The Passionate Playgoer

At the Monarch Tavern, Clinton St., Toronto, Ont.

 

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Catherine Rainville and James Wallis

Choreography by John Wamsley

Composed by Hilary Adams

Cast: Hilary Adams

Zara Jestadt

Nyiri Katakas

Eliza Martin

Kate McArthur

Megan Miles

Michelle Mohammed

Justin Mullen

Nick Nahwegahbow

Julia Nish-Lapidus

Mussie Solomon

John Wamsley

How prescient of the gifted folks of Shakespeare BASH’d to know that their wonderfully thoughtful, funny, emotion-filled production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the perfect show to see on a cold November night right after a major snowstorm.

Let me borrow their mission statement to explain their name and mandate:

​“A “Bash” is a crushing blow. It can be aggressive and done with passion. It can be about making an attempt, going at it all your own. It can also be a wild night.

Shakespeare BASH’d is an actor initiative that seeks to take ownership of their own creativity by producing Shakespeare’s plays in social settings, creating a relaxed, exciting environment for the audience.

Their mission is to present Shakespeare’s plays as they were written: with simple staging, clear and specific language, and an emphasis on the words and characters telling the story.

Shakespeare BASH’d seeks to synthesize the traditional with the modern, to look at the plays from a place of curiosity, fun, excitement, truth, professionalism, and love.”

 Their productions are presented in a bar—talk about relaxed—and the Monarch Tavern on Clinton Street is as relaxed and inviting as they come. The audience sits on either side of the playing area, drink in hand. The action happens between the two sides of the room, and often elsewhere. The lights are always up—they are honest when they say that the staging etc. is simple.

What is not simple about these productions is the care, attention to detail and rigor the company invests in realizing the play that Shakespeare wrote. They might cut the text and change the gender of characters, as they do with A Midsummer Night’s Dream but they are true to the spirit and message of Shakespeare.

For our purposes, Egeus is now a woman  played with righteous indignation by Megan Miles. Egeus wants her daughter Hermia (Eliza Martin) to marry Demetrius (Mussie Solomon) the man to whom Egeus gives consent. Hermia wants to marry Lysander (Justin Mullen). The matter is taken to Theseus, the Duke of Athens (Nick Nahwegahbow). Egeus wants Hermia to follow her dictates or have her put to death. A bit harsh, that.

Hermia and Lysander decide to run away to his aunt’s house and get married there. They tell Hermia’s friend Helena (Nyiri Karakas) of their plans. Helena in turn tells Demetrius because she’s in love with him and hopes to make points with him.

They all follow each other into the forest where all manner of magic and mayhem happen. Several local characters, the Mechanicals,  prepare a play for the impending marriage of Theseus and his fiancé Hippolyta (Hilary Adams); a fairy King named Oberon (a commanding Kate McArthur) and a fairy Queen named Titania (a fiery, beguiling Zara Jestadt) live in the forest and vie for the ownership of a little Indian boy; Oberon realizing that there are these two couples scurrying through the forest and they are not all in love with the person they want to really, decides to help things along by sending his sprite Puck, (Michelle Mohammed) to put some love potion in the eyes of the lover who needs it. Puck gets it wrong and puts the potion in the wrong eye-balls and has to make it right; and Bottom (a wide-eyed, impish Julie Nish-Lapidus), one of the Mechanicals, has a spell put on her and her head is turned into that of a donkey. Well, you know, it’s Athens, the forest, it’s hot. Strange things happen.

Co-directors, Catherine Rainville and James Wallis get the proceedings off to a rousing start by establishing the heightened emotions when the cast bursts into the space, ready to celebrate the impending marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. From then to the end the pace goes like the wind without sacrificing nuance and subtlety. The directors and their gifted cast capture the head games caused by vivid dreams, being lost in the forest running after the one you love and trying to escape the one you don’t love. The lovers are intoxicated with love or frustrated by not having it. The stakes are raised when the magical powers of Oberon and Titania come into play when each wants that Indian boy. You get the sense of the dizzying speed of events that the characters are experiencing.

Theseus is played with boyish, smooth charm by Nick Nahwegahbow and he is equally matched by Hilary Adams as Hippolyta, who is no-nonsense but charming in her own right. As the lovers, Eliza Martin as Hermia stands her ground and is compelling. Justin Mullen plays Lysander with urgency and quiet intensity. Mussie Solomon is almost laid-back as Demetrius he is so cool. Nyiri Karakas as Helena is fearless in her pursuit of Demetrius and emotionally fragile when things get out of control with who is chasing whom.

The cast of ten generally play more than one character (there are a few exceptions), and the double casting is wonderful with strong performances in one part becoming meek, mild characters elsewhere.

It’s complicated; mistaken identity; fever pitched emotions; hot love; a mischievous sprite squirting potion in your eyes. How will it end? Beautifully of course. Madcap, mayhem. Perfect for a cold, snowy night.

Shakespeare BASH’d presents:

Opened: Nov. 12, 2019.

Closes: Nov. 17, 2019.

Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes, approx.

www.shakespearebashd.com

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At the Greenwin Theatre, Meridian Arts Centre, Toronto, Ont.

 

Adapted and directed by Hershey Felder

Based on the book  “The Children of Willedsen Lane” by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

Set designed by Hershey Felder and Trevor Hay

Costumes by Jaclyn Maduff

Lighting by Jason Bieber

Sound by Erik Carstensen

Projection design by Andrew Wilder and Greg Sowizdrzal

Cast: Mona Golabek

Mona Golabek has written an homage to her mother Lisa Jura, who was a child prodigy of the piano in her native Vienna, Austria until the war came and disrupted her mother’s life and that of her family.

In Vienna in 1938 Lisa Jura’s teacher could not teach her the piano anymore because she was Jewish and it was against a new law. Jura’s parents realized it wasn’t safe in Vienna so it was decided that Lisa Jura would be sent to an uncle in London, England as part of the “Kindertransport rescue operation.” She was fourteen-years-old and as she got on the train to go to London her mother told her to hold on to her music as it would be her best friend. Mother’s always know best.

When Lisa got to London her uncle met her but told her he could not take her because there was no room. Other provisions were made. They were sketchy. Lisa Jura’s story is full of incident, drama, harrowing turns of events, joy, resilience and music.

Mona Golabek is carrying on the family tradition. She is a concert pianist like her mother was. Lisa Jura taught her daughter Mona Golabek the piano and while Jura taught she told her stories of how she survived the war and after. Golabek took those stories and fashioned a book (with Lee Cohen) entitled  “The Children of Willesden Lane” honouring her mother. Hershey Felder then adapted that book for the stage and directs the show now entitled The Pianist of Willesden Lane.

 The writing is simple, poetic, evocative and quietly harrowing in depicting such a dramatic story. Mona Golabek plays her mother in The Pianist of Willesden Lane and while Ms Golabek is not a trained actor she does have grace and elegance. Her understated delivery is fine for underscoring the dramatic nature of her mother’s story. Golabek breaks up the narrative by playing various selections of music on a grand piano that informs the story. She plays the piano beautifully. Her hand and arm movements are almost balletic.

Hershey Felder’s direction on the other hand seems overly fussy. Early in the story Mona Golabek as Lisa Jura plays a classical piece for her lesson. Just Jura on the piano is all that is needed to show how talented that young girl was. Felder chooses to add a recording with a symphony background to the playing. Unnecessary and confusing. One wonders what one is listening to. Did this fourteen-year-old prodigy actually make a recording at that age? She didn’t but one sees the problem by including back ground symphony music.

Three huge gold-frames hang above the stage on which photographs on the Jura family are projected as well as news reels of the invasion of the Nazis etc.  I found it tended to be too fussy and hard to make out since the projections tended to be dark.

For the duration of the play Lisa Jura practices a piano piece by Grieg. She will play it at her debut concert she tells herself when she’s a young teen. We hear her play it in various stages of development. The story concludes with a touching piece of news just before she does in fact play her debut concert. I thought ending the show then was perfect. Instead Mona Golabek plays the whole piece as if that is the concert. I thought that was over-kill. We don’t need to hear the concert if she plays bits and pieces of the piece throughout the show. We do need to know that Lisa Jura got her wish, her piano debut at her own concert.

This is a wonderful story of Lisa Jura touchingly told and played by her daughter Mona Golabek.

The Harold Green Jewish Theatre presents:

Began: Nov. 4, 2019.

Closes: Nov. 17, 2019.

Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

www.hgjewishtheatre.com

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A Review of The Shaw Festival and the Stratford Festival.

Hi Folks,

I did a little talk on Nov. 6, 2019 for the University of Toronto Alumnae Association reviewing The Shaw and Stratford Festivals.

Here is the link to the talk followed by the link to the Question and Answer Period.

 

https://drive.google.com/a/ciut.fm/file/d/1U18pCmzN1AtHzbuEOlhKBkhBk81MSU9N/view?usp=drive_web

Here is the link to the Question and Answer section.

https://drive.google.com/a/ciut.fm/file/d/1CQFMr-6YTXIkeX9_g2LlFOD4RGFjTcAB/view?usp=drive_web

I love doing these talks. They are great fun and the audience is always smart and lively.

 

Best,

 

Lynn

 

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At the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre, (Formerly the Berkeley Street Theatre, Downstairs) Toronto, Ont.

Written and performed by Daniel MacIvor

Directed and dramaturged by Daniel Brooks.

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Sound by Deanna H. Choi

The Story.  A man receives a manuscript from his birth mother, her amber necklace and a notable guitar. We learn late in the story that his name is Peter. He is going to give a public reading of the few parts of his mother’s thick manuscript of her memoir that pertains to him. He’s had a challenging life. He was put up for adoption and bounced from foster homes. He accidentally met his mother when she picked him up hitchhiking. She sent him four books in his life but he never wrote her to acknowledge them. One was “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf. He made a career doing shows in which he lip-synched to a recording of the book.

The Production.  There are two stand-microphones stage left and stage right. There is a lectern in front of the microphone stage right. Upstage centre there is a window frame with a closed blind. There are other things upstage that are movable.

When the theatre goes to black Kimberly Purtell’s lights snap up bright on the whole stage—no slow fade up, but a sharp snap to full light. A man (Daniel MacIvor) we learn later is named Peter, enters quickly from the stage left wing. He carries a cloth bag, a painting of a large cat and a long guitar case. He wears a sequined baseball cap, a jacket, an orange shirt, dark pants and trainers with a strip of orange around the heel. Peter waves at the audience and immediately is distracted and aggravated because things are not where he intended. “I told them to put it on the right!” he says to himself twice out loud so we can hear, as he puts the painting of the cat on something to hold it stage left. The ‘joke’ of course is that he means house left and right as he faces the stage.  I suck air very, very slowly.

Peter lays down the guitar case stage left near the painting. He goes to the lectern stage right and carefully takes out the thick manuscript that is wrapped in colourful cloth material from the cloth bag and carefully unwraps the manuscript on the lectern. At times he indicates by flipping his hands to some technician in some booth above the audience to bring the lights down and they come down except for a spot around him and the lectern. Later he flips his hands to indicate to the technician to put the lights up across the stage at the other microphone, stage left. He seems aggravated when he has to do that. He stamps his foot (again ill-tempered) and the lights pop up where he stands.

Peter says he’ll read only the parts of the memoir that pertain to him. We learn Peter’s mother only refers to him by name once. He puts on his reading glasses. He puts on the amber necklace (I guess to indicate he is reading his mother’s words). When he finishes reading a passage he takes off the necklace and glasses. (There is one time he is reading her words but does not put on the necklace. Is this significant to the character? An error on the part of MacIvor? Dunno.)

At times Peter comments in an irritated aside when his mother got facts wrong. He then goes to the stage left side of the stage to the other microphone to give his side of the story his mother wrote about. It’s as if the two sides of the stories are separate and distinct. There is no indication of “now I’ll tell you my side of the story.”  Only when he mentions information that is similar to that mentioned in the manuscript do we realize he is telling his version of it.

A few times Peter goes upstage behind the window and slowly pulls the cord to open the blind, revealing himself there. A woman’s English accented voice (Fiona Highet) plays out as she talks about the Ramsay family and their dinner. Peter mouths the words the woman is saying…this is Peter lip-synching to a recording of “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf. (It helps if one is familiar with the book to know what is going on there)

Comment.  Daniel MacIvor is a masterful storyteller. He weaves intricate information to create complex characters telling multi-layered stories. Let’s Run Away is his most challenging solo show yet because it starts in the middle without explanation and meanders all over the place without anchoring us in any sense of the story for a lot of it. It’s to MacIvor’s credit and our respect for him as a storyteller that one hangs on listening to and trying to make sense of Let’s Run Away, because quite frankly it’s a confusing mess. It’s one thing to  respect an artist whose work we know and hang in there, it’s quite another to stay the course with a character who we don’t know and don’t care about. We have to wait a long time to find out who Peter is. We never find out who his mother is and why she needs to write a memoir or why she referenced him so infrequently and why we have to listen to her comments since she didn’t actually know him.

And while director Daniel Brooks’ input is so present and obvious the resulting technically complicated production is disingenuous and, dare one say it, pretentious. And really, are we supposed to believe a character who does shows lip-synching a book but doesn’t know enough stage craft to know the difference between stage right and stage left and house right and left? And this character is presenting a show so technologically complex he has to wave at a technician to put the lights up and down with the flip of his hands and be aggravated when he has to do it? All for a laugh? Really?

Maybe MacIvor is experimenting with form—not presenting a story with a beginning, middle and end. Fine. It’s not working.

Presented by Canadian Stage

Opened: Nov. 1, 2019.

Closes: Nov. 17, 2019.

Running Time: 80 minutes, no intermission.

www.canadianstage.com

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At the Grand Theatre, London, Ont.

 

Written and directed by Morris Panych

Set and costumes by Ken MacDonald

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Sound and composition by Keith Thomas

Cast: Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks

Allister MacDonald

Rebecca Northan

Ryan Shaw

Braeden Soltys

Wendy Thatcher

This London Life is suffused with Morris Panych’s loopy, quirky sense of humour about mistaken identity, a lousy sense of direction and place and finally finding oneself where they should be.

 The Story. Walter Winch feels he is invisible if he doesn’t drink lemon juice. His mother died from consumption, (really a drug over dose, but consumption sounds better according to him) and his sibling was adopted but he wasn’t because he says, no one noticed him there. The horrible Mrs. Simpson took charge of Walter as his foster parent. She uses him to sell bogus raffle tickets pocketing the money. Walter spends most of his time next door at Nan’s house. She left London, England years before to escape her life and came to Canada where she was wooed by two men, one of whom she knew the other not. Then moved to London, Ont. As a favour to one of her former wooers she agrees to take in Emery who is coming from across the country to study in London. Instead Jimmy shows up with a broken leg, broken by drug dealers. Jimmy is not sure where he is. The place where he is has various names of places (Covent Garden, Piccadilly, etc.)  similar to another place he knows but nothing looks familiar.

Welcome to the off-kilter world of playwright/director Morris Panych. Where nothing is what it seems but it all seems what it should be. And it’s seriously hilarious.

The Production.  Ken MacDonald has created an imposing, gothic-looking house where Nan (a wonderfully straightforward yet wry Wendy Thatcher) lives. One can imagine every room packed with stuff (Nan apparently is a hoarder), although she seems rather neat. One long table is off to the side of the house with small piles of books on it. She keeps more books  in the stove because the shelves are full of stuff that should not be there. We take on faith that this is the way it is for Nan in London (Ont. not the ‘other London’ which is how it’s described).

Walter Winch (Ryan Shaw) is our narrator. He is resplendent in a brown suit, small bow tie, has a mop of hair and wears glasses. He is precocious, erudite, curious, inquisitive and ten-years-old. He should be at school but since Mrs. Simpson (Rebecca Northan), his foster ‘mother’ doesn’t care Walter spends his time sleuthing around the neighbourhood or hanging out with Nan next door. Ryan Shaw has that serious demeanor that makes his observations funny. They are at odds with his behaviour. And considering that the words come from Morris Panych who knows his way around a world that is off-kilter, everything Walter says is hilarious and his observations are so true. Ryan Shaw’s banter with Wendy Thatcher as Nan is fluid, seamless and dear. She is a woman who has seen it all and is accommodating to all comers, although she is wonderfully confused about a lot of the coming and going. Her reason for getting married is that there is too much tuna fish in the tin for only one person. You gotta love a person like that who puts things so clearly and with such common sense.

Characters appear from no where—Mrs. Simpson just shows up and stands there facing the audience, a woman full of attitude.  Rebecca Northan with her exaggerated hair do plays Mrs. Simpson with a cigarette in her hand and a disdainful attitude, especially towards Walter. There is not one shred of sentimentality in this performance and it’s wonderful.

 Jimmy with his broken leg is played by Allister MacDonald with a dancer’s grace as he negotiates the space on crutches. He has an English accent and his frustration gets more and more pronounced because he cannot understand why everything is so strange here in London. He thinks it’s the ‘other one’ and no one twigs to that quickly.

Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks plays Rae-Ann, a waif-like character who sings only about leaving town but never does. She is another quirky character in a play full of them. Why she is there is not a question one should ask of a Panych play. She’s funny, mournful and sweet. That’s enough.  Emery is played by Braeden Soltys with a quiet sense of confusion. Nan thinks he’s a mortgage broker even though he’s dressed as a student complete with back pack and bags.

Morris Panych writes and directs with his usual panache. The humour comes naturally from each of these multi-faceted characters. They are prickly, get into trouble, soldier on (in most cases) and cope. Panych does have a moral code—those who cause trouble to others cruelly get their comeuppance.  There is sweetness but not mushy sentimentality.

Comment. This London Life is a commission from Artistic Director, Dennis Garnhum. Years ago Morris Panych and his partner Ken MacDonald played at the Grand Theatre in Billy Bishop Goes to War and loved the experience and the audience. Panych reacquainted himself with London, Ont. in preparation for the play. It’s a beautiful melding of the proud people of London, Ont. mirroring the names of ‘the other London’ but still instilling their own personality into their London with the blazing sense of humour of Morris Panych. Every time Rae-Ann sang of a place in London, Ont. or a road or some oddity, the knowing audience roared with laughter. It was catchy.   

The Grand Theatre presents:

Began: Oct. 15, 2019.

Saw it: Oct. 30, 2019.

Closes: Nov. 2, 2019.

Running Time: 2 hours, one intermission.

www.grandtheatre.com

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Hi Folks,

 I’m giving a talk on “Why Critics Matter” for the Theatre Museum as part of the Herbert Whittaker Lectures

 On Monday, November 4.

 At the Arts and Letters Club 14, Elm Street, Toronto

 5:30 pm   Bar

6:30 pm   Dinner and dessert

7:30 pm   approx. my talk followed by questions and answers.

 Info regarding registration etc. is below.

 

https://theatremuseum.ca/the-2019-herbert-whittaker-lecture/

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Shaw and Stratford Season. How did they do?

Hi Folks,

I’m giving a talk on Wed. Nov. 6, 2019 from 10 am to Noon, at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto, about the Shaw and Stratford season and how they did.

It’s given under the auspices of the Alumni of the University of Toronto but it’s open to everyone.

Please check out the site for information and registration.

https://alumni.utoronto.ca/events-and-programs/canadian-perspectives-lecture-series

 It’s fun and the discussion after my talk is always lively.

See you then.

Lynn Slotkin

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Review: PASS OVER

by Lynn on October 29, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Antoinette Nwandu

Directed by Philip Akin

Set by Julia Kim

Costumes by Vanessa Fischer

Lighting by Chris Malkowski

Sound by Miquelon Rodriguez

Cast: Kaleb Alexander

Mazin Elsadig

Alex McCooeye

 

Shattering.

The Story. Moses and Kitch are two black men waiting for something better than being on that street in that block. They want to ‘pass over’ to a better street, a better life. Their idea of “pass over” is to move up and on. They pass the time bantering, imagining ten things they want in their new life. They encounter people as they wait. How these people treat Moses and Kitch and how they react to that treatment is their life.

The Production. Julia Kim’s set is of a curved sidewalk with a high curb, a lamppost, a fire hydrant and a large, empty spool for thick wire. The height of the curb reinforces the difficulty of getting off that street.  Moses (Kaleb Alexander) sleeps at the base of the lamppost. Kitch (Mazin Elsadig) was asleep where the sidewalk goes off. He gets up and walks around the sidewalk looking at Moses but not disturbing him. He ambles up and down the sidewalk. Killing time. Vanessa Fischer has designed clothes that are workman like but not dirty or badly frayed. Perhaps the clothes should have been ‘broken’ down more if Moses and Kitch had been sleeping ‘rough.’ Just a thought. Chris Malkowski’s lighting is bright but not warm. This adds another touch to a life that can’t hide in shadows.

Moses and Kitch banter and riff in their own particular way of speaking to each other. They are close friends. They trust each other. They are comfortable with each other. When they play the game of imagining ten things they want in their new life they start with flashy things: Air Jordan’s, a car, a house, but then segue into things more meaningful: sharing it with a loving woman, a favourite meal of collard greens and pinto beans.

But then they hear a startling noise and bright lights are flashed on them. One of the men drops to his knees with his hands up in the air, while the other puts his hands high in the air and stands stiffly. Both looked terrified. Then the lights on them go off and both men slowly lower their arms and resume their banter, a bit more tentatively.  The noise is the warning blast of a cop car as it has both men in its headlights. This is not just the life of a black man in America. There are resonances in Canada too.

Soon after this both men are startled by the arrival of a white man, well dressed in a three piece suit, carrying a picnic basket. His language is formal and courtly. He is lost. He’s on his way to his mother’s house with that basket of food. He apologizes for startling them. He offers them the food in the hamper which they gratefully accept and begin to eat. The man (Alex McCooeye) is listed as “Mister” in the program but Alex McCooeye pronounces it as “Master” which makes both men choke on their food.

Later both men are startled again when an imposing cop (Alex McCooeye) in uniform and sunglasses arrives. He is brutish, nasty and violent to Kitch and Moses. He has only contempt for them and they have to take it in order to be left alone. Interestingly neither Kitch nor Moses lists revenge or violence to those who have mistreated them in their top ten picks of things they want in their new life when they pass over to it.

Playwright, Antoinette Nwandu has written Pass Over as an echo to Samuel Beckett’s classic Waiting for Godot, in which two tramps wait on a road for a person named “Godot” who never comes. Usually the two tramps are played by white actors. By writing Pass Over for two black characters wanting a better life Nwandu challenges us to perceive these men in the same way we would if they were white. She’s impish in some of her touches that reflect on Waiting for Godot.  In Waiting for Godot one of the men offers the other man a carrot to eat. In Pass Over one of the men takes a small crust of pizza out of his pocket and offers it to his friend.

Philip Akin has directed a beautiful, sensitive production that also has subtle references to Waiting for Godot.  As we watch Hitch walk up and down the sidewalk he sits by the curb, takes off his boot and feels inside for something that is annoying him—perhaps a stone. The same action happens with more attention to that boot in Waiting for Godot. It’s a small moment in Pass Over but I love Akin’s slight tip of the hat to the original. Akin’s direction realizes the camaraderie of these two men who have so much in common, especially protecting themselves from the brutal treatment of those who see only their skin colour and hold them in contempt. Kaleb Alexander has a graceful style and easy humour as Moses. Mazin Elsadig as Kitch is more wiry, keeps on the move but not in an erratic way. Moving is a way of passing the time and the time goes slowly. Kitch is a bit more serious than his friend, but both have an easy camaraderie that is seamless.

Alex McCooeye plays “Mister” as a courtly, formal man, self-deprecating the first time we see him with his food hamper. He is fastidious when unpacking everything to share with Kitch and Moses. He also plays a bullying cop named in the program as “Ossifer. McCooeye’s height and proximity to Moses and Kitch make him dangerous. Philip Akin’s stagings of these scenes in particular make one suck air slowly. This is life for a black man not just in America and it’s presented without ranting, raging or much noise. But the result grips you.

Comment. I love this play. I love how it throws up my assumptions in my face; how it startles me with my blinkered thinking; how it upsets and unsettles me for all the right reasons. I love how Antoinette Nwandu weaves this shattering story of these two close friends, creating such a vivid language for them full of humour, anger, hope, fear and a need to pass over to a better life. I love Nwandu’s artistry in taking a classic like Waiting for Godot and re-imagining it for two black men, infusing it with such heightened emotion and consequence it just grips you. Moses and Kitch’s desire to pass over to another place for a better life is heart-squeezing considering the difficulties they live with every day. This wonderful production makes you feel every high and low emotion they feel. After this moving performance I did what I did after the performance I saw last year in New York, I wept all the way to the subway.

Obsidian Theatre presents:

Opened: Oct. 25, 2019.

Closes: Nov. 10, 2019.

Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission.

www.obsidiantheatre.com

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A great deal for THE FLICK.

As you know I reviewed and loved THE FLICK at the Streetcar Crowsnest at Carlaw and Dundas.

 I said that “if you don’t see this show, I don’t want to know you.”

Hard words, I know. But the good people at Crow’s Theatre want to help prevent you from missing this wonderful show so they have a deal and a promo code for this last week of the run for friends of my site:

To use the promo code:

29FRIEND

$29 tickets to The Flick

October 30 at 7:30PM

October 31 at 7:30PM

Nov 1 at 7:30PM

Nov 2 at  2:00PM

Nov 2 at 2:30PM

Call the Crow’s box office at 647-341-7390 x1010

or book online at https://www.crowstheatre.com/whats-on/view-all/the-flick

Enjoy!

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At the Factory Theatre Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Claudia Dey

Directed by Mumbi Tindeybwa Otu

Set and costumes by Shannon Lea Doyle

Lighting by Raha Javanfar

Sound by David Mesiha

Cast: Shakura Dickson

Natasha Mumba

Stephen Jackman-Torkoff

NOTE: What an interesting juxtaposition seeing Claudia Dey’s wildly inventive 2005 play Trout Stanley the day after seeing Eugène Ionesco’s 70 year old absurdist play The Bald Soprano.

Ionesco was writing about the banality of a repetitive life, the loss of conversation, stale relationships. His dialogue is still vivid and challenging today. Claudia Dey writes about a life in isolation, the closeness of twins when a triplet is missing, the effect of being an orphan and being stunned with love. Her dialogue is no less arresting and challenging too.

The Story. Sugar and Grace Ducharme are twin sisters celebrating their 30th birthday. It is bitter sweet. There was a third Ducharme sister who would have made the girls triplets, but the third baby died at birth. The Ducharme girls’ parents died 10 years before and since then Sugar has worn her mother’s track suit every single day. She has not gone out of the house in years. She occupies her time creating figurines that have a tragic countenance. Grace is the breadwinner. She works at the dump and is also a model for a billboard near town. They are devoted to each other.  Sugar is quiet and demur. Grace is boldly confident and enters a room with a rush and conviction. Sugar notes that someone always dies on their birthday so they are waiting to see who that might be. It could be the stripper-Scrabble champion who has gone missing a few days before. And then there is Trout Stanley, yes, he’s a fellah.  Trout (his parents obviously had a fishy sense of humour) is an orphan. His parents drowned in a lake and he has been trying to find it for years. He actually happened upon Sugar and Grace’s house and broke in looking for food which he found in the fridge. He then came back the next day to find Sugar about to do something he thought he should stop. They fall in love. Instantly. And then Grace comes home.

The Production.  Shannon Lea Doyle has envisioned a well-kept house for the Ducharme girls. Sugar is home and keeps the place immaculate. Her brown figurines line up along the top of the walls of the set, on tables and on shelves. Doors are not locked here so Trout simply walked through the front door in the middle of the night. He comes back the next day by the glass door on the living room side where he interrupts Sugar about to do something drastic.

Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu has directed a production that goes like the wind in capturing the essence of Claudia Dey’s wild, absurdist play. The dialogue is both poetic and often off-the-wall-loopy. The result is a play that is both hilarious and moving.

Sugar Ducharme (Shakura Dickson) is the first to appear. She is preparing a birthday dinner for herself and Grace. Sugar plays a record to which she dances with abandon as if no one is watching, because they aren’t. Shakura Dickson imbues Sugar with a sweetness (sorry, I couldn’t resist even though I should have) and a calmness. She is not bothered by the outside world because she never ventures out. There is love and tenderness between her and Grace. For her part, Natasha Mumba as Grace doesn’t so much come into a room as much as she bursts into it. She is at the ready with a watchful stance, ready to pounce on any one who gets in her way. She wears camouflage shorts and boots over which are her work overalls. Her speech is quick, deliberate and definite. She has been in the real world and she is prepared for everything. She has urged Sugar to go out. She has urged Sugar to stop wearing their mother’s track suit.

As Trout Stanley, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff (who identifies as “they/them”) is lanky, moves like a fleet-footed dancer and yet looks like a man who has been in the wild for a long time. They have a shock of wild black hair and an unruly beard. They wear worn clothes and is barefoot. Trout has been on his own for so long yet out in public. It’s an interesting mix and Jackman-Torkoff portrays a man who is earnest, fragile and wily. Trout is a man who says he never lies. Finding Sugar and loving her is a revelation for both of them. But his presence has disrupted the emotional balance in the sisters’ lives.

Comment.  Playwright Claudia Dey has created three characters who grapple with isolation in their own way. They are also articulate in their own way. But I found listening to their various ways of expression; their odd combinations of phrases sounded the same after a while. Perhaps this is Dey commenting on how isolation not only separates people, but also joins them together. Not sure. And does it really need to be pointed out that this is the first production of the play with an all black cast also directed by a woman of colour? The cast and director are terrific in realize the humour and heart of the play. Talent is talent.

Factory Theatre presents:

Opened: Oct. 24, 2019.

Closes: Nov. 10, 2019.

Running Time: 90 minutes, approx.

www.factorytheatre.ca

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