All posts by Mara Gulens

Review: Hogtown (The Hogtown Collective)

Hogtown is immersive theatre celebrating Toronto history playing at the Campbell House

HogtownHogtown is precisely the kind of theatre experience this city needs. With no end in sight to our beautifying and building boom, doting reviews from around the world, and a renewed self-love (how many selfies have you taken at City Hall’s new Toronto sign?), it’s about time we had a production that’s about the history of our fair city.

It’s also wonderful to have a team forego the play-on-a-stage route to take a creative risk with an immersive, site-specific production. From the moment you step into Toronto’s historic Campbell House, it’s 1925 and you’re a ghost to the past, witnessing the stories unfolding.

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Review: Harper Regan (Canadian Stage)

Molly Parker takes to the Canadian Stage in Harper Regan at the St Lawrence Centre in Toronto

Harper Regan

Expectations run high when a big ticket’s in town, especially when it’s Canadian-born, House of Cards star Molly Parker, currently heading up Canadian Stage’s Harper Regan.

Parker’s face is plastered on billboards across the city, and it’s difficult to keep your eyes off her when she’s on stage. Will she deliver the same sexy deviousness as she does in the Netflix mega-hit?

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Review: Midsummer (a play with songs) (Théâtre français de Toronto)

Midsummer (a play with songs) is “a night of Toronto theatre that becomes a trip around the world”

It’s not often the drama gods raise the curtain on two similar yet completely different productions in one week.

On Tuesday I took in the all-Canadian version of the Tony-award-winning Once. On Wednesday I was immersed in Midsummer (a play with songs) where Scotland stands in for Ireland, and English surtitles interpret French. Both plays revolve around a man, woman and songs. Plus guitar. Plus love.

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Review: The Seagull (Crow’s Theatre)

Canadian Stage with Crow’s Theatre bring the Anton Chekhov classic to life in Toronto

Crow’s Theatre had me with the trailer: super-stellar cast making toasts around a dining table, up close interviews with actors, and sneak peeks of the stage. I had to see The Seagull.

Opening night, a cold Toronto winter night. The stage is bare, the air is smokey, there’s the sound of crickets chirping in the distance. For the next three hours, the audience was pulled into the 1895 world of Anton Chekhov: hurting with the hurt while digging deeply into love, life and the meaning of art. Continue reading Review: The Seagull (Crow’s Theatre)

Review: Scotland Road (Amicus Productions)

The Titanic is revisited in a survivor’s story in Scotland Road playing at Toronto’s Papermill Theatre

A line at the end of Scotland Road says it all: “You’re nostalgic for a disaster you never knew.” Yes. We. Are.

Even after a blockbuster movie, underwater documentaries and interactive artifact exhibits where you pick a card that determines whether you live or die, we still trek across icy parking lots (how appropriate!) to a relatively unknown playhouse in the depths of Toronto’s Don Valley to witness yet another rendition of the Titanic story.

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Review: The Little Mermaid (Ross Petty Productions)

Witty Toronto references fill this version of The Little Mermaid, a fun play for the family, at the Elgin Theatre

Of the dozens of references to contemporary culture in Ross Petty Productions’ pantomime The Little Mermaid, my 12-year-old theatre companion got all but one. Indeed, I explained “the vibrating thing in the handbag” to her.

But it was me who repeatedly leaned over to ask her who was the original singer of some hit song or where a funny quote came from. “Ontario’s O-fish-al family Musical!” is so smack-dab 2013 that you might need a junior translator to get it.

Fortunately, The Little Mermaid is just as thick with allusions to current day Toronto politics that adults have enough to keep them busy. It also features a stellar cast that makes for no regrets that you’re not up the street at the other “Dalt Wisney” production.

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Review: The Valley (Tarragon Theatre)

A complex story of parenting, mental illness and policing play out in The Valley at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre

There’s a painful moment in Tarragon Theatre‘s The Valley when time stops. “I don’t know how to feel better,” says one of the characters.

I won’t tell you which one (I’m not even sure I remember). The play features a cop, a teenager and two mothers.

It’s about the hot button issues we hear about in the media all the time – mental illness, parenting, policing. There’s a complex overlap between those of us hurting and those aiming to serve and protect (whether at home or on the streets). Pain is real to all of us. Continue reading Review: The Valley (Tarragon Theatre)

Review: A Few Brittle Leaves (The Cabaret Company)

A Few Brittle Leaves

In A Few Brittle Leaves, the women are men, the men are gay, and for this straight, female theatre reviewer, the play’s self-proclaimed exploration of aging gracefully is just as important as the question: how the heck do those guys do it?

Gavin Crawford of This Hour has 22 Minutes fame plays Viola Pie, the straight-laced half of two spinster sisters living in the classical, English town of Upsydownsyshire. Crawford’s portrayal is absolutely straight and totally real. If I hadn’t known who was who, seriously, I would have thought the woman on stage was female.

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Review: Blue Planet (Young People’s Theatre)

An eco-aware theatrical production return’s to Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre

Blue Planet 2

Lots has changed since YPT’s highly successful world premiere of Andri Snær Magnason’s Blue Planet eight years ago.

Eco-awareness is everywhere – in our 5c plastic shopping bags and our reusable water bottles. The movie Hunger Games, pitting kids against kids, has given us a nasty take on childhood drama. And flying is ubiquitous: it’s no longer surprising to see actors soaring across the stage.

Which makes remounting Blue Planet a challenge. How do you go beyond the accolades? How do you engage a young audience that’s spending more and more time online and less and less in the real world?

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