Live and in person at the Streetcar Crowsnest, Carlaw and Dundas, Toronto, Ont. until April 9, 2023.

Written by Michele Smith and Dean Gilmour

In collaboration with the Performers.

Adapted from Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Set and costumes by Tiana Kralj

Lighting by Simon Rossiter

Music and sound by Johnny Hockin

Cast: Rob Feetham

Dean Gilmour

Daniel R. Henkel

Neena Jayarajan

Sukruti Tirupattur

Theatre Smith-Gilmour have been producing thought provoking movement-based work that challenges the status quo for 42 years and they have done it brilliantly. Metamorphoses 2023 is a perfect example of their imagination, societal concerns and moral compass.

If Metamorphoses 2023 has a familiar ring it’s because it’s based on Ovid’s huge poem Metamorphoses that he wrote in 8 CE. Metamorphoses 2023 has been adapted to reflect our world in 2023.  It’s written by Michele Smith and Dean Gilmour, the creative couple behind Theatre Smith-Gilmour, a theatre company that has quietly been challenging the status quo for 42 years.

Ovid’s epic poem is mainly about change. From the show’s information, here is a quote from Ovid’s Metamorphoses: “Everything changes. Nothing dies. The soul wanders here and there, occupying whatever body it chooses.”

As the show information further notes: “Survival is at the core of Metamorphoses 2023,a bold and contemporary adaptation of Ovid’s epic poem, that realizes the original text’s mythic elements through mime, illusion, spoken word, silence and south Asian dance.

In Ovid’s poem, there are about 200 characters over many stories. For Metamorphoses 2023 writers Michele Smith and Dean Gilmour have chosen characters from stories who have made transformations either in gender or from human to other forms of life, usually because the gods might have been miffed. The Greeks and the Romans believed in myths and the Gods to rule their worlds. The theme of changing genders so reflects our world with reference to transgender people, but it also reflects that this was referenced 4000 years ago in Roman literature. Times change and yet they don’t.

The Stories. We start with Tiresias.He was born a man.One day he saw two snakes copulating and he hit them with his stick.This angered the Goddess Hera and she turned Tiresias into a woman.As a woman Tiresias married, had children and served Hera.

After seven years Tiresias was turned back to a man. But the gods weren’t finished. Juno and her husband/brother (don’t ask) Jupiter were in an argument about who enjoyed sex more, the man, as Juno believed, or the woman as Jupiter believed. They asked Tiresias because he had experienced sex as both a man and a woman. Sex also factors heavily in Metamorphoses 2023. Tiresias said that women enjoyed sex more than men.Again, that angered Juno and she blinded Tiresias.Jupiter couldn’t reverse the curse so he gave Tiresias foresight…which stood him in good stead in seeing the future.

Another variation on this theme of switching genders is the story of Hermaphroditus. He was once a handsome youth who attracted the love of a nymph named Salmacis. She prayed to be united with him forever and the gods, answering her prayer, in their own cheeky way, by merging their two forms into one.

Hermaphroditus became the god of hermaphrodites and of effeminates. The story certainly has echoes of the present-day term of transgender, so the title, Metamorphoses 2023 is justified in its modern applications.

There certainly are other stories that reference our modern times, to the point that there is a content warning that Metamorphoses 2023 has adult themes, language and depictions of rape and violence.

There is the startling story of Tereus and his wife Procne.  She had just given birth to their son and wanted her sister Philomela to come and see her. So Tereus sailed to bring her to see her sister and nephew. Only when Tereus got back some time later, without Philomela, he said that alas Philomela had died. Procne was heartbroken. But several months later she learned her sister was alive and held captive in a prison in the forest. When Procne went to free her sister she learned that Tereus had raped Philomela and made sure she would never talk by cutting out her tongue. Both sisters plotted to get even with Tereus in a really brutal way. And in another change, all three characters were turned into birds by the Gods. The gods were always getting involved. Actaeon accidentally saw the goddess Diana naked and she turned him into a stag.

The stories are rich in language, complex in implications and philosophical in themes.  And they are really terrific yarns. The stories might be 4000 years old but they have always been intriguing to theatre companies and I’ve seen several versions of the Metamorphoses over the years. Theatre Smith-Gilmour is the latest to tackle the stories.

The Production. The production is beautiful. as one would expect of Theatre Smith-Gilmour.Tiana Kralj’s set is bare except for five black chairs which have some props or clothing on them.When the lights go up we are looking at five actors miming putting on make-up, getting ready for their show. They look like they are wearing black yoga pants and tops for easy movement. Kudos again to designer, Kiana Kralj. They are barefoot.

Over the course of the various stories, different props will be used to cleverly illuminate a character or parts of the story.

Dean Gilmour –half of theatre Smith-Gilmour with his life and art partner, Michele Smith—plays Tiresias and acts as a narrator to navigate the dense world of these stories. To suggest that a Tiresias changed from a man to a woman, Dean Gilmour takes off his black top revealing a bare chest. Then puts on a red bra that has ‘appeared’ from nowhere, applies a slash of lipstick and a long wig. Voilá, a woman.

When Hermaphroditus becomes both sexes with Salmacis, Neena Jayarajan who plays her beautifully, comes up behind Rob Freetham and put her two arms under his sweater and pushes her fists forward creating two breasts. There is also some funny business going on between his legs to indicate he had the sex organs of both sexes in one body. Wonderful, inventive beautifully creative and simply created. If there is a quibble, it’s that some times a story seems slight although the re-enactment of it is really creative in its simplicity.

Besides being expressive and compelling actors, Neena Jayarajan (playing among others: Juno, Philomela, Salmacis and Diana) and Sukruti Tirupattur (playing Procne, Alcyone and Echo) are also accomplished Bharathatyam dancers.

Rob Freetham as Narcissus, Hermaphroditus and Actaeon is an astonishing mime even being both the aggressor and the put upon in a scene. He’s so creative in this piece and in all the previous work I’ve seen him in.

Daniel R. Henkel plays Jupiter with an easy self-absorption, preening, smug, haughty. As Tereus he is duplicitous to his wife Procne, violent to Philomela and devastated when he is punished for his crime of rape and imprisonment.

Michele Smith directs with an equally gifted hand for using economy to cut through to the heart of the stories, and realize their theme, message and core.

Theatre Smith-Gilmour has been perfecting their considerable craft for decades and this show, Metamorpheses 2023is like a gift to behold.

They have been working on this show since 2018 and even though the pandemic interfered and delayed them, they are tenacious in holding true to their vision and staying the course. They have a wonderful cast who are learning from masters in Dean Gilmour and Michele Smith.

I think it’s a terrific show.

Theatre Smith-Gilmour in association with Crow’s Theatre present.

Metamorphoses 2023 plays until April 9.

Running time: 80 minutes.

End note: I’m glad at least of the one sheet of the cast and their parts that Crow’s provides. I do wish Crow’s had not only a full programme we can download but also print properly so we can actually read it. It just can’t be this difficult. And no I don’t bring the phone to aim at the QR code. I have to turn off the phone, right, so bringing it makes no sense.


Live and in person at the AKI Studio, Native Earth Performing Arts, 585 Dundas St. E., Toronto, Ont. Plays until March 26, 2023.

Choreographed and performed by Starr Muranko

Directed by Yvette Nolan

Composed by Edgardo Moreno

Lighting by Jonathan Kim

Costumes by Jeanette Kotowich

Videographer, Sophia Wolfe.

Note: I’m reviewing this dance piece in theatrical terms because dance is not my forte.

A topless mannequin is stage right, a purse is slung over one shoulder; a ‘skirt’ or an arrangement of scarves are fashioned around the mannequin’s waist to look like a skirt, a pair of low heels are on the floor. Dancer/performer Starr Muranko enters and through voice-over, spoken word and dance, Starr Muranko illuminates her journey with cancer. She wears a delicate top over a flowing skirt. She is barefoot. There are 21 days between treatments. There are surgeries, complications, more surgeries. She buys an expensive but beautiful wig to hide her bald head from hair loss.  Her treatments are such that she cannot go near young children for several hours. This is difficult because she has a baby at home. The baby, Sami, is the love of her life but he was born with health issues.

Composer Edgardo Moreno has created a score initially cacophonous, percussive, hard to go with the bombardment of bad news that Starr Muranko has endured. Her movements are raw, wild, lashing out, but then there is control, forcefulness, as if she is fighting an unseen foe. She punches rhythmically. The sense of initial despair has given way to resolve a ferocious tenacity not to give in to the bad news but to fight.  Starr Muranko also faced decisions about her then unborn baby boy. She faced that with the same resolve. Through the piece there is grace, gentleness, a reaching up for joy. She notes that she used to wear red lipstick but then stopped for some reason.

Starr Muranko faced the worst news in the world—“I’m sorry, you have cancer” and other challenges–and dealt with it by creating Chapter 21, with the delicate director’s guidance of Yvette Nolan. it’s a shattering, embracing piece of art. And then Starr Muranko put on her shoes and red lipstick. Unforgettable.   

Produced by Raven Spirit Dance, presented by Native Earth Performing Arts.

Opened: March 23, 2023.

Closes: March 26, 2023.

Running time: 45 minutes (no intermission)


Review: EEN

by Lynn on March 23, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Tett Centre Rehearsal Hall, Tett Centre, 370 King St. W., Kingston, Ont. Playing until March 25, 2023.

Written by Rosemary Doyle

Directed by Liam Karry

Lighting by Shelby VanLuvan

Cast: Rosemary Euringer

Siobhan McMahon

Kevin Head (on guitar)

When Rosemary Doyle is not full-filling her chores as Theatre Kingston’s Artistic Director, or also overseeing The Red Sandcastle Theatre, in Toronto, or directing productions or acting in them, she writes plays—when does this woman sleep?

Rosemary Doyle’s latest play is EEN one definition of which is a ‘diminutive’ suffix.

The play is described as a memory play. The play is about Tanya (Siobhan McMahon) and her Nan (grandmother) (Rosemary Euringer). Tanya has just graduated high school in Canada and it’s decided (by her mother) to spend the summer in Ireland, visiting her Nan, her maternal grandmother who she has never met. Through Nan, Tanya learns about four generations of women in her family and their secrets. She also learns the ‘joys’ of the outdoor privy; cooking on an open fire because Nan doesn’t trust the electric stove she has in her kitchen; the hard work required to take a bath in a steel tub that needs to be filled by hand with kettles of hot water, in other words, Tanya learns the joy of the simple life her grandmother lives.  Every second of the day is accounted for in stoking the fire, making the food, washing the stone floor until it’s spotless, emptying, filling, tending, and reading (Yeats as it turns out). Tanya learns that everything that is done by Nan requires effort, attention, thought and care. And because Tanya is a sensitive soul, she learns these important lessons.

Rosemary Doyle has written a play rich in memories, intricate histories, forbidden love, lasting love and loyalty. I must confess that at times I did get lost as to who was connected to whom and who lived where and with whom. But the tapestry of Nan’s life was complex and one just held on to make sense of it. The blossoming relationship between Tanya and Nan was lovely.

As Tanya, Siobhan McMahon is innocent but curious about this ‘stranger’ who is her grandmother. She is in a strange place, but she adapts with cheerfulness and willingness. It’s a lovely performance. As Nan, Rosemary Euringer is used to living alone and has to adjust when this young ‘stranger’ comes into her world. But Nan is kind, loving and intriguing to Tanya. That too is a lovely performance.

The full rehearsal room of the Tett Centre is almost taken up with the inside of Nan’s simple cottage. The fire is in the middle of the room; the stove is up stage, covered with a cloth and used as a counter. Tanya’s room is stage left. The ‘bathtub’ is down stage. A bicycle, the means of travel for Nan, is up stage ready for Tanya to use. One got the sense of a simple place, well used.

Liam Karry has directed this with efficiency and clarity. The relationship between Nan and her granddaughter are nicely established.

Musician Kevin Head plays appropriate music on the guitar as the audience files in, to put them in the mood. Songs of the time and place are sung during the show as well for effect. I must confess I found the inclusion of sound effects during one scene to suggest the problem of riding a bike a bit intrusive and unnecessary, but on the whole, EEN was worth the trip to Kingston.

Theatre Kingston presents:

Plays until March 25, 2023.

Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)


Live and in person at Theatre Orangeville, in Orangeville, Ont. Playing until April 2, 2023.

Written by Kristen Da Silva

Directed by David Nairn

Set by Beckie Morris

Costumes by Alex Amini

Lighting by Rebecca Picherack

Cast: Kristen Da Silva

Alex Furber

Oliver Georgiou

Mary Pitt

A haunted-house-don’t-trust-anybody thriller. The seats at Theatre Orangeville are sturdy and you can nicely sit on the edge of your seat for the whole show.

From the theatre description, cause they do such a good job: “Following a recent tragic event, a celebrity entrepreneur- scientist and his fiancée find themselves inhabiting an abandoned estate home in Northern Ireland. While trying to piece together what happened, they find themselves visited by some mischievous nosey neighbours, ghosts of the past, and a wind that howls with suspicious fury. This quick-witted, suspenseful, thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat.”

Actually Edwin (Oliver Georgiou) is so celebrated a scientist, for inventing an implant that takes away the appetite and a food supplement that has almost no calories, that he escapes with his fiancée Aurora (Kristen Da Silva) to the quiet-wilds of Northern Ireland to a huge house that was arranged by his ‘lawyer’ friend. It’s shabby, a bit run-down and not in a quaint way, and the wind howls with an eeriness like no other place. The house is at the top of a bluff, which is different than a cliff, but just as deadly if you lost your footing.  

Edwin’s previous girlfriend met an untimely end mysteriously and he’s trying to escape that too. As Edwin, Oliver Georgiou is dashing, pompous and a touch mysterious.  Aurora, a sprightly Kristen Da Silva, is an artist who has helped Edwin with the design of the packaging of his inventions and is the adoring fiancée.  

Popping in when Edwin and Aurora least expect it are Dylan (Alex Furber) and his grandmother Marion (Mary Pitt) who live next door. Dylan is a man of few words but when Alex Furber who plays Dylan speaks those few words, they are usually to put Dylan in his place. Edwin believes   

Dylan is a country bumpkin. Dylan constantly proves he’s not.  As Marion, Mary Pitt is piss and vinegar with a dollop of Splenda. She is no nonsense, smart, wily and watchful. You keep your eyes on her as she keeps her eyes on everything. And there’s plenty to see.

Beckie Morris has designed a dandy set that has mystery in every corner. Apparitions appear from nowhere. That curtained window must hide secrets, you are sure of it. It’s to director David Nairn’s credit that he has you looking everywhere for anything that might jump at you. He has created a dandy show in which the sound of that wind will created dingles down the spine. Rebecca Picherack knows how to get her lights to flick and flutter creating the right kind of angst. And playwright Kristen Da Silva will have you listening hard for the clues that somebody is not to be trusted. Yes, it’s easy to sit on the edge of your seat with The Bluff. But keeping that seat and the seat of your pants ‘clean’ might be another matter.

Theatre Orangeville presents:

Opened: March 17, 2023.

Closes: April 2, 2023.

Running time: about 2 hours (One intermission)


Live and in person at Saint-Frère-André Catholic School, Lansdowne Ave., Toronto, Ont. Co-produced by Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and the Théâtre Français de Toronto in association with Dopolavoro Teatrale. Playing until March 26, 2023.

Concept and performance: Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin

Co-creation: Daniele Bartolini and Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin

Staging, Daniele Bartolini

Sound by Andrea Gozzi

Lighting by Sarah Mansikka

Scenography and costumes by Melanie McNeill

A wordless play about a Caretaker (Le Concierge) in a school doing his rounds. A play about loneliness. It’s moving and compelling.

You have to check in, get your time card, stamp your time card, hang up your coats etc. and then you are issued your overalls which you put on over your clothes.  You follow a ‘guide’ who takes you through the halls of this school to a dark room with a line of stools that are dimly lit. We each sit on a stool facing out into the darkness. A flashlight pops up illuminating the Caretaker’s face. Behind him is the dim outline of the seats of an auditorium. The stools and the group are up on the stage. If this is a spoiler, well, uh, sorry. It’s one of many surprises I won’t divulge.

The Caretaker checks various things and leaves. The ‘guide’ takes us to a classroom. The Caretaker is sitting in front of a large tv screen looking at a familiar painting of a gas station with three pumps on a deserted country road. Just visible near one of the pumps is the attendant. “Gas,” 1940, Edward Hopper. The Caretaker looks at the painting for a bit and then gets up. There is a configuration of tables and chairs in the room. He puts all the chairs in the room on top of the desks. He is meticulous in placing the chairs equally on each desk. Then he methodically mops the whole room.

The group follows the Caretaker to the next room. Again, he sits in front of another tv screen with another familiar painting: a well-dressed woman wearing a cloche hat, sits alone at a table, sipping a cup of coffee. “Automat,” 1927, Edward Hopper. The Caretaker gazes at that painting as well. A theme. No one painted loneliness, solitude and sadness like Edward Hopper.

The Caretaker goes about his job, alone. Again, he picks up the chairs and carefully puts each on the desk in front of it. One member of the group helps as well. I straighten one of the chairs on the desk.

This Caretaker is methodical and particular in his work. He is not sloppy. He goes into the men’s washroom and puts a sign on the door that he is cleaning. It’s Sunday afternoon. There is no school, yet he puts the sign up. I love that. He cleans the urinals until they gleam. He carefully removes a piece of chewed gum from one urinal and throws the gum in the trash.

Over the course of the show we will observe the Caretaker taking a break in a hole of a room; dingy, garbage strewn, a sort of cot. He makes and eats microwave popcorn and has a drink in a glass that is not tea. Sadness pervades all he does.

We follow him up and down stairs. In one room something happens and he seems to lose it. It’s quite dramatic. He regains composure. He continues his rounds. We follow and are beckoned to go into a room and mop. Some are adept and some are not. The last image is of the Caretaker sauntering up the unlit hallway, whistling, as he goes through a set of doors and disappears.

Director Daniele Bartolini has staged this immersive piece with all his usual wit, invention, attention to detail and sensitivity. Without a word being said, we have entered the solitary world of this Caretaker. To him, no one is watching, but there is pride and a sense of meticulousness in doing this work well.

He looks at and appreciates two paintings by Edward Hopper. At another point he looks out a window and watches the street scene with interest. The emotional breakdown of sorts is startling and gives us a picture of a human being in distress. Like waiters/waitresses, we don’t notice or remember a caretaker. Director Daniele Bartolini and the equally gifted actor Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin makes us pause, look, see and appreciate.

Co-produced by Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and the Théâtre Français de Toronto in association with Dopolavoro Teatrale.

Playing until March 26, 2023.

Running Time: 80 minutes (no intermission)


Live and in person at the Berkeley Street Theatre, a Canadian Stage and Obsidian Theatre co-production. Plays until March 26, 2023.

Written by Jackie Sibblies Drury

Directed by Tawiah M’Carthy

Choreography by Pulga Muchochoma

Set design by Jawon Kang

Lighting design by Logan Cracknell

Sound by Miquelon Rodriguez

Cast: Peter N. Bailey

Sascha Cole

Colin Doyle

Jennifer Dzialoszynski

Jeff Lillico

Chelsea Russell

Ordena Stephens-Thompson

Sophia Walker

A cheeky, challenging, provocative play about perception, assumption, race and who is doing the gazing.

The Story. Playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury is one smart playwright who knows how to twist and turn her audience into seeing what she wants them to see and then flips them off balance and twists them again to view something else. And being a really clever playwright, one certainly can’t give away the spoilers in this play that might perhaps explain a few things. Perhaps a bit of wiliness might be in order.

Beverly is preparing a family dinner to celebrate her mother’s birthday. There will be Dayton, Beverly’s husband, Keisha, their daughter, Mama, Jasmine, Beverly’s sister and Tyrone, their brother who is flying in to be there.

But everything seems to go wrong for Beverly and everyone else it seems in that house.

The Production. NOTE: This is how playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury sets up her play:

“Acts: Act One appears to be a comedic family drama; Act Two watches Act One. Act Two pushes further into Act One and tries to drive it forward to make Act Three.

Jackie Sibblies Drury also has this first stage direction: “Lights up on a negro: Beverly is peeling carrots, real carrots.”   This is the clue that the audience is watching a Black family prepare for this birthday party.

Jawong Kang has designed a stylish living room/dining room in a two-story house, in a good neighbourhood, according to the stage directions. The room and the furnishings are white or off-white but the long drapes over the big windows are a light green. There are empty picture frames hanging on the wall, but that can be a designer’s idea. The table is set for six, sort of.

Director Tawiah M’Carthy has kept a light hand on the proceedings but a keen sense of detail, attention and a strong sense of humour. There are many traps in the play that can upend the proceedings but M’Cathy avoids every one of them. Smart work.

Beverly (Ordena Stephens-Thompson) is peeling and cutting carrots at the dining room table while listening to dance music on the radio.  There is a momentary glitch in the radio’s reception but that catches Beverly’s attention. Her husband Dayton (Peter N. Bailey) brings in the wrong cutlery for the table. Beverly frets that Dayton did not buy the root vegetables as she asked. She calls after him in the kitchen three times to get his attention. He finally comes into the dining room with a bag of the vegetables. Beverly frets that it takes an hour to prepare those root vegetables and she’s not dressed. Then her stylish sister Jasmine (Sophia Walker, being pointed, watchful and hilarious) arrives bringing a bottle of wine and her condescending attitude towards her sister.  This sends Beverly into a tizzy. She wants the evening to be a success but then gets a call from Tyrone that he won’t be able to make it because his flight is delayed. Beverly and Dayton’s daughter, Keisha (Chelsea Russell giving a perceptive, nuanced performance) arrives home from a school practice. She wants to take a gap year before she begins college and asks her aunt’s help in convincing her mother. Beverly is adamant that Keisha go directly to college, perhaps assuming that if she takes the gap year, she won’t go at all.

Interestingly, both Dayton and Jasmine suggest that Beverly is hyper-anxious and perhaps distraught. As Beverly, Ordena Stephens-Thompson is lively, caught up in the music so that she dances and sways to it. She is also focused, and aware of what needs to be done. She gets so hyper-excited she faints. Is Beverly really anxious, or is that the perception of her husband and sister?

Playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury has created a first act that sounds and looks like a situation comedy. Why is Beverly peeling and chopping carrots at the dining room table and not in the kitchen? They do have a kitchen. Beverly frets that she’s not dressed yet for the evening. Why would she be since the preparations aren’t finished?  Do you peel and chop carrots when you are dressed up?

The table isn’t set yet cause Dayton hasn’t brought in the proper cutlery. Beverly has asked him to get root vegetables and asks him three times before he brings a bag into the dining room, with said veggies. Beverly frets that the root vegetables take an hour to prepare. And Jasmine has arrived, wonderfully dressed in a colourful frock (kudos to Rachel Forbes for the costumes). With all this fretting and all the preparation still to be done, one wonders at what time this dinner is supposed to happen, and why has Jasmine arrived ‘hours’ early it seems? Stuff that Jackie Sibblies Drury gets you to think about.

And then she gets you to think more.

In Act II everything that was said and acted in Act I is repeated only silently, as the cast mouths their speeches and repeats the motions. At the same time there is dialogue playing over this scene by unseen characters who talk about race and switching etc. and then get more and more offensive about race. One gets the sense that the unseen characters are white. In a clever bit of theatrical invention playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury makes it look like/perception the family is actually speaking these offensive lines. Clever and wonderfully unbalancing.

And then we have Act III that really pulls the rug out from under the viewer—one of many rug-pullings that make one think that rug must be threadbare by now with such use. Let me try and keep the spoiler some extent. Now the proceedings take on a farcical tone. Characters arrive at the dinner—Tyrone (Colin A. Doyle) and Mama (Sascha Cole and Jennifer Dzialoszynski) etc. Another tweak at perception—Tyrone is a lawyer. Colin A. Doyle who is greeted as “Tyrone” at the door wears a baseball cap sideways, is in neon clothes, struts and jive talks. All the guests are white. Beverly and family greet them without concern. Only Keisha is confused because she knows this is not her family. And then Jackie Sibblies Drury goes from there.

There is a final extraordinary speech I can’t talk about—spoiler alert. Jackie Sibblies Drury completing her final coup de theatre which references previous speeches and perceptions and misrepresentations. So now we have challenges to perceptions, assumptions and racist stereotypes about Black people, the white gaze, various races, all from the gaze of an African American playwright. Discuss.  

Comment. While it’s interesting to see how playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury plays factions of her audience against each other and against or for her playful/deliberate challenges to part of the audience, I’m not sure the last speech is really supported by the play. Still it’s wonderfully interesting watching this gifted playwright pull the strings on her award winning work.

A Canadian Stage and Obsidian Theatre co-production:

Opened: March 10, 2023

Closes: March 26, 2023

Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)


Live and in person at the CAA Theatre, 651 Yonge St., Toronto, Ont. Produced by David Mirvish and Crow’s Theatre. Plays until April 2, 2023.

Written and performed by Cliff Cardinal

Creative Co-Conspirator, Chris Abraham

Lighting by Logan Cracknell

NOTE: This is the third iteration of this funny, bracing, challenging show by Cliff Cardinal that I have seen since 2021.



A version of this show opened at Crow’s Theatre in 2021 and was called: “William Shakespeare’s As You Like It—a radical retelling by Cliff Cardinal.”

If one delved into the website of Crow’s they would see the additional title of “The Land Acknowledgement.” The running time was 90 minutes according to the website.

Cliff Cardinal, dressed in black pants, a black t-shirt underneath which was an orange t-shirt (It was Truth and Reconciliation Day) and a black windbreaker, came out from behind the red curtain on stage and began by saying: “My name is Cliff Cardinal and this is my Land Acknowledgement.”

He was charming, smiling, impish, and angry. He was angry at what was happening to Mother Earth, because of pollution, or oil spills and all manner of ills. He hated land acknowledgements no matter who gave them. He had harsh words for the Catholic Church, the rich, (saying they didn’t work hard; a person who picked strawberries worked hard). He went on and on in a measured, theatrical way.  Where was As You Like It?  At about the 45-minute mark of this performance of what turned out to be a one-hour show, Cliff Cardinal addressed that very question—where was As You Like It? He said innocently that there was none. He pulled back the curtain to show there was no scenery or even a hint of As You Like It a radical re-telling or otherwise. It was a trick. Cliff Cardinal as a trickster. And we were urged at the end of the show not to give away the trick.

In my review:

 I felt Cliff Cardinal was giving the audience the finger. I said so in the review. All hell broke loose as a result. Lots of invective to me, (racist, irrelevant, worse) usually from people who didn’t see the show or read the review properly, or misinterpreted it or whatever; some positive comment; some discussion but lots of angry comment at a review that told what I was looking at. I did not play into the trick and the urging of ‘don’t tell what the ruse is.’ I said at the end of the review of the land acknowledgement: “as for As You Like It—I didn’t.”  

The result is that I got more hits on my blog because of that review than I have ever received for any other review. People wrote or called me and said they would not see the show because of the review. One was from Mirvish Productions. I insisted they go. They had to see it for themselves, they could not take my opinion as theirs.

One of the mysteries to the public that they don’t know, of theatre criticism, is that I actually want people to go to the theatre and decide for themselves especially if my review is less than positive. Those folks went as I urged. They all loved it. I could not be more delighted. Another mystery of theatre criticism, we don’t have to agree. We have to be open for discussion. The show was held over twice; the first announcement was made on opening night, before any review; the second holdover was announced soon after the few reviews appeared. I was the notable negative one. Forgive the arrogance, but I am taking full credit for the second hold-over of the show because of the clamor of my review. Another mystery of theatre reviews? They get people to go to the theatre. At least mine seem to do that.


I saw that The Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa was programming the show. Now it was called: As You Like It: a radical retelling. There was no mention on the GCTC website of The Land Acknowledgement. It was still marketed as a radical retelling of As You Like It. I was intrigued. I decided to drive to Ottawa, to GCTC, one Sunday, to see the show again, to see what I missed.

The Production. The GCTC lobby is fitted out with pastoral pictures that look like they take place in a forest. A character looks like he is a Joker of sorts, playing on that vision of As You Like It.  As I sit in my seat waiting for curtain time, I hear the sounds of birds tweeting and the lilting recorded voice of Ed McCurdy singing a variety of folk songs. It’s all in aid of setting us up for As You Like It.

(I ask the young man beside me why he’s come to this show. He says that he’s studying As You Like It in school and he’s reading the play and is interested in what Cliff Cardinal has to say. The young man rarely goes to the theatre. I ask the woman next to him—he doesn’t know her—why she’s come. She says that she’s Indigenous and she wants “to see him (Cliff Cardinal) smash this play” (presumably a play of the colonizers). I don’t say a word of information about the show to either of them beforehand, and we go our separate ways after, so I don’t ask what they thought.)

The lights dim. Cliff Cardinal comes out—black pants, shoes, t-shirt, jacket, no orange t-shirt under the black t-shirt. I wait for him to say, “My name is Cliff Cardinal and this is my land acknowledgement.” He doesn’t say it. I wait for him to follow that with: “I’m angry.” Nope. He talks about the land on which GCTC is situated in vague terms, like every other land acknowledgement. He then says that he hates land acknowledgements. He hates them said by ‘settlers.’ He hates them said by Indigenous people. He has cutting words for the ‘woke,’ for those professing to be ‘allies,’ for the rich, for the destructive Catholic Church, pedophile priests, nasty nuns, lazy, care-less teachers, anything phony. He does have respect for hard-working strawberry pickers.  

He gently chides the Ottawa audience to keep up and see how what he is saying connects to the land. The land has rivers and streams polluted by industry. There are approximately 7,000 children buried in the land in unmarked graves on the property of former residential schools run by the Catholic Church. There are thousands of Indigenous women and girls missing from the land.

Cliff Cardinal’s piercing laser gaze firmly pins you to the seat, squirming. He’s not flicking his middle digit. It’s much subtler than that. He is an equal opportunity skewerer. He will make everybody squirm with his quiet, devastating truths. He follows every barb with an impish, ‘disarming’ smile, leaving you questioning every assumption you may have had about anything to do with Indigenous culture, colonialism, land acknowledgements and what you think might be true.

He has completely rethought his show, turned it inside out and upside down. He has expanded it, refocused his attention to every aspect of it and clarified various connections. He still has the trick of revealing there is no As You Like It, except as a play on words and he still asks the audience to keep the ruse and not tell. I don’t have such an obligation to the theatre company or the playwright. Revealing the trick doesn’t diminish the importance of this show.   

This is a land acknowledgement like you have never heard one before. The result is bracing, brutal and brilliant.


The sound of birds twittering can be heard as the audience files in. The lilting voice of Ed McCurdy sings traditional folk songs.

The show at the CAA Theatre is now appropriately titled, THE LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, or As You Like It. Cliff Cardinal appears from behind the red curtain hanging across the CAA Theatre stage and says: “My name is Cliff Cardinal and this is my land acknowledgement.” He vaguely references that at one point in the show’s development that William Shakespeare’s As You Like It was part of the title, but was thought that if you offered that as the show and didn’t fulfill that offer that the Mirvish audience wouldn’t be able to handle it. Hmmmm. So at the get-go the audience knows the show is the land acknowledgement without the trick of the offer of As You Like It, that is then snatched away. In this case the sub-title of As You Like It can just be considered a play on words, which it is.

To some, tricking the audience by offering them one show but giving them another, is equitable to the duplicity shown to Indigenous Peoples over history. Uh, no, I don’t think so. Every person in the audience has been tricked, or short changed or duped somehow in their lives. Equating that with having to live with polluted, contaminated rivers on a reserve because of the mendacity of industry is ridiculous and not even in the same universe of trickery. It’s best that for this run at least, the trick is cut.

Cliff Cardinal continues to be a charming, often impish, engaging performer/story-teller. He is very attuned to the audience and their reactions or lack-there-of and how to ‘play’ them and play to them. His arguments are pointed but they are made initially in a disarming way. And then the arguments come fast and with a sense of fury. He’s angry and he says it quietly for real effect and he lets the audience know it in no uncertain terms.   

For this iteration the basic shape and presentation of The Land Acknowledgement is fundamentally the same as he presented in Ottawa (the second iteration). Mother Earth, the land and what is happening to it is there in Cliff Cardinal’s laser gaze.  Again, he follows every barb with an impish, ‘disarming’ smile, leaving you questioning every assumption you may have had about anything to do with Indigenous culture, colonialism, land acknowledgements and what you think might be true. He says that he hates land acknowledgements. He hates them said by ‘settlers.’ He hates them said by Indigenous people. He has cutting words for the ‘woke,’ for those professing to be ‘allies,’ for the rich, for the destructive Catholic Church, pedophile priests, nasty nuns, lazy, care-less teachers, anything phony. He does have respect for hard-working strawberry pickers.  

He continues to subtly re-work, reposition, shift and change the focus of speeches and sections. I sense that the anger at the Catholic Church and the various priests and nuns come in for particular attention this time around. He has expanded the section of needing good, trained, caring teachers to teach on reserves to inspire students, not some incompetent who couldn’t get a job at a school they preferred.

The result is that THE LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, or As You Like It is a funny, challenging, deeply felt, moving show that will make you squirm, think, ponder, and reconsider everything you thought about this subject.

I want every single person who saw William Shakespeare’s As You Like It—a radical retelling by Cliff Cardinal at Crow’s Theatre to see the show again in the revised version, as The Land Acknowledgement or As You Like It at the CAA Theatre. And if you never saw it before, for whatever reason, see it! The change in the title accurately reveals what this show is about. It needs to be seen, heard, reflected upon, pondered and considered.

David Mirvish and Crow’s Theatre Present:

Opened: March 14, 2023.

Plays until April 2, 2023

Running Time: 90 minutes (no intermission)


Review: THE GIG

by Lynn on March 14, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Theatre Aquarius, Hamilton, Ont. Playing until March 25, 2023.

Written by Mark Crawford

Directed by Morris Panych

Set and costumes by Jackie Chau

Lighting by Jason Hand

Sound by Lyon Smith

Cast: Neil Barclay

Philippa Domville

Steven Gallagher

Natascha Girgis

Jamie “Lucinda Miu” Lujan

Jim Mezon

A cheeky, witty often moving play about fitting in, belonging, prickly families and a perfect ‘drag name’ doesn’t hurt.

NOTE: The Gig was commissioned and developed by Alberta Theatre Projects. Because of the pandemic the theatre could not perform the play live, so it streamed performances last year where I saw it. The Theatre Aquarius production is The Gig’s world premiere.

The Story. Terry Tucker is a drag artist and booker of drag gigs.  He has been asked to organize a drag show as a fundraiser. For this gig, besides himself, he books Fonda De Behrs and Ms. XXXBox. Each has their issues. Fonda has not worked in five years because of a substance issue and needs the job. Ms. XXXBox is young with attitude problems. Terry never asked Karyn Sloane, the person booked him, who was sponsoring the fundraiser. He’s mortified when he finds out from Karyn—no spoiler alert—it’s his sister, Laura Nelson, who is running to represent the Conservative Party in Ottawa. We could be in Alberta or not.

Terry and his sister have never really gotten along. She’s straight-laced and he’s usually laced into something flimsy and suggestive for his gigs. Then there is the issue of what Terry and his colleagues consider the blinkered attitude of the Conservative Party towards anyone outside what they would consider, “normal behaviour.” Drag queens do not fit into the Party’s idea of family values. What to do? Plenty, as we come to learn.

The Production. Designer Jackie Chau has created a set that is initially back stage. There are three makeup tables, racks of colourful costumes, boas, glitter etc. On one table is a pink makeup case.

Terry Tucker (Steven Gallagher) is the first to arrive. He’s in jeans, a t-shirt and he wears a head covering, ready for a wig to put over it. Fonda De Behrs (Neil Barclay) is next, laidback but with a sharp sense of humour. And then the in-your-face Ms. XXX Box (Jaime “Lucinda Miu” Lujan), eye-makeup already, tight jeans and t-shirt and every time Ms. XXX Box introduces ‘herself’ she turns her back to the person, does a deep squat close to them, and says the name. It’s a performance full of attitude and brashness.

Karyn Sloane as played by Lisa Horner, is a bit too anxious to be friendly and accommodating to these drag queens. But she is no-nonsense when taking control of difficult situations. For example, Laura Nelson (Philippa Domville)  hopes to replace Jim Wright (Jim Mezon) in parliament. He is right-wing and Terry assumes Jim would not be a friend of the drag queens. Karyn knows first hand about Jim’s inappropriate comments. Karyn is trying to ‘contain’ Jim and his desperation to put in a good word, publicly for Laura. As Laura, Philippa Domville is all smiles, barely contained anxiety, and is desperate to make a change in government. Terry just wishes that his sister had been clear and transparent with him regarding the fundraiser. And he isn’t the only one. Fonda has previous knowledge of Jim Wright and he has an idea to put into the act that will take matters into their own hands and let all in attendance know how they feel.

Director Morris Panych is a master of comedy and the telling detail and he knows how to shine a light on every single joke, gag and gesture. He knows how to guide his cast to be flamboyant when they have to and contained when that is more effective.  He has a wonderful cast that goes for the gusto in this smart, thoughtful and occasionally over-the-top production, especially the second Act drag act. Each actor in the drag act is funny, accomplished and irreverent. Those used to the erudite humour of Neil Barclay at the Shaw Festival will be blown away at his performance as Fonda De Behrs—it is bold and fearless, and when you least expect it, so moving.

Playwright Mark Crawford is a gifted playwright who imbues his plays with quips, laugh-lines that are hilarious and situations that are both funny and serious. They are always about something serious but with humour to get the characters ‘through.’ In Bed and Breakfast a gay couple come to a small town to open a bed and breakfast and try to fit in. One can imagine what that couple has to go through to be accepted. The New Canadian Curling Club is about a group of new Canadians who come together to learn how to curl, and are taught by an irascible, irritable man who is not happy about it all. In Stag and Doe we learn about the quirks of marriage in rural Ontario when all people want to do is get married without the hassle and aggravation. Crawford writes about real situations with consequences and he does it with humour that is in his characters and the situations they get into. Even the part of Dani (Natascha Girgis) a harried stage hand has their own moments in all the mayhem.  

In The Gig there is a depth of situation that takes his writing to another level. Terry Tucker is a drag queen and good at it. He has always felt the judgmental eye of his sister Laura and this instance is no different. There is a reckoning; each challenges the other with their beliefs. Each has a strongly held point of view. Interestingly, there are no villains here. Even the right-wing Jim Wright (a strong performance by Jim Mezon) seems to have shifted in his thinking. Do we believe him? Does he need more refining and more development from Crawford? Each person in the audience will have an opinion.

What is not in question is that The Gig is a play with heart, great laughs and something important to say.   

Comment. Artistic Director Mary Francis Moore has changed Theatre Aquarius so that it is welcoming to all Hamiltonians, no matter the culture, ethnicity or sexual orientation. On this opening of the the 50th season of Theatre Aquarius, in which she also revealed the 2023-24 season, the lobby was buzzing with a cross-section of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic faces who had a plethora of pronoun choices. They all seemed delighted to be there, as it should be.

Theatre Aquarius presents:

Opened: March 10, 2023

Closes: March 25, 2023.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (1 intermission).


Live and in person at the Festival Theatre, Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. A Why Not Theatre Production in association with the Barbican, London, commissioned and presented by the Shaw Festival. Playing until March 26, 2023.

Written and adapted by Ravi Jain and Miriam Fernandes

(using poetry from Carole Satyamaurti’s Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling. Original concept developed with Jenn Koons).

Directed by Ravi Jain

Set by Lorenzo Savoini

Costumes by Gillian Gallow

Lighting by Kevin Lamotte

Projections by Hana S. Kim

Original music and sound design by John Gzowski and Suba Sankaran

Choreography by Brandy Leary

Musicians: John Gzowski

Suba Sankaran

Dylan Bell

Gurtej Singh Hunjan

Hasheel Lodhia

Zaheer-Abbas Janmohamed

Cast: Shawn Ahmed

Neil D’Souza

Jay Emmanuel

Miriam Fernandes

Varun Guru

Karthik Kadam

Harmage Singh Kalirai

Darren Kuppan

Anaka Maharaj-Sandhu

Goldy Notay

Ellora Patnaik

Meher Pavri

Anand Rajaram

Sakuntala Ramanee

Ronica Sajnani

Ishan Sandhu

Navtej Sandhu

Munish Sharma

Sukania Venugopal

A herculean endeavor to bring the Mahabharata to the stage to show both the powerful cultural epic and also realize the intense story of two warring families. Kudos to Ravi Jain and Miriam Fernandes for their incredible efforts lasting eight years until fruition.

Background. The Mahābhārata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India in Hinduism, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their successors.

The original author is Vyasa who wrote this epic poem in Sanskrit. It was written between c. 400 BCE-c. 400 CE. There are 200,000 lines.  Among the principal works and stories in the Mahābhārata are: the Bhagavad Gita, Damayanti, Shakuntala, Pururava and Urvashi, Savitri and Satyavan, Kacha and Devayani, Rishyasringa and an abbreviated version of the Rāmāyaṇa, often considered as works in their own right.

The Story. To say The Mahabharata is dense with characters, philosophies and ethics is an understatement. Co-writers Ravi Jain and Miriam Fernandes have focused their version of the epic on the ongoing animosity between the 100 strong Kaurava family and the five brothers who made up the Pandava family. Each vied for power, property, position and to rule the kingdom. Each promised to follow the strict dictates of war but each resorted to trickery, duplicity and cheating to gain position. Rage, anger and hatred ruled decisions (echoes of war through the ages). Neither side would yield. For a four-thousand-year-old epic, it certainly is prescient about the brutality, blind-determination and animosity that has driven warring sides through the ages.

The Production. The Mahabharata is presented in two parts. “Mahabharata: KARMA (Part 1) The Life We Inherit” and “Mahabharata: Dharma (Part 2) The Life We Choose” which includes the Bhagavad Gita opera.  There are some days when both parts are performed with a dinner break of one hour and 10 minutes, called KHANA Community Meal. While having a community meal is a wonderful idea to get into the spirit of the event, I cannot recommend the meal: too expensive at $45 for what you get: a lukewarm vegetarian meal of beans, potatoes, peas, lentils, naan, a yogurt drink (all should have been individually labeled to inform folks what it was—not just a sign to the side listing the menu) and on a separate table, again, an unmarked bowl of sliced carrots that was so hot/spicy my uvula nearly melted. Nothing indicated how hot that was. Not helpful.

Lorenzo Savoini’s set is exquisite in evoking the mysticism of India 4000 years ago. A circle of red sand dominates the stage floor. Is it really red sand or is it Kevin Lamotte’s evocative lighting that suggests red sand? Not sure. In any case it’s an arresting image. A stool is in the middle of the circle. A bank of lights stretches across the back of the stage. At points in the storytelling the lights will rise or lower slowly and illuminate the stage. The musicians are situated on the stage, in full view, along the back wall. The beautiful score by John Gzowski and Suba Sankaran underscores the telling of the story without ever distracting from it. It always enhances the story and accentuates the power of war.

The Storyteller, the wonderful Miriam Fernandes, enters the stage and sits on the stool in the circle. She begins the story of Part 1 by introducing the various gods, participants and where they came from. It’s information overload trying to keep track of who is related to whom and who belongs to what family, the Kauravas or the Pandavas. This part is particularly challenging with many characters being introduced to give background. One must quote the Storyteller from the play to keep things in perspective: “Don’t be confused by plots. Within the river of stories flows infinite wisdom. This is your true inheritance.” To carry on the river metaphor, float in the information and don’t drown in it; the information will buoy you up. Miriam Fernandes is charming, buoyant, clear, precise and measured in her pacing. And she is so invested in telling the story clearly that we hang in there.

The images of men at war or illuminating why one is a champion archer are many and vivid. I’m surprised that director Ravi Jain does not show or realize many of these images in physical theatricality rather than just telling us about them.

But I sense that he uses dance in its many forms to tell many of the stories. Dance is a particular vocabulary that I don’t know in order to interpret what is being said. I do know that various Indian dances and its forms are precise, intricate and particular. Each hand gesture, each turn of the head, each position of the foot, means something, so on that level, I’m impressed with this way of telling the story.

What is not in question is Ravi Jain’s ability to realize the huge theatrical sweep of the story. At times a large sphere slowly lowers at the back symbolic of a change in the story. The curtain to end the act lowers slowly, again for a theatrical effect.

The second half of Part 1 moves quicker because the story has been established. “Mahabharata: Dharma (Part 2) The Life We Choose, goes like the wind. The sides between the two families are set. War is inevitable. Dance is used to recreate the energy and fierceness of battle. Kudos to Jay Emmanuel as Shiva and Amba and Ellora Patnaik as Kinti/Drona particularly for the electrifying dance.

Part 2 contains the Bhagavad Gita opera sung in exquisite stillness by Meher Pavri. She is dressed in a gold gown (kudos to Gillian Gallow for the beautiful costumes) and sunburst head covering. She slowly moves cross the stage singing the opera, her hands are by her sides. There are no gestures for emotion. It’s all in the singing. Stunning.

The cast to a person is excellent. Every pose, gesture, hand-movement, kneel on the stage, evokes a classical pose in Indian paintings or sculpture. It all works to bring the culture alive in the story. A triumph.    

Comment. This production is a truly international endeavor. The cast are all of South Asian decent coming from Canada, England, India and Australia for example. The creatives are a truly international cross-section of artists bringing their expertise to produce a work that is seamless in conjuring the rich world of The Mahabharata.

Ravi Jain and his co-writer Miriam Fernandes worked on this project for eight years. It was commissioned by the Shaw Festival and was supposed to play at the Shaw Festival for the summer a few years ago but COVID interfered. Now it’s relegated to play a short run in March. One must be thankful for small mercies with something this huge. Still, March? (sigh) Never Mind.

After this The Mahabharata will go on a world tour (I sense the determined hand of Ravi Jain and his international reach to accomplish this too), and that seems fitting. This is a stunning production in every single way.

A Why Not Theatre Production in association with the Barbican, London, commissioned and presented by the Shaw Festival.

Opened: March 9, 2023.

Closes: March 26, 2023.

Running Time: Part 1- 2 hours and 30 minutes (one intermission)

                           Part 2- 2 hours 20 minutes (one intermission)


Live and in person at the Aki Studio. A Pencil Kit Productions production presented by Nightwood Theatre with support from Aluna Theatre, Toronto, Ont. Playing until March 19.

Note: I first reviewed this show in Oct. 2022 when it was part of the RUTAS FESTIVAL, Produced by Aluna Theatre. Now it’s been picked up for another run by Nightwood Theatre, Toronto’s only Feminist Theatre. It’s fitting that the play opened on International Women’s Day.

The production has been tweaked by creator/performer Claren Grosz so I repeat the original review with my own tweaking.

Created and performed by Claren Grosz

Co-directed by Will Dao and Claren Grosz

Projection designer, Claren Grosz

Projectionists/collaborators: Jesse Wabegijig

Elysse Waugh

Stephanie Zeit

Set and lighting by Echo Zhou

Composer, Christopher-Elizabeth

Contributing artist, Emily Jung

In I Love the Smell of Gasoline, theatre artist Claren Grosz has written a bristling one-person show, bursting with passion, information and concern about the world and the environment. The little blurb in the program of the previous production just scratches the surface of what she covers:

“ In I Love the Smell of Gasoline, Claren attempts to reconcile her Alberta oil-industry roots with the current environmental emergency. The project was born of a frustration with divisive Canadian politics, rampant hypocrisy, and a lack of team spirit when facing impending doom. It unpacks some of the forces that drive global warming and Western alienation in a person account of what it is to live in a modern, capitalist environment, be a self-serving organism, and also care about the earth and fellow creature kind.”

In this present incarnation of the production Claren Grosz writes: “This is my effort to hold contradicting truths at the same time. Or at least, if not at the same time, hold them very close together. Hold them up to the light. Turn them over.”

Claren Grosz’s production is complex and tech-heavy with three projectionists/collaborators working seamlessly to project images, formulae, models, miniature figurines frequently at the same time. It can appear messy. But there also is a sense of urgency to the telling. Claren Grosz’s voice is quiet, resounding and clear.

She impishly says that many people have told her that there are too many numbers in her show. Claren Grosz explains that she is a math tutor. Numbers are in her fingers. She’s not going to cut down on the numbers if they prove a point.

I Love the Smell of Gasoline references geology, history, anthropology, prehistoric history, the environment, her hometown of Calgary, the gas and oil industry and how her family has deep roots in it, and she brings a perspective that acknowledges many different points of view. This is not a polemic. She sees many sides to the story and she introduces them.

She is particularly close to her family, especially her father who was a surveyor until he retired. At one point she says that he became seriously ill with cancer and needed an operation but that was cancelled because of the pandemic. One hopes he’s ok. She doesn’t say and since Claren Grosz is such a compelling performer, who so engages the audience, they might feel so invested in her they want to know he’s ok. She just drops this segment of the show and it feels abrupt. The play is full of personal comments and conversations with her friends, the various partners she’s had, her family. It’s a deeply personal, passionate exploration of what is going on in our world.

I found this incarnation of the show more graceful in the telling, more detailed in the presentation. The set and lighting by Echo Zhou are effective in illuminating the world of petroleum products and the stars, which can’t be seen from Toronto and Calgary. That thought alone is telling in the context of her show. There is a wonderful creation by Jessica Hiemstra that is a cascade of white and black plastic bags falling out of an oil drum. Brilliant. There seems to be a new moment where it appears that the show has ended with a black out resulting in applause, only to have the lights pop up again, and Claren Grosz laughingly saying that the show isn’t over. It does end soon after that moment after she adds more thoughts. I think that glitch should be rethought so that the natural flow of the show is not disrupted.

Otherwise, Claren Grosz tells her important message with passion, charm, wit and vibrant imagination.

A Pencil Kit Productions production presented by Nightwood Theatre with support from Aluna Theatre:

Opened: March 8, 2023

Closes: March 19, 2023.

Running Time: 75 minutes (no intermission)