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:

Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Makes Another (Theatre Howl) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

AidenFlynn Theatre Howl’s production of Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Makes Another plays at the Tarragon Extraspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. It’s an inventive and touching little show, a truly great start to my Fringing.

This show tells a tale of a young boy who tries to help his family heal from a tragedy by creating a brother from scraps found on their farm. It cleverly riffs on the familiar Frankenstein’s monster but this story’s intentions are quite different and the echoes from Shelley’s classic are light and airy.

Continue reading Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Makes Another (Theatre Howl) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

Review: A Spirit’s Face (Spiderbones Performing Arts)


Native culture and social work collide in A Spirit’s Face playing at the Aki Studio Theatre in Toronto

A Spirit’s Face, presented by Spiderbones Performing Arts and playing at the Aki Studio Theatre (Daniels Spectrum) is a heartfelt piece. It’s clear that Jeff D’Hondt’s script is sincere and comes from a dark yet loving place. A lot of care has gone into this production, but it didn’t quite reach me.

This is the story of Jake (Cole Alvis) and Hunter (Madison Walsh)—both social workers, both damaged individuals who grew on up on the same native reserve—trying to forge a relationship while healing from old wounds. Their shared emotional baggage becomes their bond. The ghosts of abusive, afflicted and dying parents loom over their professional and personal lives. Continue reading Review: A Spirit’s Face (Spiderbones Performing Arts)

Summer Marriage: Sterling and Unit 102


A Summer Marriage on Queen West: Unit 102 and Sterling Theatre to Merge

This summer, two of Toronto’s west-end indie theatre companies are joining forces. This is great news for artists and audiences alike. Sterling Theatre Company and Unit 102 Acting Company will share a roof at the corner of Queen and Dufferin, and the venue will be renamed and announced at their upcoming inaugural event, scheduled for mid-August.

When I sat down with them to discuss the merger, I expected the core members of Unit 102 and Sterling to be energetic and enthusiastic. What I didn’t expect was the immense trust and admiration these artists have for one another. Each is fiercely dedicated to their craft and, as members of a creative team, they are steadfast in their support of one another. Continue reading Summer Marriage: Sterling and Unit 102

Review: Flashdance (Mirvish)

The beloved 80s film receives a much anticipated stage revival at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto

Flashdance-Pic1If you’re considering Flashdance: The Musical currently playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, you’re probably a fan of the 80s film. I am. I get warm fuzzies just thinking about it—one of a dozen feel good movies from that decade (like Footloose and Dirty Dancing) that wanted to be musicals.

Now, Flashdance gets to be one! It has exploded out of its quiet, restrained shell to drench you in dazzling set pieces. I can’t help but frame this as a comparison to the film. I think you should know (especially if you’re very attached to the aesthetic of the movie) that this is a very different creature. Continue reading Review: Flashdance (Mirvish)

Review: The Art of Traditional Head-Tying (East End Performance Crawl)


The Art of Traditional Head-Tying makes its debut in Crow’s Theatre East End Performance Crawl in Toronto

The Art of Traditional Head-Tying is playing at the Ralph Thornton Centre as part of the Crow’s Theatre East End Performance Crawl. In it, as Rosemarie Jon-Charles Hicks, Kanika Ambrose is a force of nature. She demands attention from the second she bursts through the door to her final bow sixty minutes later. What happens in between is funny, touching, and informative.

While not a traditional theatrical venue, the basement room of a community centre is a perfect environment for Ambrose’s one-woman show. The low ceiling, fluorescent lighting and walls full of crafts are an ideal backdrop for the story. Rosemarie has returned to her home island of Dominica (in the Caribbean, between Guadeloupe and Martinique) to teach a class in head-tying. Continue reading Review: The Art of Traditional Head-Tying (East End Performance Crawl)

Review: A Lonely Impulse of Delight & Sailor’s Song (Sterling Studio Theatre)

A Lonely Impulse of Daylight and Sailor’s Song close out Sterling Studio Theatre’s May One Acts in Toronto

My evening at Sterling Studio Theatre to see their double-bill of A Lonely Impulse of Delight and Sailor’s Song was bittersweet. I was excited to see them tackle John Patrick Shanley again. (I was very fond of their production of Where’s My Money?) But this is the final week of their May One Acts, after which the company will be leaving this warm, intimate space.

Perfectly suited to my mood, there is something heartbreaking and whimsical about both of these pieces. Each deals with characters torn between two worlds: the lyric beauty of romance and the harsh realities of loss and regret. Continue reading Review: A Lonely Impulse of Delight & Sailor’s Song (Sterling Studio Theatre)

Review: Central Park West (Sterling Studio Theatre)

Sterling Studio Theatre in Toronto brings a Woody Allen classic, Central Park West, to their May One Acts

Woody Allen’s Central Park West isn’t so much about people and the things that happen to them as it’s about the idea of how funny and awful they can be. Those familiar with Allen will find all his trademark obsessions here: New York socialites, neurotic rambling, and—my favourites—the unforgiving cosmos and the terror of existence.

I have a fondness for much of Allen’s earlier work, but not for this particular one-act. I did, however, generally enjoy Sterling Studio’s production, which plays for the second week of their May One Acts. Continue reading Review: Central Park West (Sterling Studio Theatre)

Review: The Road to Mecca (Soulpepper)

Road to Mecca, Soulpepper

Soulpepper brings The Road to Mecca, a story about the Apartheid struggle, to the Toronto stage

I used to think that harshly critical reviews were the hardest to pen, but I’ve since discovered that, for me, writing about the great shows is equally troublesome. When a performance is so carefully wrought and meaningful, so perfect in its blending of elements, I struggle to figure out how to best frame the experience. Such is the case with Soulpepper’s production of The Road to Mecca.

In Athol Fugard’s The Road to Mecca, a woman calls on a good friend to help her say no to the conservative Afrikaner community that wants to put her in an old age home. They want to put her there because she freaks them out. Why? Well, that’s where we get into the thick of it: what the story is about. Continue reading Review: The Road to Mecca (Soulpepper)

Review: A Number (Cart/Horse Theatre & The Playwright Project)


The works of Caryl Churchill are featured in this year’s Playwright Project starting with A Number at The Downstage

The Playwright Project is both a celebration of influential playwrights and a showcase for indie theatre companies here in Toronto. This is the third installment since the festival began in 2012. The project brings several theatre companies together to mount selected works from a particular playwright. This year’s choice is Caryl Churchill.

You can find a full list of plays in Mooney’s Cheap Theatre for the Week listing.

Last night, at the The Downstage on the Danforth, I had the pleasure of seeing the opening night of Cart/Horse Theatre’s entry: A Number. Continue reading Review: A Number (Cart/Horse Theatre & The Playwright Project)

Review: Reasons to be Pretty (The LaBute Cycle)


Toronto’s Unit 102 Theatre’s Reasons to be Pretty‘s social commentary on female beauty falls short of hitting the mark

I was intrigued by this description: “LaBute’s play questions how we value female beauty in modern society.” It’s a hot topic and worthy subject matter. This is not really what Reasons to be Pretty is about though. In fact, having seen The LaBute Cycle’s production at the Unit 102 Theatre, I find the title of this play to be rather misleading.

The core conflict is sparked by a remark about physical attractiveness (and there’s some preaching at the end), but Neil Labute‘s play doesn’t really explore the phenomenon of beauty. The narrative suggests an eternal conflict between the sexes, without much hope for mutual understanding. Continue reading Review: Reasons to be Pretty (The LaBute Cycle)