by Lynn on August 12, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

I’ve seen 19 of the 24 shows I can see of the 41 shows on offer at Summerworks.

Here are my top five stand-outs in alpha order:


In almost every case it was the story-telling
and or a vivid production that made them notable. I also have some honourable mentions. But first, the details of the stand-outs.

Written by Carolyn Smart about four women hooked on drugs, alcohol and love.

They were: Elizabeth Smart (no relation) the
Canadian writer/poet, who wrote BY GRAND CENTRAL STATION I LAY DOWN AND WEPT. She was besotted with writer George Barker and had 4 children with him, but reaised them as a single mother.

Unity Mitford of the Mitford family of the famous British Mitford sisters. She was conceived in Swastika, northern Ontario, which was ironic because when she was an adult Unity Mitford was devoted to the Nazi Party and thought Adolph Hitler was swell. She made careful note of the more than 100 times they met.

When Germany lost the war she attempted
suicide by shooting herself in the head that left her brain damaged.

Then we have Jane Bowles who was married to Paul Bowles the writer.

She wrote one book and Tennessee Williams
called her “the most underrated writer of fiction in America.”

And finally Carson McCullers, a southern writer who wrote The Member of The Wedding and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

The play is divided into segments each dealing biographically with each woman.

Actress Nicky Guadagni plays each woman in the style of the writing or her nationality.
For example Unity Mitford is a dainty flaky English woman, while Carson McCullers is a fragile southern belle with a floral way of expressing herself. Guadagni lounges throughout this segment.

Guadagni is sharp-eyed and nuanced in her performance as she depicts each woman in her own distinct way. Guadagni captures the emotional, physical and mental idiosyncrasies of each woman.

It’s beautifully directed by Layne Coleman.

It’s a testament to the show, that I want to read the work or biographies of each of these women.


It’s written by Hannah Moscovitch and directed by Natasha Mytnowych. A dynamic duo in Toronto theatre if ever there was one.

Moscovitch is a master story teller. Here we have a family: parents, a son Aaron who is the narrator and his younger sister Claire.

I think Claire is 8 when we first meet her. We soon realize that Claire is the embodiment of evil. A psychopath.

She has no conception of right and wrong.
She could kill a kitten or a person with the same cold-eyed emotional detachment.

When she tells Aaron she loves him, the
family thinks it’s a breakthrough. It isn’t. She could just as easily have said “I’m
a chopped liver sandwich” with the same conviction.

Little One is basically a mystery, perhaps a murder mystery, but that’s part of the gripping story-telling.

Mytnowych captures the spooky, eerie atmosphere of the story with moody lighting, and a decided quiet way her actors tell their story.

As Aaron, Joe Cobden is a mass of insecurity and hesitation when he has to talk about Claire.

And as Claire, Michelle Monteith is chilling and compelling, engaging and terrifying.


This is an intriguing title if ever there was one. It’s billed as ‘an aerial dance play. It’s also phantasmagorical, a hallucination, or a nightmare.

A woman on vacation fears getting malaria.
Apparitions invade her imagination. Are they flight attendants dressed funny? They wear caps with a propeller on the top, and a black tutu-like costume. They wear distinctive dark sunglasses.

They do a dance the suggests a flight attendant giving us the instructions on the plane…where the emergency exits are, etc.

Then they seem to change into mosquitoes.
When we look at those sunglasses they now look like mosquito eye-balls. There are buzzing sound effects.

Two of these creatures flip onto huge hoops suspended from the flies and do all sorts of contortions.

Another climbs a rope while the woman writhes in bed, hallucinating, until the final chilling, scene.

The draw for me was the description of the show in the Summerworks brochure and who the creators are. Choreographed and conceived by Monica Dottor.

Directed by Monica Dottor and Stephen McCarthy. The piece is hugely theatrical.
with very bold ideas.

The combination of rock music, with video images, the choreographed dances plus the areal work made this a must-see.

This show is very ambitious for Summerworks but they pull it off.


It’s written by Nicholas Billon.

I haven’t been keen on much of his work,
but this one really surprised me.

It’s about a prickly, sharp-tongued woman and the new flat mate who moves into the house where she lives.

She just snaps at every attempt on his part
to be friends or get closer. He reacts by backing off.

It’s obvious they are headed towards each other, but then Billon does a startling thing and throws a wrench into the relationship that unsettles him.

I like how Billon develops the story slowly
and fleshes out the characters beautifully.
He looks at relationships, people with baggage, loneliness, and he does it with humour and sensitivity.

Daniel Brière plays the man with a sad-eyed
charm and Samantha Espie is the embodiment of ‘feisty.’

These are beautiful performances and well directed by Lee Wilson—another reason I wanted to see this.


It’s billed as a G20 romp. What would Summerworks be without a little politics?

It’s written and performed by Tommy Taylor.
Mr. Taylor was minding his own business last year when he saw peaceful demonstrations during G20 so he thought he would join them.

He was arrested and detained along with hundreds of others, denied food, water and even toilet paper for hours.

It’s based on his Facebook posting after he was released. The posting went viral.

Taylor tells the story with humour, sensitivity, a keen eye for detail and a quiet manner. There is no ranting, raving or table banging.

He quietly, carefully describes a disgraceful event in our city. And it’s made him into a better informed, more committed citizen. When he is released he’s told by the police that he must not join any protests or he will be charged next time. It’s almost understated that not only does he join another protest, but he is a speaker at it.

I found the piece very moving and it made me grit my teeth at the way things were handled. That’s what good theatre does

Honourable Mentions.


This is composed of two monologues by Matt MacKenzie.

One is about a devoted clergywoman who goes to Africa to find a nun who has lost her faith.

And the other is about a very ordered man who finds his world cracking up as he hears scratching in the walls of his house.

There are two terrific performances by Elizabeth Saunders and Simon Bracken.

And it’s well directed by Alex McCooey

2. Kristina Nicholl who directed EURYDICE.

Nicholl is a terrific actress but this is her first
attempt at directing and it was inventive, and intriguing.

Huge magination and whimsy here.

3) Both actress Severn Thompson as Hannah Arendt in HANNAH’S TURN, and Mary Frances Moore, the director of the piece.

Thompson gives a tempered yet steely performance of this great philosopher. She continues to go from strenght to strength.

Mary Frances Moore is developing into one of our best up and coming directors. She moves smoothly from acting to directing. Her direction always digs deep into character and story and the result is always illuminating.

More please from all of them.

It’s been an interesting festival of new playwrights, and directors and people established in their fields.

These shows continue at Summerworks until Sunday Aug. 14.

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1 Brendan Wall August 18, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I also think Mary Francis Moore is pretty great.