by Lynn on August 24, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5.FM: A SYNONYM FOR LOVE at the Gladstone Hotel until Aug. 31; and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM in High Park until Sept. 2.

1) It’s Friday morning and time once again to hear from Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer and hear about what she’s seen this week.

Hi Lynn

What’s new this week in the theatre?

I have two shows. First is an opera called A SYNONYM FOR LOVE, which is provocative in many ways. And then A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM in High Park, which in a way was provocative too.

We saw this together so it will be fun to talk about the experience.

2) Let’s start with the provocative opera. What’sabout? A SYNONYM FOR LOVE

It was composed by George Frederic Handel in 1707. It’s based on his rarely done Contata for three voices entitled Clori, Tirsi e Fileno in which two shepherds love a shepherdess.

The piece has been modernized in a libretto by Deborah Pearson so that now a bisexual woman named Clori who lives in Calgary, leaves her lesbian lover named Teresa, for a weekend of sex in Toronto with a man named Phil. Teresa, who is jealous, flies to Toronto to confront Clori.

I guess you can say that Handel gets handled in this one.

3) That’s provocative alright. What else is provocative about it?

It’s a collaboration by the always edgy Volcano theatre company and the Classical Music Consort. It takes place in the Gladstone Hotel, a natural site for such trysts. The audience follows one of the three characters around various locations in the hotel.

They must decide before they go into the main ballroom for the start of the opera, which one of these people they are going to follow. If you don’t want to do much stair climbing a certain character is suggested. If you are energetic and don’t mind the climbing and scurrying, another is suggested etc. but the audience doesn’t see the actual person until the show starts.

There are three guides—one for each character—to help the various groups navigate the hotel. They follow one of the three characters around the hotel as two cavort while the third frets and lurks.


4) Does the updating work in today’s fast paced world?

Modernizing the opera to be about a love triangle between a lesbian/bisexual couple and a straight man is certainly a bold move. There are questions of open love vs monogamy; making promises one can’t keep—Clori chides Teresa because Teresa promised not to be jealous, and here she is breaking her promise. The politics of relationships is touched on.

But I just couldn’t help wondering: is this an intriguing look at modern relationships or just a tawdry wank? What is it that keeps Clori and Teresa together? Commitment seems lacking in Clori.
And the title is odd: A SYNONYM FOR LOVE.

What is a synonym for love? Infidelity? Never having to say you’re sorry?

5) How’s the actual production?

It’s stylishly directed by Ross Manson. He places part of the orchestra in one of the swank bedrooms of the Gladstone, to play while Clori and Phil cavort on pink satin sheets and indulge in a basket of chocolate, a whip and a sex toy. As we scurry down a fire escape a cellist played outside on a landing. I love that touch.

The music is beautifully played by the orchestra on their period instruments conducted by Ashiq Aziz. And well sung for the most part by the cast of three: Emily Atkinson as Teresa; Scott Belluz as Phil and Tracy Smith Bessette as Clori.

The program does not clearly indicate who sings what role. I find that maddening. You have to look carefully at the program, see the photos of the singers and match the photo with a character we know about because they say their names often.

The acoustics of the rooms of the Gladstone are not conducive to hearing clearly what is being sung and often the orchestra drowns out the singers or the singers don’t enunciate properly enough.

Interesting exercise though.

4) And now for some Shakespeare:in High Park. Give A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM us a brief synopsis.

It’s the eve of a Royal Wedding in Athens. Two other couples have their difficulties. Hermia loves Lysander but her father wants her to marry Demetrius. Demetrius wants to marry Hermia too. Helena loves Demetrius but he isn’t interested. It all takes place in a magical wood with the couples chasing after each other.

And there are fairies with magic flowers that cast spells and it all goes wrong, but then it goes right. The production takes place in the magical setting of the amphitheatre of High Park.

5) You’ve seen many productions in High Park. How would you rate this one?

Right at the top. Richard Rose has directed a visually stunning production with huge flowers billowing out of a hedge that goes around the top of the stage. There are Mounties in red coats waiting for the Royal Couple who arrive from the woods in a golf cart. Richard Rose has a terrific sense of fun, whimsy and joy.

It’s a sexual production in which the four lovers in the woods are stripped down to their underwear (with taste) as they charge from shadow to shadow trying to find the one they love.

There is Puck, an impish spirit who gives the love potion to the wrong lover and spends much of the play trying to correct his mistake.

And Rose ends this wonderful production with an inspired touch….each couple marries and is given a baby doll to hold at the end. Is there anything more softening of a raging spirit than holding a baby. Loved that.

The cast is terrific.

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

A SYNONYM FOR LOVE continues at the Gladstone Hotel until Aug. 31.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM continues in High Park until September 2.

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