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.

Worry Warts Performance (Convergence Theatre) 2019 SummerWorks Review

Picture of Julie Tepperman in Worry Warts by Aaron WillisWorry Warts, presented by Convergence Theatre at the 2019 SummerWorks Performance Festival, is an experience in two parts; the first, detailed in a previous review, included a short interview and activities about the things that keep your heart rate up and your eyes open at night.

The company then took the 147 recorded interviews and cut excerpts of them together to create a performance piece, or “sharing,” for the last weekend of the festival. Interviewees received a ticket to the performance, booked separately, with limited tickets available to others. It’s fascinating to hear what other people are nervous about, and the “sharing” feels like just that – an attempt to make us feel less alone in our fears.

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Review: Art (Soulpepper)

Photo of Huse Madhavji, Oliver Dennis, and Diego Matamoros in Art by Dahlia KatzIn Soulpepper‘s production of Art, Yasmina Reza’s 1994 one-act play which won the 1998 Tony for Best Play, friendships are threatened and the nature of art and creativity is questioned. Serge (Diego Matamoros) buys a very expensive painting that is the epitome of modern art: it appears to be, essentially, a blank, painted-white canvas, with a few white lines running across its expanse. Serge loves his painting, while Marc (Oliver Dennis) derides it. Yvan (Huse Madhavji) plays both sides, desperate to be the peacemaker and to be liked by both men.

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Audible Songs From Rockwood (Fiver) 2019 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Simone Schmidt in Audible Songs From Rockwood by Jeff BierkDefinitions of what and who are “criminal” or “insane” have historically been tailored to benefit the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and marginalized. This fact is readily apparent as one watches Audible Songs From Rockwood at the 2019 SummerWorks Performance Festival, a song cycle by Simone Schmidt (aka Fiver) based on the case files of ten women incarcerated at Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane between 1856-1881.

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Gender Reveal Party (Flamingo Rampant) 2019 SummerWorks Review

Picture of Chy Ryan Spain and S. Bear Bergman in Gender Reveal PartyGender Reveal Party, presented by Flamingo Rampant at the 2019 SummerWorks Performance Festival, is a work-in-progress, much like the gender identities of many of its participants. Created by Mooney on Theatre senior writer S. Bear Bergman, it riffs off the idea of the “gender reveal party” that has become a major social media fad in the past decade, starting with a fateful 2008 blog post -which the blogger reportedly now regrets. In these parties, as a baby sits in utero, its parents, via the inside colour of a cake, piñata, or some other intricate ritual, communicate to their guests the assigned gender of the child. 

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Worry Warts (Convergence Theatre) 2019 SummerWorks Review

Picture of Julie Tepperman in Worry Warts by Aaron Willis

“Do you consider yourself to be an anxious person?” 

We live, as they say, in an age of anxiety. The daily stream of fear from world news means that we not only shoulder our own burdens, but those of billions of others. Worry Warts, presented by Convergence Theatre at the 2019 SummerWorks Performance Festival, is a short, guided tour through our personal anxieties, helmed by a troupe of sympathetic listeners.

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Review: A (musical) Midsummer Night’s Dream (Driftwood Theatre)

Photo of Siobhan Richardson and James Dallas Smith by Dahlia KatzA (musical) Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented by Driftwood Theatre in Withrow Park, was adapted to a musical in 2004 by composers Kevin Fox and Tom Lillington and director D. Jeremy Smith. They wanted to put an a cappella twist on Shakespeare’s classic comedy of fairies and love triangles. The result is a fun, well-paced show that packs on the charm and shakes off a lot of the potential staleness of this constantly-performed classic.

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Anesti Danelis: Six Frets Under (Anesti Danelis) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Anesti Danelis in Anesti Danelis-Six Frets Under by Tyra Sweet Photography

Anesti Danelis: Six Frets Under, a site-specific one-man musical comedy show presented by Danelis at the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival at the Tranzac Club Tiki Room, returns the singer-songwriter to the stage after 2017’s hit, Songs For A New World Order. Danelis, wryly noting that he was competing with a raucous punk show in the bar’s main space — thankfully, this stopped soon after he began — also informs us that he’s not tweeting with the gadget in front of him, but running his own tech because nobody would help him. Luckily, he seems easily capable of doing it all himself.

A whirlwind of self-deprecating and absurd musical humour, Six Frets Under is an endearing, hilarious tour through the strange corners of Danelis’ mind. Danelis is curious about a lot of things, and, by his own admission, has said a lot of stupid stuff in his time. These qualities have become fodder for catchy tunes that had the audience howling. His stated goal is to leave us all with “a little less existential dread,” and I think he succeeded.

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The Art of Kneading (Farenheight350) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Helen Knight in The Art of Kneading by Cassie MolyneuxThe Art of Kneading by Helen Knight (presented by Farenheight350) was a late entrant into the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival, so it isn’t in the printed program. This absence of advertising means that Knight needs (kneads?) all the help she can get to avoid playing to small houses. That would be a shame, as her passionate, well-written and partially autobiographical show about the lengths mothers will go to make sure their children are fed deserves an audience.

Millennial Knight is attending a bread-baking class; a very bourgeois act, she admits, for a woman who grew up on welfare. As she wrestles with the dough and whether or not to snap a selfie of her yeast-wrangling, she reminisces about her mother’s struggle to raise three children as a pot-scrubber, and her resolute belief that pride bows before sustenance. She’s also catapulted back to the story of Annie Moore, the Irishwoman who was the first immigrant to cross through Ellis Island, and a more present story of a young nurse on a school placement in Zambia, combating both AIDS and childhood malnutrition.

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The Trophy Hunt (MadFandango Theatre Collective) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Richard Beaune, Hillary Warden and Priya Laishram in The Trophy Hunt by David LeyesThe Trophy Hunt, presented by MadFandango Theatre Collective at the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival, is a roving site-specific piece about predator and prey in the urban jungle. Taking place at 401 Richmond, playing several times per night, and accommodating only 25 audience members per performance, it takes its audience on a sort of twisted summer-camp safari where we hear monologues from three characters on both sides of the hunt. Continue reading The Trophy Hunt (MadFandango Theatre Collective) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review

The Big House (Soulo Theatre) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Tracey Erin Smith in THE BIG HOUSE provided by the artistIt’s the thing at the back of Tracey Erin Smith’s throat that’s going to kill her, warns her healer. Those stuck half-sentences: what she can’t say. THE BIG HOUSE, presented at the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival, asks the question, “When you’re a little kid and your Dad goes to jail, does a part of you go with?” Fringe darling Smith has created smash hits from The Burning Bush to The Clergy Project with her story-based Soulo Theatre, which deals in well-crafted, heartfelt confessionals and autofiction. In 2012, Smith covered the effects of her father’s suicide in Snug Harbor. It’s something even older, though, that forms the source of the blockage: her father’s imprisonment in 1977 for fraud, when Smith was a young child. 

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