All posts by Sam Mooney

Always a theatre lover Sam realized in middle age that there's more to Toronto theatre than just mainstream and is now in love with one person shows, adores festivals, and quirky venues make her day.

Review: The Sad Blisters (Glass Hammer Productions)

Photo of Esther Thibault and Andrea Lyons sitting downFamily drama play out in The Sad Blisters playing at the Common Space in Toronto

The Sad Blisters is one of those family stories that make you realize that your family may not be the strangest one around and that other people had tougher childhoods than you did. Wait, wait! Keep reading. It isn’t a downer at all. I have a theory that in dysfunctional families with more than two kids, when the chips are down the kids either band together to protect each other or they throw each other under the bus. When they’re adults the ones who protected each other may squabble and disagree but in the end they are always there for each other. On Thursday evening at The Commons Theatre four sisters were there for each other.

They squabbled and laughed and cried and screamed and reminisced along the way. There were hugs and kisses and an attempted strangling and in the end sisterly love prevailed. The late playwright Andrew Batten loosely based the play on his wife’s sisters, one of whom married three times, each time to a man named John. Definitely a good starting place for a story. Batten wrote really authentic women’s voices. My friend Marg, who hadn’t paid attention to the playwright’s name, assumed it was written by a woman. Continue reading Review: The Sad Blisters (Glass Hammer Productions)

Review: Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story (Tarragon Theatre in association with 2b Theatre)

photo of Ben Caplan in Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

I did not want to go out on Wednesday evening; during the day I’d received some not so good news and the idea of trekking to Tarragon to see a play wasn’t particularly appealing. I’m so glad that I went. Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story turned my crappy day into a truly special evening.

It’s a wonderful piece, a hybrid play/concert. Anything by playwright Hannah Moscovitch is pretty much guaranteed to be terrific. Add songs by Ben Caplan and Christian Barry, and you have something remarkable. Director Christian Barry gives us a show that’s tightly paced and emotionally engaging. Continue reading Review: Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story (Tarragon Theatre in association with 2b Theatre)

Review: The Little Prince: Reimagined (Puzzle Piece)

Photo of Richard Lam onstage with paper airplanes being thrown at himThe Little Prince gets a contemporary update in a new family play now on stage in Toronto

A few minutes into the The Little Prince: Reimagined all you can hear is the rustle of paper being folded. Almost everyone in the audience is making a paper airplane. Most people are carefully following Richard Lam’s tutorial from the stage; some are winging it, following some half-remembered instructions from childhood. Kids in the audience seem to be following their adult’s lead.

When the rustling dies down and the chatter picks up Lam invites us to throw the planes at him. It’s a delightful start to a charming play. Continue reading Review: The Little Prince: Reimagined (Puzzle Piece)

Review: New Ideas Festival 2019 – Week 3 (Alumnae Theatre, Ilana Linden, Simone Goldberg and Meredith Heinrich)

Photo of Nance Gibson, Shannon Dickens, Nancy Stewart, Carley Churchill, and Natalie Julien in The Reading CircleToronto’s Alumnae Theatre previews new plays in development at their New Ideas Festival

One of the really nice things about the New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre is that it’s juried. While some of the plays may not be to your taste at least you know that they are chosen because the jury believes they have merit. The festival has been running for 31 years so they’re doing something right.

I always look forward to this opportunity to see new works and works-in-progress from experienced and emerging playwrights. The festival runs for three weeks and each week the format is the same; three or four short pieces make up the main program with a rehearsed reading of a new piece on Saturday at noon. The program is different each week. Continue reading Review: New Ideas Festival 2019 – Week 3 (Alumnae Theatre, Ilana Linden, Simone Goldberg and Meredith Heinrich)

Review: MULES (Theatrefront in association with Hit and Myth)

Image of Eva Barrie & Anita Majumdar in MulesDark comedy Mules is funny yet tragic, playing at the Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre in Toronto

MULES is billed as a dark comedy about friendship and drug smuggling. It is funny but more in the first half of the show. Things get pretty tragic after that. It’s about two women, both of whom have fairly hard lives. Crystal (Eva Barrie) is a single mom, she got pregnant on prom night, who works at a supermarket and is a new mule -a drug smuggler. Cindy (Anita Majumdar) is an exotic dancer, sometime drug dealer, maybe sex worker who doesn’t have a job and owes serious money to her dangerous boyfriend Sully, and is a wannabe trafficker.

The play is about the desperate decisions people will make when they feel powerless and trapped with no way out. Continue reading Review: MULES (Theatrefront in association with Hit and Myth)

Review: Oslo (Studio 180 Theatre production, presented by David Mirvish)

Omar Alex Khan, Sanjay Talwar, Alex Poch-Goldin, Jonas Chernick & Marla McLeanin the Studio 180 Theatre production of OSLO

Exciting negotiations take centre stage in Oslo, playing in Toronto

Oslo – a Studio 180 Theatre production playing at the CAA Theatre as part of the Off-Mirvish Season – is remarkable theatre.

Who would expect that a play about peace negotiations would be so thrilling, engaging, and witty, that almost three hours would pass in what feels like no time?

Continue reading Review: Oslo (Studio 180 Theatre production, presented by David Mirvish)

2019 Progress Review: The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale (Ted Witzel)

Haley McGee in The Ex-Boyfriend Yard SaleAn interactive look at breakup recovery at the 2019 Progress Festival playing in Toronto

Haley McGee’sThe Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale, curated and presented by the red light district and Outside the March for the 2019 Progress Festival, is a lesson on how to turn sentimental value into cold, hard cash. ‘Can’t be done.’ you might say. Yes, it can, and McGee has the formula to prove it. Continue reading 2019 Progress Review: The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale (Ted Witzel)

Review: Mary’s Wedding (Solo Productions, Mary Young Leckie and Derrick Chua)

Kate Ross and Fraser Elsdon Dancing in Mary's Wedding at Streetcar Crowsnest Feb 2019

Mary’s Wedding opened this week at Streetcar Crowsnest. It was first performed in 2002 and even though it’s been performed professionally more than 100 times across Canada and around the world this is the first time it’s been professionally performed in Toronto. Director Kent Staines production is wonderful, worth waiting for.

The play is set just before, during, and just after World War I. It opens with one of the characters, Charlie (Fraser Elsdon) telling the audience that this is June 1920, the night before Mary’s (Kate Ross) wedding and what follows is just a dream. He says that it begins at the end and ends at the beginning. It took me until I was writing this to understand what that meant. Continue reading Review: Mary’s Wedding (Solo Productions, Mary Young Leckie and Derrick Chua)

Review: 1979 (The 1979 Group)

Christopher Hunt as Pierre Trudeau and Philip Riccio as Joe ClarkTight, accessible politics in this engaging Toronto production

Michael Healey’s play, 1979, opened at the Berkeley Street Theatre on Thursday. As I wrote this, I realized that 1979 was 40 years ago. I know that, but I hadn’t really internalized it; to me it feels a lot more recent than that. I’m pretty sure that to a lot of the audience it feels like the olden days. Before the play started, I wondered how many of them would relate to the subject matter: Joe Clark’s short lived term as Prime Minister. Joe Who?

It doesn’t really matter. Political machinations are easy to recognize even if they’re 40 years old. It was great for the older crowd, a walk down a political memory lane. My friend Patricia has always been very involved in the community side of politics and I’ve always been a political observer. This is our kind of play. For younger people, it was terrific political satire. Continue reading Review: 1979 (The 1979 Group)

Review: Every Brilliant Thing (Canadian Stage)

Photo o f Kristen Thomson in Every Brilliant Thing, torontoThis audience participation-heavy play on stage at Toronto’s Berkeley Street Theatre is a delight

The two things that are central to Every Brilliant Thing are a list of wonderful things that make life worth living, and audience participation – which would never make any list of mine. Director Brendan Healy and actor Kristen Thomson make audience participation – a lot of participation – seem normal by making the audience a necessary part of the play. It would be fair to bill it as “Every Brilliant Thing featuring Kristen Thomson and 50 audience members”.

Healy makes the play feel unusual by staging it in the round and having the lights on through the performance. It’s a very bare bones set, just the stage with a few strings of light bulbs overhead, so it doesn’t feel particularly theatrical. It felt more like a lecture theatre. As they arrive, some members of the audience are given a slip of paper with a number and a word or phrase on it. When Thomson says a number whoever has it reads what’s on their paper. Audience members are also chosen to be a vet, the father, a teacher, a professor, and a boyfriend. They all do fine jobs. Continue reading Review: Every Brilliant Thing (Canadian Stage)