by Lynn on January 7, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following review of four shows at the NEXT STAGE THEATRE FESTIVAL was broadcast, January 6, 2012, CIUT 89.5 FM Friday Morning Show: Next Stage Theatre Festival. On at Factory Theatre until Jan. 15/12

1) Good Friday Morning, it’s time for a little theatre with Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer.

Good morning, Lynn

You’ve been to the Next Stage Theatre Festival. Tell us what it is.

The Next Stage Theatre Festival is the winter version of sorts of the Fringe festival held every July.

Billed as 12 Days of the Best Indie Theatre in Canada. It runs from Jan. 4-15. It’s composed of one act plays chosen by a jury. Some of the plays were in the “Best of The Fringe Festival, held this past summer. One played at the Summerworks Festival last August. Some are from companies across the country.

All are ready for the next stage, to have another go at production, to hone the work etc. And the Next Stage Theatre Festival gives them the opportunity.

It’s an eclectic group of 10 plays that play. The plays vary in theme to bikinis and beaches, love, sex, money, personal history, cooking with clowns, identity, living with HIV/AIDS and off the wall lunacy for example.

2. Ok. What have you seen and how were they?

First up LOVESEXMONEY written and directed by Kat Sandler.

Three plays, about love, sex and money, but really about sex make up the evening. In the first one a woman has advertised on the internet to sell her virginity to the highest bidder. The winner, not the highest bid but the one who wrote the best letter, is an older man who wants the event to be romantic. He brings wine and a nice plant.

The next playlet is about a man who buys a life sized doll robot who looks like his ex- girlfriend. He thinks she’s real with a bad wig and a dull voice like a robot and she’s playing
a joke on him. Is she real or is she Memorex?

The last one is about the office stud and the office hard nosed woman who are drunk and in a hotel room after a party and sex is not far off. But philosophy and talk about loneliness and intimacy are closer.

I think playwright Kat Sandler has a way with a phrase and funny line. But I thought the stories could be shorter and tighter.

The first one I thought was a tease—neither seemed to want to go through with the bargain. That’s frustrating for everybody. And I think the title is a misnomer. It’s really about sex, so let’s leave it at that.

TOMASSO’S PARTY is next and goes along the same theme of sex but with a quirky edge to it.

3) How so?

It’s written by Jules Lewis. It’s about a couple. It’s perhaps the middle of the night.
Hugo sits on the side of the bed talking to the naked back of his sleeping girlfriend Madeleine.

Hugo is obsessing about many things. The title of the book of Poetry by Madeleine’s
boss Tomasso who is having the party. He is obsessing about whether or not Madeleine is really asleep, if she wants to go to the party; how she looks in high heels; and if Tomasso is gay.

Madeleine, who is finally awake, obsesses and teases Hugo about her slim legs, the dress she should wear; that Tomasso is straight and all manner of things.

It is the conversation of people on the edge; obsessive and grating.

Hugo is played by Simon Bracken who has a flat, monotoned voice. He used the same tone in another play and after these two plays I wonder if he can express himself in any other way. He’s funny but it’s limiting and wares thin quickly.

All the while Madeleine’s bare back is facing us. Leah Doz plays her expressively just by answering Hugo with her head on the pillow and only her left arm raises, flips, falls and
expresses everything she says.

It’s interestingly directed by Nigel Shaw Williams.

And of course all we want if for Madeleine to turn around.

Then for something completely different: HYPNOGOGIC LOGIC by a company called
Uncalled for, from Montreal.

4) How is it completely different?

The group, UNCALLED FOR and is a comedy troupe that’s been together for 11 years and been very successful.

It’s a kind of off the wall, stream of consciousness stuff that deals with that state between awake and sleep—Hynogogic.

So a man falls asleep reading the paper and his dreams are free flowing, dealing with singing groups that come from no where; suspended animation, illogical connections.
And lots and lots of loud declaiming and earnestness, with the occasional spitting of wine in various cast member’s faces.

Comedy is a personal thing. It varies with people. HYPNOGOGIC LOGIC isn’t funny to me.
It’s deadly, unfunny and at 75 minutes it’s about 60 minutes too long.

5) OUCH. What was the last play you saw? I hope it was better?

It was a short treat called LOVE IS A POVERTY YOU CAN SELL—a Cabaret Homage to the Music and Musical influence of Kurt Weill.

Seven songs, beginning and ending with Weill; “THE BALLAD OF MACK THE KNIFE” from Threepenny Opera, began it and “WHAT KEEPS MANKIND ALIVE” also from Threepenny Operaends it.

The songs deal with the darker, more cynical moods and attitudes of mankind of course so beautifully expressed by Weill

And these attitudes are also expressed in songs from Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim, Cabaret by John Kander And Fred Ebb, and even a song from the play Bent,with music by Philip Glass and lyrics by Martin Sherman who wrote the play.

There is an edge to the songs, and they are all song wonderfully by the ensemble. It’s produced by Soup Can Theatre who also did a production of MARAT/SADE that I saw last year and it was terrific.

The director then and now is Sarah Thorpe who also provided the choreography. She is smart. Stylish serves the music and the mood of the piece and I want to see more of
her work.

For example, I notice a brooding man, in a white shirt and red tie—leaning against the door well as we file into the room. This isn’t a guy waiting for his late date. He’s part of the show, creating the atmosphere

This is Alex Dault, quietly forbidding when he sings “MY FRIENDS” from SWEENEY TODD; he’s almost bright eyed when singing “SEPTEMBER SONG” from Knickerbocker Holiday . Christian Jeffries is arresting in full drag as he sings “STREETS OF BERLIN” from Bent. The whole cast was terrific.

The bridging dialogue by Justin Haigh is right for the piece. The band is accomplished. And I loved the whole of it.

And over the next two days I’ll see five more shows of the Next Stage Theatre Festival.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s bog at

The NEXT STAGE THEATRE FESTIVAL continues at Factory Theatre until Jan. 15/12

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