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.

Review: how to drown gracefully (Filament Incubator)

Photo of Becky Tanton provided by the companyhow to drown gracefully is “captivating” and “strong” theatre playing in Toronto

Kat, the main character of Becky Tanton’s how to drown gracefully (presented by Filament Incubator at Kensington Hall) spends most of the play getting in and out of a bathtub. She’s having a hard time leaving the water, which represents both a safe haven and dangerous escape. Kat (played by Tanton) wants to drown, though not in a suicidal way, just to disappear for a while. A disastrous love quadrangle has her nursing hurt feelings while confronting her own less than stellar actions. While the navel-gazing angst in the show feels very familiar, the writing made enough of a splash to make me want to wade in.

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Review: Pets (Changeup and Shadowland Theatre)

Photo of Bilal Baig and Michael Ruderman by Neil SilcoxCompelling Pets takes to the Toronto stage

The opening night of Pets, presented by Changeup Theatre and Shadowland Theatre, started at a distinct disadvantage. The site-specific piece, set in a garage next to Trinity Bellwoods park, was wracked with winds and rain strong enough to blow over the box office tent. It was an evening suitable for the hardiest of theatregoers, as the play is presented both outside and in an unheated space, with a runtime of about two hours, and an intermission where patrons are asked to stand around in an alley. Nonetheless, those who stuck it out were rewarded with a visually inventive and passionate show about what happens when our furry and feathered friends are forced to make it on their own.

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Review: Lela & Co. (Discord and Din Theatre)

Photo of Jenna Harris and Graham Cuthbertson by Dahlia Katz

Lela & Co., on stage at Toronto’s Theatre Centre, is a powerful story of abuse

When Lela (Jenna Harris), the protagonist of Cordelia Lynn’s searing drama Lela & Co., (currently being presented by Discord and Din Theatre at The Theatre Centre), turned thirteen in her small village, her father ordered “the Messiah of Cakes” for her birthday party. The night before the party, a small strip of pink icing went missing, and Lela has been blamed for it ever since.

The story of the cake is told and retold, ever exaggerated, throughout Lela’s harrowing life of subjugation, as she experiences war, abuse, and forced prostitution. A tiny slice of life, it’s nevertheless a symbol both of what happens to a girl who steps out of line, and how the lies we tell ourselves to survive eventually become the truth. Lela, in direct address to the audience, wants us to know the real truth – and what a fascinating and stark truth it is.

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Spawn (Wild Woman Theatre) 2017 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Samantha Brown by Blair BouskillSPAWN, presented by Wild Woman Theatre and inspired by the Coast Salish story of the Salmon Spirit, got off to a bit of a rocky start as the first SummerWorks Performance Festival show in the Factory Mainspace.

Swimming upstream, it started nearly half an hour late. It was fitting for a show that is ultimately about surviving and even thriving through adversity.

SPAWN is a sweet (yet hard-edged) story of family, though the family is patchwork and at times either grudging or makeshift. It features complex characters and a refreshing lack of true villains, and it gets by on its earnestness and the genuine desire it provokes to see all its characters succeed. With all that said, I found myself wanting a second act from this tale.

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Reality Theatre (QuestionMark-Exclamation Theatre) 2017 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Krista Morin by Brynna Reilly

Reality Theatre (QuestionMark-Exclamation Theatre), now playing at the SummerWorks Performance Festival, begins with a fantastic framing device; Akosua Amo-Adem brings her own chair to the front of the stage and proceeds to watch the audience with great interest.

Popcorn bucket in hand, she appears the physical embodiment of a GIF signifying drama going down on the Internet. She coolly and hilariously surveys latecomers desperately trying to find a seat in the packed house (a strong argument for featuring the show in SummerWorks, which allows latecomers, instead of Fringe, which does not.) Things only get better when a second character enters the stage and is disconcerted by her hungry gaze.

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