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: Well Born (SoCo Theatre)

Photo of Sophia Fabilli and Michael Musi by Darren GoldsteinWell-Born tackles the anxieties of pregnancy, now playing in Toronto

Even those of us who have never had children are acutely aware that pregnancy is difficult. It’s never all Facebook “likes” and warm, familial love; it’s hard work, fear, and even despair at times. This is particularly true in the face of the unknown: before everything is okay, all manner of things might happen. The more unknowns, the worse the fear, particularly with a missing family health history and inconclusive but worrying test results. It’s no wonder there’s a tendency to Google oneself into oblivion.

This is the premise behind Well-Born, a new play by Celeste Percy-Beauregard, presented by SoCo Theatre in association with Truth’n’Lies Theatre at Artscape Youngplace. The play is raw and frantic, sometimes very funny and sometimes deeply unsettling, much like the process of pregnancy itself.

Continue reading Review: Well Born (SoCo Theatre)

Review: Stepping Out (Alumnae Theatre)

Stepping OutFun and “entertaining” tap play takes to the stage in Toronto

Stepping Out, Richard Harris’ 1984 play currently running at the Alumnae Theatre, is what I’d call a “hangout” play. It’s low-stakes, with only mild conflict and very little resolution. Its charm, much like a sitcom, lies in spending time with a group of people over the course of a year or so, told in vignettes from a slowly-progressing amateur tap class attempting to work towards an actual performance. This means the play lives or dies based on how invested you are in the characters and their relationships, and the snappiness of the dialogue. The script’s a bit hoary, but overall it’s fun to step in and hang out for a while. Continue reading Review: Stepping Out (Alumnae Theatre)

Review: Century Song (Volcano Theatre)

Photo of Neema Bickersteth provided by the companyCentury Song is a unique experience, on stage now in Toronto

There are no words.

Referring to Volcano Theatre‘s Century Song, now playing as part of the Progress Festival at The Theatre Centre, I mean this literally. Other than a few disparate syllables, the piece, a “music recital” study of ephemeral aspects of the Black Canadian experience over the past century, is completely wordless.

I also mean it figuratively. There are parts of Century Song that are beautiful, challenging, and stunning, and just might leave you speechless.
Continue reading Review: Century Song (Volcano Theatre)

Review: Red Light Winter (Unit 102 Actor’s Company)

Photo of Omar Hady, Luis Fernandes and Chloe Sullivan in Red Light Winter

Red Light Winter, on stage at Unit 102 in Toronto, features engaging writing, strong performances

Red Light Winter, a play by Adam Rapp that was shortlisted for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (no prize was awarded that year), gets a powerful, stylish and heartfelt Toronto production at Unit 102, directed by Anne Van Leeuwen. The show features engaging writing and strong, even outstanding performances. It also sometimes mistakes bleakness for depth.

Continue reading Review: Red Light Winter (Unit 102 Actor’s Company)

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)