Live and in person at the Five Points Theatre, Barrie, Ont. Produced by Theatre By the Bay. Plays until Aug. 21.

Written by Burke Campbell

Directed by Iain Moggach

Set by Echo Zhou

Costumes by Sandra Roberts

Lighting by Za Hughes

Sound design and composer, Joshua Doerksen

Burke Campbell play, A Scandal for All Seasons, is a sex farce that tries too hard to be funny and often isn’t, but the production directed by Iain Moggach is bold.

The Story. The story takes place in Barrie, Ontario. Augusta Peacock and Doris Lester are two wealthy women ‘of a certain age’ who begin drinking fancy drinks in the morning and continue through the day. Augusta has just come out of mourning for her late husband Jeffrey. Doris has been married seven times and has arrived to commiserate.  

Both women seem unlikely as friends since neither trusts the other. But they do have a lot in common. They are rich and bored. They are eager to make a statement of their presence. They drink. And both women are sexually charged and frustrated in scratching that sexual itch until they focus on their recently elected young-stud Mayor, Biff Worthington. I believe the technical term to describe Augusta and Doris is ‘cougars’, as in they are like wild cats prowling for sexual gratification with younger men.

Biff is very earnest, committed to improving Barrie to its best potential and intensely naïve when he doesn’t recognize when August and Doris are putting the moves on him. Augusta and Doris plot to get Biff re-elected while also maneuvering to have him scratch where they itch.

The Production. Echo Zhou has created an interesting design for Augusta’s house. The large, multi-paned window at the back gives a hint at how huge Augusta’s house is. There are pillar formations as art-work that also suggest the size of the house. There is a couch with multiple pillows, but they look rather mis-matched suggesting that Augusta (Lynn Weintraub) does not have the greatest of taste. Her bar to one side is very well stocked so that’s where her focus is.

Augusta enters wearing a very frilly, long black dressing gown to suggest that she is in mourning. But when Doris (Elana Post) arrives to commiserate, Augusta announces she is through mourning and takes off the dressing gown to reveal a vibrant coloured form-fitting dress, accompanied by a lot of necklaces-pearls etc. Kudos to costume designer Sandra Roberts.

Doris is just as flashy if not more so with her ensemble: a slinky long tuxedo coat over slim tuxedo pants and dangerously high heels. She wears strategically placed designer jewelry (a sparkly Chanel brooch and a Gucci belt buckle). It’s the morning. Who is Doris dressing for? Augusta? Both women drink Augusta’s colourful concoctions which she confesses involves aphrodisiacs.

One day, while cycling Biff (Jonathon LeRose) falls off his bike right where Augusta lives and is taken in by Augusta to calm down from the shock of the fall and losing his water bottle. Biff wears spandex shorts, a tight t-shirt and his Mayor’s medallion around his neck—he will wear that medallion in every scene. We know from endless sex farces that both Augusta and Doris will compete with each other so that Biff is eventually topless and wearing a toga. And mindful of Augusta’s penchant for aphrodisiacs there will be an erection of prodigious proportions.

Iain Moggach is the inventive entrepreneurial artistic director of Theatre By the Bay. He has created shows that showcase the history of Barrie by having the audience travel around the harbor and various notable areas of the city and engaging electronically with historical characters in the city’s past. He has guided young actors to create their own shows. And with A Scandal for All Seasons he is producing and directing a sex farce that pokes affectionate fun at the politics and perhaps stodginess of the city of Barrie. His direction is irreverent and bold. His cast is mindful of how serious comedy (farce) is and they all give performances that don’t wink at the audience. Lynn Weintraub as Augusta is almost flaky in her endeavors to attract men. Elana Post as Doris is more a focused cougar with her sights clearly on ‘winning’ Biff as her sexual prize. Jonathon LeRose as Biff is eager, earnest and almost dim in his sexual naivety.

But A Scandal for All Seasons struggles to be funny because of Burke Campbell’s efforts to be provocative. Initially there is a hint of Oscar Wilde as Augusta tries to float some witty saying but it usually lacks the sharpness of wit to pull it off. The efforts at double entendres barely reach the double digits. The story continues to spiral out of control with more and more complications added that are less and less funny. And it all seems so predictable.

Comment. At two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission, A Scandal for All Seasons is too long and often labored in its efforts to be funny. It should be ruthlessly cut to 90 minutes with no intermission. Any joke or bit that seems like the character is standing and trying to be witty with no purpose to the scene, the character or the story should be cut. And there are a lot of those instances especially towards the end.

The actual Mayor of Barrie was sitting behind me on opening night. He seemed to have a good time. Or perhaps he was just being a good politician, happy he wasn’t seeking re-election.   

Theater By The Bay presents:

Plays until, Aug. 21, 2022.

Running time, 2 hours, 15 minutes (1 intermission).


Live and in person at the Daniels Spectrum on Dundas St. E, Toronto, Ont. Last of three performances Aug. 13, at 9 pm.

Written and performed by Natasha Adiayana Morris

Directed by Amanda Nicholls

Musician/drums, Jeremy John

Musician/keys, Lenard Ishmael

Lighting by Sooji Kim

Costume, set consultant, Tinesha Richards

Have a question that you need answered? Leave it to the Doctor.

Join Dr. Bitter’s studio audience for another taping of ‘The ‘R’ Word,’ a live talk show that answers your relationship questions! During commercial breaks various relationship scenarios are played out between all too familiar relationship experiences from adolescence to adulthood.

This is a solo show infused with a live band, spoken word, comedy, and audience interaction. This new work questions the patterns of toxic relationships, journeying through pregnancy, abortion, sexual liberation, single motherhood, and more.

Half n Half focuses on experiences of Black characters as they navigate the world, but of course the stories will have resonance with all audiences. Writer/performer Natasha Adiayana Morris is and engaging and compelling performer, inhabiting many characters with clarity and economy.  

Piece of Mine presents:

The last of three performances, Aug. 13, 9 pm.

Running time: 60 minutes


Live and in person at 4th Line Theatre, Millbrook, Ont. playing until Aug. 27, 2022.

Written by Maja Ardal

Based on the novel of the same name by Janet Kellough

Directed by Kim Blackwell

Musical direction by Justin Hiscox

Set design by Mike Nott

Costume design by Korin Cormier

Choreography by Madison Sheward

Sound design by Esther Vincent

Cast: Kate Bemrose

Kaleigh E. Castell

Tavaree Daniel-Simms

Rylee Dixon

Kait Dueck

Justin Hiscox

Mark Hiscox

Conor Ling

Ian McGarrett

Megan Murphy

JD (Jack) Nicholson

Robert Winslow

And others

A fascinating story of shady land dealings, forgeries of deeds and money, and a Minister trying to find his faith again and the truth of a murder mystery. Always worth a trip to 4th Line Theatre at Winslow Farm in Millbrook, Ont.

The Story. September 15, 1853. Cobourg, Upper Canada (“Ontario” didn’t come into existence until 1867—Bless 4th Line Theatre for making me look that up). Thaddeus Lewis is a Methodist minister who has come to Cobourg to be one of their spiritual leaders. There is also a Baptist minister. Thaddeus Lewis has recently lost his wife and daughter and also his faith. He is struggling to believe in God and prays to him regularly for guidance. In the meantime, Thaddeus does his duty to the people of Cobourg. His 18-year-old granddaughter Martha comes to Cobourg to help him by tending his house. The smart, thoughtful Martha soon experiences the small-minded, gossipy people of the town and deals with it in a forthright manner. There are rumors of land transfers that were bogus until a shady person sold the land in question to the railroad and made a fortune. Ire was high. There was a mysterious murder. Thaddeus Lewis was also an amateur detective and helped out by investigating. Along with the railroad, there are plans to build a bridge that would cross Rice Lake and join Peterborough and Cobourg. Lots going on in the town.

The Production. As with all the productions at 4th Line Theatre Wishful Seeing is focused on real events in the area. The play is based on the novel of the same name by Janet Kellough. The gifted theatre creator/playwright/actor/director etc. Maja Ardal adapted the book and also incorporated her sense of whimsy and imagination into the story. When Ardal and Kim Blackwell, the equally gifted Managing Artistic Director of 4th Line Theatre, were in a boat on Rice Lake, the idea was formed to have Ardal adapt the book and Kim Blackwell to direct the show. Serendipity in the most magical of places.

Designer Mike Nott has created a wonderful set indicating several locations. There is the Globe Hotel Bar where the menfolk of the town gather to drink (often to excess), swap stories and gossip. Next to that is the Potts General Store with many shelves packed with jars of preserves, cans of goods and loads of other produce. The women of the town go there regularly to buy supplies (often on credit) and to spread the most unsupported gossip. At one point, Martha (a confident, forthright Kate Bemrose) tries to put things in perspective for the prissy women, regarding her grandfather, Thaddeus Lewis (Robert Winslow). (While there was a real minister named Thaddeus Lewis, he was not a fixture in Cobourg at the time. In fact, the real Thaddeus Lewis fought in the war of 1812 and travelled the land, preaching).

Next to the Potts General Store was the home of Thaddeus Lewis and his granddaughter Martha. There was a simple table and chairs and a bookshelf up from that full of books. Beside Thaddeus’ house is a makeshift jail. Scenes are played, as always with 4th Line Theatre, in the barn, on the upper level of the building beside it and in the meadows.

Blackwell has the menfolk of the town lean on the bar at the Globe Hotel and bellow their gossip as they get drunker and drunker. And at the Potts General Store the gossipy ladies of the town are straight-backed and prim as they let all manner of rumor fly without thought of the truth of the statements, and they seem quite pleased with themselves that they think they know dirt on their fellow townspeople.   

The cast is a mix of professional actors and local folks. The locals are committed to 4th Line Theatre and their acting is full of conviction and joy.      

Mixed in with this shady land transfer—family land was passed from one person to another with flimsy paperwork, then passed again with forged documents and sold to the railroad—is a murder. Who was the person killed? Who killed him? It turns out Ellen Howell (Kait Dueck) is arrested for the murder. Her husband George Howell (JD (Jack) Nicholsen) who has a questionable reputation for business, has disappeared and Ellen does not know where he is. It doesn’t look good for Ellen. But Thaddeus Lewis is on the case. He is also smitten with Ellen. He comes to her in jail to try and sort out the mystery of the murder and also to read to her from Jane Austen. At this point, Thaddeus is visited by the specter of his late wife Betsy (Kate Dueck) who is trying to guide him.

Robert Winslow imbues Thaddeus Lewis with a sturdy sense of duty, a courtliness even, mixed with Thaddeus’ guilt at having feelings for Ellen while grieving for his late wife Betsy.

Conor Ling plays lawyer Townsend Ashby with assurance but not arrogance and he tries to defend Ellen Howell.

Director Kim Blackwell does a neat trick here. Kate Dueck plays both Ellen and Betsy and in one scene she seems to play both women at the same time. As Ellen she is devoted to her husband and confident in her place as his wife. There is a tenderness too with Thaddeus Lewis. As Betsy, Kate Dueck has an ethereal quality and is quite haunting. Blackwell sets up the scene with Thaddeus holding Ellen’s hand while reading to her in prison. A few seconds later, Betsy appears as a ghost beside the prison. We are then aware that Kim Blackwell has created a neat trick of suggestion and whipped our imagination to believing we are looking at one actress playing two parts at the same time. Terrific.

Kim Blackwell is deft at using the whole sweep of Winslow Farm in telling the story of Wishful Seeing. In the distance characters holding strips of blue material undulate the material in the air as they suggest the appearance of water of the lake. Then a small row boat appears ‘in the water’ as George Howell rows his devoted wife Ellen in the boat.  Over yonder in the far meadow, workers build the bridge that will span Rice Lake.

Comment. As with all 4th Line Theatre productions, Wishful Seeing has a compelling story, quirky characters and the most magical setting for seeing theatre.

4th Line Theatre presents:

Plays until: Aug. 27, 2022

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (1 intermission)


Live and in person at 401 Richmond St. W. Toronto, Ont.  as part of SummerWorks, 2022. Only plays until Aug. 10, 2022.

Written, sound design and performed by Gloria Mok

Direction and dramaturgy by Theatre du Poulet, 2b, and Nightswimming

Food and preparation by Gloria Mok and her mother.

Long Distance Relationships for Mythical Times is an exquisite, elegant production using memory, myth and Chinese (Cantonese) cultural ceremony to tell the story. It is also the most wonderful, easy example of creating a community that I’ve seen in a long time.

The small group is taken to a room on the third floor of 401 Richmond St. W. that is laid out simply for about 12 guests with a tea cup and saucer and chopsticks laid neatly across a folded napkin all of which sit on a placemat. We are given our name card with its own holder to be placed in front of us so our fellow guests can clearly read our names.

There are two lazy-Susans on either end of the table with two tea pots: one has loose-leaf Jasmine tea and the other has hot water for topping up. Many of the people in the room know each other. Some don’t. But with such an intimate group, conversation is easy. We are all curious about our fellow guests and there is easy banter. This is all before Gloria Mok begins the play. If this isn’t community, I don’t know what is.

Gloria Mok is dressed in what I suppose is a traditional Chinese dress, ‘buttoned’ on the side. There are various props in front of her to tell her stories: a red bean, a curled root of some sort, a ‘stone’ ball, a fan, a box of sand, a computer, and a keyboard on which to play to support her stories. It is all simple and elegant.

She begins the production by lighting a stick of incense because that is a Chinese tradition. She tells an ancient story of a long-distance relationship of a couple that meet by accident, marry, have a child but are separated. They are allowed to meet one day a year. There is longing in the story.

Mok then tells of her parents who met in Hong Kong but were separated when her father went to Montreal for work and her mother remained in Hong Kong. Sending letters was expensive so they sent each other cassettes. Mok had a cassette of her parents talking which she played on her computer while drawing the delicate tape out of the cassette. It is an image that is so evocative and artful and again so full of longing.

Mok then talks of her own long distance relationship with her “apartner” her partner who is apart from her. Sometimes she visits him where he is across the country. Sometimes he visits her. Mok asks us to have a conversation, as if by phone with the person opposite and to remember seven things about them. It’s a fascinating exercise. The people at the table have their own stories of long distance.

And there is food. Each person was asked if they wished to partake of various items from dumplings, to bitter fruit to tea to walnut cookies. I urge you to check all of them. Mok and her Mother prepared the dumplings and the bitter fruit. Eating with your fellow participants is another ceremony of community and respectful of the efforts of Mok and her Mother,

Long Distance Relationships for Mythical Times is a beautiful creation of generosity, open-heartedness, love and sharing. Mok has us thinking about our own relationships, what is important, what is difficult and how we overcome what seems to be impossible. Stunning work.

SummerWorks presents:

Aug. 10 at 1:30 pm

Aug. 10 at 6:00 pm

At 401 Richmond St. W.


Live and in person at the Factory Theatre (Studio and Courtyard), Toronto, Ont. Until Aug. 28, 2022.

Written by Gillian Clark

Directed by Mitchell Cushman

Set by Anahita Dehbonehie

Costumes by Nick Blais

Lighting by Jareth Li

Sound by Heidi Chan

Audio system design by Michael Laird

Cast: Katherine Cullen

Liz Der

Sébastien Heins

Amy Keating

Elena Reyes

Cheyenne Scott

Merlin Simard

Jeff Yung

A creative production of a confusing, sometimes incomprehensible play that needs judicious dramaturgy and editing.

The Story. From the Factory Theatre website:  “The fated collision of Greek mythology and GREASE mythology, unfolding in two locations at the same time. Welcome to New Troy, Canada, August 2009. The night of the annual Duck ‘ n’ Swing dance. Odysseus hatches a death-defying Prom-posal, Nestra and King Memnon rendezvous in the Outhouse for some old Summer Lovin’, and Cassandra feasts on raw hot dogs while sooth-sayin’ the world’s destruction.

An epic exploration of inheritance in the age of Climate Emergency, with two plays performed simultaneously by the same ensemble. Half the audience gathers outdoors around the campfire, and half cuts a rug in the dance hall, while the actors race back-and-forth—inhabiting both the teenagers of New Troy and their middle-aged parents. Then at intermission everyone switches, as the stakes of the 50/50 raffle continue to climb.”

Often when the play is so confused and confusing, so spare of a developed story or characters, it’s best to let the theatre website etc. try and explain.

The Production.  Director Mitchell Cushman and his stalwart cast have embraced the challenge of performing the two parts of Trojan Girls & The Outhouse of Atreus simultaneously in the Courtyard of the Factory Theatre and the Studio Theatre, with gusto and conviction. This trick is not new. Alan Ayckbourn carried this off nicely in 2000 in his plays: House and Garden. But for our purposes, one smiles at the ongoing chutzpah of Mitchell Cushman in his ever-increasing efforts in pushing the envelope to keep challenging himself and his audience in these ‘immersive’ endeavors.

Trojan Girls is played out in the Courtyard of the Factory Theatre where the characters from certain Greek myths are in their teens. Set designer extraordinaire, Anahita Dehbonehie, has created an environment of walls full of graffiti, discarded junk, a large round structure that is used as a fire pit and the decorated levels of the Factory Theatre in the background. The audience sits in banked rows of seats facing the space and the theatre up at the back.

The cast wears head microphones and the audience wears headphones to hear them in an effort to block out the intense background noise of the traffic and people on the street. The cast is in the funky garb of hip youth (kudos to costume designer, Nick Blais.) Laid-back and bored Helen, aged 13 (a wonderful Katherine Cullen) is in a tight bright top, short skirt and thigh-high black suede boots. She thinks New Troy, Ontario is so provincial since she has just come from the bright lights of Calgary. Cassandra, who sees into the future (serious, concerned Amy Keating,) is in jean shorts, and layers of clothing. Menelaus as played by a convincing Sébastien Heins, is the eager and nerdy kid who is smitten by the unattainable Helen. Everything he wears is pristine and perfectly coordinated.  

Characters exit and enter at great speed dealing with each new character with precious little information to identify who they are, who they might become and what their story is. Odysseus (well played as trying to be macho by Jeff Yung), is fashioning a dangerous trick to convince Penelope (Cheyenne Scott) to go to the prom with him. Other characters profess love to ones who don’t care.  But again, because playwright, Gillian Clark does not seem interested in created a cohesive story around these characters, it’s hard to hang on to or care about any of them, aside from the fact that the actors playing them are so committed.

Lots of business is done around the burning fire pit to the extent that the audience is forced to breathe smoke for about a half an hour. I think this bit of business should be rethought as soon as possible.

When characters as teens exit, they then rush to the Studio Theatre, change costumes and perform The Outhouse of Atreus as the teens’ adult parents for the audience watching that play indoors. We are told that sometimes a character might be late in entering a scene, at which point the actor on stage will start to quietly count, with the audience joining in, until the character arrives. There is no making up dialogue wondering where the character is. We just wait and count. Interesting.

For The Outhouse of Atreus section of the play, again Anahita Dehbonehie has decorated the set (the Duck ‘n’ Swing Bar) in a toilet paper motif. There are artful formations of rolls of toilet paper attached to a wall with streams of toilet paper floating down in a beautiful design. Streams of paper hang from the fixtures. There is a large brown structure to one end of the stage. This is a moveable outhouse. At various times characters go in to meditate, ponder their lives, or relieve themselves.

In this play, Sébastien Heins is a confident, stylish King Memnon. He’s married to Penthesilea, a wonderfully sophisticated Liz Der. But King Memnon still has feelings for Nestra (Katherine Cullen) from another time who just appears.

Comment. One smiles at Gillian Clark’s obvious wink at the titles of the Greek plays: The Trojan Women by Euripidesand The House of Atreus by Aeschylus. But that’s all it is, is a wink, because her two iterations have nothing really to do with the original. She makes that point clear when she says not to expect a perfect adaptation. And while Trojan Girls depicts the characters as teens and the Outhouse of Atreus depicts their adult parents, they aren’t the parents in the actual Greek stories. Confusion abounds if one is familiar with the Greek stories, and even if one is not.  

It’s wishful thinking this epic is “ an exploration of inheritance in the age of Climate Emergency” as noted on the theatre website.  Gillian Clark has not crafted a story or characters detailed or cohesive enough to establish either a story of inheritance or anything approaching one about our climate emergency.

While Mitchell Cushman’s directorial imagination is prodigious in this production, I found at times that both parts of the production are flabby, especially The Outhouse of Atreus and could use some tightening. I can appreciate the boldness of having an actor and audience count until a delayed character makes an entrance from the other space, but in one scene in The Outhouse of Atreus a character was waiting for his partner to show up to sing a song for the celebrations of “The Duck ‘n’ Swing Dance and never showed up (deliberately) in spite of repeated calls out to the person. Confusing. Also in the same play, towards the end, the audience from the Courtyard is led into the Studio Theatre to see the conclusion. Three characters rush off stage into a fire to try and rescue one of their own. King Memnon (Sébastien Heins, now dashing in a flashy yellow costume) began quietly counting, as does the audience, waiting for the characters to reappear, which they do, coughing from the fire. Why? The characters are already in the Studio Theatre space doing one play (not the other play simultaneously in the Courtyard) so why are we counting? Is this a directorial conceit to engage the audience? How about rehearsing the changeover so there is no delay? As I said, ‘flabby.’ At three hours and 15 minutes, the play and the production should be judiciously? Ruthlessly edited. And rethought for cohesion.

Presented by Outside the March and Factory Theatre in association with Neworld Theatre.

Plays until: Aug. 28, 2022.

Running time: 3 hours, 15 minutes, (1 intermission)


Live and in person at the Falstaff Family Centre, Stratford, Ont. Plays until Aug. 14, 2022.

Written by Andrea Scott and Nick Green

Directed by Monique Lund with Associate director Tiffany Deriveau

Costume and set by Monique Lund

Lighting and sound by Stephen Degenstein

Cast: Jenni Burke

Robbie Towns

A blazingly intelligent play that challenges our perceptions of race, communication, friendship, respect and how we deal with uncomfortable situations and each other.   

The Story. Every Day She Rose by Andrea Scott and Nick Green is about two friends:  Mark who is white and gay and Cathy-Ann who is Black and straight, and their different perceptions on the Pride Parade in Toronto regarding the police presence in the parade and Black Lives Matter who did not want the police there.

Cathy-Ann and Mark are close friends and share Mark’s condo. They are preparing to go to the Pride Parade and are getting all costumed up in the pride colours. At a point in the parade they see that a contingent of police are marching in the parade and they are being stopped by a group from Black Lives Matter who protest their presence in the parade.

Cathy-Ann is sympathetic to Black Lives Matter and its political concerns. Mark is happy the police have a presence in the parade because he thinks of the 2016 massacre in Orlando, Florida and believes the men were killed in Orlando because they were gay. Cathy-Ann counters by saying gently they were Latino and that’s why they were killed. Obviously these two friends have different perspectives on some thorny issues.

The Production.  The production is fascinating.  Monique Lund has created a simple design for Mark’s condo. There is a couch with some cushions with dogs on them. Some storage boxes are beside the couch that hold a laptop, some notebooks, etc.  that will be used during the production. I love that economy of design.

To be scrupulously fair Every Day She Rose is co-directed by Monique Lund who is white, with Associate director, Tiffany Deriveau, who is Black. They each bring their own sensibilities to the play but also collaborate in realizing the subtle and nuanced moments in the play and the characters.

Mark (Robbie Towns) wears torn shorts and a flashy t-shirt, and is  flamboyant in his body language and voice.  He is excited about going to the parade and seeing Justin Trudeau who will be marching in the parade.  Cathy-Ann (Jenni Burke) is comfortably dressed in a flowing colourful dress with a Pride scarf wrapped around her hair.  Kudos to Monique Lund who also designed the costumes.

Cathy-Ann is more serious and thoughtful than Mark. Mark tends to tease and joke.  They are comfortable with each other. They banter like friends who are used to flipping smart talk back and forth.

Mark describes seeing Justin Trudeau and screaming his name several times. Cathy-Ann looks at him with crinkled eyebrows. Mark continues describing how they negotiated various sections of the parade until they came to that section with the police marching and how they were stopped by a contingent of Black Lives Matter who don’t want the police in the parade at all. That’s when Cathy-Ann expresses that she supports Black Lives Matter in this regard. Mark on the other hand is happy they are there for protection and cites the Orlando massacre. Both don’t like what is happening and want to go home.

Mark and Cathy-Ann are close friends but it’s obvious from their different perceptions of the police and Black Lives Matter there are cracks in that relationship. Earlier in the apartment he calls her “girlfriend” with a lilt in his voice as if he was Black. She tells him not to call her that (“in that way” is implied). He does again as a joke.  I thought that was really telling. He’s not listening to her request, or if he is he is not respecting her enough to stop calling her “girlfriend” and in the way he is saying it.

As they continue their conversation about race Cathy-Ann says that when she sees a group of racially different people she just sees “people”. But she wants Mark to see her as a Black woman first because that’s how she perceives herself. Certainly something to think about.

With every shift in perception of the characters we are given so much to parse, weigh, consider and reflect upon not only from the characters’ point of view but from ours. And then the playwrights weigh in as well.

As the characters in the play wrangle, the “actors,” Jenni Burke and Robbie Towns, step out of the set and ‘the play’ and then take on the personas of the playwrights Andrea Scott and Nick Green, respectively, who then discuss the scene and how it’s working or not. This shift is noted when either actor hits a bell on the table. There also might be a shift in lighting. I loved that bell-dinging as the scene-change signal. However, the bell-dinging isn’t consistent for the whole show. I thought that odd.

The ’playwright’s personalities are very different from the characters of Cathy-Ann and Mark but their skin colour is not. Andrea Scott is Black and Nick Green is white.

In their easy conversation Robbie Towns as Nick, is more subdued, thoughtful and very eager to accommodate Andrea’s ideas, very often seeing her point of view. I don’t get the sense there is animosity or overt power-tripping from him.  Initially I find that refreshing but then wonder if that’s because he has the confidence of being white.

Jennie Burke as Andrea, illuminates Andrea’s watchfulness, her subtle and contained reactions, as if she is preparing for Nick to ‘take over.’ In fact there is a scene in which that does happen and if I have quibble with the production, it’s this scene. Both playwrights decide to review the structure of the play. They each have a different coloured pad of post-it notes. Each playwright notes a scene on the pad and then takes the post-it note and places it on a ‘white board’. In turn each scene is discussed and noted and the post-it notes form a vertical formation of notes.  The audience sees how each playwright makes her/his note and places it on the white board. But then Nick thinks he has a better idea and takes the white board and turns it away from the audience and starts fiddling with the form of the post-it notes and removing some of them. Andrea looks behind the board with an ever-growing look of concern (disdain?) at what Nick is doing and takes each note he is ‘discarding’ and eventually puts the post-it note on her face. Then Nick turns the board around for us to see what he has done. The board is now a short horizontal line of post-its, mainly his. Andrea notes that it is now a linear story. It’s also obvious Nick has in fact taken over and reformed the story to his way of thinking.

My concern is that the audience is taken out of this equation by having Nick turn the white board away from the audience and Andrea, leaving her to peak at what he is planning and the audience to have to wait for him to turn the board around. I think having the audience see what he is doing—removing her post-it notes– along with Andrea seeing it with the audience, is a more powerful statement. The way that Monique Lund and Tiffany Deriveau have staged that scene weakens the scene.

This play is not only an examination of different perspectives involving race etc. it’s also an observation in play-writing when one playwright is Black and one is white. At one point the character of Andrea says that she was eager to collaborate with Nick but not if it meant she was just tagging along and he was really the lead writer. The character of Nick says that he didn’t want that either.

The ‘playwrights’ discuss how these two different characters could be friends; how they met; the back stories. They check the script on their laptops. It’s all heightened theatricality.

At one point Nick asks Andrea something along the lines of how she copes with disappointment in the work etc. She says something like, “every day you rise”—you get up and try again. Beautiful. And how telling that the title now focuses on her with Every Day She Rose.

It’s also interesting to note that at times the clear lines between the characters ‘in the play’ and the ‘characters’ of the playwrights of the play get intentionally blurry in their attitudes and politics. Conflict resolution between the character varies greatly.

Comment. I love the play and found this production intriguing.  I loved the perception of race relations both writers have. I love the boldness of the creation and the fact that the focus is on such thorny issues. I loved that both writers seemed to have written for both characters rather than Nick writing only for Mark (white) and Andrea writing only for Cathy-Ann (Black). Loved that melding. I loved that the play gets us thinking about our perceptions of race, skin colour, Black Lives Matter, the police, communication, friendship and respect.

Here for Now Theatre presents:

Plays until: Aug. 14, 2022.

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


Live and in person at the Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge, Ont. Until Aug. 6.

Written by Ernest Thompson

Directed by Marti Maraden

Set by Allan Wilbee

Costumes by Jennifer Wonnacott

Lighting by Kevin Fraser

Cast: Justin Bott

Benedict Campbell

Janet-Laine Green

Evan Kearns

Cyrus Lane

Stacy Smith

Prickly and sweet.

The Story. We are at the summer home (cottage?) of Norman Thayer Jr. and his wife Ethel, in Maine, on Golden Pond. They have arrived for the summer to open the place. Norman is a retired English professor. He is about to celebrate his 80th birthday and he’s not happy about it. He’s irritable, irascible and forgetting too many things of late, which probably is making him irritable. He and Ethel are expecting their daughter Chelsea who is coming with her present boyfriend. Norman is probably uneasy about that too. He and Chelsea don’t get along. Ethel seems to be the referee between them.

The Production. Designer Allan Wilbee has created a large, two-story rustic cottage of wood, beams and walls full of pictures and other memorabilia of a life well lived. The furniture has been covered with sheets for the winter, until Norman (Benedict Campbell) and Ethel (Janet-Laine Green) return for the summer. We can see the lake through the many windows on the back wall. We will hear the birds chirp and the loons make whatever sound they make over the course of the play. Ethel will revel in that and make Norman join her.

Norman enters first, slowly, a bit hunched. He opens the back door then tries to open the screen door that completely falls away from its hinges and falls on the back porch. He tries to hide that by putting the door up by the outside wall. When Ethel sees it he says he will fix it. An on-going joke is that the door continues to NOT be fixed and connected to its hinges, because Norman sure takes his time doing it.

Norman goes to a wall with photos and can’t recognize who’s in one picture. He is not sure the phone is working so he calls the operator to try calling his number. He can’t remember the number but assures the operator ‘it’s in the book.’ When she does call back, he forgets why she’s calling. We get the picture; Norman is slowly losing his memory. It preys on him.

As Norman, Benedict Campbell is gruff, irritated, very funny in his angst and obviously worried about his health. As Ethel, Janet-Laine Green is spry, sprightly, industrious, understanding and always trying to cheer up Norman. When Chelsea (Stacy Smith) arrives, Ethel is also the peace-keeper between Norman and Chelsea, who do not get along. Chelsea feels she is a disappointment to her accomplished father and she can’t break through her father’s stubbornness.

As Chelsea, Stacy Smith is anxious and tentative when first seeing her father for obvious reasons and more relaxed with her mother, who is encouraging.  Chelsea would also be anxious because she’s brought her boyfriend Bill Ray (Cyrus Lane) on the trip. Bill is a dentist, divorced and has a 13-year-old son named Billy (Evan Kearns), who has also accompanied Chelsea and Bill.  

To add a bit more spice to the mix, Norman and Ethel are visited by Charlie Martin (Justin Bott), the mailman for the area, a sweet man but not intellectually swift. He had thought that he and Chelsea might have been a couple when they were younger, but Chelsea was not interested. We get a good sense of Charlie’s personality by how Justin Bott plays him. Charlie laughs at everything, in a high, increasingly intense laugh. He is well meaning, kind and lonely. He is anxious to see Chelsea again, perhaps to rekindle something but is disappointed when he realizes that Chelsea has someone in her life. Justin Bott plays Charlie with sensitivity and an open heart.

Bill (Cyrus Lane) arrives. He’s wearing a suit and tie. (pause). He, his son and Chelsea have driven from California to Maine for a vacation (!) and he’s wearing a suit and tie. (Kudos to costume designer Jennifer Wonnacott who has designed wonderfully appropriate cottage clothes for everyone except Bill, who thinks he’s still at the office filling people’s teeth). Cyrus Lane as Bill is courtly, measured and respectful, especially to Norman. He’s obviously heard that Norman always gave Chelsea’s boyfriends a hard time. When Bill has had one too many insults from Norman, he lets him have it in the most respectful, quiet manner; that he knows Norman’s game and it won’t work. One doubts that Norman ever got anyone to answer him back with as much respect and confidence as Bill. Cyrus Lane has one scene and he does it beautifully.

As Billy, Evan Kearns also has that sweet brashness of a 13-year-old kid. He’s funny, a bit flippant, but he has to contend with Norman. Billy represents Norman’s second chance at living. Norman asks if Billy fishes—Norman loves to fish. Norman teaches Billy to fish. And how about reading? Norman suggests Billy read one chapter of a book he suggests and to give him a report about it. And thus begins the wonderful, giddy friendship of this 80-year-old man and this young teenager.

It’s decided that Billy will spend a month with Norman and Ethel while Chelsea and Bill go to Europe. We see the difference that month has made. Norman is now moving a bit quicker, straighter and with gusto. Billy is eager to fish and read.

Marti Maraden has directed this with a careful eye to the text. She does not give in to sentimentality. The relationships are beautifully created and crafted.  We have seen this story before, often: angry older person, thinks their life is nearly over; angry at the world; and then something happens to change it. It’s not a boring ‘seen-that-done-that-story’. It’s something we’ve all experienced and seeing it again from someone else’s perspective makes the story come alive. It’s sweet and prickly and kind. We can use that in our angry world.  

Comment. Playwright Ernest Thompson wrote On Golden Pond when he was 28. It opened Off-Broadway in 1978 and had great success after that, moving to Broadway, being made into a film, for which he won the Academy Award for best adaptation. Well worth a trip to Cambridge.

Drayton Entertainment presents:

Plays until: Aug. 6, 2022.

Running Time: 2 hours approx. (1 intermission)


Life and in person at the Falstaff Family Centre, Stratford, Ont. until Aug. 7, 2022.

Written by Dennis Kelly

Directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson

Lighting and sound by Stephen Degenstein

Costumes and set by Bonnie Deakin

Cast: Fiona Mongillo

Astonishing in every single way.

The Story. The Programme says it all without telling the secrets: “An unexpected meeting at an airport leads to an intense, passionate, head-over-heels relationship. Before long they begin to settle down, buy a house, juggle careers, have kids—theirs is an ordinary family.

But then their world starts to unravel and things take a disturbing turn.

Note: Girls & Boys is intended for a mature audience and contains graphic descriptions of violence.”

The Production. Bonnie Deakin has designed a simple white set. There is a large white comfortable chair on the stage floor stage right. There is a squat white round table beside it on the stage floor. There is a glass of water on the table. To the left of the chair and table is a raised, large, white square platform.

Our narrator, who is never named, is played with controlled brilliance by Fiona Mongillo. For the most of the play she stands on the raised platform telling us the story.   One scene is played  with the woman sitting in the chair. She often drinks from the glass of water except towards the end of the play. When she sits in the chair the glass of water is conveniently close on the table beside it. When she is standing on the platform, she has to lean over and bend down slightly to get the glass. That seems a bit awkward. Can’t the chair and table be moved onto the platform for convenience? Or just move the table to the platform and ditch the chair altogether?

Our narrator details how she was at the airport, in line to check in to go on vacation to Italy. She was rather aimless at the time, not ambitious in work but looking for a good time in Italy. She describes the man in line in front of her, reading a book. He is never named either. Two women, who are described as models, sidled up to him to chat him up and therefore maneuver from where they were at the back of the line, to getting ahead in the line. Our narrator watched at the cheek of the two models and the coolness of the man reading. He knew what was happening. He knew he was being played by these two women and he called them out. He did it in a quiet, thoughtful, direct way. This impressed our narrator no end.  

Next scene,  our narrator is talking to her two children: Leanne and Danny. Danny is younger but both are young enough to challenge their mother at every turn; about going to bed; about whose toy is whose; about Danny teasing his sister and the Mother trying to keep some kind of control.

Our Narrator is very proud of her now husband and his resourcefulness in business—he sells wardrobes and has found a clever way of making that business pay. He in turn seems to be proud of his wife and cheers her on at every turn. Our Narrator applied for a job in documentary films, that she was sure she was not going to get, but was bold and resourceful in her own right and got the job.

Our Narrator often has conversations with her children. The daughter is accommodating. The  son seems into the violence of the culture—guns etc. The husband’s business was thriving and then there was trouble in the business. We listen, rapt, because of the gripping way Fiona Mongillo is telling the story.

Fiona Mongillo is recounting the whole breadth of her relationship with this intriguing man she met in an airport line, to getting married and having children to success in business for the both of them, to the unravelling, startling end. One of the many astonishing things about Fiona Mongillo’s performance is that she never telegraphs the less than happy end of the play. So often I’ve seen this in other plays with many other actors, but not here. Not once.

Mongillo goes through Dennis Kelly’s detailed, complex story as if she is reliving every event as if for the first time. There is joy and curiosity as our Narrator recounts the arrogance of the two models who want to get further up in line and will “use” this “innocent” man for their purposes; then he quietly puts these women in their place. Our Narrator sees the value of the character of the man and is further intrigued. Mongillo is buoyant, smiling and almost still in the telling. We don’t need endless movement to engage us. We ‘just’ need a gifted actor who knows the power of the playwright’s words and how to say them that grips the audience.

Mongillo is beautifully partnered by director Lucy Jane Atkinson who is a master of the nuance and subtlety of the piece. There is not one second of showy direction, just the careful, quiet, attention to the detail in the words.

When the Narrator is dealing with her children it is as a carrying mother who bends down or gets down on all fours to talk to her children on their level. She is not showing them a stance of power by standing over them. She is facing them head on, dealing with them as a concerned parent. There is that give and take between parent and child that is fascinating. The mother wants them to go to bed now. The kids want to negotiate. As the Mother, Mongillo is careful, patient, controlled, loving, and perhaps trying to give the children what they might want, but still ‘controlling’ the narrative. Fascinating.

The audience is given information during the telling, late in the play that is startling. The unravelling begins. It’s not done in a rush, but as controlled as the telling before. This time, the buoyant smile of Mongillo is not there, but she is as compelling because of the calmness of the telling of what happened. Astonishing play and production. Mongillo is such a gifted actor.  

Comment. Here for Now Theatre has produced bracing, compelling theatre since it has begun producing this summer festival in Stratford, Ont. Girls & Boys is one of the best they have done, and they have done some pretty fine work. See this.

Here for Now Theatre presents:

Plays until: Aug. 7, 2022.

Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (no intermission).


Live and in person at various outdoor venues around ONTARIO until Aug. 21, 2022.

Written by William Shakespeare

Adapted and directed by D. Jeremy Smith

Lyrics by Germaine Konji

Music by Kelsi James and Germaine Konji

Production designer, Julia Kim

Cast: Hume Baugh

Richard Alan Campbell

Ximena Huizi

Rosalie Tremblay

Ben Yoganathan

King Henry Five is Driftwood Theatre’s return to live performance after a three-year hiatus.

D. Jeremy Smith, the always daring, inventive Artistic Director of Driftwood Theatre has adapted Henry IV pts 1 & 2Henry V resulting in King Henry Five. D. Jeremy Smith wanted to create one play, culled from three of Shakespeare’s history plays, that would show the clear development of Prince Hal from irresponsible prince, to the maturity needed to be a king.

From the programme note: “An ambitious adaptation of three Shakespeare playsKing Henry Five is a powerful story about community, the families we inherit and those we choose, and the legacies we leave behind. Set against the backdrop of a contemporary patio bar and featuring Driftwood’s signature blend of music, puppetry and Shakespeare’s captivating poetry, King Henry Five rolls into outdoor community spaces across Ontario this summer.

As with all of Driftwood’s production, D. Jeremy Smith has directed a lively production of King Henry Five that uses the breadth of the outdoor space (in this case it was Withrow Park). Exits and entrances are through the attentive audience or around them. Costume changes are often done on the fly and are as entertaining as watching the actors portray their characters.

The cast is a mix of veteran actors: Hume Baugh as Falstaff and others and Richard Alan Campbell as King Henry 1V and “Quickly” among others, and those making impressive debuts: Ben Yoganathan as Prince Hall and later King Henry Five and Rosalie Tremblay who sings the various songs beautifully and plays a compelling Catherine.

The production tours Ontario and returns to Toronto Aug. 16, 17 and will play Christie Pits Park for those two performances. All tickets are pay-what-you-can. For details on the touring dates please go to:


Live and in person at the Studio Theatre, Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ont. until Oct. 1, 2022.

Written by Sunny Drake

Directed by ted witzel

Set by Michelle Tracey

Costumes by Joshua Quinlan

Lighting by Jareth Li

Composer and sound designer, Dasha Plett

Cast: Marion Adler

Verónica Hortigűela

Stephen Jackman-Torkoff

Robert King

John Koensgen

Richard Lam

Antonette Rudder (understudy to Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah

Rose Tuong

Every Little Nookie is a lively farce-like sex romp involving intergenerational groupings; ‘re-inventing’ a family unit of polyamorous and platonic room-mates searching for affordable housing and failing, and a sexually frustrated wife who can’t seem to just tell her husband what she ‘wants’ but has discovered the thrill of swingers parties. To some this might seem innovative, refreshingly bold and provocative. To those who are familiar with the theatre and the world, it’s derivative, tired and just a little bit infuriating.

The Story.  I’ll copy the programme note to ensure that every single point is introduced: “Empty-nest boomer couple Margaret and Kenneth lead a comfortable conventional life in the suburbs, enjoying their cozy routine of Scrabble, bridge and weekends at the cottage. Their polyamorous daughter, Annabel, lives downtown in a less-than-lavish rented property she shares with three others: her partner, Grace (a self-described social justice warrior who has just landed an improbable gig as a mall Santa); her non-binary friend Smash, who has now also become Grace’s lover; and her friend Crystal, a feminist academic who moonlights as a sex worker.

To help support themselves Annabel and her roommates secretly host weekend swingers’ parties for middle-aged suburbanites, using Annabel’s family home when her parents are away at the cottage. Returning unexpectedly one night, Margaret and Kenneth are initially shocked to find these orgiastic proceedings in full swing-et both eventually has to admit that they are also intrigued.

Meanwhile, Annabel has embarked on a new relationship with Matt, a straight single father. As she tries to sort out her feelings about her lovers and her life in general, and as Kenneth and Margaret try to figure out where their marriage is heading, a plethora of new complications arise. The search is on for creative solutions to all these conundrums. “

The Production. Before anything, you notice designer Michelle Tracey’s impressive wood slide that goes the whole width of the upper landing at the Studio Theatre down to the stage floor below, curving and then flattening out onto the stage. If characters need to get from the upper level to the stage they slide down, rarely taking the side staircase. Occasionally characters scamper up that daunting incline from the bottom to the top. (One does worry about the physical safety of any actor ‘asked’ to negotiate such a maneuver)

A bed, with a duvet and many cushions and pillows cover the curve of the slide to the flattened section. We are in the large suburban home of Margaret (Marion Adler) and Kenneth (John Koensgen). They enter in pajamas and together toss the many pillows and cushions from the top of the bed to the floor in front of the bed. They get under the duvet and begin to play scrabble with each other on their iPads. The banter is easy between these long-married boomers. But Margaret is obviously concerned by a lack of intimacy at this point in the marriage. She undoes a few buttons of her pajamas, trying to entice Kenneth. He doesn’t notice. Marion Adler, as Margaret, has a gentleness that seems to prevent her from addressing the issue. As Kenneth, John Koensgen is a kindly man, pre-occupied with issues at his office, not thinking of retiring and not aware of his needy wife. It’s a familiar situation: the physical intimacy going out of a marriage and a reluctance to address it. It’s the stuff of lots and lots of comedies.

Meanwhile, downtown Annabel (Rose Tuong), Margaret and Kenneth’s adopted queer daughter, is a struggling artist who lives with her roommates and ‘fam’ members who are: her non-binary friend Smash (they/them) (Stephen Jackman-Torkoff), Grace (Antonette Rudder) is Annabel’s partner, and spouts sound-bites, about social injustice, capitalism and the housing crisis. Grace is now also Smash’s lover; and finally rounding out the ‘fam’ is Crystal (Verónica Hortigűela), a feminist academic who moonlights as a sex worker to help facilitate the swinger parties.

Annabel ekes out a living trying to sell her art and by delivering food for UBER eats and helping with Smash’s swinger parties by ‘secretly’ loaning out her parents’ home to Smash for the parties.  Of course, Margaret and Kenneth return home unexpectedly to see the party in full swing. This proves to be the impetus for Margaret to be more daring sexually. She pairs off with Phoenix, a long-haired hippie from another era, played with laid-back ease by Robert King. One might say that Phoenix rises to the occasion that Margaret needs. (Well why else would you name him “Phoenix”?). Kenneth finds a good conversationalist in Crystal as they talk about life, art and sex in the quieter moments of the parties. And then Annabel begins a relationship with Matt (an accommodating Richard Lam), a straight, single father.

The dialogue seems more like talking points of note on economics, social welfare, housing, sex, capitalism, the haves vs the have nots and wretched excess rather than conversation between believable, fully developed characters. For example, Smash (an energetic Stephen Jackman-Torkoff) seems less a character and more an example of a couch-surfing lost soul with little substance, although they took kindly on Margaret. In all of these relationships, there seems to be a lack of responsibility of consequences of one’s actions.  

While not a farce in the buffoon sense of the word, Every Little Nookie has that complicated story in which all you want to do is say: “Stop! You, talk to that person and explain your problem. You, deal with your friends and family with more clarity. Ask permission. Get some character. You know how to solve this problem because it’s in front of you and it’s in the suburbs.” But of course, that’s not realistic in such an unnecessarily complicated play.

Director ted witzel has directed an energetic production with characters overemoting, scurrying all over the set, sliding down the slide and even charging up the incline. Jareth Li’s lighting is a complex array of cues that witzel maneuvers with ease.  In his esoteric, intellectual program note witzel dwells on queerness in the rehearsal hall and how this made the cast and other participants move with care and the importance of consent. Rightly so.

Now let’s continue that with the audience. There is one scene in which characters come into the audience and approach someone in the first row and give them a gift-wrapped box and ask them to open it now. Inside is a funny saying that the person might or might not have agreed with but the joke is told—on them? In future, let’s institute a new rule to embrace, should a director or playwright feel the need to come into the audience to make a little joke work by having them ‘participate’; ask their consent first. Truly. The place where the audience sits is their ‘safe space.’ Respect it! (The pandemic has made me militant about a couple of things—start on time because we are almost all in the room, and so is the cast, crew etc. and don’t even think of audience participation in which you generally make fun of them, without asking permission/consent first.)

There is a gratuitous nude scene in which Margaret is on the upper level, naked except for something she holds in front of her pubic area. As Margaret, Marion Adler is quiet and even nonchalant as she tweezes some pubic hairs to the horror of Annabel below. A bit of ageism there after all the effort of trying to look embracing to everybody; so much for the idea of the beauty of the naked body, but not if it’s one’s boomer parent. I found it interesting that Annabel’s body part of choice in her artwork is the vagina. One of her paintings is used as a table for a dinner party of the ‘fam.’ Is the nude scene for shock value? (Sigh).

Comment. Playwright Sunny Drake is a talented theatre maker. His previous show, CHILD-ish had adult actors give verbatim performances of children’s exact words on love, the world and life, that was sensitive, thoughtful, perceptive and embracing of both the world of the child and the adult. It was wonderful.

Every Little Nookie misses in trying to suggest a new paradigm for the future of intergenerational connection, relationships, sharing everything, or negotiating the world, because  it’s so derivative. Countless plays before have done it already and done it better.

In another program note between Philip Geller, the Assistant Director of the play and Syrus Marcus Ware, a Vanier Scholar whose work explores social justice among others, writes: “This play is exciting, in part because you see something you don’t always see, which is that the parents are in the role of the learners.” Excuse me? In play after play in which there is a generational divide, it’s common to see the young generation teaching the older generation (not just parents). For example, if you go outside the Studio Theatre and over several blocks to the Festival Theatre, you will come to a production of Hamlet in which Hamlet spends part of the play teaching his mother the truth about the death of his father/her husband. Hamlet instructs his killer-uncle he knows the truth. In another production at the Tom Patterson Theatre is All’s Well That Ends Well in which Helen teaches her adoptive mother of her character and the King of France of her abilities and integrity. And later in the season there will be a play in which young people teach their elders a new truth about how they see All’s Well That Ends Well. I so love programme notes. We see how directors and scholars muse on the play, and then see how the play and other works contradict the programme note.

Every Little Nookie both the play and the production offer a weak attempt at the younger generation embracing the older generation because of its veiled smugness. The play is unnecessarily complicated but that’s where the attempt at humour lies. And the solutions are obvious if only the characters would stop navel-gazing and see it. It’s quite telling that the solution for those seeking shelter is in the suburbs, where they have all escaped from.

Every Little Nookie is ageist, contradictory to its all-embracing message and full of characters who blather woke soundbites without a sense of character or responsibility. Being irresponsible for ones’ actions and ignoring the consequences of those actions are for someone else to solve.  Every Little Nookie left me cranky.     

The Stratford Festival presents:

Plays until: Oct. 1, 2022.

Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes. (1 intermission)