At the Assembly Theatre, 1479 Queen St. W., Toronto, Ont.

Written by Sam Shepard

Directed by Scott Walker

Set by Adam Belanger

Costumes by Janelle Joy Hince

Lighting by Steve Vargo

Cast: Michael Eisner

Matthew Gouveia

David Lafontaine

Jennifer McEwen

Mark Paci

Anthony Ulc

A late play of the prolific Sam Shepard with all the anger and angst of families, but not with the same punch of his better known earlier plays.

 The Story. Earl (Mark Paci) and Ray (David Lafontaine) are estranged brothers, who meet in rural New Mexico because their father, Henry Moss, has died and arrangements have to be made. Earl, the older brother, is an angry, bellowing bully. Ray is quiet, watchful and wily. Ray knows how to ‘play’ his brother with past transgressions. They fight about the past. They argue about what to do with their father’s body. There is a mystery about how their father died and what Earl knows about it.

 The Production. Adam Belanger’s set of a run-down one-room adobe shack is masterful—shabby yet solid. Mark Paci is an imposing presence as Earl: scowling, loud and dangerous. Henry Moss was a physically violent father who beat up his wife and kids and Earl has grown up to be a bully as well. Paci is a fine actor and mines the character to come up with a character who is not just a loud-mouth bully.  Ray, as played by David Lafontaine, is more sophisticated and cerebral. He’s dangerous too, but in a quieter, more sinister way.

Director Scott Walker uses the small Assembly Theatre space well. The staging is organic and never seems extraneous. The relationship of the brothers and Earl with his father are particularly effective. There is a sense of foreboding, of impending violence if any of these men have anything to do with it.

Comment. The Late Henry Moss has all of the usual hallmarks of a Sam Shepard play: it takes place in the mid-west U.S. of sorts; Henry Moss lived away from people;  Shepard’s characters are angry, suspicious, often violent. It’s a play about families in crisis, brother vs. brother, son vs. father.

And for all its heightened emotion, The Late Henry Moss is one deadly dull evening in the theatre because the play seems so padded. There is a character who is a taxi driver who seems to have information about an encounter with Henry that the brothers need and want. The scene with the driver is so long, full of starts and stops before any information is revealed, you wonder why the character is there at all.

Another character is a neighbour named Esteban who makes several entrances bringing soup for Henry before we actually get any reason why he is in the play as well. In several conversations between the brothers, Earl bellows out “What” after Ray says something, I’m wondering, didn’t you hear him (they stand about two feet away from one another) and you’re deaf, or you’re just stupid and didn’t understand what he said. In either case I always find that exchange dreary dull; a playwright who is filling time and not providing information. That’s how I felt about this effort by Sam Shepard. Not one of his best.

 Produced by Unit 102 Actors Co.

Began: Jan 4, 2018.

Closes: Jan. 20, 2018.

Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes approx.

www.unit102actors.com

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At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Dave Deveau

Directed by Cameron Mackenzie

Set and costumes by Marina Szijarto

Lighting by Jergus Oprsal

Sound by Shawn Sorensen

Cast: Conor Wylie

A thoughtful, moving exploration of a horrific murder from the point of view of how it  affected many of the people surrounding the story.

 The Story.  In My Funny Valentine playwright, Dave Deveau references the 2008 murder in California of 15 year old Larry King by 14 year-old  Brandon McInerney when King asked McInerney if he would be his Valentine. The next day, February 12,  at school, Brandon McInerney went up to Larry King and shot him twice.  Larry King died Feb. 14. Larry King was on life-support for those two days so the hospital could donate his organs to people who needed them.

My Funny Valentine is not about what went on in the minds of both boys. It’s about how the story affected so many people around the story; some who knew one or both boys, some who didn’t but were somehow involved. In fact Deveau does not actually deal with the actual story, but does have reference points to it.

The Production. In Marina Szijarto’s set there is a chair and other stuff one finds in a kid’s room at the top of the stage. Circling out from this stuff, on the floor are papers, books and memorabilia from a childhood.

Conor Wylie enters, carefully stepping over the papers on the floor.  He wears sweat pants, a loose t-shirt over which is a white shirt. And he’s bare-foot as if he’s walking on a sacred space when he comes on stage. I always think there is something ceremonial when an actor comes on stage barefoot.

Wylie plays someone called “The Collector” as if he is the collector of many different personalities, identities, voices. Wylie plays every one of these characters with nuance, varying body language and physicality. He also has charm and a sense of danger.

The production starts with the rookie reporter who sees the story on the television news about how one boy shot another at school. He rushes off with this scoop to cover the story for his local newspaper. That scoop is the beginning of the reporter’s  career in journalism.

Helen is a teacher of the dead boy and is terribly upset and moved by the news. We know she’s a woman because Conor Wylie wears an over the shoulder purse which he keeps adjusting, as a woman would do. Helen is heartsick about the boy, defensive with her chiding husband and generally miserable about the whole thing.

We meet the protective father of a teen aged boy. It’s obvious the father is a rabid homophobe. Wylie sits in the chair, his legs apart, leaning forward, challenging and combative in his invective. That blinkered attitude is carried over to his teenaged son it seems.

We get a glimpse into the life of the dead boy—he was openly gay at 15, wore heels and make-up and pressed the buttons of his classmates.  Deveau shows so many aspects of the story, and so many different attitudes that you see how complex the story is.

The most poignant scene involves a young girl in the hospital, blanket up to her chin, excited about her future and ‘the operation.’ She needs an organ transplant and a liver from the recently deceased Larry King will save her life.

Cameron Mackenzie has directed My Funny Valentine beautifully. Each character, whether a man or a woman, is simply suggested and fully formed.

Comment.

 I loved this play and production. Dave Deveau has looked at a terrible story from all sides. He’s created a play that is complex, layered, compassionate, and not a cut and dried look at a terrible crime.

Presented by Zee Zee Theatre.

 Opened: Jan. 11, 2018.

Closes: Jan. 21, 2018.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

www.buddiesinbadtimes.com

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Review: HAMLET

by Lynn on January 14, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

 

Noah Reid
Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

 

At the Tarragon Theatre, Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Richard Rose

Sound design and music director, Thomas Ryder Payne

Lighting by Jason Hand

Costumes by Kathleen Johnston

Cast: Tiffany Ayalik

Rachel Cairns

Tantoo Cardinal

Beau Dixon

Greg Gale

Jesse LaVercombe

Brandon McGibbon

Jack Nicholsen

Noah Reid

Cliff Saunders

Nigel Shawn Williams

Hamlet presented as a rock concert with the text being the ‘lyrics’. The question is why? What is to be revealed with this concept when almost all subtlety, nuance and detail are ignored. 

 The Story. You know the story unless you’ve been in a cave in Antarctica for 500 years.

 The Production. The production is wild. Director Richard Rose has conceived this as an old fashioned rock concert with the text of Hamlet  being the lyrics. Every character holds an old-fashioned wireless microphone that they speak into when they talk to one another.  Sometimes they lean forward as rock singers do when singing to other singers.

Often they speak in various styles of music—rap, hip hop (Imagine it, Shakespeare’s words presented like a rap song).

Often speeches are sung—all the music was composed and arranged by the ensemble. Many actors in the production also play musical instruments during the production: piano, guitar, drums, ukulele and accordion. Most of the band is composed of the actors in the production. But occasionally the band is so loud that you can’t make out what the actor is singing—I try to hear if it was by any chance Shakespeare’s words, but could not tell.

Brandon McGibbon is impressive playing various guitars. And he is an interesting as a long-haired, lanky, musician as Laertes. Beau Dixon is fabulous on the drums, whacking out complex percussive patterns, providing atmospheric sound and rhythm and effective in his small roles of Bernardo and the Player Queen.

There always seems to be an underscore of music or sound (Thomas Ryder Payne) that is very atmospheric, but I wonder why Shakespeare needs added sound effects to heighten emotion or tension that should be created by the words and proper acting.

This production is very spare: four or five metal chairs, a piano over there and an expensive drum-kit at the centre of way up stage. Indeed there is no credit for a stage designer.

Often the very loud band is a blessing because it drowns out the many actors on that stage who don’t have much of an idea of how to speak Shakespeare’s language, or understand his poetry, or just get the nuances. In many instances lines are cut making the play seem spare as well, even at three hours.

For example, much of the speeches of Polonius (Cliff Saunders) are cut (especially in his advice to Laertes) thus making him seem like a superficial buffoon instead of a wily politician.

There are so many layers to this play and too many of them are not explored. For example: Hamlet’s mother Gertrude married Claudius, her brother-in-law, just two months after her husband Hamlet Sr. died.  This has so many implications and possibilities for character development and none more than in the Mousetrap scene.

This is a scene that Hamlet has the visiting players play out: the murder of a king by a man who marries the dead man’s wife. This therefore echoes the murder Hamlet Sr. by his brother Claudius, and Hamlet has it played out in front of Claudius and Gertrude.

Yet there is Tantoo Cardinal as Gertrude, listening and watching the scene without a hint that she realizes how similar that story is to what happened in her life. Not a hint. Claudius certainly gets it.  Was Cardinal directed to act uninvolved? Why? What a waste of an opportunity to make Gertrude into a complex woman, instead of this uninvolved person. Makes no sense.

Richard Rose’s staging of the final scene further robs the production of nuance. Gertrude is way over here and drinks from the poisoned cup. Claudius is way over there and tells her not to drink from it (because he knows it’s poisoned). Hamlet and Laertes are sword fighting in the middle. Where does the audience look? I’m looking at Gertrude to see if she twigs that Claudius has poisoned the drink meant for her son. Nope, she just staggers and says: “No, no, the cup, the cup….” and collapses. The scene is so scattered we can’t get the full sense of whether she pins Claudius with a stare or not before she collapses. Frustrating.

The one solid saving grace is Noah Reid as Hamlet. He is a thoughtful, emotional Hamlet. He’s brooding, heartsick, and a bit of a hot-head.  And he plays the ukulele and accordion with aplomb. He more than any other actor in the production captures the essence of his character.

I don’t doubt the commitment of the ensemble of this pared down production. All that rock music creates a production that ‘flattens’ the play into this deadly dull lump.

Comment. What’s the point of all this? Well, beats me.  Director Richard Rose is a smart man. He loves Shakespeare. I can appreciate that a director gets an idea for a concept and then runs with it. And honestly I tried to parse out the various directorial choices to see what Mr. Rose wanted us to see. Why does Hamlet say the “To be, or not to be” speech without any kind of amplification and the rest is said with a microphone? Why is Ophelia’s first speech said without a hand held microphone but she wears a body microphone to amplify her voice and then uses the hand held mic thereafter? Why is there a cross-out stroke through the title in the program and on the posters? How does using the rock concert setting illuminate the play? Questions, questions, and I’m no closer to any answers in this frustrating, unsatisfying production.

Produced by Tarragon Theatre

Opened: Jan. 10, 2018.

Closes: Feb. 11, 2018.

Running Time: 3 hours.

www.tarragontheatre.com

 

 

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At the Factory Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Swordplay

Presented by Sex-T-Rex

Created by Sex-T-Rex                                                                                 Directed by Alex Toller                                                                             Cast: Jon Blair

Conor Bradbury

Julian Frid

Kaitlin Morrow

Seann Murray

The beginning of the wild, raucous, joyful swashbuckling story is right out of The Princess Bride. A grandfather baby-sits his grand child and shows him a video game that was big in his, the grandfather’s, day. As they look at the screen, both are transported back in time when three friends fought battles for people’s honour and for doing right against dastardly people. The story involves two nations that have been in constant war against each other. There are fire-breathing dragons, fires that kill best friends, a damsel in distress, and two swordsman who pine for their long-dead third friend.

The physicality of the show is athletic, bold, muscular and inventive. The sword fights are fast, furious and hilarious. Dragons are created out of swaths of material. Fire is created by reconfiguring the material into bursts of flame. The gifted actors are serious and breathless in their various quests to right wrongs, get the bad guys and one driven woman, slay dragons and do all manner of swordplay. It’s buoyant, funny, dazzlingly creative and a joy from top to bottom. A friend at the same performance said she had not seen “anything this silly in a long time. God bless them.” Amen.

 JONNO

Presented by Rabbit in a Hat Productions

Written by Alix Sobler

Directed by Paul Van Dyck

Costumes by Christine Urquhart

Set by Chandos Ross

Lighting by Steve Vargo

Composer and sound by Richard Feren

Fight and intimacy choreographer, Jade Elliot

Cast: Parmida Vand

Erica Anderson

Glenda Braganza

Alanis Peart

Allan Michael Brunet

Jason Deline

When Jonno begins his radio show with: “Why hello there. Happy Wednesday” then goes into a long esoteric essay; the reference to Jian Ghomeshi is unmistakable. We see Jonno, smooth-talking, charming, coming on to various women, turning on them, choking and hitting them. There is even a character named Mr. Donkey Long Ears, referencing the floppy-eared toy that witnesses it all.  Even though Jonno is a white American, we know who Playwright Alix Sobler is talking about.

The play aspires to be about the abuse of power by men over women; the power to be physically, sexually and emotionally abusive to women. Arrogance, hubris and having a seemingly untouchable place in his company drives Jonno to prey on defenceless women.

What is there to say about such a huge story (as the Jian Ghomeshi case was)  today? What new insight does the playwright want to reveal? Alas, one concludes Sobler doesn’t have anything new or provocative to say. The three women Jonno ‘hits on’, resort to philosophising about his background, his behaviour, his need to control. They engage in pop psychology but without much credibility. The characters are not properly fleshed out for us to ‘trust’ their assumptions. At no time does anyone actually ask Jonno why he hits and chokes the women, and liking ‘rough sex’ doesn’t cover it. The only one Jonno does trust is Mr. Donkey Long Ears and even he does not really take Jonno to task, except to remind him of “what happened in Denver,” which we assume must have been pretty serious. The acting is unremarkable so again, the argument is not strongly made. All in all, a disappointment.

 The Surprise

Presented by Christel Bartelse/Dutch Girl Productions

Written and performed by Christel Bartelse

Directed by Andy Massingham                                                                Sound by Sam Earle                                                                                    Choreography by Shawn Byfield

Ginger is very excited. She’s planning a surprise birthday party for a special person and the audience are corralled into being the guests who will shout “Surprise!”,  blow horns and even give her gifts. Ginger has supplied the party hats, the horns, name tags on which to write our names and even a bag of chips. It’s all festive and a bit frantic as Ginger checks to see if the guest has arrived, rehearses us in our expressions of greetings when the guest arrives and checking other details.

And while one does expect a good laugh from a clown show, The Surprise is unsettling. Three audience members have been selected to present the guest of honour with presents.

Unfortunately these gifts are less than appreciated by her because each one reminds her that she is getting older and she doesn’t want to. As a result this also makes the giver of the gift rather embarrassed it would seem to me. Clowning with a touch of cruelty makes this one of my least favourite forms of performance.

 

Moonlight After Midnight

Presented by Concrete Drops Theatre

Written by Martin Dockery

Dramaturg, Vanessa Quesnelle

Cast: Martin Dockery

Vanessa Quesnelle

A man sits in a chair downstage. A woman enters the room upstage and sees him. He turns to her and tells her not to act as if she knows him. They begin role-playing going over and over in minute detail how a role changes, or shifts, how the relationship morphs into something else. She asks him questions because she has pre-knowledge of him we don’t know yet. He is evasive and coy. Getting a straight answer out of him is a challenge for her and after a while a chore to listen to for me.

They obviously know each other so why the games? Perhaps it’s how they passed the time when they weren’t in that hotel room. Who are they?  (They are not identified in the program with names) After a while of the endless role-playing I didn’t care. It’s one thing for two characters to engage in an activity they find interesting, it’s quite another to also engage the audience into sticking with them as they split hairs about points in a debate. At one point in this endless hour’s show I wrote one word on my program: “drivel.” We find out who they are in the last few minutes of the show but man, is it a long slog.

Vanessa Quesnelle plays the woman with an understated, quiet engagement. Martin Dockery as the man is another matter. From constantly ploughing his fingers through his hair, pulling at his nose and stroking his chin, I was aware it’s been a long time since I saw an actor as annoying as he is.

 

The “F” Word

 Presented by SaMel Tanz

Choreographed by SaMel Tanz in collaboration with the dancers

Cast: Ella Avila

Melissa Hart

Lilly Giroux

Kimberly Khawa

Holly Pocket

Irena Ponizova

Samantha Schleese

The “F” in the title stands for “feminism.” The show looks at how women are perceived in the work-place and society; how body-image comes into play; how they dress and what is appropriate.

The company is composed of women. Some dress in dresses and some in pants to suggest men and women. All are beautiful dancers. The various segments clearly investigate aspects of feminism. All are smart, accomplished and illuminating. One in particular is stunning. A man and a woman are on stage.  A waiter arrives with a tray on which are two glasses of water. One glass is full and the other is half full. He gives the full glass of water to the man and the half-full glass to the woman. Is there any better way of illuminating the inequality of the sexes in perception in society, in the work place, in relationships etc. than that.

A terrific dance piece that says everything about the subject with clarity and punch. Loved it.

www.fringetoronto.com

 

 

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It’s here! The debut of the #SlotkinandFisher #TheaTO podcast! Host/producer Tom McGee broke up our  Toronto Fringe #NSTF coverage into 2 episodes: Part 1 today, part 2 tomorrow!

Steve Fisher and I discuss, debate, and even go head to head about theatre we see in Toronto in a bi-weekly podcast. We started with reviews of: The Harold Experience, Birthday Balloon, Good Morning, Viet Mom, Moonlight After Midnight and Leila Live!

Check out our first podcast here:

 

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At the Factory Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Good Morning, Viet Mom

 Written and performed by Franco Nguyen

Directed by Byron Abalos

Franco Nguyen is a charmer. He begins his sweet show by saying he’s not Chinese. And repeating it so it sinks in and the audience starts to think about what Mr. Nguyen is saying. He’s Vietnamese. He then pronounces his name correctly as well as the many ways it’s been mispronounced.

This is Mr. Nguyen’s journey and that of his fractured family from Vietnam to Canada. It’s the story of his stalwart mother, his absent father and how he (Nguyen)  negotiates between living his life independently and living his life at thirty years old, while still living at home with his mother.

Initially he admits that he is still living at home with a touch of embarrassment. At the end of the journey the embarrassment is replaced with love and pride. Nguyen has an easy way with his humour. It’s never abrasive or harsh. He is not an angry son, just a frustrated one. He was embarrassed to have to translate for his non-English-speaking Mom, but his telling of the various stories is told with kindness and sweetness.

Lovely show. Director Byron Abalos moves Mr. Nguyen around the set sparingly, but enough for the action not to be static. And Abalos aids in keeping the tone lively but not extreme.  I will look out for Franco Nguyen in future.

Rumspringa Break!

Book by Matt Murray

Music by Colleen Dauncey

Lyrics by Akiva Romer-Segal

Director, Steve Gallagher

Choreographer, Kirstyn Russelle

Rumspringa Break!  Is about two young Amish sisters, Hannah and Ruth, who want to take a break (Rumspringa Break) and experience the world before they are baptised into the church. They plan to visit a cousin in the big city. When they get there the cousin has gone to Florida. The sisters plan to make this into a positive move and depend on the kindness of strangers to take them in. And they do. And the strangers are drug dealers. And one of the sisters is good with plants and helps bring the drug dealer’s plants back to life. We know what kind of plants they are. And it’s a musical.  And it’s wonderful.

Matt Murray’s book is fresh and original and bursting with humour and insightful musings on the human condition, families, responsibility and love in the strangest places. Colleen Dauncey’s music is tuneful and melodic and Akiva Romer-Segal’s lyrics are fine in establishing the tone, mood and world of that show, although a few of the songs seem out of place and unnecessary.

Giving new meaning to sisterly love are: Georgia Bennett as Ruth, supposedly the clingy, insecure sister who blossoms before our eyes into a confident grower of ‘weed’, who also sings like a dream, and Arinea Hermans as Hannah, the in-control-sister who took care of everybody and resented it, until she was shunted aside. Hermans also sings and acts beautifully. Steve Gallagher directed this (double-duty with Birthday Balloon) again showing a sense of flow, pacing and serving the story.

A smart, inventive story with a terrific score.

Leila Live!

Written and performed by Leila

Directed by Leila’s Mother

Designed by Leila

The charming and diminutive Leila greets those lining up to get into her show, taking selfies along the way. She wears her traditional flowing head scarf, a bold patterned two piece ensemble and her full black beard is nicely trimmed. Once the show started she panned her dark demur eyes over the crowd and fluttered her eyelashes at a few selected men, asking one, “Are you Persian?” He was and then became her willing participant.

Leila tells of her adventures with Jane on the internet. They become fast friends and Leila is invited to a party at Casa Loma. I won’t go further except to say that things don’t work out as planned.

What one can expect from Leila Live! is that you will laugh at the wild sense of humour of Leila and the disarming charm in which she tells her story and plays her audience. We also get a primer in Persian culture and why we Canadians don’t get it, but with Leila’s help that will change.

www.fringetoronto.com

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Review: MUSTARD

by Lynn on January 5, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

l-r: Anand Rajaram, Rebecca Liddiard;
photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

At the Tarragon Theatre, Extraspace Toronto, Ont.
Written by Kat Sandler
Directed by Ashlie Corcoran
Set and costumes by Michael Gianfrancesco
Sound by Christopher Stanton
Lighting designer, Graeme S. Thomson
Co-lighting designer, Nick Andison
Cast: Conrad Coates
Sarah Dodd
Rebecca Liddiard
Tony Nappo
Anand Rajaram
Travis Seetoo

A lively comedy about growing up and leaving the comfort zone.  This  is not about condiments.

 The Story. Mustard  is a very funny comedy with a deeper sensibility about a floppy doll dressed in yellow pants and pockets of various colours, (hence his name of “Mustard”).

The doll was first given to Thai when she was a baby to try and stop her from crying.  As Thai grew up she would talk to Mustard and the doll took on a life of its own—he would talk to Thai.

Thai is now a lively, single-minded 16 year old. Her family life is in crisis and she acts out violently—she tends to punch people in the face.  Her father has left and wants a divorce.  Her mother, Sadie, is depressed, drinks and takes drugs. She’s not much help to Thai. Thai goes to Mustard for advice and solace.

Mustard tries his best to help her, but he has his own problems.  It seems there is a statute of limitations on how long a boon—the technical name for imaginary friends—can stick around and now the ‘boon-goons’ are warning Mustard he has to go. What to do? A dilemma.

The Production. Mustard  first played at the Tarragon in 2016 and the production was dandy thanks to Ashlie Corcoran’s energetic direction and the sterling cast This revival, with two cast changes, is up to the mark as well.

Anand Rajaram plays Mustard with a wide-eyed curiosity and a serious and sensitive demeanour. Mustard is devoted to Thai and wants only the best for her. But then there is Thai’s wounded mother Sadie, who drinks and takes pills way too often. Sadie is played with bitter sarcasm and a quick wit by Sarah Dodd. Dodd makes it all seem effortless. Every moment in her performance informs the many layers of this character.

As in 2016, the real discover is Rebecca Liddiard as Thai. Precocious, impatient to grow up, angry her father is not there, angry her mother is there but absent in a sense because her mother is so out of it with depression.

There is a special chemistry with Liddiard and Rajaram as there is with Thai and Mustard.  They egg each other on. Sparks fly. Funny and touching.

Comment. So for all its loopy humour, and there’s plenty of it–Kat Sandler writes such incongruous, funny dialogue–there is a serious inner core to the show. Sandler writes about growing up, maturing, finding your own voice and your own happiness without the crutch of a childhood friend that always seems to solve the problems.  There’s a sweetness to the play with Sandler’s typical off-the-wall-loopiness in story-telling.

Presented by Tarragon Theatre

Opened: Jan. 4, 2018.

Closes: Jan. 28, 2018.

Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

www.tarragontheatre.com

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At the Factory Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

The Harold Experience

Presented by The Assembly

Directed by Rob Norman

Musical Director, Ayaka Kinugawa

Rob Baker, a member of The Assembly, an improv group, tells us at the top of the show,  that The Harold is a little known technique of improv, the centre of a routine. Some members of the group go into the audience and chat up the audience and from that conversation comes the subject of the first improvised skit. After that the group riffs on other unrelated topics: feisty racoons (what other kind of racoons are there?), an awkward bridegroom and his ‘virgin’ bride, a long-absent father returned home, a man with lots of receipts.

If these skits are to illustrate the Harold then I can only assume that it means: the result is cringingly unfunny, goes on long past its best STOP time and is amusing to the cast and some of the audience.

I spent most of the time wondering if the cue to end a skit came from musical director, Ayaka Kinugawa, or the lighting person who just mercifully brought the lights down to end a skit. Deadly.

 

Birthday Balloon

 Presented by Mauzy May Productions

Written by Steve Cochrane

Directed by Steven Gallagher

Cast: Craig Pike, Renée Hackett

David and Millie’s marriage is in crisis. She learns that he has cheated on her while he was away working in Fort McMurray and she remained in Newfoundland. There are ghosts lingering in the background. Incriminations bubble up. Anger and hurt prevail with moments of tenderness and compassion. And it is also wildly funny.

Playwright Steve Cochrane has created a compelling story that unfolds gradually revealing two wounded, fully fleshed out and alive characters. Cochrane has captured the Newfoundlander’s speech patterns and the turns of phrase that are killingly funny. For example, Millie says that Dave is “..built like a bag of milk.” A line you can tip your hat to. Craig Pike as Dave and Renée Hackett as Millie are both glowing in nuance, subtlety, detail and heart. Steven Gallagher directs this with tremendous sensitivity. There is a piece of business with a balloon that is breathtaking, both literally and figuratively. Wow!

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