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.

The Food Project (Theatre By Committee) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Veronica Barron by Owen Fawcett

The Food Project, produced by Theatre By Committee, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, understands that it’s hard to talk about the convoluted ethical quagmire that comprises the choice of what we eat daily. After all, eating, they acknowledge, is one of the things we do most, and it’s one thing we can’t stop doing if we want to stay alive. It’s particularly hard to talk about this type of ethical choice without being didactic, the death knell of effective theatre everywhere.

The actors, therefore, deliver their lecture with a wink, obviously aware that a show on this topic can never quite lose the aspect of well-meaning lecture. There are a lot of hard truths to digest here, but they’re sure portrayed as entertainingly as possible.

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Interstellar Elder (Ingrid Hansen, SNAFU) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Ingrid Hansen by Laura Dittmann

Interstellar Elder, produced by Ingrid Hansen and SNAFU, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, could be considered a very tenuous sequel to Hansen’s 2014 Fringe smash, Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near-Post Apocalyptic Future. Kitt & Jane explored the destruction of our natural environment through the lens of two precocious and imaginative children on the verge of adolescence, and I loved its sparkling wit and touching character interaction.

In Interstellar Elder, Kit Peterson is back, but instead of being a small child, she winds up hundreds of years old in the semi-distant future, the only unfrozen passenger on a ship set to repopulate the earth after an actual natural disaster has made it uninhabitable. Despite the thematic connection, this is an incredibly different show, nearly silent and solo. However, Hansen manages to say a surprising amount about the human condition anyway; the incredibly aged Kitt still has that spark.

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Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons (Slow Blue Lions/The Howland Company) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Ruth Goodwin and James Graham by Dan AbramoviciI knew I had to see Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, co-produced by Slow Blue Lions and The Howland Company, and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, when I watched it receive a Cayle Chernin production award (supporting women in theatre and film) earlier this year, and found myself fascinated by the premise. A couple, lawyer Bernadette (Ruth Goodwin) and musician Oliver (James Graham), struggle against a new law that’s been put in motion: each person is only allowed to speak as many words in a day as there are characters in a Tweet. Yes, that means 140 words are all you get. Words in all their various permutations are my life, so to me this was a horror movie cloaked in a relationship story. The play does manage to marry those elements of romantic comedy and existential dread in ways that are surprising, charming, and poignant. While the concept might seem outlandish, the execution is sharp and thoughtful.

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Hyena Subpoena (Cat Kidd) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Show graphic for hyena subpoena provided by the company

In Hyena Supbpoena, written and produced by Cat Kidd, and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, the writer/performer stalks about the stage like a predator sizing up her captive audience. She opens by telling us that, were she able to be a hybrid, she would choose to be part hyena. In other languages, the word for hyena also means to vacillate or be in flux, changeable or metamorphic. This state is celebrated in Kidd’s wending, mesmeric piece; derided for their strange laughs, ugly visages and unusual anatomy, we find hyenas are actually practical, efficient, and above all, intense.

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It’s My Penis And I’ll Cry If I Want To (Jamie Black) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Jamie Black by Shepsu Aakhu

It’s My Penis and I’ll Cry If I Want To, written and produced by Jamie Black and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, isn’t particularly bawdy, as the title might suggest. Instead, it’s a sweet, earnest show about gender roles, far more Lesley Gore than Lady Gaga in tone (though the latter is what’s on the soundtrack). It’s charming and heartfelt, but feels oddly unfinished, a bit like the conversation about gender itself.

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Bad Date: A Cautionary Tale… (Aubrey Productions) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Erin Aubrey (self-portrait)

When I was watching Bad Date: A Cautionary Tale…, produced by Aubrey Productions and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, it occurred to me that, since I met my husband at 19, I haven’t had to go on a first date in 13 years. I certainly haven’t experienced dating where actually meeting someone in person is a novelty.

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Review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical (Showstopper Productions)

Improvised musical arrives on the Toronto stage

Earlier this year, I reviewed a Fringe show that promised a completely improvised musical over the course of one hour after just one suggestion from the audience. Showstopper! The Improvised Musical is that show writ large; instead of an accomplished local comedy troupe, the accomplished performers (The Showstoppers) are here on tour from England; instead of one suggestion, they incorporate several over the course of the evening; instead of a Fringe space, they must fill the cavernous Panasonic Theatre, and instead of one hour, they run a bit over two with intermission.

However, their challenge is the same: can they tell a complete story without leaving too many loose threads? Can they make catchy, harmonic music of varying styles, while rhyming? Can they run the gamut from The Sound of Music to Hamilton on the audience’s whim? Showstopper! does a great job with its constraints, it’s loads of fun, and it’s pretty easy on the ears.

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PREVIEW: SOULO Theatre Festival (Soulo Theatre)

Tracey Erin Smith took the Fringe world by storm in 2006 with her one-woman show The Burning Bush, about a rabbi who finds enlightenment through stripping. Since then, she’s made a name for herself as a solo player and teacher of Soulo classes, in which aspiring artists are encouraged to find their voices and create a personal performance piece. The classes continue, but in addition, Smith runs a five-day theatre festival that includes both performances of finished pieces and workshops for those who are inspired to tell their own stories. Now in its fifth year, the SOULO Theatre Festival runs from May 25-29 2017 at the Red Sandcastle Theatre. We asked Smith a few questions about the upcoming event.

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Review: The Dress HE Wore (Lift the Lid Theatre)

The title of The Dress HE Wore—a Lift the Lid Theatre production now playing at Red Sandcastle Theatre—alongside its billing (“a provocative and disturbing black comedy”) strongly implies that the show is going to be a focused exploration of the impetus behind crossdressing.

The dress is there – an oversized floral almost-muumuu worn by solo actor Alastair Love’s David – but it’s really incidental, almost ancillary to the plot. Though the character wears a dress, its trappings are merely symbolic, a representation of a dysfunctional relationship he can’t quite let go.

Running a scant 45 minutes, The Dress HE Wore is nevertheless a fascinating look into a nuanced but often unsympathetic character. It’s never boring, but disappointingly relies heavily on stereotypical commentary regarding male and female gender roles.

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