Review: Burying Toni (Alumnae Theatre Company)

Natalie Kulesza, Glenda Roman and Jillian Welsh in Burying Toni

Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre presents Catherine Frid’s new play Burying Toni

Have you peeked in on your subconscious lately? Do you have any idea what your Animus and Shadow are up to? Well, why don’t you join us at King and Berkeley in Toronto?

We can climb the staircase of Alumnae Theatre and get all the facts straight while we take in the play Burying Toni by Catherine Frid.

Part of a one-two punch, Burying Toni and You Have To Earn It are two new plays by female playwrights that make up the Fireworks Festival.

Burying Toni has teeth. It’s a submersion into one’s own mind. It’s thought provoking and it challenges and awakens its audience. The play imagines what is going through Emma Jung’s mind as she contemplates whether to attend the funeral of her husband’s mistress, Toni. Emma is the wife of groundbreaking psychoanalyst Carl Jung, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud.

Technically, there is only ever one woman on stage during Burying Toni. While Glenda Romano is magnificent as Emma, the stage, along with our imaginations, is filled with two parts of her subconscious. Emma’s logical side, Animus (Natalie Kulesza) continually duels with her Shadow (Jillian Welsh). It’s an endless battle; one for the ages.

From start to finish I found Burying Toni mesmerizing. The venue, which I’ve hinted at previously, is perfect. There’s vaulted ceilings, natural wood beams, and about a century of history in the building. Alumnae Theatre was originally a firehouse, and repurposed as a theatre, it is warm and inviting. It has a soul. It couldn’t be a more perfect venue for Fireworks Festival.

As Emma, Romano conveys the soul, wisdom and inviting comfortable nature that grandmothers from fairy tales preach. Playwright Catherine Frid and Romano add many, many layers to that stereotype. Moving and emotional, Romano’s performance is one that anybody who has lead any type of life at all can relate to.

Emma is flawed and insecure. There are voices in her head. There are forgotten memories resurfacing. Being a human, Emma resorts to crutches like drugs at times. There’s also a funeral and a university lecture to deliver looming on her immediate horizon. Her life expectancy? Less than a year.

Part of your psyche is nagging about being responsible and getting work done. Meanwhile, there’s an opposite side of your mind encouraging you to blow it off and have fun.

So you can relate, right?

What I could relate most to in Burying Toni was Shadow. Jillian Welsh was as endearing, coming across like a kitten at times, while also being as scary as a gargoyle at others. She’d find a place tiny place to hide, sometimes on stage and sometimes in the audience.

There’s also a piano player on stage and creative use of lighting and shadows that make Burying Toni a play to remember. It’s just a wonderful play that examines the nuances and dark shadows of our mind.

I loved being in the mind space that Burying Toni created. It just felt right. My friend and I noticed that one of the photographs in the lobby looked like a “selfie”. I hate selfies, but I loved this play. I mean, it’s easy to take a picture of one’s self, but to actually care enough to dig into one’s psyche? That’s rare!

Go see Burying Toni. It will scrub those twentysomethings out of your mind for a little while. And if you want to invite me…


  •  Burying Toni is playing until November 29 at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street)
  • Shows run Wednesday November 19th at 8:00 pm, Friday November 21st at 8:00 pm, Saturday November 22nd at 2:00 pm, Thursday November 27th at 8:00 pm and Saturday November 29th at 2:00 pm.
  • Ticket are $15, with Fireworks Festival passes available for $25
  • Tickets are available online, at the door or by calling (416) 364-4170

-photo of Natalie Kulesza, Glenda Roman and Jillian Welsh by Dahlia Katz