and engaging. Like firefighters doing a difficult job, they answer the call. The one-dimensional talent show characters quickly become people we know and care about.

Cosi incorporates slapstick farce, satire, physical and verbal violence and wisdom from unlikely sources. It is a very moving, engaging play.

In the end, it is all chaos, and how do we make the most of it? How do we help one another and show love? It is easy to get excited about newspaper headlines or Tweets, but our real job as people is to care for one another. That’s the point of Cosi, I suppose.

One really effective part of Cosi is how the theatre is used. The audience is engaged as actors enter and exit. A really powerful scene is when an inmate takes a seat and has a verbal confrontation with the people on stage.

In Cosi, people who have close relationships with one another grow distant. Friends and lovers become ghosts. Others, who seem hollow and empty, almost apparitions, become very close.

Cosi is a bit simple and clichéd, but well worth seeing. Alumnae Theatre is really a treasure. Go see a great old landmark while you still have the chance.

Cosi runs April 13-28 Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street)
-Performances are Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8:00 pm, with Sunday PWYC matinees at 2:00 pm
-Tickets are 2-for-1 on Wednesdays, $20 Thursday-Saturdays
-Purchase tickets for Thu/Fri/Sat online at
-For cash reservations email or call 416-364-4170 (Box 1)

Photo credit to Dahlia Katz