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: http://captiveviscera.wordpress.com/

Review: The House at Poe Corner (Eldrtich Theatre)

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Winnie the Pooh meets Edgar Allan Poe in The House at Poe Corner playing at Red Sand Castle Theatre in Toronto

I went to the Red Sandcastle Theatre to see Eric Woolfe and Michael O’Brien’s workshop production of The House at Poe Corner. When I came out again, I was at loss for words. What exactly had I just seen? And what the heck was I going to say about it?

A deep breath.

This is a fusion of Winnie the Pooh and Edgar Allan Poe. A.A. Milne‘s iconic woodland creatures have been re-imagined as gothic and gloomy figures. Pooh Bear is “Poe Bear”, Piglet is “Cutlet” and so on. They are stuffed toys refashioned into sinister forms. Continue reading Review: The House at Poe Corner (Eldrtich Theatre)

Review: Cowboy Mouth (Rhízōma Productions/Sterling Studio Theatre)

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Dark sensuality and rock n’ roll light up Sterling Studio Theatre for Cowboy Mouth in Toronto

I’ve grown so attached to the Sterling Studio Theatre that I often feel a pang of jealousy whenever someone else is assigned to cover a show. As is right and proper (ahem), I was able to see the opening of Rhízōma Productions’ Cowboy Mouth. With a beer in my hand, snuggled up against the exposed brick of the venue, I enjoyed my fifth show at this intimate space.

As an introduction to the play, and in support of local indie musicians, the evening begins with an opening act—a new one featured for each performance. Last night, I was treated to an acoustic guitar set by JJ Thompson. It was an enjoyable mix of covers and original work, and a thematically perfect prelude to Sam Shepard and Patti Smith’s raunchy one-act about two dysfunctional rock n’ rollers—Slim and Cavale. Continue reading Review: Cowboy Mouth (Rhízōma Productions/Sterling Studio Theatre)

Review: Lord of the Flies (Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts)

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An all-female cast lead this new version of Lord of the Flies at Toronto’s Annex Theatre

Most of us probably remember sitting in English class, picking apart William Golding’s allegorical novel Lord of the Flies. For me, it was the first time I consciously realized (in a thinky-thinky way) just how complex stories can be.

As originally written, the story concerns a group of English schoolboys who are marooned on an island when their plane is shot down. Randolph Academy’s production, currently playing at the Annex Theatre, has an all-female cast. Continue reading Review: Lord of the Flies (Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts)

Review: The Carousel (Nightwood Theatre)

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A woman comes to terms with her dying mother in The Carousel at Toronto’s Berkeley Street Theatre

Theatre is such an intense and fleeting phenomenon. It is pure magic when that cynical rug is pulled out from under us and we topple, heart first, into someone’s life. Such was my experience of Nightwood Theatre’s production of The Carousel, currently playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs.

An unnamed woman stays at the bedside of her dying mother. Sitting there, she shares with us a journey through her past, reflecting upon the behavioral patterns that echo through generations. Continue reading Review: The Carousel (Nightwood Theatre)

Review: The Seagull (The Chekhov Collective)

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Exceptionally crafted performances light up the stage in The Seagull at Toronto’s Berkeley Theatre

For their production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, the Chekhov Collective has utilized the Chekhov Technique. (Phew! Three “Chekhovs” in one sentence!) What the technique boils down to this: in-depth awareness of body and psychology, forging them into tools to bring characters to life.

This, you can imagine, takes a great deal of time. Those Russian masters would work on theatrical productions for years before presenting them to audiences. Keeping this tradition alive, the Chekhov Collective’s production is a carefully wrought gem. After a year of preparation, the fruits of their labour now grace the stage at the Berkeley Street Theatre. Continue reading Review: The Seagull (The Chekhov Collective)

Review: Marry Me a Little (Tarragon Theatre)

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A love story musical for Sondheim fans, Marry Me a Little is playing at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre

Marry Me a Little is a musical for Sondheim fans currently playing at Tarragon Theatre Mainspace. My phrasing is deliberate. While the music and lyrics are written by Stephen Sondheim, this particular show is a patchwork that was conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman René. Taking songs that were cut from early Sondheim musicals, they’ve strung them together to suggest a bittersweet love story.

Let me set the scene for you: There is a gorgeous loft apartment. Yes, it really is stunning. Ken MacDonald has created an urban bohemian dream—exposed brick, large windows, high ceilings. Into this artsy wonderland, drops a Man and a Woman. They are never named. At first, we don’t know much about them except that they both work in musical theatre—he’s a songwriter and she’s an actress. Continue reading Review: Marry Me a Little (Tarragon Theatre)

Review: Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) (Hart House Theatre)

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Classic Shakespearean tragedies receive a clever and humorous spin at Toronto’s Hart House Theatre

I was eighteen when I first read Ann-Marie MacDonald’s ode to Shakespeare—Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). I recall being struck by its humour and cleverness. The play has stayed with me ever since, though I had not seen it performed until now. Having just seen Hart House Theatre’s exceptional production, my appreciation of the play has grown significantly. It’s not just funny and clever; neither of those two words do justice to the sheer brilliance of MacDonald’s award-winning comedy.

I’m compelled to gush uncontrollably, so know that it requires tremendous restraint on my part to handle this review in a professional and dignified manner, but before I can do so, I must first give voice to my enthusiasm: This play is awesomeness incarnate! The premise is both fanciful and fiercely intelligent, the characters are captivating, and the dialogue is so delicious I wish my life were written by Ann-Marie MacDonald! Continue reading Review: Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) (Hart House Theatre)

Review: Nude With Violin (East Side Players)

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Chaos ensues after a shocking post-mortem reveal in Nude with Violin playing at Toronto’s Papermill Theatre

There is a charming little venue at Todmorden Mills, tucked in beside the Don Valley Parkway—it’s called the Papermill Theatre; I went there last night to see the East Side Players production of Noel Coward’s Nude With Violin. It was a night of firsts for me: first Coward play, first time at the Papermill, and my first experience with the East Side Players. On all counts, it was more than worth the long, cold walk down Pottery Road.

Set in Paris in the early 50s, the play begins just after the death of a famous artist. Like vultures, his socialite family members flock to his studio to leech off his estate. To their chagrin, the late artist left a letter revealing he was a fraud who never painted a single picture. This confession had been left in the hands of his faithful valet—who, during the rest of the play, negotiates with the family to determine if the truth is to be made public or suppressed. Continue reading Review: Nude With Violin (East Side Players)

Review: Mrs. Warren’s Profession (Sterling Studio Theatre)

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Mrs. Warren’s Profession, about a mother’s work in prostitution, is playing at Toronto’s Sterling Studio Theatre

Mrs. Warren’s Profession is George Bernard Shaw’s examination of sex, money and morality. Kitty Warren’s occupation is, as the familiar parlance goes, the “oldest profession”. The timing of Sterling Studio Theatre’s production could not have been better; it comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws.

Just to clarify: prostitution itself has never been illegal here in Canada, just the activities that surround it—brothels, public solicitation and making a living at it. These are now legal, opening up the possibility of safer working conditions (although new legislation is still pending). And, while attitudes towards the industry have shifted in a positive direction, the stigma remains. Mrs. Warren’s plight is still resonant. Continue reading Review: Mrs. Warren’s Profession (Sterling Studio Theatre)

Review: I Am America (Workcentre of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards & The Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies)

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Patriotic experimental theatre took over Toronto’s Glen Morris Studio with I Am America

There are productions that have appalled and confused me, productions that have surprised and inspired me, but very rarely do I have the chance to see something that penetrates so thoroughly, challenging my notions of what theatre is. That is what happened with I Am America, which I was honoured to see last night at the Glen Morris Studio Theatre.

Nostos: Encounters with the Open Program, currently being hosted by The Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies (CDTPS), at the University of Toronto, is a presentation of three performances featuring work of the Open Program. Continue reading Review: I Am America (Workcentre of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards & The Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies)