Review: Angel City (Alec Toller/Circlesnake/The Playwright Project)

Angel City, part of Toronto’s Playwright Project, uses theatre to criticize the Hollywood movie scene

The Playwright Project, first initiated just last year in 2012, as The Tennessee Project, highlights a prolific playwright by featuring a variety of his or her one act plays. Within seven nights, seven theatre companies perform in seven diverse communities across Toronto. It’s a brilliant concept, making neighbourhoods more acquainted with a prominent playwright, while being affordable and accessible at the same time.

Now in its second year, The Playwright Project presents one act plays by the 20th century American playwright, actor and director, Sam Shepard. His plays tend to be rather unconventional, characterized by non-linear storytelling, existential and surrealist in nature. Angel City, directed by Alec Toller very much embodies Shepard’s formula.

Dream-like, with actors shifting from one character to another, Angel City is a fast-paced, sporadic and multi-layered piece that brings together a strong ensemble of actors.

The venue for this evening was in Toronto’s east end in the Beaches, at the Lazy Daisy’s Café. Quaint, cozy and intimate, I felt as if I was watching a movie unfold in my living room, which was perfect for this play, given the play spends most of its time criticising the Hollywood movie scene. With my chai latte in hand, I intently listened to the complexity of this piece.

The play begins with producer, Wheeler, played by Josh Browne, who hires the writer, Rabbit, played by Daniel Pagett. Commissioned to write another “disaster” film, isolated in his movie making rooms, Rabbit soon begins to fear his own capability realizing that the disaster lies in the Hollywood movie industry itself, posing unrealistic expectations for the outside world and creating an obsession for power, money and fame. Both charming and versatile in their roles, Browne and Pagett portray each character with great intensity, each character relentlessly pursuing their goals.

Chris Wilson as the youthful Lanx, Carter Hayden as Tympani and Caitlin Driscoll as the lovely Miss Scoons who transforms from a madwoman to an Irish nun, all do a fine job in their supporting roles, jumping in and out of various accents showcasing their adaptability.

Kendra Terpenning’s set design resembled a movie studio with white and black colours and a movie screen in the backdrop silently displaying iconic films and actors.

Director Alec Toller seamlessly guides his actors through the intricate transitions of Angel City. I commend the entire cast and crew on producing what seems to be a demanding piece of theatre.


  • Angel City plays through May 7th as part of the Playwright Project.
  • Venue will vary. See schedule for details.
  • All performances begin at 8 PM.
  • All tickets cost $15.
  • Tickets may be purchased at the door or online.