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: Special Constables (Circlesnake Productions)

This action-packed story, perfect for any Toronto commuter, is playing at the Storefront Theatre


I spend at least two hours of every day on the TTC; it is a fundamental part of my Toronto life. Now, you don’t have to be so intimately familiar with local transit to enjoy Special Constables, but if you have grown up with the Red Rocket and know its quirks as well as those of an annoying roommate, then Circlesnake Productions‘ latest show will be a transcendent experience.

The Storefront Theatre space is an intimate strip of bare stage. I found myself staring across at the other audience members in much the same way I would my fellow passengers on the subway. And, during a few moments of audience participation, we became commuters on the TTC. Continue reading Review: Special Constables (Circlesnake Productions)

Review: Paradise Lost (Janak Khendry Dance Company)

Paradise Lost-476-S

Beautiful dance brings the story of Adam and Eve to life in Paradise Lost playing at Toronto’s Fleck Theatre

There is something quite extraordinary happening at Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre. The Janak Khendry Dance Company’s production of John Milton’s Paradise Lost is masterfully executed and utterly captivating. I have never read Milton’s epic classic, nor am I particularly interested in dance, so I was amazed at how firmly this show held me in its grip.

Paradise Lost tells biblical story of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The story, I’m sure you know, goes something like this: Satan, having been banished from Heaven, uses his powers of seduction to fool Eve into eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. She then convinces Adam to do the same. The two are deeply ashamed, clothe themselves to hide their nakedness, and are cast out of paradise. The story is embedded in our collective psyche. Continue reading Review: Paradise Lost (Janak Khendry Dance Company)

Review: Pieces of Me (Promise Productions)

Pieces of Me

A musical journey of self-discovery, Pieces of Me is playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille

I love musicals, but they’re tricky beasts. I love how effortlessly they can whisk me away to the land of melodrama, to a place where it doesn’t seem weird for people to drop their briefcases and burst into song, yet they can so easily become awkward or ridiculous. There are many moments in Deon Denton’s Pieces of Me (which opened last night at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace) that transported me with whimsical abandon, but they are sometimes disjointed from the rest of the action.

I enjoyed the flashy dance numbers, but spent most of the first act rather discomfited regardless. The songs are not, in my opinion, particularly memorable. They are uptempo and fun, but they are bouncy even during the story’s gloomy patches which disrupts the emotional reality the songs should enhance. But deeper than that, I found the implications of the story itself—at first, anyway—quite troubling. Continue reading Review: Pieces of Me (Promise Productions)

Review: Twelfth Night (Hart House Theatre)


Hart House Theatre’s take on Twelfth Night is endearing but leaves much to desire for Shakespeare aficionados

Twelfth Night is not my favourite Shakespeare comedy, but it was the first I ever read. Back in ninth grade, I was introduced to the Bard with this sweet, saucy, and sometimes cruel tale of mistaken identity, trickery, and frustrated lovers. Hart House has staged a handsome production that showcases a beautiful set and lively performances.

The show is never boring, but neither is it particularly inspiring. Director Matthew Gorman has placed the action in a contemporary setting—a British-style pub. The aesthetic of khaki pants and woolen sweaters creates a homely atmosphere that put my companion and I in mind of Mumford and Sons.
Continue reading Review: Twelfth Night (Hart House Theatre)

Review: Where’s My Money? (Sterling Studio Theatre)

WMM IMG_0194 Celeste sm

Two couples struggle with a living past and a lifeless marriage in Where’s My Money? at Toronto’s Sterling Studio Theatre

On a cold and rainy night, I make my way down a dark and narrow road to the Sterling Studio Theatre. I take my seat, surrounded on all sides by an audience of ghouls. A musician with a pale white face and ratty clothing plays the blues. The stage is blanketed by fog. Has this play been hijacked by Halloween revelers? 

The choice of opening night seemed strange to me… until the play began and I realized how befitting it was. John Patrick Shanley’s Where’s My Money? deals with characters who are haunted. Their past is not dead. Literally. The ghosts of ex-lovers show up to throw a wrench into their oh-so-civilized lives. Continue reading Review: Where’s My Money? (Sterling Studio Theatre)

Review: For Russia With (Gay) Love (Wrecking Ball)


Wrecking Ball tackled Russia’s anti-gay legislation in For Russia with (Gay) Love at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Wrecking Ball #15 presented For Russia With (Gay) Love at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre this past Sunday night. Inspired by Zee Zee Theatre’s “NYET: A Cabaret of Concerned Canadians”— an event that took place in Vancouver on the same night — it was a veritable Who’s Who of Canadian theatre coming together to showcase original works in protest of Russia’s new anti-gay legislation.

Founded ten years ago by director Ross Manson and playwright Jason Sherman, Wrecking Ball is a politically charged event in which esteemed theatre artists tackle relevant political issues. This latest installment featured entries from queer and allied playwrights: Ronnie Burkett, Dave Deveau, Shawn Macdonald, Daniel MacIvor, Sonja Mills and Marcus Youseff. These were directed by: Steven Bush, Esther Jun, Erica Kopyto, Moynan King, Sue Miner and Gein Wong. Wow, right? Continue reading Review: For Russia With (Gay) Love (Wrecking Ball)

Review: Fixed (Videofag)

fixed photo 2

Fixed is a funny and poignant production about gay culture playing at Toronto’s Videofag

The set is minimalist and futuristic—a strip of LEDs and several bare bulbs hung from the ceiling. They were flickering dimly as I took my seat in the intimate Videofag venue. The space seats only about 20 people, so I felt like one of a select few specially invited guests. This, I discovered, is the perfect lead-in to Fixed.

The year is 2050. The show opens with a charming song and dance number as Gayle, the fictitious inventor of Grindr—the first proximity-based hook-up app for gay men—introduces us to the latest version of the app, which allows users to transmit holographic representations of themselves directly into other users’ homes. Continue reading Review: Fixed (Videofag)

Review: Gay Play Day 2013 (Gay Play Day)


Gay Play Day showcased thought-provoking and inspiring theatre by local LGBTTQ playwrights at Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre

Having grown up with supportive family, friends and peers, my coming-out process was an enviably easy process. I have been—and do appreciate this—quite fortunate in that I have not had to dwell on my sexual orientation. It has never been an obstacle for me, nor even particularly interesting subject matter, and so I rarely seek out specifically gay content. I arrived at the Alumnae Theatre Studio Space to see the second annual Gay Play Day feeling dubious, yet intrigued.

The festival features plays by local LGBTTQ playwrights. (For those who are not familiar with what all of those letters signify, here is a breakdown: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit and Queer.) Six short plays ran for two evening performances on the Friday and Saturday, with an additional matinee on Saturday that featured four solo shows. There was considerable talent showcased this year. Continue reading Review: Gay Play Day 2013 (Gay Play Day)

Theatre Passe Murialle’s Student Creation Week


Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille’s annual Student Creation Week opened their doors to four GTA high schools offering workshops and intensives to help students hone their creative theatrical talents

Last Friday night, I had the pleasure of attending Theatre Passe Muraille’s Student Creation Week performance. It was an honour to be invited to this very special event. For those who have not heard of the Student Creation Week program, I encourage you to check out the page on the TPM website.

Theatre Passe Muraille hosts the Student Creation Week annually. It is an inspiring way for this theatre to kick-off its season. Theatre Passe Murialle has been dedicated to producing new original works—particularly collective creations such as this—since its founding 46 years ago. Continue reading Theatre Passe Murialle’s Student Creation Week

Review: Look Back in Anger (Fevergraph)


FeverGraph’s adaptation of John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger is filled with raw, probing performances playing in Toronto’s historic Queen West district

A faded copy of Look Back in Anger has been collecting dust on my shelf for over ten years. In preparation for my review of FeverGraph’s “physical and auditory deconstruction of John Osborne’s classic text”, I finally cracked it open to see what it might have to say to me. This is precisely what FeverGraph has done: dusted off this play to unveil whatever insight it offers now, almost sixty years after it was written.

The venue at 1093 Queen Street West has a rough, transformed-space atmosphere. The performance area is long and narrow, with the audience facing each other at opposite sides of the stage. There is a very intense intimacy with the actors that results from such close proximity; they are, at times, only a foot away from the audience. Continue reading Review: Look Back in Anger (Fevergraph)