All posts by Jenna Rocca

Interview: Mullet’s Night Show

The infamous zombie-clown Mullet takes to the stage at the Black Swan Comedy Tavern like the fixture of the Toronto theatre scene that he seems to be becoming. I feel like he should be our mascot in this way as he has most recently endeavored to present a monthly theatrical talk-show-style revue of various acts and cultural forces from Toronto’s milieu.

I saw the maiden voyage of the new phenomenon dubbed Mullet’s Night Show last month, and urge you all to take a sip from his goblet of Kool-Aid at this month’s offering, taking place this Thursday. If it is anything like what I saw the last time, you will be refreshed with an eclectic mix of performances by the brightest of Toronto’s up and coming stars, and conversations between them and the bluntly inquisitive Zombie Clown. Continue reading Interview: Mullet’s Night Show

Miracle on Mercer St. (Second City)

The Second City’s hit holiday spectacle Miracle on Mercer St. returns, under the writing-direction of Reid Janisse and music by Glenn James. Filled with catchy musical numbers performed by energetic and talented puppeteers, this show is a must-see holiday feast!

Following the Christmas of Oakville native Katie (Allie Price), the story launches from Union Station, bringing Katie to the puppet-filled small town of Hollydale, where her grandmother lives. Continue reading Miracle on Mercer St. (Second City)

Interview: Awkward! A Comedic Story-telling Show

This evening, Thursday, November 17th at 8 pm, join your host Erin Rogers at Comedy Bar for her monthly storytelling revue Awkward! (a comedic storytelling show). I had the pleasure of seeing last month’s showcase of performers tell some of the most compromising stories they could muster while still retaining some degree of self-respect, all while trying to make the audience laugh.

On the night I attended, headliners Jerry Schaefer (a Second City alumnus and writer/performer for The Red Green Show, the CBC radio show The Chumps Without a Net, and most recently YTV’s That’s So Weird) and Gemini winner Sandra Shamas were among the hapless souls who took to the stage to get a laugh out of the crowd at their own expense.

Other storytellers included stand-ups and improvisers such as Andrew Haggith, Deborah Etta Robinson, Luke Gordon Field, and Sam Rudykoff. Canadian Comedy Award nominees Sarah Hillier and Jon Blair were joined by some of their fellow members of sketch troupe The Sketchersons.

It’s no easy feat, and asking improvisers and stand-ups to do the self-deprecating thing in one single bit didn’t come naturally to everyone, but it made for an enjoyable showcase of a wide range of Toronto’s comedic talents.

I had the opportunity to ask Erin a few questions about this project, and the burgeoning trend across North America’s comedy clubs of performers and stand-ups just telling stories. Continue reading Interview: Awkward! A Comedic Story-telling Show

Review: Ditch (Sometimes Y Theatre)

Sometimes Y Theatre presents Ditch at the Theatre Passe Muraille Extra Space. The original Canadian play was written by Geoff Kavanagh in the early nineties, and this revival brings the angst and alienation of the contemporary social sphere into sharp focus.

The story follows two of the explorers on the doomed Franklin Northwest Passage, which in 1845 left 129 dead. The Extra Space stage is raised and carved into the Ditch of the title, opening like a mouth towards the audience, with the two prisoners trapped like lab-rats for our scrutiny. Continue reading Review: Ditch (Sometimes Y Theatre)

Review: Ghosts (Soulpepper)

Soulpepper takes on Ibsen’s haunted house of Ghosts (the kinds we should really be afraid of) with a new translation by director Morris Panych at Toronto’s Young Centre for the Arts

This is the first play I’ve seen by Henrik Ibsen, who many consider a master second only to Shakespeare, for his influence on modern theatre. But at the time his plays were considered very shocking, and Ghosts was called “a dirty deed done in public,” by one reviewer.

Its content may still shock contemporary audiences. Even within the play the “ghosts” of the title refer metaphorically to the looming expectations and precedents placed on a society where everyone tries to do “what is right.” Whatever that means. This abstraction is one that must resonate with anyone whose parents ever gave their opinion on what kind of life their child should have. It also doubles as a metaphor for the result of such thinking: a world of humans going through the motions, dying the slowest of deaths. Continue reading Review: Ghosts (Soulpepper)

Review: The Odd Couple (Soulpepper)

Soulpepper presents their successful version of Neil Simon’s the Odd Couple in Toronto’s Distillery District’s the Young Centre for the Performing Arts

The Odd Couple is one true masterpiece beloved for generations throughout the 20th century, and with good reason. I’ve loved it since my childhood, and have seen the film starring the indelible duo of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon countless times. Its dialogue is sharp, well-paced, sparkling with outrageous one-liners and tied together with distinct conflict and resolution. It’s pretty much perfect.

I overheard some girl during intermission comment that “it’s not very deep,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s so easy to dismiss comedy because it just makes us so happy, and laugh so hard, but of course, that was just after the first act and the real heartbreak hadn’t happened yet. As with all of Simon’s plays he points out his characters’ foibles and makes them so real that it is hilarious because we can relate to them so well. Continue reading Review: The Odd Couple (Soulpepper)

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (UC Follies)

University of Toronto troupe UC Follies does Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a first for the Musical Theatre-focused company.

The University of Toronto’s community theatre troupe the UC Follies, this year helmed by Shak Haq, has been known for its yearly large-scale musicals staged at Hart House Theatre. But their long history dating back to the 1800s boasts a rich tradition of all sorts of theatrical endeavors, including the now legendary sketch comedy of folks like Simon and Schuster and Lorne Michaels.

This year Haq is starting a new tradition by performing unabridged Shakespeare plays on the hill in front of Hart House in early September, before the cold becomes too unbearable. The casual and rugged nature of the venue, and the huge hill the audience looks “upstage” upon, offers an ideal setting for Shakespeare’s text and Haq has used all elements of the space to his advantage. Continue reading Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (UC Follies)

The Trolley Car (Solo Collective Theatre) 2011 SummerWorks Review

Solo Theatre Collective brings us a titillatingly dark period piece set in German-occupied Paris: The Trolley Car by Amiel Gladstone. Performed with exquisite depth by Monica Dottor, Rosa Laborde, Matthew Tapscott, the premise takes a dark, philosophical problem and applies it to an evocatively nostalgic love triangle, as indicated in bashful silence by our main protagonist by pressing her index fingers and thumbs together to form the shape.

The question of The Trolley Car is one of choice: given one track with five people tied to it, and a split in it where only one person is tied, a speeding trolley car heads towards the five people. Do you shift its gears so it only kills one, or do you choose to remain uninvolved and let it kill the five?

Even not making a choice is a choice. Continue reading The Trolley Car (Solo Collective Theatre) 2011 SummerWorks Review

Hero & Leander (Common Descent) 2011 SummerWorks Review

Fresh off the Fringe Festival with their last show Cendrillon (click here for Mooney on Theatre review), Common Descent brings us another retelling of a classic story with their new musical Hero & Leander. The story is basically the first known incarnation of the star-crossed lovers plot, but the small ensemble of Greco-Torontonian Gods and Mortals bring a hilarious and exuberant spin on this fairly familiar story-arc.

In his program note, Writer/Director Kevin Michael Shea explains that he started working on the story because he is “afraid of being alone,” but also “of being with someone.” This interesting set of conflicting motivations come out in his re-spinning of the story. Continue reading Hero & Leander (Common Descent) 2011 SummerWorks Review