All posts by S. Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman has great faith in the power of theatre to make change, and has been putting his money where his mouth is on that one for some time. A writer, performer, and lecturer, Bear works full time as an artist and cultural worker and loves to see as much live performance as possible – making this a fantastic gig for him.

AWKWARD HUG (Cory Thibert) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Cory Thibert in Awkward Hug by Log Creative

I arrived to AWKWARD HUG at Theatre Passe Muraille, looking forward to my first Fringe show of the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival season, and curious, curious, curious. I have seen a long list of “my weird relative, let me tell you about them!” shows, and generally I find them aggravating and one dimensional. Every once in a while, though, someone comes to the work with a thoughtfulness that redeems the concept for a minute. AWKWARD HUG was (mostly) one of those shows.

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Kid +1 Review: Potted Potter (Starvox)

Harry Potter parody show arrives to make magic on the Toronto stage

First things first: my eight-year-old loved this show SO MUCH and giggled like a fiend the entire time. If your child under the age of about 14 is a big fan of Harry Potter, just accept with good cheer that you ought to be going to see Potted Potter at the CAA Theatre, and the show will be good-natured silly fun. The concept–all 7 books in 7 minutes–goes past a Cole’s Notes and squarely into a sort of theatrical shorthand, so if you’ve never read the books you’re mostly just watching two dudes do some skilled slapstick and improv. Then again, no one ever suffered for that.

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Kid + 1 Review: Salmon Girl (Young People’s Theatre/Raven Spirit Dance)

Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre presents Raven Spirit Dance’s play Salmon Girl

You think you understand kids, and then they surprise you – or at least they surprised me at Salmon Girl, presented at Young People’s Theatre and created by the folks at Raven Spirit Dance. While there were some mis-steps in the production, it has solid bones and there were parts of the show where my young companions, two enthusiastic second-graders, were literally motionless with interest and attention.

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Kid + 1 Review: Annie (Mirvish)

Mirvish Productions brings the much beloved classic musical Annie back to the Toronto stage

I arrived to Annie at the Ed Mirvish Theatre on a sunny Sunday afternoon with my eight-year-old companion, joining a chattering throng of excited patrons for the fresh-from-London revival of an old favorite that I saw on Broadway as a young child more than 30 years ago. I vividly recall my excitement at the time, how exciting and fresh the show felt, and I hoped our visit would be equally enjoyable for my small charge. I’m happy to say it was; this production of Annie was a playful pleasure.

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Review: Selfie (Young People’s Theatre)

Young People’s Theatre presents Selfie, nuanced and thoughtful – great for teens, in Toronto

I arrived at Young People’s Theatre to see Selfie as an adult who works with a ton of teenagers and young adults (and has one of my own), skeptical in the extreme about work by adults about social media that’s aimed at teenagers. In general, I find it exhaustingly reductionist and at least five years behind schedule. Selfie, however, felt fresh and nuanced and appropriately difficult.

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Review: Voices3 (Canadian Stage)

Tanya Tagaq and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory deliver awe-inspiring performance, on stage in Toronto

If you wanted to prepare yourself for this edition of Voices3 at Canadian Stage, featuring Tanya Tagaq + Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory you could watch Tagaq’s video Retribution, which is a collaboration between the two. In the comfort of your home, you might feel prepared. You aren’t, but until the lights go down, and the theatre is as dark as an arctic night you would think you were prepared. And then Tagaq + Williamson Bathory would be there in the room with you, live and holy, and you will find yourself brilliantly discomfited in whole new way.

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Review: Gobsmacked! (Mirvish)

Gobsmacked! is a family-fun a cappella-style musical on stage at the CAA Theatre in Toronto

Even before Glee re-introduced a cappella fever to the viewing public, the art form displayed in the new Mirvish offering Gobsmacked! has had a brilliant history. A cappella groups like Pentatonix now tour and perform, delighting audiences with their range of mouth noises. Gobsmacked! offers a rich sound, centered around obvious star beatboxer Ball-Zee, though overall I found it rather uneven as the various soloists took their turns.

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Review: Acha Bacha (Buddies In Bad Times & Theatre Passe Muraille)

TPM-17-18-Acha-Bacha_0003 Matt Nethersole and Qasim Khan Acha Bacha - Written by: Bilal Baig - Directed by: Brendan Healy - Set and Costume by: Joanna Yu - Lighting by: C.J AstronomoA new play by Bilal Baig in Toronto explores the intersections between queerness and Islamic culture

Seeing Acha Bacha on opening night at Theatre Passe Muraille was a study in contrast, from beginning to end. In moments I found it so bright and beautiful that I could barely stand to blink, and in other moments I struggled with wanting a different kind of experience. Overall I found this a promising work by a playwright who obviously holds tremendous potential. Continue reading Review: Acha Bacha (Buddies In Bad Times & Theatre Passe Muraille)

2018 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: The Harold Experience (The Assembly)

Of course, the first thing that happened in the performance of The Harold Experience, an improvised comedy show based on true stories from the lives of audience members, playing as part of the 2018 Next Stage Festival (a sort of post-graduate Fringe experience, in theory) was director Rob Norman walking cheerfully down stage and explaining a) that he was not called Harold and b) what a Harold could possibly be. The audience mostly laughed appreciatively at his description, but I fear that we gave the cast the wrong impression about our values.

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Review: The Illusionists (Mirvish) Kid +1 Review

Mirvish brings all-ages magic show to the Toronto stage

With all the marketing around The Illusionists as a great show for the whole family, I was pleased but not surprised to see lots of kids hopping eagerly up the stairs with their grownups at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Friday evening. My seven-year-old companion was similarly irrepressible with anticipation for all the excitement that awaited, which – – mostly — delivered on its promise.

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