by Lynn on August 18, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following reviews were broadcast on Friday, Aug 17, on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 FM Summerworks roundup and special mention. On at various locations until Sunday, Aug. 19.

The host was Rose Palmieri.

1) Good Friday morning. It’s time for some theatre with Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. What do you have for us today?

Hi Rose.

It’s the Summerworks Festival of indie theatre. Forty productions of mainly original work play over 10 days. The Festival ends this Sunday so there is still time to see a lot of interesting work. This is the biggest festival yet—with a music component, a living art component and of course theatre.

And I also found it to be one of the strongest line-ups of plays and creative people in years. Plays dealt with political hot-button subjects such as the philosophy of wearing the niqab; honour killing; digital manipulation; people dealing with mental illness; for example.

Not to say it’s all heavy stuff. There was a lot of humour, mystery and intrigue. So lots to chose from but the scheduling was maddening this year and so of the 40 I have only seen 18 up to the present.

And between today and Sunday I’ve scheduled 11 more. So I haven’t seen many of the ones I was looking forward to.

2) Ok let’s get to it. What stood out for you?

I’ve narrowed it down to four standouts with some honourable mention. Here are the four in alphabetical order:

BREATH IN BETWEEN written by Anton Piatigorsky. It’s about a man who advertises to kill a willing person. Two people answer the ad. He kills both of them. The play examines what happens next. It’s at once a psychological thriller, as well as an almost existential look at being, becoming and possession.

Piatagorsky is an elegant writer and hugely challenging with his subject matter and ideas. There are echoes of THE DYBBUK. In THE DYBBUK a woman is possessed by the spirit of her dead suitor.

The production is beautifully directed by Brendan Healy. With wonderful performances by Paul Fauteux, Amy Rutherford, and Audrey Dwyer who provides a mystery voice.

TERMINUS by Mark O’Rowe about three lost souls who go out into the Dublin night looking for love, and mystery and find near death.

The writing is in rhyme but it’s not cute. It’s urgent, muscular and throbbing with life. It’s full of foreboding and saving angels and your heart will be racing until the very end.

It’s directed by the always creative Mitchell Cushman. He places both the audience and the cast on the stage of Factory theatre in a tight space. It stars Maev Beaty, Ava Jane Markus and Adam Wilson and they are all wonderful.

A THOUSAND WORDS is written and directed by Chris Hanratty. His focus is how a picture can be worth a thousand words. What happens when the picture is doctored, digitally altered?

A man is investigating the death of two soldiers in Afghanistan who might have been involved in a drug running operation. He has pictures that implicate them, but there is another soldier who seems to have been air brushed out.

I love the thinking of Hanratty and the thorny questions the play asks. In this age when everybody has a camera, it’s so easy to alter the picture. Where is the truth? As the Investigator, Clinton Walker is clear, tenacious and aggressive in trying to find the truth.


WHEN IT RAINS: written and directed by Anthony Black and produced by his company 2B Theatre Company from Halifax. I would see anything created by him.

This is about two couples and their inter-relationships. Between brother and sister and husband and wife. The play asks how do you behave when you have everything and life seems idyllic, and then lose everything? How do you find your way back to your happiness?

Anthony Black’s visual sense is arresting, using projections and animation in compelling ways. The production is spare but intriguing. He stages his cast with economy but to great effect. The cast is fine as well.

3) What are your honourable mention?

To begin with DARK LOCKS by Richard Sanger. A subject taken from the headlines about an immigrant family who comes to Canada and hangs on to its cultural ways while the teenaged daughter(s) wants to be modern. The rift between cultures; the spectre of honour killings

Sanger juxtaposes a history lesson on the battle on the Plains of Abraham between the British and the French (Wolfe and Montcalm) in which Montcalm would not pay attention to advice given by a first nation scout, and loses the bloody battle, and the reluctance of the immigrant family to accept the ways of their new country with the same disastrous results.

I like how Sanger deals with this difficult issue by giving a Canadian context of the British and the French. It is directed by Mary Frances Moore. She’s always inventive and has a sensitive eye.

Then TERRE HAUTE by Edmund White. Death row interviews based on the correspondence of Gore Vidal and Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh. Incendiary, infuriating and absolutely fascinating. Terrence Bryant as the interviewer and Todd Michael Sandomirsky are terrific under Alistair Newton’s careful direction.

And FACTS by Arthur Milner about the murder of an American archaeologist in the West Bank and both an Israeli and an Arab officer investigate. Full of the prickly politics between Arab and Israeli or Arab and Jew. I think Milner does a good balancing act between the two sides, or the many sides.

And three electric performances from Richard Greenblatt, Sam Kalilieh and Alex Poch-Goldin.

I look forward to ICELAND—lots of buzz about that: MEDICINE BOY; HAUNTED, and lots more.

4) You had some problems with this year’s festival. What were they?

With theatre, music, and living arts I think the festival has gotten so big that timetabling the plays I want to see is frustrating because of the scheduling. Sometimes there is only one play playing between the seven venues. NUTS. Sometimes there’s a wait of more than 1 ½ hours between shows—too long. I want to see a lot of plays.

Sometimes the timing of the shows–between 60 and 75 minutes each–conflicts with the schedule. I have found that a 75 minute play can be pared to 60 minutes, unless it is already established elsewhere as 75 minutes.

This has to be rethought for next year.

From the actual production point of view, a lot of the time I wanted to yell to the actors: SPEAK UP! It’s not that many talked quietly—I can live with that. It’s that they either mumble or drop their words down some pit of inaudibility. SPEAK UP and that goes for every word.

Programs. Some shows didn’t have any. You’re not saving money, you’re aggravating the audience which means me.

I don’t care if it’s a one person show—do you have a director? A lighting designer? A stage manager? You point out the stage manager at the bow. Give them all credit in a program, and make their mothers proud.

Or there is a program with all the cast listed but not who they play. Are you kidding? Are you embarrassed? I need to know who you are and who you played and I don’t have time to ask a press person.

However, Summerworks is my favourite festival. There is lots of choice (if only I could slot them in to see them all). I loved that the shows started on time in most cases. This is a well run, efficient, and every single volunteer who works either the tickets or box office etc. is a charmer.

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

SUMMERWORKS continues at various locations until Sunday, Aug. 19.

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