All posts by Ilana Lucas

Ilana Lucas has been a big theatre nerd since witnessing a fateful Gilbert and Sullivan production at the age of seven. She has studied theatre for most of her life, holds a BA in English and Theatre from Princeton and an MFA in Dramaturgy and Script Development from Columbia, and is currently a professor of English and Theatre at Centennial College. She believes that theatre has a unique ability to foster connection, empathy and joy, and has a deep love of the playfulness of the written word. Her favourite theatrical experience was the nine-hour, all-day Broadway performance of The Norman Conquests, which made fast friends of an audience of strangers.

Preview: The 40th Rhubarb Festival (Buddies in Bad Times)

Photo of Kaleb Robertson and John Paul Kane provided by the company

Everyone get ready for Rhubarb! Buddies in Bad Times Theatre presents the 40th installation of the wild and wonderful bite-sized theatre festival from February 13-23, featuring a host of talented creators doing what they do best.

The anarchic and experimental nature of the event, Canada’s longest-running new works festival, makes it a review-free zone. Artists – and there are more than 100 involved this year – are encouraged to run, play, and even cavort with their creative impulses. Some works remain festival-specific, and some go on to expansion and remounting.

Continue reading Preview: The 40th Rhubarb Festival (Buddies in Bad Times)

Review: Cock and Bull (Nic Green)

The Progress Festival presents a play by Scotland’s Nic Green in Toronto

Cock and Bull, conceived and directed by Scotland’s Nic Green and currently being presented by FADO Performance Art Centre as part of the Progress Festival at The Theatre Centre, was originally devised for the eve of the 2015 UK General election that saw the Conservative Party’s David Cameron re-elected with an increased share of the vote. Winner of the 2016 Total Theatre Award for best visual/physical theatre at Edinburgh, the show sees three women (Green, Laura Bradshaw, and Rosana Cade) create their own party conference, slipping into the role of vacuous male politicians with mushroom cuts and savage aplomb.

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Review: In the Next Room (RedWit Theatre)

Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) is now on stage in Toronto

In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play), being presented by RedWit Theatre at the Tarragon Extraspace, is the Sarah Ruhl play about the Victorian treatment for “hysteria” that earned three Tony nominations in 2010. Set in 1880, as the world begins to electrify, the play takes place in the home of Dr. Givings (Christina Fox), who has introduced his (utterly clinical) invention to reduce depression and languor in the lives of Victorian women. The device, essentially an ur-vibrator, induces a restorative “paroxysm” in the woman to relieve congestion in the womb. Continue reading Review: In the Next Room (RedWit Theatre)

2019 Next Stage Festival Review: Lauren & Amanda Do It (Toasted Theatre Company)

Lauren & Amanda Do It, presented by Toasted Theatre Company at the Next Stage Theatre Festivalbills itself as a frank discussion about sex in a province where sex ed is currently in crisis. Pared down from its hour-long iteration into a 30-minute performance in the Factory Theatre Antechamber, it’s styled as an ever-changing talk show, with a rotating roster of guests.

 Hosts Lauren Cauchy and Amanda Logan, aided by sprightly, bright original music and participation from Alli Harris, determine each night’s topic by spinning the “Wheel of Fucking.” The wheel has topics ranging from “Fetishes and Fantasies” to “Masturbation,” the latter being our fortune for opening night. Even if the wheel spin is the same two nights in a row, we’re assured that there will be different material for returning customers. (Three nights in a row, perhaps not.)

Continue reading 2019 Next Stage Festival Review: Lauren & Amanda Do It (Toasted Theatre Company)

2019 Next Stage Festival Review: Possessed (Classy Little Bitch Productions)

Photo of Diana Bang by Yvonne Chew

Possessed, presented by Classy Little Bitch Productions at the Next Stage Theatre Festival, is a short exploration into family history, framed as a ritual. The 30-minute show is written and performed by Diana Bang, of Fringe hit SELF-ish; she portrays Sarah, a Korean-Canadian woman on the eve of her 35th birthday who is attempting to cure her shinbyeong, or self-loss, by becoming a Manchin, or shaman.

This type of spiritual healer, usually female, must originate through an initiation wherein she becomes possessed by spirits. Sarah calls on the spirits of her family, particularly those who endured or succumbed to great tragedy, in order to instigate her own healing.

Continue reading 2019 Next Stage Festival Review: Possessed (Classy Little Bitch Productions)

Review: From The Water (Seven Siblings Theatre)

Photo of Will King by Will KingPlay balances speculation with comedy in Toronto

Believable science fiction is difficult to achieve on stage, a fact acknowledged by Eric Helle, director of Seven Siblings Theatre’s production of From The Water, which is now playing at the Tarragon Extraspace. Much of science fiction relies on the ability to create believable worlds and advanced technology, something that tends to require an enormous effects budget. Low-budget theatre knows it can’t really compare, so it has to concentrate its efforts elsewhere. Anyone who’s a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series and its cardboard sets, however, knows that it’s the characters and ideas that really matter in the long run. In these ways, From The Water largely succeeds in captivating our imaginations.

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Review: What I Call Her (Crow’s Theatre/In Association)

Photo of Michael Ayres and Charlie Gould by Dahlia KatzWhat I Call Her explores relationships through personality disorders, on stage in Toronto

In What I Call Her, Ellie Moon’s sophomore play presented by Crow’s Theatre/In Association, 25-year-old Kate’s mother, not that she calls her that, is desperately ill and near death. Kate (Charlie Gould) doesn’t seem particularly broken up about it. While her boyfriend Kyle (Michael Ayres) attempts to find the right pieces for his 3D puzzle – appropriately London Bridge, for things about to fall down – jumpy Kate, intense to the point of distress, breaks the silent companionship to announce her desire to write a tell-all Facebook obit about mom, ready to go for “when she croaks.”

Kate’s mother was a childhood sexual abuse survivor who tried to help others; she was also physically and emotionally abusive to Kate throughout her childhood. There’s a rift in the family. Kate’s father took her away from her mother, believing Kate’s accusations of abuse; Kate’s younger sister Ruby (Ellie Ellwand) sided with mom and refused to leave, believing Kate made up or was at fault for her experiences. Continue reading Review: What I Call Her (Crow’s Theatre/In Association)

Review: Vitals (Theatre Born Between)

Photo of Lauren Wolanski provided by the companyElectric performance anchors this revival of Vitals, now on stage in Toronto

Vitals, by Outside the March playwright-in-residence Rosamund Small, has received several productions and many accolades since its debut, including the 2014 Dora Awards for Outstanding Production and New Play (Independent Theatre category). New theatre company Theatre Born Between devotes its premiere production to the one-woman show, presented in stripped-down form at The Commons Theatre. Thanks to a strong performer and some unique staging elements, the company proves that this urgent script doesn’t need an elaborate production to remain vital.

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Review: Gods Like Us (Theatre Nidāna)

Photo of Vince Deiulis and Zazu Oke provided by the companyAn “insightful look at the moral complexity of an untold story,” now on stage in Toronto.

Most Canadian history classes, if my experience is any indication, teach very little about African involvement in the first World War – many of those important details tend to get lost under the narrative of Canada coming into its own as a nation. It’s those missing pieces in our knowledge that spurred Zazu Oke and Vince Deiulis of Theatre Nidāna to create Gods Like Us, now playing at the Factory Studio Theatre, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting.

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Review: Will You Be My Friend (Green Light Arts)

Photo of Janice Jo Lee provided by the companyJanice Jo Lee’s play tackles white supremacy with brutal honesty but also song and humour, is now playing in Toronto

The original title of Will You Be My Friend, a Green Light Arts production now playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, was Janice Lee and the White Supremacy Showdown. Both titles fit the work, but the former was used for marketing reasons, “so that you would come,” Kitchener-Waterloo playwright and solo performer Janice Jo Lee says. Lee’s brutal honesty, surrounded by appealing songs and humour, makes the show an iron fist in a slowly-removed velvet glove.

Continue reading Review: Will You Be My Friend (Green Light Arts)