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: 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)

Review: Escaped Alone (Soulpepper and Necessary Angel Theatre)

Photo of Kyra Harper, Brenda Robins, Clare Coulter, and Maria Vacratsis

When you’re a woman over 60 you rarely have an opportunity to see a character like yourself on stage. If you do they’re usually playing a minor part. What a gift to see the Soulpepper / Necessary Angel production of Caryl Churchill’s 2016 play, Escaped Alone. There are four characters in the play, all women, all over 60.

Churchill was 79 when she wrote the play. In it the characters are over 70. It’s wonderful because we see fabulous actors that we don’t very often get to see in ‘big’ parts any more. Continue reading Review: Escaped Alone (Soulpepper and Necessary Angel Theatre)

Review: Secret Life of a Mother (The SLOM Collective and The Theatre Centre)

Photo of Maev Beaty in Secret Life of a Mother October 2018Secret Life of a Mother is a ” jewel of a play” on the Toronto stage

You should get your tickets for Secret Life of a Mother right now. While you’re at it, get one for your friend. The one who says she doesn’t like ‘theatre’, — “all that drama and those fake sounding voices.” It’s playing at The Theatre Centre and it’s wonderful. I loved it. You’ll love it. Your friend who doesn’t like things that feel dramatic will love it.

It’s hard for me to think of this as a play. Even though it was in a theatre with an audience it felt like an intimate evening with close friends, sharing stories about pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, and being a mother, the way that good friends do. Continue reading Review: Secret Life of a Mother (The SLOM Collective and The Theatre Centre)

Review: Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua (Theatre Passe Muraille)

Photo of Pearle Harbour in Tent at Theatre Passe MuraillePearle Harbour’s variety show meets self-help seminar is now on stage at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille

Are you ready to feel safe? To feel loved? To feel happy? Come on up to Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua at Theatre Passe Muraille and feel great, for 80 minutes. And smile every time you think about it afterwards.

The show is a combination of the best an old-time revival meeting, a self-help seminar, and a variety show. You might ask ‘does Pearle Harbour really make every single person in the audience feel as if she loves you?’ You betcha! Except when, every now and again, the ‘mask’ slips and you might wonder, just a tiny little bit, if she really does. Continue reading Review: Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua (Theatre Passe Muraille)

Review: The Nether (Coal Mine Theatre Studio 180 Theatre)

Photo of David Storch A dark play about the impact of technology on human relationships is now on stage in Toronto

The Nether, playing at Coal Mine Theatre, is the first joint production between Coal Mine Theatre and Studio 180 Theatre. I hope it’s not the last. It’s an exceptional production, a study in contrasts. Given that Jennifer Haley is a playwright whose work “delves into ethics in virtual reality and the impact of technology on our human relationships, identity, and desire” it’s no surprise that the play leaves us asking ourselves some tough questions.

Before you decide to see The Nether, and maybe even before you read this review, you should definitely read the Audience Advisory. Continue reading Review: The Nether (Coal Mine Theatre Studio 180 Theatre)

Review: A Little Black Lie (Crossfieldhouse Productions)

Photo of the cast of Little Black LieTroy Crossfield’s new play; a live “soap opera” is playing at Toronto’s Berkeley Street Theatre

After I got home from seeing A Little Black Lie at the Berkeley Street Theatre I took a minute to look at the program. In the playwright notes Troy Crossfield says “Looks like we’re creating a soap opera and you get front tickets.” He’s referring to his play, A Little White Lie which was on stage a year ago. It’s referenced a fair bit in A Little Black Lie but you don’t need to have seen it, the references are self-explanatory.

He’s right for a couple of reasons. While I was watching the play last night I thought more than once that it should be a TV show or a movie or three plays. Continue reading Review: A Little Black Lie (Crossfieldhouse Productions)

Review: Dry Land (Cue6 Theatre)

Photo of Mattie Driscoll in Dry LandToronto’s Cue6 Theatre presents Ruby Rae Spiegel play taking on teen abortion

Cue6 Theatre’s production of Dry Land opened on Friday at The Assembly Theatre. Playwright Ruby Rae Spiegel was only 21 when the play was first produced. One of the things that motivated her was reading an article about the rise of DIY abortions. Given the changes to the laws in the U.S. over the past few years it’s a timely topic. It’s one we can’t afford to ignore here either. Unfortunately.

This makes it sound as if Dry Land is a political play. It isn’t. The publicity says it’s a play about “abortion, female friendship, and resiliency“. It’s funny, and agonizing, and wonderful. My friend Marg and I both loved it. Continue reading Review: Dry Land (Cue6 Theatre)

Review: Bed and Breakfast (Soulpepper)

Photo of Gregory Prest and Paolo Santalucia in Bed and Breakfast, SoulpepperSoulpepper Theatre brings Delightful Bed and Breakfast to the Toronto Stage.

Soulpepper has extended their production of Mark Crawford’s play, Bed and Breakfast, to September 8th. It’s easy to see why. It’s very funny, very fast, and it has 21 characters played by two actors – Gregory Prest as Brett and Paolo Santalucia as Drew – who change characters in the blink of an eye.

It’s also fairly long for a new play, two hours and twenty minutes with an intermission. I was concerned that it might be too much for my rather short attention span. Not at all. I was engaged from beginning to end. In fact, I didn’t want it to end. Continue reading Review: Bed and Breakfast (Soulpepper)

The Artist’s Children (NTS Drama Festival and SummerWorks) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Photo from The Artist's Children, Summerworks 2018

In the SummerWorks program it said that The Artist’s Children by Liv Hussey would receive ‘a play workshop reading’. I interpreted that as a staged reading. I’ve enjoyed the staged readings that I’ve seen in the past so chances were I would like this. I did. It doesn’t feel appropriate to review a reading but it was lovely and I was glad I was there.

It was presented by SummerWorks in partnership with The NTS Drama Festival – Ontario, formerly Sears Ontario Drama Festival. It’s an annual adjudicated student drama festival. Hussey was in high school when she wrote the play for which she won awards in the 2018 festival. Continue reading The Artist’s Children (NTS Drama Festival and SummerWorks) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Box 4901 (timeshare) 2018 SummerWorks Review

Photo of mail from Box 4091 at SummerWorks 2018

Are you old enough to remember ads in the personals, life before online dating? Brian Francis is. In Box 4091, part of SummerWorks, he answers 13 replies to an ad he placed in the London Free Press in 1992 when he was 21. He found the letters recently and reread them. He hadn’t responded to them at the time, for various reasons. To me, it’s amazing that he kept the letters in the first place.

Francis starts with some background about why he placed the ad, about how difficult it was to live in a house with four straight men, that it was hard to meet other men, and that he was only emerging from the closet, not everyone knew he was gay.

Continue reading Box 4901 (timeshare) 2018 SummerWorks Review