Live and in person at Pirate Life Theatre, 585 Queens Quay West, Toronto, Ont. Until Sept. 26. adventure@piratelife.ca

Adapted from the Herman Melville novel: “Moby Dick”

Adapted by Annie Tuma and Lena Maripuu

Music/songs/performed by Alex Millaire and Kaitlin Milroy collectively known as Moonfruits

Directed by Alexandra Montagnese

Costumes by Gabriel Vaillant

Cast:

Lena Maripuu

Moonfruits

Jamar Adams Thomson

Annie Tuma

Amaka Umeh

The engaging Pirate Life Theatre has taken Herman Melville’s huge tale of obsession, passion and revenge for a whale and the wild sea and tamed it to a manageable, but still exciting, musical that takes place on a pirate ship.

The ‘ship” is a black vessel with an imposing flag of the cross-bones and skull (never mind it was upside down when I saw the show), that floats and bobs in the water by the quay. The audience sits on land in chairs and watches the action unfold on the boat.

Captain Ahab (Amaka Umeh) is obsessed with Moby because on a previous whaling voyage Moby bit off the leg of Captain Ahab and he has hunted Moby ever since for revenge. This voyage is no different. The crew believe they are going whaling for blubber to fill their coffers. Captain Ahab has a different idea but he tells his crew only after they set said. Three years later they are sill hunting Moby, but Captain Ahab is sure they will find him because he has meticulously charted Moby’s trail for years. Obsession is a terrible thing.

Director Alexandra Montagnese keeps the action moving swiftly on the boat and there is clever use of a motorized floating device beside the boat as well. When they spot Moby there is an interesting way of suggesting his size and closeness to the boat. While all the characters are microphone, I found the introduction of Ishmael (Annie Tuma) confusing because we heard Ishmael before we saw him as the famous line: “Call me Ishmael” was given as the character was arriving way out of view. It’s important we see the character before he says that important line for context and clarity.

The wonderful Amaka Umeh is a formidable Captain Ahab: obsessed, driven, blinkered and single-minded to capture that creature who took his leg.

Much of the story-telling was taken over by the lilting, atmospheric music of Moonfruits. Lovely work.

Moby: A Whale of a Tale is an easy outing for the family to familiarize them with this classic book, at picturesque Harbourfront.

Pirate Life Theatre presents:

Plays until Sept. 26.

Running Time: 1 hour.

{ 0 comments }

Live and in person under a canopy as part of Here for Now Theatre, New Works Festival until Sept. 26, 2021.

www.herefornowtheatre.com

Co-created by Kelly McIntosh, Stacy Smith and Andy Pogson and Severn Thompson

Directed by Severn Thompson

Music by Gaham Hargrove

Cast: Kelly McIntosh

MadeNell

Andy Pogson

Stacy Smith

From the show information:

“It’s the bottom of the inning, a full count with two down. The Kroehler Girls socked two hits and their heavy hitter is a star with the willow, is it enough to bring the title home? 

Furniture and Softball. It’s the early 1950’s and Stratford’s all girls softball team is known for building furniture by day and dominating the ball diamond by night. Can the Kroehler Girls live up to their reputation after a devastating loss the previous season? Times are changing at a breakneck speed in these post-war days and this team, along with their hometown, have to prove they have what it takes. 

A new comedy that celebrates all that is Stratford in the early 50’s: the remarkable furniture company and their legendary softball team.

“We’ll sing you the song of our ball team, it’s the finest team in all the land.
We’ll tell you about all the players and we’ll tell you the truth if we can.”

Honey is an elderly woman with a spotty memory living in a seniors’ home. She’s easily confused but she has a memory from years ago when she played on the Kroehler (pronounced “Kraylor”) Furniture girls softball team. The play then returns to that time….with Honey (Kelly McIntosh) removing her old lady jacket and going back to her younger self.

We see the eagerness of Honey to be scouted to an American soft-ball team. There was an actor named James (Andy Pogson) who was playing up the road for the new Shakespeare Festival, taking place in a tent. He made friends with one of the players of the team. There was the manager of the team. A reporter reporting on it. An eager pitcher (Stacy Smith) and a young girl (MadeNell) who was a kind of mascot.

With only four actors playing many parts there was a lot of putting on and taking off of different hats, or putting them on backward to suggest another character. Without a clear program that listed the actor and all the parts he/she played, it got a bit confusing.

Kroehler Girls is a sweet look back to an innocent time when these folks played soft-ball and there was a hint of that Shakespeare Festival. But theatre by committee, and that’s what it seemed like with all those co-creators, did not result in a strong play. The constant switching from character to character was hard to keep straight, and the momentum to the playoffs seemed rushed without sustained suspense. The inclusion of music and sound effects overloaded the whole thing. Too much.

Produced by Here for Now Theatre, New Works Festival.

Plays until: Sept. 26, 2021.

Running Time: 1 hour.

www.herefornowtheatre.com

{ 0 comments }

Live and in person at the Harvest Stage, Blyth Festival, Blyth, Ont. Until Oct. 2, www.blythfestival.com

Created and performed by Bruce Horak

Originally directed by Ryan Gladstone

Assassinating Thomson is a murder-mystery, a hymn to art and creating it and a compelling lesson in beautiful story-telling, all created by gifted performer, Bruce Horak.

The show asks: what really happened to painter Tom Thomson when he went out in his canoe on Canoe Lake July 8, 1917. His bloated body was found days later with a gash in his head. How did he die? Was he killed (the title says plenty)? Who killed him? Bruce Horak has theories.  

The set is simple. There is a drop cloth neatly spread out on the stage. The cloth is held down by rocks in the corners and on the edges. On the cloth is an easel with a long narrow frame placed on it. To the side of that is a table with stuff on it and below are tube-bottles.

Bruce Horak saunters out and introduces himself and the show. Horak sets up the story of Tom Thomson and his fascination with the artist and his short career. Thomson only painted for five years but produced hundreds of paintings, mainly of his beloved outdoors, in Northern Ontario. Horak has had a many varied career as an improvisor, writer, comedian, storyteller, painter etc. He says that as is his habit with the show, he will be painting the audience as he tells the story. We find out at the end that he will then auction off the painting and the money will go to a local charity. Lovely.

His palette is on the table to the side of the easel as are his brushes and the tubes under the table are paint tubes that he will use to squirt the paint on the palette. There was something else Bruce Horak said, oh, what was it, what was it….oh yes, Bruce Horak is legally blind. He lost one eye to cancer when he was a kid (a genetic disease) and his father asked the doctors to try and save the other eye and they did. But he has 9% vision in it—like looking through a tiny key-hole. He had us all bend our index finger into the side of the thumb and look through the tiny opening in the finger. That’s generally what Bruce Horak can see. Woow.

As Horak painted, looked, observed us, drew, painted etc. he told us of the tangled story of Tom Thomson and his love of the outdoors. He told of possible enemies, a possible girlfriend, various theories, strange doings with the undertaker, coffins that might be empty and all manner of theories. All delivered with a leisurely yet compelling pace, that of a true story-teller.

He also talked of the theories of art and its components—space, relationships, shadow and light etc. He talked of being obsessed by Tom Thomson, trying to find his burial place. And all the while, Horak painted, observed and talked. He talked of knowing when the painting was finished. Fascinating.

When we was finished, he turned the canvas around to show us what he had painted. Amazing. Then he auctioned the painting off for charity. I did not doubt Horak was actually painting that actual painting, I just thought that since there might be inklings of doubt he might have shown the empty canvas to us at the beginning. I think that contrasted with the finished painting would have ramped up the wow factor. In any case, Assassinating Thomson is a fascinating show of wit, imagination, conjuring and storytelling. When we were leaving at the end, I heard a smarmy soul winging on facts that Horak left out. I did not turn and say, “It’s a play and a work of imagination, get it. Horak said as much. Pay attention. And drive safe.” Sheesh some people think stories are all true! What is true here is that Bruce Horak is one dandy story-teller and painter. See the show.

Presented by the Blyth Festival

Runs until: Oct. 2.

Running Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, no intermission.

www.blythfestival.com

{ 0 comments }

Live, in person in Lazaridis Hall, Park of the Meighen Forum, Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford Festival, until tonight, Sept. 18, 2021.

www.stratfordfestival.ca

Created and performed by Ryan G. Hinds

Music conductor, Mark Selby.

Performer-extraordinaire, Ryan G. Hinds, is on a mission. He is determined to bring musical theatre’s John Kander and Fred Ebb, composer/lyricist royalty, to the top of the mountain of musical-theatre notoriety. Kander and Ebb are known by musical-theatre aficionados but Ryan G. Hinds feels they have not been given their due in the larger context as someone else (whisper “Sondheim”). Hinds feels that song for song and show for show, John Kander and Fred Ebb have contributed witty, gritty, thought provoking shows that should put them at the top of their game.

Kander and Ebb have written such shows as Flora, The Red Menace, Cabaret, Zorba, Chicago, The Act, Woman of the Year, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Steel Pier, Fosse. Alas, Fred Ebb died in 2004, so the partnership ended, but what a run they had.

Ryan G. Hinds is too smart and gifted a performer to just do a show of the “best hits of” the two. So he did something clever. As the audience fills into the beautiful Lazaridis Hall of the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford, Ont. we were treated to recordings of some of Kander and Ebb’s biggest hits, just to get it out of the way: Joel Grey singing “Willkommen” from Cabaret, Lorraine Serabian singing “Life Is” from Zorba (the original lyrics not the less mournful revised-feh-ones), Liza Minnelli singing whatever she wants from Cabaret, and something from Chicago.

When Ryan G. Hinds was introduced and entered the room with a flourish and panache we were ready for some reminiscence, smart commentary, gutsy singing and a lesson in musical-theatre history lore.

He didn’t disappoint. Hinds defines flamboyance but with sweetness: high-top silver sneakers, purple velvet leggings, a black top, a silvery glittery jacket, a precious gold necklace, glittery red lipstick and glittery eye shadow. His joy at being in that room in that place is disarming. His devotion to the work of Kander and Ebb is as well.

He sang a cross-section of works both familiar and not to give us a flavour of the brilliance of the work of Kander and Ebb. He had particular fondness for the short-lived Broadway run of Steel Pier. Hinds had actually seen that production on Broadway (and so did I but not together), and noted what he thought was lyricist Fred Ebb’s subtext (ahem) in the words. Fascinating.

He talked of his love of Kiss of the Spider Woman and did a medley from that show complete with wonderful lighting effect of a spider web that spread out behind him on the wall and ceiling. He also talked of the 12-year-old-kid who saw that show many times when it was trying out in Toronto, and the kind woman who talked to him every time he was at the stage door. That kid was him. The woman was Chita Rivera who was starring in the show. Hinds wanted to be in the theatre. Rivera encouraged him. Over the years they became friends. He considers her a mentor. The story is touching. His other show-biz stories are fascinating and funny too. The show is a hug to anyone who loves musical theatre done by Ryan G. Hinds, a man who has large, embracing arms. It had a very short run as part of the Meighan Forum at the Stratford Festival. I hope it has another life.

Plays until Sept. 18, 2021.  

{ 1 comment }

Live and in person under the Festival Theatre Canopy, Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ont. until Sept. 26.

www.stratfordfestival.ca

Curated and directed by Sara Farb and Steve Ross

Music director, Franklin Brasz

Lighting by Kaileigh Krysztofiak

Sound by Peter McBoyle

Cast: Noah Beemer

Sara Farb

Germaine Konji

Steve Ross

The Band:

Franklin Brasz, conductor, keyboard

Dave Thompson, acoustic guitar, electric guitar

Michael McClennan, acoustic bass, electric bass

David Campion, drum kit

From the info on the show:

“A CABARET OF RESILIENCE

“…a musical journey through a year of enormous change and growth. It explores the isolation, the loneliness, the upheaval and the unexpected silver linings that came out of a time like no other. Join us to reflect on this “great pause” as we move forward and get back to living freely.”

The twenty songs in the cabaret are listed in alphabetical order. They aren’t sung in that order. I think it’s the curators, Sara Farb and Steve Ross being impish and cagy. After all, this past 18 months or so have left us unsettled, confused, angry, fragile-minded and emotional. We never knew from one day to the other what was coming. What better way to encapsulate that ‘confusion’ than by listing the songs to be sung, in alphabetical order, then singing them in the order that made most sense as we carefully picked our way through the ordeal.

The songs at the beginning were wistful, about remembering a better time: “I Remember” from Evening Primrose by Stephen Sondheim, in which a person remembers sky among other things.  Sara Farb sang with quiet emotion “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” by Randy Newman, in which the lyric talks of ‘human kindness’ that existed so much at the beginning of the pandemic, before the anger set it. Steve Ross sang “If You Can Find Me, I’m Here again from Evening Primrose sung almost with a wink, but not with desperation.

Isolation and loneliness set in. Noah Beemer sang “Answer Me” From The Band’s Visit with such longing and also hope. Germaine Konji recited her searing poem of “The Smearing of Silent Blood” that conjured the murder of George Floyd and the rage the erupted because of it. It was a poem that nailed us to the seat because of Konji’s impassioned performance.

As the emotions shifted during the pandemic so did the emotions of the songs. “Our Time/Like It Was” from Merrily We Roll Along looked hopefully to a better time full of anticipation and optimism. The group blended beautifully on this haunting combination of two songs from that haunting show.

“Light of a Clear Blue Morning” by Dolly Parton just lifts up the listener to all sorts of possibilities as only Ms Parton can. Sara Farb sang it with clarity and a sense of release as a corner seemed to be turned in the pandemic.

“Time/I Feel So Much Spring” by William Finn from A New Brain carries on this sense of renewal and hope.

There was little patter between singers in the concert but there were inserts of statistics, facts and comments about the pandemic and words from experts that put things in context.

Franklin Brasz conducted the band and played the keyboards beautifully. The sound balance was perfect so that we heard the singers clearly as well as the band who did not overpower anyone. The concert showed a lot of thought in the selections of songs and what they meant in terms of what we have gone through in the last 18 months. And we came through singing, or at least tapping our toe to those who sang to us, beautifully.

Produced by the Stratford Festival.

Plays until: Sept. 26, 2021.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

www.stratfordfestival.ca

{ 0 comments }

Live, in person in the parking lot behind Bohemia Café in Barrie, Ont. until Sept. 18, www.tift.ca

Libretto by Bertolt Brecht

Musical composition by Kurt Weil

Directed by Richard Ouzounian

Musical direction by Stephan Ermel

Costumes by Kathleen Black

Sound by Matt Dawson

Cast: Dillan Chiblow

Beau Dixon

Jacob MacInnis

Justan Myers

Justin Stadnyk

Jennifer Stewart.

Because this was a preview I am only commenting not formally reviewing. That said, everything about this endeavor was terrific—bracing, unsettling, honest, true and beautifully presented and directed.

Director Richard Ouzounian writes in his program note: “Mahagonny is a mythical American city where people live for greed, lust and violence. Brecht and Weill created it in 1927. It’s astonishing—and more than a bit frightening—to see how much it resembles the world of 2021.”

The piece—Mahagonny-Songspeil is only 30 minutes long and is a precursor to the more extended show Mahagonny. But this show of 11 songs and comment between songs that is pure Brecht, gives you the sharp flavour of what the show is like and what the extended version is as well.

They sing of violence, greed, graft, the underbelly of society, a time and feeling of brutality and abrasiveness. The cast of six and their music director enter dressed (for the most part) in black leather, studs, fishnet stockings, flowing frocks, if that, and also wear black makeup (eye-shadow, eye-liner, Goth-like). The look in many cases is androgynous or gender fluid. Perfect.

The singing by the whole group is excellent, beautifully harmonized and compelling. The cast puts us on notice. We sit mesmerized. It is performed in the parking lot behind a café known as BOHEMIA CAFÉ (how perfect is that?) there was a half-moon over the Bay in Barrie. How perfect is that?

There is no final bow of the singers. And that is perfect too. They sent us a serious message about our world. We don’t then get up close and touchy-feely with a bow of appreciation that will break the tone and change the atmosphere. We can take it. No bow. Perfect. Thank you.

Produced by Talk is Free Theatre.

Plays until: Sept. 18, 2021.

Running time: 30 minutes.

www.tift.ca

{ 0 comments }

Live and in person at the High Park Amphitheatre in High Park, Toronto, Ont. Until September 19, 2021.

www.canadianstage.com

Written by Jordan Tannahill

Directed by Erin Brubaker

Production design by Sherri Hay

Sound by Debashis Sinha

Movement by Cara Spooner

Composed by Veda Hille

Cast: Remi Ajao-Russell,

Hiyab Araya,

Jack Bakshi,

Chloe Cha,

Felix Chew,

Nia Downey,

Sidonie Fleck,

Oscar Gorbet,

Saraphina Knights,

Iris MacNada,

Iylah Mohammed,

Amaza Payne,

Sanora Souphommanychanh,

Alykhan Sunderji,

Catherine Thorne,

Sophia Wang,

Skyler Xiang

Earnest, well-intentioned, but full of contradictory messages that quickly wear thin with the hectoring. The message of hope at the end comes from nowhere and is not earned.


From the press information: “JordanTannahill’s newest play takes the form of a theatrical protest song. Led by director Erin Brubacher, a chorus of seventeen young Torontonians aged 12-17 turn the theatre into a site of intergenerational reckoning. Urgent, moving, and confrontationalIs My Microphone On? is both a declaration of war and a declaration of love delivered by a generation facing the perils of climate change.

Fundamentally asking how do we move forward from here?, Is My Microphone On?demands attention for those who will no longer be able to avoid the consequences of the climate crisis, a generation just under the voting age but painfully aware of the legacy left for them. They speak to the adults in the audience, holding them to account, questioning the choices that have not been made, the ones that children will be forced to make, and what kind of future they stand to inherit.

An artistic endeavor developed within the context of the pandemic, Tannahill’s script is adapted from speeches given by global youth climate activist Greta Thunberg, into a choral piece further shaped by Brubacher’s work with the cast, along with key collaborators, production designer Sherri Hay, composer Veda Hille, sound designer Debashis Sinha, and movement director Cara Spooner.

Director Erin Brubacher places her cast of 15 (on the night I saw it) in pools of light along the sides and the front of the amphitheater, facing the audience. For the most part each microphoned participant says a word in sequence to form a sentence or thought. The words are not said by one person, then the next word by the person beside them and so on. One word can be said by a person on this side of the audience and the next one by a person on the other side and the next word by someone at the front of the audience.  This can be disconcerting if you don’t know who is speaking. —I found myself looking around the space to see who the speaker was. Over time, just listening to try and make sense of the words was the best idea. Occasionally a speaker would have a few lines. In some cases the ‘actor’ was forceful. Most of the time the actors were monotoned. Occasionally they were inaudible, even with the microphones. But kudos to Erin Brubacher the attention to the smoothness of the deliveries. There was never a hesitation as to whom should speak next. The words filled the air like so many well played tennis balls that were batted from one end of the space to another.

Many of the cast played instruments that underlined a thought, idea or comment. We were told that every time a certain note was played thousands of species of animals/insects died as a result of climate change etc. The idea of death of trees, plant-life; coral reefs etc. were also marked by sound effects.

The main thrust of the piece was that youths blamed the adults (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa,) for every ill of climate change and suggesting young people could be anything they put their mind too and it wasn’t true and the youth sought a reckoning. They said “we are only going to say this once” and repeated it several times over the course of the evening. Many thoughts, ideas, complaints, hurts, insults, disappointments etc. were repeated. Adults didn’t listen to them when they made suggestions for improvements. The youth weren’t taken seriously; respected.

Is My Microphone On? was full of generalizations that summarily dismissed adults for their guilt and complicity in the destruction of the planet. The world pollution caused by big business and that of the owner of an SUV were equated were treated with the same contempt.

Then playwright, Jordan Tannahill has the youth then bicker amongst themselves. One would not give her seat on the bus to an older person because she didn’t see why she should. Another wouldn’t be nice to an elderly neighbour because the neighbour was a racist. It was hard keeping all the contempt straight.

Composer Veda Hille provides a song they all sing at the end offering hope. It is not supported by the piece and ends on a fake note. (and too often it was hard to hear the words, they were singing so softly).

There is a magical moment though. One youth asks us to “listen.” With that the lights on each youth goes out and an amber glow of light goes up on the lush foliage and trees surrounding the playing space. The air is full of the ‘cacophony’ of nature at night: crickets, cicadas, insects etc. Then a light breeze sifts through the leaves and the branches of the trees making a rustling sound. Even the siren in the distance captured our attention. Magical. Then the lights faded and went back up on the young cast. And they continued the blame game. Tedious.

Even at one hour playing time, Is My Microphone On? seemed padded with all the repeated ideas and invective. Releasing this diatribe might be freeing, but it makes for lousy theatre. The youth say they’ve had enough (please get behind me in this long line of people feeling the same way) and they are taking over. What the piece doesn’t say is what they would do differently. I think it’s important to know.

Canadian Stage Presents:

Plays until: Sept. 19, 2021.

Running Time: 1 hour.

www.canadianstage.com

{ 1 comment }

Live and in person at the Harvest Stage, Blyth Festival until Sept. 19, 2021.

www.blythfestival.com

Mark Crawford, Photo: Ann Baggeley

Written and performed by Mark Crawford.

Directed by Miles Potter

Mark Crawford is one of our best playwrights. His plays are full of fully drawn characters with real concerns in real situations. And they are bend over funny. Chase the Ace is his latest (at the Blyth Festival), and it may be his best so far.

The Story. Charlie King has not been having a good time of late. He was a successful morning radio host until he lost his cool on air and railed at his co-host because he was having an affair with his (Charlie’s wife). To make matters worse, Charlie had been to the dentist and his mouth was frozen so in the diatribe it sounded as if he was drunk. Someone recorded said diatribe and it went viral. Charlie lost his job, his wife and his house after that.

Then he got a tip that there was a small radio station in a small town called Port Belette that needed a station manager. He enquired and got the job in a phone interview with the station owner. His job was to boost listenership and interest and keep out of the way of the station owner. Not only did he have to manage the station but he also had to be on air as well. The only other employee of the station was Denise, a no-nonsense-nasally-voiced-woman-who also lent her dulcet tones to radio.

Charlie wanted to make a difference. He wanted to report the truth to the folks. He got his chance with COVID. It struck just as he got his job. He reported numbers of cases. He reported that there were deaths from the virus at the local Seniors Home. The station owner told Charlie not to report that negative news because it would have a bad effect on tourism.

With that comment I heard echoes of Ibsen’s wonderful play An Enemy of the People when a responsible doctor wanted to shut down the spas in his tourist town because the water was contaminated and his brother, the mayor, wanted to ignore that suggestion because it would harm tourism. This is playwright Mark Crawford making a subtle but important point in his smart, funny play, Chase the Ace.

Charlie hears rumors of shady doings in the town but he’s more interested in keeping his job so he lets the rumors slide. He comes up with the idea of a game for which people can buy tickets that not only involves a 50/50 draw but also involves finding the Ace of Spades in a deck of cards to win even more money—hence the name “Chase the Ace.” The ticket proceeds will help the Seniors Home with much needed cash.

But then Charlie and Denise do realize that something is not right. Is the game rigged? Is there graft in the town council? Charlie goes looking for the truth.

The Production. Chase the Ace is a play with many characters, all played by playwright Mark Crawford. He effortlessly goes from the gangly, hapless Charlie to the nasally-voiced Denise, to the smooth and slimy Mayor, to all manner of characters, each with a distinctive voice and body language. When you think Crawford’s acting expertise has reached its peak, he goes further. He single-handedly presents a zoom call with multiple participants, each with their own issues: the microphone is not on. The camera of another is not on, Someone is frozen. Another doesn’t know how to join the meeting. Each time Crawford shifts from character to character with quickness and efficiency. You quickly get winded and exhausted from laughing.

Crawford is beautifully aided by director Miles Potter who has Crawford flitting around the space as many and various characters; rushing from one location in the story to another, getting trapped in a car because the character was still confined by a seat belt. The detail, the nuance and the brains in creating the minutiae of every single situation, both emotional and physical, fills this production to the brim with invention and creativity.

Comment.  It’s a given that Mark Crawford has a gift for writing funny plays. But they are also filled with substance, truths, situations that are meaningful and say something important about our lives. In Stag and Doe Crawford wrote about the trials of planning a wedding and questioned why get married at all. In Bed and Breakfast, two gay men plan to open a bed and breakfast place in a small, conservative town and how everybody copes with it. Boys, Girls and other Mythological Creatures is a lively, unsettling production of Mark Crawford’s lively unsettling play about a boy who just wanted to be himself but was afraid because of the constraints of his family and by what people might think.  The Birds and the Bees is about the fraught world of relationships.  I saw The Gig on line in a staged reading and is about a group of drag queens who get a needed gig only to find out it’s for a political fund-raiser for a group that is NOT supportive of gays, drag queens, or any body at all ‘different’.  In every single play, Mark Crawford writes with comedic flair as well a heart. He writes about and illuminates the truth in his characters’ lives and we all can relate. I will add that this is especially true of Chase the Ace. Chase down tickets at your earliest convenience.  

Blyth Festival presents:

Plays until: Sept. 19, 2021.

Running Time: 73 miniutes.

www.blythfestival.com

{ 0 comments }

Played at the Thousand Islands Playhouse, Firehall Theatre until August 5- Sept. 4, 2021.

Written by Michele Riml

Directed by Krista Jackson

Set and costumes by Judith Bowden

Lighting by Michelle Ramsay

Sound by John Gzowski

Cast: Sarah Dodd

Shawn Wright

NOTE: Bravo to Brett Christopher, the Managing Artistic Director of Thousand Islands Playhouse, for getting eager audiences back to the theatre, by carefully, safely presenting this play inside the theatre, in which the audience was safely distanced. Ushers took us to our seats and at the end, ushered us out row by row. I did not have one second of anxiety. The show was so popular it was held over for a few more performances past its original closing date of Aug. 29. The classy press representative gave me a review ticket even though it was for the second last performance.

The Story. Alice and Henry have been married for 25 years and the zip has gone out of their marriage. Each is disappointed with their lives and keeps it to themselves. Alice suggests they go away to a hotel for a ‘dirty’ weekend “to see what’s still left of us.” Henry goes along with the plan.

The Production. Judith Bowden’s set is of a modern hotel room that has remote control devices for all sorts of stuff, from the TV to sound to probably the curtains. Getting the right one to work is frustrating for Henry (Shawn Wright). He complains about the thin towels.

Alice (Sarah Dodd) is eager for this to work. She has a well-thumbed copy of Sex for Dummies (I assume, I didn’t quite see the title of the book from the side where I was, but it had been perused quite often, it seemed) with suggestions of how to turn on your partner. From giving a massage to one’s partner, to creating a fantasy and erotica, Alice and Henry are eager to make this work. Well, actually Alice is. Henry, as beautifully played by Shawn Wright, is just frustrated, aggravated and fed up with it all. But he loves Alice and wants to do right. As Alice, Sarah Dodd has that buoyancy of someone desperate to save their marriage. She is as ‘up’ as Henry is ‘down.’

Judith Bowden also created the costumes. At first they seem a bit drab for a couple wanting to put the zip back in their marriage. But as time goes on there are some costume surprises that nothing will make me give away. However, there is a riding crop. It’s had a presence on social media so one can’t ignore it. A riding crop. There are no horses in Sexy Laundry. As Alice, Sarah Dodd displays a proficiency with that riding crop that is both impressive and frightening. Shawn Wright as Henry rises to the occasion when that crop is cracked against furniture.

Because this couple knows each other so well—and Dodd and Wright are like watching two champions batting the dialogue back and forth with skill and nuance—they know each other’s weak spots and short hand. They listen but sometimes don’t hear. And then they do. It’s all so natural in Michele Riml’s very funny, touching play. As with anything it’s conversation, trust, love and listening that gets you through in a relationship. Krista Jackson’s smart, energetic, direction keeps the humour and heart of the show pumping and beating along. The staging is effortless in establishing how well these characters know each other. And Krista Jackson is not afraid to have that edge of aggravation be present in the actors’ performances of these characters who are on edge because of their troubled marriage.

Comment. Sexy Laundry is a sweet play about a serious subject. It is the perfect play to see after a long time in confinement, in uncertainty, in fraught times. It’s produced and performed beautifully, in a theatre that takes care of its patrons. Bravo to all.  

Thousand Islands Playhouse presents:

Closed: Sept. 4, 2021.

Running Time: 80 minutes.

www.1000islandsplayhouse.com

{ 0 comments }

Live, in person, in concert, at the Stratford Perth Museum, 4275 Huron St. Stratford, Ont, until Sept. 12. www.eclipsetheatre.ca

Music and lyrics by Chilina Kennedy

Book by Eric Holmes

Cast: Brandon Antonio

Dan Chameroy

Robert Markus

Jennifer Rider-Shaw

Yemi Sonuga

Because this is a workshop of this new musical, reviews were not requested, but comments would be fine.

From the show information with a bit of editing on my part:

“CALL IT LOVE is a new musical that follows Olivia as she finds herself in the hospital suffering from memory loss. As she goes through a series of tests, she dissects past relationships, and searches for the loss that caused her to wipe the slate clean. Her journey to self-love and forgiveness is shrouded in pain, but ultimately illuminates the joy and love that were never lost.”

Olivia (Jennifer Rider-Shaw) tries to remember what happened in her life with the help of a kind Nurse (Dan Chameroy). It slowly comes back. Olivia fell in love with Michael (Robert Markus) in college and they married. Olivia was unsettled and the marriage didn’t last. She had a fling with Thomas (Brandon Antonio) whom she met in a bar and the result was a child. Olivia also has a more serious relationship with Jess.

I found Chilina Kennedy’s music and lyrics stronger than Eric Holmes’ book in telling the story and creating characters. The music is varied in styles and genres; the lyrics are thoughtful, insightful and detailed in creating relationships and conveying emotions. I want to hear every single song again. Loved them.

I do think the part of Thomas should be expanded. He has a song but I don’t think the character, as written, has earned it. The Nurse appears throughout and deserves a song, and not just because Dan Chameroy plays him. The Nurse is a presence who is smart, sensitive, inquiring and I think deserves a number. The whole cast is dandy. A classy concert. I hope it’s expanded into a full musical.

Produced by Eclipse Theatre Company and Straighten Your Crown Productions.

Plays until: Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.

Running Time: 1 hour.

www.eclipsetheatre.ca

{ 0 comments }