Moderato Cantabile (Guilty by Association) 2015 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Moderato Cantabile

Dissatisfaction in life can have dangerous consequences.  Guilty by Association‘s Moderato Cantabile playing at the Factory Theatre Studio as part of the 2015 Toronto SummerWorks Festival attempts to examine the struggle of two people against narratives that insist on confining them to specific roles.

Adapted from the novel by Marguerite Duras, Nicole St. Martin plays Anne, a woman who becomes enthralled by the murder of a woman at a cafe close to where her son (Alexander Scodellaro) takes piano lessons. Fascinated by the act, she begins to visit the cafe regularly, where she meets Chauvin (Tawiah M’Carthy). The two bond first over the murder, then over their own frustrations with their respective lives, leading to emotional complications.

I really wanted to love Moderato Cantabile. Everything from the blurb, to the set by Reid Thompson, to the great director’s note felt like just the type of story we need on stage: a confrontation of social expectations and oppression.

Unfortunately, director Cole Lewis gets stuck in traditional drama, preferring exposition, too many characters, and static staging that lends itself to a very slow, uneventful production. I found Lewis’s direction even more frustrating when these same conventions were suddenly cast off in a fantastic, singular scene.

Near the end of the play, Anne attends a dinner party. There are three chairs where the two narrators (Brenda Kamino and Shira Leuchter) describe the events, lyrically, while performing strange, ritualistic movements that represent eating, drinking, and laughing.

As Anne becomes progressively more and more drunk, she begins to act out erratic and erotic movements on her chair even as the two narrators continue their bizarre pantomime. In the corner, the son sleeps next to a pool of blood. Against the backdrop, Chauvin participates by occasionally speaking his lines with his back to the audience; a voice emerges from the radio.

It’s an excellent bit of theatre that physically captures the strange confines of society: vibrant, strange, uncomfortable, and uniform. I couldn’t believe the contrast between the dinner party and everything else. It was night and day.

Moderato Cantabile has the bones of a great show, but it needs to have the courage of its convictions by shedding convention and embracing the chaos.


  • Moderato Cantabile runs until August 16th at the Factory Theatre Studio (125 Bathurst)
  • Showtimes:
    Friday August 7th                 8:15 PM
    Sunday August 9th               3:15 PM
    Tuesday August 11th          7:15 PM
    Wednesday August 12th  5:00 PM
    Thursday August 13th        9:45 PM
    Saturday August 15th         3:00 PM
    Sunday August 16th             2:45 PM
  • Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series tickets are free – $20. Tickets are available online at, by phone at 888-328-8384, Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 4-16 from 10am-7pm (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows

Photo of Moderato Cantabile courtesy Guilty by Association

One thought on “Moderato Cantabile (Guilty by Association) 2015 SummerWorks Review”

  1. The dinner scene movement was credited to the choreographer/movement coach, SarahJane Burton.

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