All posts by Jennifer McKinley

Review: Abyss (Tarragon Theatre)

Abyss, Tarragon Theatre

Tarragon Theatre presents the English-language premiere of Maria Milisavljevic’s play Abyss in Toronto

Abyss, playing at Tarragon Extraspace, is a dark thriller about a young woman who goes missing and her three friends who try to find her. I was immediately drawn to the mystery of the play, the vanishing woman theme has preoccupied me for several years. I was also compelled by the setting and the backstories of the three main characters, who are immigrants or children of immigrants from Serbia and Croatia to Germany.

Abyss begins the night Karla Richter goes missing and it is told from the perspective of the narrator, Karla’s boyfriend’s roommate. The police are unhelpful during the first week of Karla’s disappearance and the three friends, the narrator, the narrator’s sister and Karla’s roommate, Sophia, and Karla’s boyfriend, Vlado, take it upon themselves to find her. Tensions rise, mysteries reveal themselves and the bonds of relationships are tested throughout the course of a very cold and bleak month. Continue reading Review: Abyss (Tarragon Theatre)

Review: Fishskin Trousers (Cart/Horse Theatre)

Fishskin Trousers

Three personal stories intertwine in Fishskin Trousers on stage at the Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto

Fishskin Trousers is a play told in three stories by three different people in three different time periods. Walking into Theatre Passe Muraille’s backspace felt like we were docking on a waterfront as the sound of lapping waves and haunting cello notes set the mood. A carpet of fishskin is moored to the edge of the stage and three chairs sit in a diagonal line inviting the storytellers in to share their tales.

Enter Mab, Ben and Mog. Mab is a servant at Orford Castle in 1173. Ben is an Australian radar scientist on assignment at the Ness in 1973. Mog is a teacher who returns to her home on the Ness in 2003 to make a very important life decision. Continue reading Review: Fishskin Trousers (Cart/Horse Theatre)

Review: Fabrik: The Legend of M. Rabinowitz (Wakka Wakka Productions/Norland Visual Theatre)


MR with Boots High ResActors and puppetry bring life to Fabrik: The Legend of M Rabinowitz on stage at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

On Thursday night, I trekked to North York to see Fabrik: The Legend of M. Rabinowitz at the Toronto Centre For The Arts. Fabrik is the story of Moritz Rabinowitz, a renowned Jewish tailor in Norway and his life as a businessman, husband, father and political pundit. The story is set against the backdrop of pre-World War II Europe, when the global economic crisis was paving the way for political extremism and a rising tide of antisemitism.

Fabrik is very much about the Jewish experience at a very crucial time in European history. Rather than being a pedantic lesson, Fabrik is a touching, humorous and candid glimpse of one man in extraordinary circumstances. We observe the titular character as boisterous and full of life as he manages and expands his business, negotiates a less-than-perfect relationship with his wife and watches his daughter grow up, marry and start a family of her own.

We see Rabinowitz rally against restrictive political and economic policies levied against Jewish people. His writing inevitably makes him the target of the invading Nazis and he is captured, imprisoned and murdered. Pretty heavy stuff. Enter the puppets. Continue reading Review: Fabrik: The Legend of M. Rabinowitz (Wakka Wakka Productions/Norland Visual Theatre)

Fringe Town Hall Meeting: Notes From The Underground

Last week’s Toronto Fringe Town Hall meeting may have been light on attendees but it was heavy on productive conversation, including remote contributions from friends via Twitter. Everyone in attendance was encouraged to raise questions and concerns and to share commentary as Kelly Straughan, the Executive Director, ran the show.

First up was a report on the success of the 2014 festival. Last year was a record breaker for Toronto Fringe: the highest selling festival in the organization’s history. No small feat. The Fringe Club was another success as evidenced by artist and audience feedback as well as bar sales $15,000 higher than expected.

We didn’t wait long before addressing the BIGGEST change: ticket sales. This past year, Fringe introduced a new ticketing policy where 100% of show tickets were made available for purchase in advance. In previous years, 50% of tickets were available in advance while 50% went on sale at the door starting one hour before show time. Continue reading Fringe Town Hall Meeting: Notes From The Underground

Preview: New Groundswell Festival (Nightwood Theatre)

Nightwood Theatre presents the New Groundswell Festival in Toronto’s Distillery District

Nicole-Brooks-720x540Women and theatre, power, politics and feminism: these are a few of my favourite things and they are all on offer at the New Groundswell Festival: A National Festival of Contemporary Women’s Theatre. Groundswell is a festival of new works presented by Nightwood Theatre and it is taking place in the Distillery District from September 8-14.

There are two workshop productions this year. Playing in the Dancemakers Theatre is Obeah Opera, performed a cappella by an impressively large all-female cast. Obeah Opera tells the story of the legendary Salem Witch Trials from the unique perspective of enslaved African women.

With Individual Desire is playing down the hall in The Ernest Balmer Studio. Famed bad-girl American poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and her mother Cora spend two months together in a secluded farmhouse near Dorset after Millay flees Paris in this theatrical imagining of what transpired. Continue reading Preview: New Groundswell Festival (Nightwood Theatre)

Review: Shakespeare In The Park-As You Like It (Canadian Stage)

Shakespeare’s Gender-Bending As You Like It Opens In High Park

I attended Tuesday night’s performance of As You Like It a little daunted as it’s been a while since I’ve seen Shakespeare live and because I’ve never read the play. As a young person, it took about one act before I became somewhat comfortable with the language of Renaissance England. I was pleasantly surprised by the accessibility of Canadian Stage’s production.

As You Like It is a comedy full of romance, intrigue and gender reversal. Frederick usurps his older brother’s kingdom, banishes him to the woods and allows his daughter, Rosalind, to remain at court to keep her cousin, Celia, company. The usurping duke fears Rosalind will overtake him and forces her into exile as well.

Meanwhile, Orlando, youngest son of Sir Roland de Boys, is ousted by his oldest brother and meets Rosalind while in a wrestling match at court. The two fall in love, but under the threat of death, flee the royal court. Continue reading Review: Shakespeare In The Park-As You Like It (Canadian Stage)

Parallel Play (Parallel Play Productions) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

Parallel Play

Parallel Play is a dynamic sketch comedy show starring Elvira Kurt and Megan Fahlenbock playing at Tarragon Extraspace at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival. The show simulates the cycle of life; it begins with a scene in vitro and ends with the death of ‘Brain’. Parallel Play is whip smart, achingly neurotic and unequivocally hilarious. Continue reading Parallel Play (Parallel Play Productions) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

An Ode To Dyads (Fishbowl Collective) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

ode to dyads

An Ode To Dyads is a compact dance theatre piece performed by Hannah Kaya and Connor Spencer at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival. The performance explores the dyadic relationship between two beings in a strange world where the passage of time and emotional shifts are dictated by a single ring of a kitchen timer. This is a world with its own specific logic that may not make sense immediately to the audience but is very clear for the onstage duo. Continue reading An Ode To Dyads (Fishbowl Collective) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

Elvis and Dick (Bear Productions) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

Elvis and Dick

Elvis and Dick is a fun, musical imagining of what transpired between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon during their historic Oval Office meeting in December 1970, when Elvis expressed his interest in becoming a federal agent at large for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. The show is playing at Tarragon Mainspace as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival.

Continue reading Elvis and Dick (Bear Productions) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review

Strapless (Nutmeg Creations and Strapless Comedy) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review


Strapless is a sketch comedy revue featuring a quartet of performers. It’s playing at the George Ignatieff Theatre as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival. The all-female cast performs a series of sixteen sketches covering a range of topics, including the good, the bad and the ugly of relationships, pop and performance culture, and what women (and men) want. Continue reading Strapless (Nutmeg Creations and Strapless Comedy) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review