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: Final Frontier (Bad Dog Theatre Company)

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Boldly going where no improv has gone before, Final Frontier is playing at Toronto’s Comedy Bar

You don’t have to be intimately familiar with the Star Trek universe (and all of those spin-offs and reboots) to appreciate Bad Dog Theatre Company’s spoof of the franchise. Final Frontier, playing at the Comedy Bar as part of Bad Dog’s Epic Wednesday series, is funny on its own terms, but there is an added layer of hilarity for those who have spent countless hours dreaming of Starfleet Academy.

Epic Wednesdays consist of a monthly rotation of four improvised comedy shows that spoof such nerdy pursuits as role-playing and video games. Final Frontier opened last night to an enthusiastic crowd. From the staged recreation of Star Trek’s opening credit sequence to the ridiculous finale, the performers never missed a beat. Continue reading Review: Final Frontier (Bad Dog Theatre Company)

Review: The Children’s Hour (Encore Entertainment)

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The Children’s Hour explores the destructive results of a lie at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

I am always of two minds when I am about to see one of my favourite plays, and so it was that I went into Encore Entertainment’s production of The Children’s Hour (playing at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Studio Theatre) half-ecstatic and half-terrified. Will they get it right? Will my guest be equally enamoured of it, or will they look at me in that funny way, wondering why I’ve subjected them to such rubbish?

Before I delve into the thick of it, let me first say this: I love Lillian Hellman’s play wholeheartedly. It chronicles the tragic aftermath of lie told in spite, and explores the consequences of such unpleasant human characteristics as selfishness, resentment, and self-righteousness. Continue reading Review: The Children’s Hour (Encore Entertainment)

Review: The Lover (Sterling Studio Theatre)

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The Lover is a provocative tale of sex and domesticity, playing at Toronto’s Sterling Studio Theatre

Up until now, I had never seen or read a Harold Pinter play. I was vaguely aware of, and intrigued by, his reputation as a dramatist, specifically his penchant for sinister comedies. So it was with some excitement that I made my way out to the Sterling Studio Theatre to see their production of The Lover.

I love the Sterling Studio. It’s an intimate venue which seats, depending on how those seats are arranged, only about thirty to fifty people. That intimacy allows directors to take full advantage of theatre’s unique strengths and Brett Haynes does just that. He introduces us to the characters and their world with what I like to call a soft opening: the actors are on set and in character while the audience takes their seats. Also, the lighting for this production is entirely practical (actual lamps that the actors manipulate instead of overhead stage lighting).

Continue reading Review: The Lover (Sterling Studio Theatre)

Review: Flesh and Other Fragments of Love (Tarragon Theatre)

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A couple find a body on the shore in Flesh and Other Fragments of Love playing at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre

Flesh and Other Fragments of Love, which opened at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace, is truly compelling. This is the English-language premiere of Evelyne de la Chenelière’s play, which was inspired by Marie Cardinal’s novel Une vie pour deux, and translated by Linda Gaboriau.

This is also an important first for me: I have never before seen a production helmed by Tarragon’s Artistic Director, Richard Rose. Considering the fact that he is a staple of the Canadian theatre scene, it’s about time! Continue reading Review: Flesh and Other Fragments of Love (Tarragon Theatre)

2014 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: Polar Opposites (TiltHAUS)

Two polar bears bring comedy to our recent struggle with the cold at Toronto’s Next Stage Theatre Festival

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If you’re prone to hibernating during the harsh winter season, it’ll do you good to get out and experience some theatre. Polar Opposites is an absurd comedy playing at the Factory Theatre Ante-chamber as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival. It will not help you to forget the cold, but it will certainly enrich your experience of it. Continue reading 2014 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: Polar Opposites (TiltHAUS)

Review: Special Constables (Circlesnake Productions)

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

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)