All posts by Stephen Lubin

Review: The Valley (Don’t Look Down)

Four people on a black backdrop, looking somber.A play by Joan MacLeod igniting conversations about mental health is now on stage in Toronto

The Valley by Don’t Look Down Theatre Company hopes to ignite conversations about mental health. It’s taking place in Theatre Passe Muraille’s (16 Ryerson Ave.) backspace until September 23, 2018 and I thought it made for a memorable show.

The Passe Muraille Backspace is tiny and chilly from the AC. The tough content of this show certainly won’t warm you, but perhaps the dialogue it inspires will. This is a show about four characters in Vancouver and how their lives are affected by mental illness.

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COCONUTS, CEDAR TREES, AND MAPLE LEAVES (Habib Siam and Jean Paul) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Habib Siam and Jean Paul by David Cyr at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival.

If you’re looking for laughs at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival, look no further than COCONUTS, CEDAR TREES, AND MAPLE LEAVES, playing at Sarah’s Bar and Cafe. (1426 Danforth Ave.).

It’s funny that I’ve often heard Fringe described as having “everything” in casual conversation, yet COCONUTS, CEDAR TREES, AND MAPLE LEAVES is the first stand-up show I’ve seen at the festival in three years of writing reviews. I really enjoyed this show, and thought that its medium and tone made it stand out among the countless other Fringe shows that I’ve seen before.

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Lighters In The Air (Dive Bar Theatre) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Natalia Bushnik, Raechel Fisher, Anna Douglas, Taylor Whittaker, Amanda Silcoff, Cody Crain, Olaf Sham, Belinda Corpuz, Kris Hagen at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival

If you have a love of open-mics, be they musical or comedy, then you will absolutely want to check out Lighters In The Air produced by Dive Bar Theatre and playing at the Monarch Tavern as part of the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival.

If you don’t care for open-mics but enjoy theatre and live music, you will probably enjoy this show nonetheless, because everyone performing is exceptionally polished. And if you’ve never been to an open mic, then prepare to have the bar for your open-mic expectations set ridiculously high.

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Review: Brighton Beach Memoirs (Harold Green)

“Tight, well-acted, and deeply poignant” play now on stage in Toronto

If you’re in the mood for a coming-of-age classic, Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs is being put on by the Harold Green Theatre Company until June 10, 2018.

When I walked into the Greenwin Theatre with my friend Zack, we were immediately impressed by the beautiful set, a Depression Era home with two levels and every detail accounted for. It pulls you into the show, which is part of Neil Simon’s Eugene Trilogy: a semi-autobiographical series of plays covering the life of the famous playwrights’ surrogate, Eugene Jerome. Brighton Beach Memoirs is the first of the series, and it details events in Eugene’s teenage life.

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Overview: Toronto Sketchfest

Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival brings laughs to the Toronto stage!

The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is on this week until March 11th, and it’s an absolute romp. If you get the chance, then you have to check out at least one of the many hilarious shows being put on throughout the city. I was lucky enough to see two at the Comedy Bar this past weekend.

Leaning on a high-chair, watching sketches with a pint of beer is very much my speed. Sketch and stand-up comedy are my jam, and I was very excited at the opportunity to kick back and give an overview of the festival, repping Toronto’s fantastic scene with locations you’ll rarely see in theatre reviews. There’s always something going on in the city, and I’d recommend a visit to one of our many comedy clubs anytime, but Sketchfest really is something to catch while you can.

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Review: Titus Andronicus (Hart House Theatre)

Hart House Theatre presents The Bard’s bloodiest tragedy, on stage in Toronto

Titus Andronicus, the bloodiest and possibly most infamous of Shakespeare’s tragedies is onstage now at Hart House Theatre. You won’t see this show being put on very often, so if you’re up for some particularly repulsive content, this is your chance.

To be honest, I knew little of Titus Andronicus going into this review, and I made a conscious decision to keep it that way. It seemed like a real treat to experience one of the bards’ tales with a fresh perspective. My guest Arun, despite being a seasoned actor who’s been in multiple Shakespeare productions, went in with a similar mindset. We were both excited going into Hart House theatre.

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Review: Krapp’s Last Tape (Theatre Passe Muraille)

This one-man show is “haunting” and “resonating”, at the Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto

Krapp’s Last Tape is a short play by Samuel Beckett about an old man looking back on a life lived alone and less-than-well. It isn’t the sort of thing you want to watch by yourself after being cancelled on twice, but that was my situation this past weekend. My friends missed out though, because Theatre Passe Muraille’s production makes for a spectacular and deeply intimate show.

Without a doubt, this is the best use of the Passe-Muraille’s Backspace that I’ve seen. Normally, the shows I see there come from small production companies that would want for a larger performance space if it were available to them. Here, Krapp’s Last Tape makes great use of the backspace’s intimacy. Continue reading Review: Krapp’s Last Tape (Theatre Passe Muraille)

Review: Marine Life (Tarragon)

Environmentally conscious theatre lights up the Tarragon stage in Toronto

Marine Life is an original romantic dramedy written and directed by Rosa Labordé, about a dysfunctional activist who falls for a selfish lawyer and persuades him to change his ways. It’s a cute, funny play with a great message to take home, encouraging the audience to be empathetic and caring activists. Marine Life is playing at Tarragon Theatre and I highly recommend giving it a watch.

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Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Hart House)

If you’re into rock musicals, then you’ll be excited to hear one of the big ones, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, is being put on by Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle) until October 7. It’s an energetic, emotional romp that I recommend checking out.

This production was actually my introduction to Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s one of those shows that I’ve always known of but never had the chance to see. I’m thrilled that I finally got that chance. It’s a rock musical that flits between high-energy, passionate songs, and sombre, soulful storytelling. Continue reading Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Hart House)

Review: The Last 5 Years (Theatre Here and Now)

The Last Five Years hit Toronto stages, but not all the right notes

The Last 5 Years was onstage this past weekend as the debut for new Toronto theatre company, Theatre Here and Now.

With a cast of just two characters, Cathy (Nicole Marie McCafferty) and Jamie (Armand Antony), The Last 5 Years is one of those shows that often appeals to small theatre troupes. In my opinion, it also has a lot going for it as an all-around fantastic musical: brilliant writing, incredible music, and a clever conceit where one character is moving backwards in time and the other forwards. Continue reading Review: The Last 5 Years (Theatre Here and Now)