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: Never Swim Alone (Don’t Look Down Theatre Company)

beach with clothes, Never Swim AloneA zany battle of words and wits between two alpha opponents takes the stage in Toronto

Daniel MacIvor‘s play Never Swim Alone opened on Friday at The Commons Theatre. It’s produced by the two year old Don’t Look Down Theatre Company and it’s the first play they’ve produced that they didn’t write. It was a big night for them. They did a fine job.

The play is a 75-minute stylized 13 round match between two alpha males, Bill (Ryan James) and Frank (Cedric Martin) who were childhood best friends, to see who is “the first man”. The Referee (Tyshia Drake) oversees the contest and determines the winner of each round. Continue reading Review: Never Swim Alone (Don’t Look Down Theatre Company)

Review: Heisenberg (Canadian Stage)

David Schurmann and Carly Street in HeisenbergThis tale of a chance meeting is charming and “gently funny”, on stage in Toronto

The Canadian Stage production of Simon StephensHeisenberg had its Canadian premiere at the Berkeley Street Theatre on Thursday. It’s the final play that Matthew Jocelyn is directing as Artistic and General Director and it’s a terrific note to end on.

The play is an unconventional love story that unfolds on an almost bare stage. There is nothing to distract from the acting which makes or breaks the piece, and the acting was fabulous. Continue reading Review: Heisenberg (Canadian Stage)

Review: A&R Angels (Crow’s Theatre)

Graham Cuthbertson, Kevin Drew, Ben Kowalewicz, and Maurice Dean Wint in A&R AngelsBroken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew debuts his new play A&R Angels at Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre

If I were giving a prize for the funniest, darkest opening scene in a play I’ve seen this year it would go to Crow’s Theatre production of A&R Angels, playing at Streetcar Crowsnest.

A man (Gordon S. Miller who is terrific as two “suiciders”) walks into a room, drinking a Slurpee. He finishes the drink, puts the cup on a table, climbs on a chair, and slips a noose around his neck. Enter the angels! Continue reading Review: A&R Angels (Crow’s Theatre)

Review: trace (Factory Theatre and b current performing arts)

Jeff Ho in traceToronto-based performer Jeff Ho interweaves piano with narrative storytelling in his play trace

Jeff Ho wrote, composed, and performs trace, a one person chamber play about his family, playing at Factory Studio Theatre. Ho is a talented musician as well as being a talented actor and both skills shine in this piece about three generations of women in his family.

The women, his great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother, are strong, granite-hard women, willing to do what is necessary to make a better life for their family. It’s a fascinating story. Continue reading Review: trace (Factory Theatre and b current performing arts)

Review: Grimly Handsome (Theatre Animal)

Ben Sanders, Julia Course, and Jeff Irving in Grimly HandsomeStrange but “unlike anything” play takes to the Toronto stage

In keeping with my decision to see plays that sound like they may be outside my comfort zone, I saw Grimly Handsome on Saturday evening at The Assembly Theatre. The press release describes the playwright Julia Jarcho as “a queen of experimental mayhem”–not something I’d usually choose.

It was outside my comfort zone, but not for any reason I might have anticipated. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure that I understood it. I saw it on my own because my friend had a family medical emergency, and I didn’t have anyone to talk with afterwards to help clarify my thinking. Not much in the way of eavesdropping either. The only thing I heard was the woman behind me say, “That was weird. I liked it though. But it was weird.” Continue reading Review: Grimly Handsome (Theatre Animal)

Review: Thirteen Hands (Alumnae Theatre)

Sandi Globerman as Clara in Thirteen HandsAlumnae Theatre presents a series of vignettes exploring generations and connections in Toronto

Do you play Bridge? Maybe your mother did. My grandmother did and I kept thinking about her as I watched Thirteen Hands at Alumnae Theatre on Wednesday night. Carol Shields wrote the play in 1993 and it holds up well. It’s about women connecting, developing friendships, and supporting each other. These things are timeless.

I have to admit that I don’t play Bridge – I can barely play Old Maid, I’m definitely card challenged – and I don’t know anyone who does. Is it still a thing? A weekly Bridge night? It doesn’t matter, the play evoked such wonderful memories for me. Continue reading Review: Thirteen Hands (Alumnae Theatre)

Review: The Chance (Leroy Street Theatre)

Fiona Reid, Claire Burn and Anne van Leeuwen in The ChanceThe Chance, playing at the Assembly Theatre in Toronto, feels “real” with “true” interactions

Hands up anyone else who has never seen a play by George F. Walker. Nor had I until Saturday when I saw the world premier of The Chance at The Assembly Theatre. I’m not sure why I hadn’t seen any of his plays before this, it wasn’t a conscious decision; more a case of never being in the right place at the right time.

Now that I’ve seen one I’m looking forward to seeing more. The Chance is funny, suspenseful, and a social commentary that never hits you over the head. It has strippers, bad guys, mistaken identity, a moral decision, a dead guy, cell phones, and a loan shark. Continue reading Review: The Chance (Leroy Street Theatre)

Review: Bello (Young People’s Theatre)

Gabriel Gagnon, Nicole St. Martin and Morgan Yamada in Bello at YPTYoung People’s Theatre presents Bello, a folktale with scary moments, on stage in Toronto

On Wednesday afternoon my grandson Desmond and I went to see Bello at Young People’s Theatre. It’s billed as suitable for kids from six to nine years old. Desmond is six years and three weeks old. It was his expert opinion that one of the classes attending the performance was a kindergarten class and that the kids weren’t six yet. They seemed to manage just fine.

Bello is essentially a folktale “about a time when there were no phones, no cars, and no light bulbs…” and a young boy named Bern who gets lost in the snow on his way back from school. Continue reading Review: Bello (Young People’s Theatre)

Review: Unapologetically Me: Sharron’s Cabaret For Kids (Young People’s Theatre)

Sharron Matthews in Unapologetically MeSharron’s Cabaret is fun and lively with an engaging message, on stage in Toronto

On Thursday afternoon my grandkid Max and I headed to Young People’s Theatre to see Unapologetically Me: Sharron’s Cabaret For Kids. It’s recommended for kids aged 9-11. Max is only 8¾ but it was fine.

The Sharron in the title is Sharron Matthews and she does a great cabaret around the theme of being yourself. She’s an amazing singer, always a good thing in a cabaret. More than that though, she was so comfortable with the kids in the audience; she was like a really cool aunt who says things your parents don’t say and is funny but tells you important stuff. Continue reading Review: Unapologetically Me: Sharron’s Cabaret For Kids (Young People’s Theatre)

Review: Life After (Canadian Stage, The Musical Stage Company, and Yonge Street Theatricals)

 Ellen Denny Dan Chameroy and Trish Lindstrom in Life AfterBritta Johnson’s musical Life After brings a cast of incredible performers to the Toronto stage

Britta Johnson’s musical, Life After, co-produced by The Musical Stage Company, Yonge Street Theatricals and Canadian Stage, opened at the Berkeley Street Theatre on Thursday. It’s a strong production with powerful music and a really contemporary feel while at the same time giving a nod to traditional musicals.

My daughter Megan came with me. I love going to shows with her. I’m all about what I feel and think after a show. Meg knows why she feels and thinks it. Articulating the ‘why’ is my challenge. We both really enjoyed the show. The audience joined us in weeping, a lovely change for me, but it’s not all tears, there’s lots of laughter. Continue reading Review: Life After (Canadian Stage, The Musical Stage Company, and Yonge Street Theatricals)