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: Cash Me If You Can (Horse and Hound Productions)

Picture of Patrick Combs at ATM in Cash Me If You Can in Toronto

Patrick Combs took on a bank and won. Cash Me If You Can is his story and he’s telling it at the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre. It’s a great story and he tells it well. Which is to be expected; he’s been telling it to a lot of people for a while now.

When Combs was 29 he got one of those junk mail cheques in his mail. The kind we’ve all received, part of a ‘you can get rich too’ pitch. It was payable to him in the amount of $95,095.33, drawn on a real bank, signed, and had “NOT NEGOTIABLE FOR CASH” printed in the top right corner. He decided to deposit it as a joke. The show is the story of what happened after that.

It took me a little bit to get into the show. Combs opened with a really lame joke which had the effect of making me less than receptive to the first five or ten minutes. He has a boyish charm that’s hard to resist and I warmed up to his performance.

There are two pieces to Cash Me If You Can; Combs’ story and his performance.

The thing that makes the story great is that the banks actions are exactly what you would expect from a bank in a situation like this. Combs’ actions will, at times, probably have you wondering if he was terminally naive – things like giving the bank a third ultimate ultimatum just boggled my mind.

As well as performing. Combs also wrote the show. It’s funny, some of the humour is self-deprecating, some of it is slap your knee funny. It’s written in the voice of a 29 year old without a lot of experience dealing with corporate life.

Combs performs it as himself at 29. I mentioned the boyish charm and naivete, there’s something quite endearing about Patrick at 29. There’s also a lot of initiative which foreshadows his success as a television personality and a motivational speaker. There were a couple of times that he veered into motivational speaking territory during the show. They were very short but his voice and body language changed during them.

He has excellent comedic timing and knows the value of a well placed catch phrase, in this case “money talks, doesn’t it?” when he got through to the people he wanted on the phone after initially being told they weren’t in.

His costume choices reinforced the persona, jeans and T-shirts with great graphics. One said “As seen on TV”.

The set was interesting. On the far right side of the stage there was a sofa with a coffee table and a side table. The couch and tables were pretty much there to hold props; a page-a-day calendar, mail, and a 1990s telephone.

There was a very funny slow motion sequence where he pulled off pages from the calendar to show a long time passing slowly.

There was a big screen at the back of the stage that projected locations; the ATM machine where he deposited the cheque, stacks in a law library, the lobby of a big bank. It was an effective way to set the scene.

Combs delivers a relaxed, solid performance. He uses the stage well, keeps moving enough that everyone has a good chance to see him. He integrates the props well, the backdrop grounds the show in time and place. There’s music to help with that. He really uses all the tools at his disposal in a way that I don’t often see with solo performers. I was impressed.

Cash Me If You Can is a fun evening. Lot’s of laughs and an interesting story. A nice break from holiday season preparations.

Details:

Cash Me If You Can is playing until December 21 at the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)

Shows run at 8pm, with matinees at 2pm on Saturdays and Sunday December 15

Tickets range from $49 to $69

Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-538-0988, or in person at the box office

Review: The Election (Theatre Passe Muraille presents a Common Boots Theatre Production in Association with Nightwood Theatre and Theatre Direct)

Photo of the cast of The Election, timely play about election campaign volunteersYou can’t vote at The Election at Theatre Passe Muraille, but you’ll laugh

The Election opened at Theatre Passe Muraille on Friday. “Huh?” I can hear you thinking, “I’m pretty sure the election is on October 21st.” Yes, the Federal Election is on Monday, October 21st. That’s not the election I’m talking about. This is a play is about volunteering for federal candidates in the 2015 election.

My friend Patricia has a lot of experience working on federal political campaigns, both as a staffer and a volunteer. It made sense for me to ask her to come with me, I don’t know anything about volunteering for a campaign. She said that the campaign office parts of the play were true to life. It reinforced why I don’t volunteer to work election campaigns.

Continue reading Review: The Election (Theatre Passe Muraille presents a Common Boots Theatre Production in Association with Nightwood Theatre and Theatre Direct)

Review: Girl From the North Country (David Mirvish)

Photo of Katie Brayben and Shak Taylor dancing together in Girl from the North CountryBob Dylan musical is “dramatically beautiful,” now on stage in Toronto

It’s a mistake to expect Girl from the North Country — playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre — to be a musical. It’s a play with singing and some dancing. With a couple of exceptions, the songs are sung to the audience, not by one character to another the way they usually are in musicals. Playwright Conor McPherson says it’s “a conversation between the songs and the story.”

Simon Hale’s superb arrangements of 20 Bob Dylan songs — or sometimes parts of songs — as solo and ensemble pieces bring new depth to old favourites like “Slow Train”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, and “Forever Young.” And the music is just part of what makes the play terrific.

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Review: The Rocky Horror Show (Hart House Theatre)

Photo pf cast of The Rocky Horror ShowRocky Horror is a rollicking good time, complete with audience participation and inclusive casting

I wasn’t sure what to expect Friday evening when I arrived at Hart House Theatre to see The Rocky Horror Show. I was a Rocky Horror virgin!

Yes, I saw the movie, but that was years ago. It was also before the rituals: throwing toast, confetti, and rice; the water guns; the callbacks; and the audience costumes. I’m not a costume girl. No projectiles or water guns were allowed at this performance, but callbacks were encouraged, and there were lots of other people not wearing costumes. Great! I could relax and enjoy.

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Review: No Foreigners (Hong Kong Exile and fu-Gen Theatre Production)

photo silouette of 2 artist mannequins advertising No Foreigners playing at The Theatre Centre Toronto

“No Foreigners” is an innovative work with a beautiful dreamlike quality.

No Foreigners could be the exemplar for theatre collaboration; presented by The Theatre Centre, it’s a Hong Kong Exile and fu-GEN Theatre Production created by Natalie Tin Yin Gan, Milton Lim, Remy Siu and David Yee with April Leung and Derek Chan credited as co-creators.

The multimedia performance is set in a Chinese mall – like the Pacific Mall – and is a series of vignettes that are made by projecting small models through cameras onto a large screen. The dialogue is in Cantonese and English with English text at the top of the screen. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Continue reading Review: No Foreigners (Hong Kong Exile and fu-Gen Theatre Production)