All posts by Istvan Dugalin

Apart from his (pathological?) obsession with airplane disasters, Istvan is a filmmaker and film enthusiast, but began his creative adventures in theatre. Starting out as an actor, he soon discovered a preference for life behind-the-scenes. He has experience in lighting design, stage management and production management, but his passion is writing and directing. With several short films and an indie feature under his belt, film has been his focus in recent years, but theatre has been calling him back. You see more of his critical writing at his film reflection blog:

Review: C’mon, Angie! (Leroy Street Theatre)

Amy Lee Lavoie’s new play in Toronto feels like a #MeToo era response to Mamet’s Oleanna

It’s been almost thirty years since David Mamet unleashed Oleanna on the theatre world. Amidst the burgeoning #MeToo movement, I’ve recently wondered what a female playwright might do with a similar set-up. And here, presented by Leroy Street Theatre, is Amy Lee Lavoie’s C’mon, Angie! right on cue! 

In the early ’90s, Mamet warned against the potential dangers of political correctness gone awry, though he came uncomfortably close to vilifying his female character. Lavoie shows considerably more emotional and intellectual restraint. In what feels like a companion piece to Oleanna, she manages to flip the script without showing contempt for either character. Taking that play’s he said/she said scenario out of academia and placing it in a cramped bedroom after a sexual encounter, the story posits that political correctness is no more insidious than the white male entitlement it challenges. Continue reading Review: C’mon, Angie! (Leroy Street Theatre)

Review: The Chemical Valley Project (Theatre Passe Muraille/Broadleaf Theatre)

Environmental issues and the legacy of colonialism are at the core of a new play in Toronto

Broadleaf Theatre’s The Chemical Valley Project, currently playing at Theatre Passe Muraille, takes its name from a small region in Sarnia, Ontario where the Aamjiwnaang First Nations reserve sits smothered by one of Canada’s largest petrochemical corridors. This innovative and spellbinding work of documentary theatre, created by Kevin Matthew Wong and Julia Howman, sheds light on the toxic environment in which this community must live. Continue reading Review: The Chemical Valley Project (Theatre Passe Muraille/Broadleaf Theatre)

Review: The Shimmering Verge (Prairie Fire, Please)

The Shimmering Verge is a “quietly thrilling piece of lyrical storytelling” on stage in Toronto

First premiering in 2002 at the Tarragon Spring Arts Fair before touring Canada and the US, poet Molly Peacock’s The Shimmering Verge has been revived by performer Madeleine Brown and director Karthy Chin. Prairie Fire, Please presents this solo show at Studio 21 (Théâtre français de Toronto) for the next week in celebration of National Poetry Month. 

Anecdotal and self-reflective, The Shimmering Verge is, in essence, Peacock’s love letter to poetry. She has taken great care to craft her love of the medium into tightly composed, intelligent reflections on form and style, life experience and artistic endeavour. Continue reading Review: The Shimmering Verge (Prairie Fire, Please)

Review: ANGÉLIQUE (Obsidian and Factory Theatre)

Obsidian and Factory Theatre present the tragic story of Marie Joseph Angélique in Toronto

The year is 1734. A large fire destroys a hospital and several houses in Montréal. One of those houses belongs to the owner of an enslaved Black woman. As the fire raged, she was attempting to flee captivity. With very little evidence, that woman was found responsible for setting the blaze. She was tortured and hanged. Her name was Marie Joseph Angélique. This is her story.

Factory and Obsidian Theatre present the Toronto Premiere of ANGÉLIQUE, a co-production between Black Theatre Workshop and Tableau D’Hôte Theatre of Lorena Gale’s passionate and persuasive depiction of Angélique’s life leading up to that fire. Through her story, we are given a glimpse into this dark and unsettling part of our Canadian history.  Continue reading Review: ANGÉLIQUE (Obsidian and Factory Theatre)

Review: The Only Possible Way (Nowadays Theatre)

Nowadays Theatre are providing new Iranian newcomers and refugees an outlet to perform on a Toronto stage

Nowadays Theatre Company presents the English premiere of Mohammad Yaghoubi’s meta-theatrical play, The Only Possible Way, at the Berkeley Street Theatre. This workshop production is part of Canadian Stage’s RBC Emerging Company Program and features a cast of Iranian newcomers and refugees, many of whom are performing in English for the first time. 

Thirteen members of this ensemble sit in chairs that flank the stage, from which they take turns stepping into an assortment of quirky, memorable characters in a series of eight scenes. The cast is accompanied by two musicians that set the mood and mark scene transitions with Iranian string instruments. Continue reading Review: The Only Possible Way (Nowadays Theatre)

Review: Isitwendam (Native Earth Performing Arts)

In 2008, on behalf of the Canadian government, Stephen Harper gave an apology to the First Nations for the suffering that resulted from the Residential School system. Noble enough in its supposed intentions, it represents little more than a placeholder, a tepid acknowledgement of the need for reconciliation—a muddy, fraught concept that Canada is still struggling to wrap its head around.

In the midst of harrowing testimony finally brought to light, we meet the young and eager Brendan—an aspiring politician. He is a half white, half Ojibwe man, desperate to prove himself and get his foot in the door of the Conservative government. Following his hilariously pandering letter of introduction, he is hired by Aboriginal Affairs. His first task? To discredit a Residential School survivor’s reparation claim. And so begins Isitwendam (presented by Native Earth and B2C Theatre), Meegwun Fairbrother’s breathtaking solo performance that both warmed and broke my heart. Continue reading Review: Isitwendam (Native Earth Performing Arts)

Review: CHICHO (Theatre Passe Muraille)

A new solo play in Toronto explores the turmoil in Venezuela through a queer lens

Presented by Pencil Kit Productions and Aluna Theatre, Augusto Bitter’s one-person show, CHICHO, is currently playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. Full of whimsy and insight, it is a grand feat of showmanship, packing in an astounding amount of characterization, Venezuelan trivia and sexy, playful antics. Continue reading Review: CHICHO (Theatre Passe Muraille)

Review: School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (Obsidian/Nightwood)

Tensions flare in an all-girl boarding school, on stage now in Toronto

Obsidian Theatre, in association with Nightwood Theatre, presents Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. That title sure is catchy and has, no doubt, already hooked you in with the promise of young women behaving badly. I assure you: it does not disappoint, serving up plenty of flaring nostrils and raging egos. It’s the aching heart underneath, though, that drives this story.  Continue reading Review: School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (Obsidian/Nightwood)

Review: Death and the Maiden (Red Sandcastle Theatre)

Intense dramas in tight spaces are a treat for me, and there is one currently playing at Red Sandcastle Theatre. Ariel Dorfman’s political thriller, Death and the Maiden, gets a modest and intimate staging at this cozy Queen East venue.

Set in an unnamed South American country after the fall of a dictatorship, the play unfolds in an isolated beach house. This is the home of Paulina, a former political prisoner and torture survivor, which she shares with her lawyer husband, Gerardo. He has recently been appointed the head of a commission tasked with investigating human rights violations from the previous regime. Continue reading Review: Death and the Maiden (Red Sandcastle Theatre)