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: A Disney Spectacular! (The Civic Light-Opera Co.)

Photo of Adam Lawrence, Katie Richardson, Caroline Moro-Delicandro and David HainesDisney-themed show playing in Toronto is “a welcome spoonful of sugar”

Theatre in Toronto is a largely downtown enterprise, but I was happy to make the trek uptown to a venue I’d grown up five minutes away from and always wondered about, the Zion Cultural Centre, to see the Civic Light-Opera Company perform “A Disney Spectacular!”

The show, performed in a small, historic former church, chronicles Walt Disney’s involvement with the company’s productions, from the very beginnings of Steamboat Willie to Mary Poppins, the last film he oversaw before his death. Continue reading Review: A Disney Spectacular! (The Civic Light-Opera Co.)

Review: Armstrong’s War (Canadian Rep Theatre)

Armstrong's WarArmstrong’s War avoids the typical clichés, now playing on the Toronto stage

When I first heard the premise of Armstrong’s War (Canadian Rep Theatre) — a 12 year old, paraplegic Pathfinder scout attempts to earn a badge by reading to a 21-year-old Afghanistan War veteran in a rehab hospital — I feared it would be Lifetime Original Movie-style saccharine, ending with hugs and tears and life lessons learned.

I shouldn’t have worried. The play comes with some serious pedigree (playwright Colleen Murphy is a Governor General’s award winner, and it’s directed by Ken Gass), and though it does feature some tears and maybe even a lesson, it’s more unflinching than saccharine, and leaves us with questions rather than comforts.
Continue reading Review: Armstrong’s War (Canadian Rep Theatre)

Preview: Getting to Room Temperature (The Room Temperature Collective)

Promotional image provided by the company

This week, The Room Temperature Collective and The Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies premiere a workshop presentation of Arthur Milner’s play, Getting To Room Temperature, at the Robert Gill Theatre. The play, about end-of-life issues in Canada and the right to die, is based on a true story and promises audiences laughter through tears. We caught up with playwright and director Milner, assistant director Jenny Salisbury, and Maureen Labonté, production dramaturg, to ask a few questions about the upcoming show. Continue reading Preview: Getting to Room Temperature (The Room Temperature Collective)

Review: Butcher (Why Not Theatre/Butcher’s Block)

Tony Nappo, Andrew Musselman, John Koensgen

Butcher is a “fascinating” dive into unanswerable questions, now on stage in Toronto

Must revenge be a never-ending cycle? Are revenge and justice mutually exclusive, or are they one and the same? What do you do to raise your voice in a world that is bored with suffering? The Theatre Centre, in a co-production with Why Not? Theatre and Butcher’s Block Collective, presents Nicholas Billon’s explosive play Butcher, a thrilling, taut and harrowing 80 minutes of theatre that raises these uneasy, unanswerable questions.

Continue reading Review: Butcher (Why Not Theatre/Butcher’s Block)

Review: Baobab (Young People’s Theatre)

Photo of Ralph Prosper, Aboulaye Koné, Mireille Tawfik and Nathalie CoraToronto’s Young People’s Theatre remounts their Dora Award Winning play Baobab

Sometimes, there’s nothing better than sitting back and watching a crowd of kids be enchanted by theatre. Of course, it helps when the show manages to be enchanting to the adults in the audience as well. Baobab, a remount of the Dora Award-winning 2012 production for children 4-8, comes back to the Young People’s Theatre Studio from October 13-23. Watching it, I saw an audience captivated by a combination of skillful puppetry and visuals, lovely harmonies, and a gentle myth.

Continue reading Review: Baobab (Young People’s Theatre)

Preview: In Search of Cruise Control (James Gangl)

James Gangl in In Search of Cruise ControlCanadian Comedy Award Winner James Gangl brings his hit one-man Edmonton Fringe show, In Search of Cruise Control, to the Second City John Candy Box Stage this weekend. With dramaturgy and direction by Fringe favourite Chris Gibbs, the show is the true story of Gangl’s attempt to give his teenaged nephew the sex talk.

We asked writer and perfomer Gangl a few questions about the upcoming production:
Continue reading Preview: In Search of Cruise Control (James Gangl)

Review: The Play’s The Thing (Soulpepper)

Photo of C. David Johnson, Greogry Prest and Raquel Duffy

The Play’s The Thing, presented by Soulpepper for the third time in the company’s 17-year lifespan, is a big airy cream-puff of a play; a juicy, over-ripe peach that is nonetheless a treat. Written by Ferenc Molnár (known for Liliom, the basis for the musical Carousel) and adapted in 1926 by P.G. Wodehouse of Jeeves and Wooster fame, it’s not a deep play, but it doesn’t pretend to be. Rather, it’s a play about plays, a delightfully sly send-up of the conventions and form of the well-made play, with a dollop of farce on top. Its references are irreverent, its artifice the most natural thing in the world.

Continue reading Review: The Play’s The Thing (Soulpepper)

Review: Holodeck Follies (The Dandies)

Photo of The Dandies company members

Star Trek-inspired improv delivers an “engaging” show for Toronto audiences

Around this time last year, I had never seen a single episode of Star Trek, though as a small child, I’d humoured my friend’s request that I be Dr. Crusher in our playground games. I had no idea what the fuss was about. Now, I’m four episodes away from the end of The Next Generation, having spent more obsessive time with the good doctor, Captain Picard, and Lt. Commander Data than I’d care to admit. To mitigate the horror of finishing the series, I was eager to watch The Dandies perform their latest installment of Holodeck Follies, an improvised Star Trek adventure with songs and special guests.

Continue reading Review: Holodeck Follies (The Dandies)

Review: Porch View Dances (Kaeja d’Dance)

Photo of Amarai, Leslie and Lori Endes by Shana Hillman

Site-specific dance show brings performance to Toronto’s front porches

Site-specific shows don’t get more specific than the front porches of your friends and neighbours. That’s the idea behind Porch View Dances, a series of short contemporary dance works developed by Karen and Allen Kaeja of Kaeja d’Dance: it enlists community members and their porches and front lawns, the public-facing aspect of their living spaces.

These brave neighbourhood volunteers perform choreography by professional dance artists. Now in its fourth year, the award-winning show has branched out to Ottawa, Kitchener, and Moncton. It’s very approachable, being run by donation, and takes the audience on a charming walking tour through Seaton Village, a cosy neighbourhood just steps from busy Bathurst and Bloor.

Continue reading Review: Porch View Dances (Kaeja d’Dance)