Text of broadcast reviews of: GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER, and THE BOOK OF MORMON

by Lynn on May 3, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

Friday, May 3, 2013, CIUT FRIDAY MORNING 89.5 FM GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER at various locations until May 7 and THE BOOK OF MORMON at the Princess of Wales Theatre until June 6.


1) Good Friday morning. Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer is here to review two wildly different shows.

Hi Lynn. What do you have for us?


As you said Phil, two wildly different shows.

The first is GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER by Sam Shepard which is part of the Playwright Project, a week-long festival of seven one act plays.

And the other show is the hugely successful Broadway musical, THE BOOK OF MORMON at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

So one is a small, gritty, one-act play produced in an unlikely space, the other is a big, brash, tour of a Broadway musical.


2) Let’s start small. Tell us about GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER.


A little back ground first on what the Playwright Project is. 

For the second year in a row a spunky group of theatre artists is banding together to produce seven one act plays of one playwright over one week.

Last year they did the plays of Tennessee Williams. This year American playwright Sam Shepard gets the royal treatment.

The mandate is simple:

“Seven theatre companies come together to stage seven one-act plays by Sam Shepard to be performed in seven different Toronto neighbourhoods….

Every night for a week, each production rotates to a different neighbourhood (i.e. The Beach, Queen St. West, the Junction, The Danforth), giving each community a unique week-long event, and each company a chance to build relationships with audiences for whom they might not otherwise perform.”

And each play is performed for the most part in a non-traditional space.

For my first play of the Playwright Project I chose GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER (1974) produced by Red One Theatre Collective.

Other plays in the series are: Angel City, Fool for Love, Saving Fats, Cowboy Mouth, to name a few.


3) Why did you chose Geography of a Horse Dreamer.


I chose it because I just love the guts and gusto of the Red One Theatre Collective.

It played at Lazy Daisy’s Café at 1515 Gerard Street East.

We are in a sleazy hotel room. We don’t know where. Cody is in his underwear, handcuffed to the bed. Right away he has my attention.Cody is watched over by two thugs, Santee and Beaujo.

Cody had a gift—when he dreamt he dreamt of winners of horse races. It made a lot of money for Santee and Beaujo’s boss, Fingers. But Cody’s lost his touch and the thugs are holding him there until he gets it back. Then Fingers wants Cody to pick winners of dog races.  That upsets him and sets off a chain of events that is both hilarious and gruesome.

We are in true Shepard country.


4) How so?


Cody is a good old cowboy. There is dreamy, lyrical writing about the wild west of the United States. Shepard writes of the grit and flint of thugs trying to make due and keep alive.

There is an undercurrent of danger, certainly when Fingers and his henchman known at The doctor arrive to force the names of winners out of Cody, no matter how.

Director Amos Crawley has set up the cozy Lazy Daisy Café with chairs and a makeshift stage that is both functional and clever.

For example there is only a suggestion of a door with a lot of locks and chains on it. We get a clear picture at how jumpy Santee and Beaujo are just by the door and the locks.

While Crawley’s direction is tight and evocative, I thought the rumbling soundscape at the beginning was a bit of annoying overkill, but the rumbling wasn’t for the whole of the play.

And the use of a local bluesy, country musical duo as both the entertainment and two characters in the play, is inspired.

The cast is terrific:  Steve McCarthy as the crazed and dreamy Cody; Benjamin Blais as the volatile Santee; Brenhan McGibben as the kindhearted Beaujo; Julian Ritchings as the skeletal and dangerous Fingers and Carlos Gonzalez-Vlo as the quiet-speaking but lethal Doctor.

A quibble.


5) What’s the quibble?


You can’t read the part of the program that tells you who the talent is and what they play. The program is printed in a font so small you need a powerful magnifying glass and flashlight to read it.  Come on folks, we want to know who the talent is and what they play. How about a program we can read.

Other than that Geography of a Horse Dreamer is a dandy beginning to The Playwright Project. 

Check out the Playwright Project’s website for the schedule and plays and especially the video called “the shoot-out” which is the funniest video of how they chose Sam Shepard as the playwright this year.


6) And now the Book of Mormon, a huge Broadway success.


A huge Broadway success winning all sorts of theatre awards.

Written in 2011 by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone who wrote the book, music and lyrics.

They all have an impressive pedigree. Parker and Stone are the creators of the edgy TV series South Park. Lopez is the co-creator of the equally successful Broadway musical with puppets called Avenue Q.

With The Book of Mormon, they all bring their sense of irreverence, with their middle finger flipped to the world of propriety, organized religion and even traditional Broadway musicals.

Two young men, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, fresh from graduation from the Mormon Missionary college, await their posting to earn converts to the Mormon Church, using it’s bible, the book of Mormon.

Elder Price is a clean-cut, pious, self-absorbed, always smiling young man. Elder Cunningham is a dumpy, rumpled, innocent who makes up stories and is a disappointment to his parents. Somehow in all of his religious training he neglected to read the Book of Mormon.

Elder Price dreams of being posted to Orlando, Florida, cause that place needs missionaries. Instead they are both posted to Uganda.

Where the people are terrorized by a local warlord and are totally not receptive to any religious indoctrination.


7) Why is The Book of Mormon so successful?


It’s rude, scatological, full of sexual innuendo, satirical about organized religion, filthy, joyous, irreverent, witty, totally sacrilegious and they all sing about it.

We hear language that many would blush to use. There are various descriptions of sexual acts that would make ones eyes roll. But we revel in such fearless abandon.

I can’t describe many of the songs, which are hilarious, witty and vulgar, because you can’t use that language on radio.

But we identify with those who can and do.

The creators are satirizing any religion that promises paradise if we follow the dictates of the religion.

And for those who love the Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon tips its hat to a large past of Broadway musicals, including The Lion King.


8) How’s the production?


It’s terrific.

The shear joy, exuberance and energy of the production also suck us in.  

It’s co-directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker. Nicholaw also choreographs.

The relentless energy of the production is overpowering, like a tsunami that takes you on the ride of your life. The direction is never cheesy and often full of wit and even elegance.

As Elder Price, Mark Evans is that perpetually smiling, all American clean cut guy, brimming with enthusiasm with a powerful a singing voice.

As Elder Cunningham, Christopher John O’Neill is the rolly polly eager to please kind of guy who is always out of step. The shnook who wants to fit in and make his father proud.

O’Neill has a lovely comic flair and also a subtle sensitivity that is very often suddenly moving.

The whole cast is strong.

I would recommend The Book of Mormon in a heartbeat. It’s for anybody who loves irreverent entertainment.


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

Geography of  a Horse Dreamer and the other plays of the Playwright Project continue at various venues until May 7.


The Book of Mormon continues at the Princess of Wales until June 6.

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