Review: Women at Play(s) (Red Sandcastle Theatre)

cast and crew of Women at PlaysWe laughed, we learned things, and we broke out into Bon Jovi for Women At Play(s) at the Red Sandcastle Theatre in Toronto’s east end.

You can see six brilliant short and sweet plays all in one evening, and hear diverse voices that don’t often surface in mainstream stories. But I can’t promise that you too will be singing “Livin’ on a Prayer” between plays since I don’t know if the audience’s energy and confidence were particular to last Friday night’s performance.

The first play – an understanding of brown – written by Lesley Ewen and directed by Katia Café-Fébrissy, is an examination of race and identity. Rebecca Singh gives us a compelling performance as a someone with brown skin growing up with a white mother in a white community. The feelings of her not belonging in any group are further evoked by Eunice Almeida who stands behind Singh, verbalizing inner thoughts, or the voices of the mother (who responds to “I’m in love” with “Is he Brown?”) or people in the community.

Many Happier Returns is a mother-daughter conversation (Janet Lo and Kayleigh Poelman) and it’s a very funny exchange that’s sparked by the daughter’s 30th birthday. Written by Christine Foster and directed by Evelyn Long, Many Happier Returns has musings about ageing from the daughter and some comical twists from the optimistic mother.

Blue Marty is a one-woman act starring Erin MacKinnon, written by Cat Walsh and directed by Anita la Selva. It’s a haunting, creepy story that might make you not want to live in a big house with creaky floorboards. The supernatural element added some variety to the evening.

Katherine Koller wrote and Susan A. Lock directed Queenie’s Castle about a First Nations woman struggling to get well. Actor Trina Moyan, who is a nehiyaw iskwew (Plains Cree) from the Frog Lake First Nation, plays a hospital patient named Queenie. Joelle Peters plays her nurse. Queenie gets her own room at the hospital, and she’s never had her own room anywhere before. This room change brings about her storied life of struggle and resilience.

Naomi Duvall plays a nervous, quirky young woman at a bar, waiting for her blind date to arrive in Fluorescent Lights. She does a great job of fixing her clothes and checking her make-up in a way that many women do when they want to make a good impression. Marianne Sawchuk, also the producer of Women at Play(s), plays a no-nonsense bar customer. Written by Natalie Grace Goossen and directed by Lee Bolton, this story questions what it means to be alone.

Splitting Eternity, written by Paddy Gillard-Bentley and directed by Kristen Da Silva, stars Esther Chung and Carla Zabek, gets tons of laughs. While we first assume that the two ladies in white bathrooms and white slippers are in a waiting room at a spa, we soon figure out that they are in a different type of waiting room. They have a comical exchange that concludes with a laugh-out-loud revelation that ends the festival.

I really liked the warm ambience at the Red Sandcastle Theatre and the impromptu karaoke of the audience members during a scene change. I think the actors had a warm, supportive, expressive vibe that spread to the seating area.

Details:

  • Women At Play(s) is playing until March 8, 2020 at Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen St East)
  • Shows run from Thursday to Sunday at 8 PM
  • Regular ticket prices are $20. Student, senior and arts workers prices are $15.
  • Tickets can be purchased online or at the door in cash only.
  • There is a short intermission.

Photo of artists of Women at Play(s) taken by Bruno Verdoni