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THE BIG LEAGUE

by Lynn on February 19, 2011

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At the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People. Written by James Durham. Directed by Mary Ellen MacLean. Set and costumes by Jung-Hye Kim. Lighting by Rebecca Picherack. Starring: Matt Bois, Mark McGrinder, Simon Rainville and Tamila Zaslavsky.

 Tommy loves to play hockey. He’s practiced for hundreds of hours and played probably hundreds of games, and he’s only 12 years old. He loved it when his father taught him how to skate when he was a ‘kid’. Then they were a team. But now that Tommy’s 12 and  he wants to play for the triple A junior hockey team, his father has changed. Now playing hockey is a serious business. Tommy’s father keeps on riding him from the sidelines to pass and shoot and stop missing opportunities. It’s getting on Tommy’s nerves. It’s getting on the nerves of Tommy’s hockey playing friends too—Deke and Bobby.

It’s so bad that when Tommy’s father yells out from the sidelines, Tommy freezes and doesn’t play well. His father is well meaning he says. When Tommy’s father was a kid, he wanted to play for triple A as well. But he wasn’t good enough. It was a terrible disappointment. But Tommy’s father thinks that Tommy has the goods. And so he rides him. He urges him to be aggressive, going even so far as to play dirty. It’s allowed he says. Until Tommy illegally hooks Deke and hurts him. At first even Tommy tries to fool himself that that behaviour is acceptable, until his friends set him straight. When his father yells at him during another game, Tommy has enough. He takes off his gloves and sits on the ice refusing to play. Eventually Tommy and his friends set his father straight—that Tommy loves playing hockey and that’s that. He will do the best he can and his father will just have to keep quiet about it. Finally his father sees the light.

Simplistic? Sure. But this one hour play is mainly for the school kids who come by the bus loads with their classes, who might be going through the same kind of parental pressure as Tommy is. If it gives the kid the confidence to say ‘back off’ to the pushy parent, fine. If a parent brings a son or daughter to non-school performances, and the parent sees himself/or herself in Tommy’s dad and does something about it, all the better.

The plays produced by the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People are not meant to hector or lecture, or hit anyone over the head with ‘a message.’ They are meant to reflect the world in which the young person lives. And this play does it in the gentlest way.

Director Mary Ellen MacLean has a clear vision about how to present this play without hitting us over the head. The hockey-rink set of Jung-Hye Kim is impressive as the characters ‘skate’ on roller blades as they pass the imaginary puck. The cast of Matt Bois as Deke, Simon Rainville as Tommy and Tamila Zaslavsky as Bobby are all impressive as these adults play kids. And they don’t do it in that simpering, childish way. Mark McGrinder as Tommy’s dad deserves special mention. McGrinder’s almost gentle way and his winning smile, make Tommy’s dad a flawed man and not an ogre. We do believe that he wants the best for his kid.

THE BIG LEAGUE plays at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People Mainspace until February 24, 2011.

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HIGHWAY 63: THE FORT MAC SHOW

by Lynn on February 17, 2011

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At Theatre Passe Muraille. Created by Georgina Beaty, Charlotte Corbeil Coleman, Layne Coleman, Greg Gale and Jonathan Seinen. Directed by Charlotte Corbeil Coleman. Set and lights by Steve Lucas. Performed by Georgina Beaty, Greg Gale and Jonathan Seinen. Developed by Architect Theatre. Produced by Theatre Passe Muraille.

HIGHWAY 63: THE FORT MAC SHOW is about people tending their gardens, being good neighbours, making a living, flirting, loneliness, finding love, trying to save the environment and the Alberta oil sands disaster, among other things.

 In true Passe Muraille style, a theatre company of five wanted to make a play about this ecological disaster and went to Fort McMurray to interview people living there, hear their stories, and then shape them into the play. The play is performed by three of the five: Georgina Beaty, Greg Gale, and Jonathan Seinen. Layne Coleman is one of the creators. His gifted daughter Charlotte Corbeil Colman, directs.

At first there is no mention of the oil sands. There are stories of the people who live there and think their city is beautiful. They plant and tend their gardens. They shop for groceries. They go to bars and have fun. Visitors find the place beautiful as well. People come from far and wide to work there—for the energy industry—because the pay is very good. From scientists, who are trying to solve ecological problems, to ordinary truck drivers who haul stuff away, they leave their families to sign up for long contracts. The fantastic pay is the lure.  

HIGHWAY 63 focuses on the human, often funny stories of mainly three people. Steve is a scientist working on the oil sands to solve ecological problems. Chad is from Newfoundland and is on a contract driving a truck. He rents a room in Steve’s rented house. For all his bravado he is intensely lonely but won’t go back home because that would be considered a failure.  Mary is native to Fort McMurray but dreams of moving to Toronto to go school to be a modern dancer. At first Steve is sweet on Mary. Chad eggs him on to approach her and ask her for a date. Steve is shy and awkward. Chad is bold and assertive in his efforts to get Steve to make a move. In the end though it’s Chad and Mary who end up together. 

As Steve, Jonathan Seinen is sweet, understated, and without edge. He creates a gentle kind of guy who is passed over by the girl for a bolder suitor.

As Mary, Georgina Beaty has a fearlessness that is compelling. And as Chad, Greg Gale is hugely inventive, rubber-boned and a wonderful physical clown. And when you least expect it, he shows how deeply lonely Chad is. All three are endearing performers. They are directed with invention, wit and imagination by Charlotte Corbeil Colman.

As these bitter-sweet, gentle stories evolve, it is the oil sands that are always in our face. Designer Steve Lucas has created a simple set with a deceptive floor covering of light brown cork.  Every time a chair is moved over the floor covering it clears a path revealing black underneath. When Chad wipes his boots on the covering, as he comes into the house, the brown cork is brushed away and black is revealed–the oil in the sand.

How the oil is in the sand is likened to a multi-layered cake. How to remove the oil and then restore the environment is also explained. It’s chillingly clear that restoring the environment is not all that simple.

There are no villains in this play. There is no hectoring or lecturing about who is to blame. There is humour, heart, thought, intelligence, balance and fairness. “Keep it light” was a bit of advice the group received. And they did. It’s also thought-provoking and important.

 HIGHWAY 63: THE FORT MAC SHOW plays at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace until Feb. 26, 2011.

www.passemuraille.on.ca

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Peter Donaldson Tribute

by Lynn on January 26, 2011

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New York

by Lynn on January 24, 2011

in Archive,What Should I See

“South Pacific”
At Lincoln Center
212.239.6200
Rogers and Hammerstein’s lush, moving musical about love between men and women from different cultures and classes: lessons are learned the hard way. Directed by Bartlett Sher as a play with music rather than the traditional musical. Award season is in full swing in New York and South Pacific is raking them in. Open-ended run because people are clamoring for tickets.

“In The Heights”
At the Richard Rogers Theatre
Book by Quiara Alegria Hudes. Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Directed by Thomas Kail. A glorious musical about resilience, family, faithfulness to ones beliefs all seen from a Latino point of view in New York. A dilemma is created and the solution is elegant and fitting. The energy of the production is infectious and the message is compelling. Mr. Miranda conceived of the idea, wrote the music and lyrics and stars in the show. He is one talented fellah.

Toronto

by Lynn on January 23, 2011

in Archive,What Should I See

Winnipeg

by Lynn on January 22, 2011

in Archive,What Should I See

The theatre in the city does not seem to wind down for the holidays, with two openings this week. With so much theatre and too little time, our theatre critic Lynn Slotkin is here to review those two show: ROSHNI a play set in India today and STUDIES IN MOTION which takes place in the 1880s in the States.

Hello Lynn. Usually you tie shows together when you review two of them. What’s the connection between ROSHNI and STUDIES IN MOTION?

I guess, to be perverse, the fact that they are so different makes them interesting to me to talk about. Both deal with stories about people and their dreams. But both deal with the telling in startling, different ways with different results.

Ok. Let’s take them in turn. What’s Roshni about?

ROSHNI is written by the gifted Anusree Roy. It’s about two beggar children in Calcutta, who are devoted friends.

Chumki is a blind boot polisher, who also sings for donations from unsuspecting passers-by. She is saving her money to give to a mysterious man, who knows somebody, who can do an operation that will restore her sight.

Her partner in begging is King Kumar, who is a tea-seller. King Kumar is an equally wily kid who is saving his money to give to his uncle who says he can get him a job in a Bollywood film. King Kumar has visions of being a Bollywood star.

Each kid knows that the other is being cheated, and says but the friendship is firm until something drastic happens.

ROSHNI in Hindi means “light”.

And STUDIES IN MOTION, what’s the story there.

It’s the intersection of science and culture. The story is written by Kevin Kerr, and takes place in the 1880s. Usually in the States. It’s about photographer Eadweard Muybridge who was fascinated about the intricacies of movement. He took about 100,000 photos of animals and humans in various forms of movement—walking, running, jumping. In the case of the humans they were usually photographed nude. As he said he wanted to make the invisible visible.

He was investigating the components of a movement. How does it work? There are also aspects of his personal life, but at the centre of STUDIES IN MOTION is Muybridge’s obsession with his investigation.

I would think that the productions are vastly different.

They are and not just because ROSHNI has a cast of two and STUDIES IN MOTION has a cast of 12. ROSHNI is an intimate, love story of friendship. There is immediacy and charm in the performances of Anusree Roy as Chumki and Byron Abalos as King Kumar.

We see both their innocent hope, their intense efforts to survive and their sweet care for each other. The production is beautifully realized in the direction of Thomas Morgan Jones. If there is a quibble, it is that at times I thought the story was padded. Chumki singing three songs to get money is two too many. That said, I think the characters are beautifully, fully drawn and the story is told simply with economy.

And STUDIES IN MOTION?

The production is dazzling. Director Kim Collier has such an eye for the visually arresting image. She uses sound, projections, lighting and movement to achieve those images. For example there is a projection of a formidable building in the background that Muybridge will be working in, and then with one step there is another projection and we are in a large, impressive room inside that building. And of course a group of naked men and women running, walking or dancing across a stage will certainly get one to sit up.

While the production is visually dazzling, I found it emotionally sterile. That the look was all and that the characters were underdeveloped. I can appreciate that this is a deliberate choice, I just think that it diminishes the production to techno wizardry, albeit done at a high artistic level.

Also, Muybridge keeps saying that his investigation into movement will be invaluable to doctors, artists and many other professionals. I just wished that the play told me how or why the study would be important.

Ok you have concerns with both, would you recommend them?

Yes, in a shot. I would go anywhere to see the work of Anusree Roy and Kim Collier. Both ROSHNI and STUDIES IN MOTION have a lot to offer in different ways to our burgeoning theatre scene.

ROSHNI plays at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace until December 11. STUDIES IN MOTION plays at the Bluma Appel Theatre until December 18.

The Tempest & Hamilet

by Lynn on December 17, 2010

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Beauty and the Beast

by Lynn on December 12, 2010

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Elgin Theatre

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David French Tribute

by Lynn on December 12, 2010

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Click here to hear Lynn’s review