by Lynn on February 6, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following two productions were reviewed on Friday, February 6, 2015, CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 fm: Marathon at the Theatre Centre until tonight, Feb. 6; Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until Feb. 21.

The Host was Phil Taylor.


It’s theatre fix time with Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. Lots of theatre in the city, what have you picked to tell us about?


As you just heard Ravi Jain and Michael Rubenfeld talk about their efforts to mount PROGRESS, an international festival of performance and ideas now at the Theatre Centre until February 15–I’m reviewing the first production of the festival—from Israel,

Marathon is about life in Israel using a marathon as a metaphor. It’s created, choreographed, and directed by Aharona Israel.

And then Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo, (1970) produced by Soulpepper Theatre Company. A perfect melding of anarchy, satire and farce.


Let’s stars with Marathon, from Israel. Is there a story?


There is a kind of tenuous story involving the three performers. There is a young woman and two men. Of the men, one is a young Israeli who was born and raised in Israel and served in the army.The woman prides herself on not having to do her duty and serve in the army. And the last man is an imposing man from Russia now living in Israel. There are many Russian Jews living in Israel today.He has a son that he misses very much.

Each has his/her own secrets and different senses of the situation. It’s more performance with spoken word than an actual play.


How does it work?


As the audience files into the theatre, the three performers are already on the stage, jog/running in circles, one behind the other, around the space. Then one of them yells “Change” and they all change direction. They veer off on their own speaking one word—hora or shiksa, or Upright or Hassidi (referencing the Hassidic Jews in Israel, very powerful in Government). Then on cue they go back to the circle and the pattern of running around the playing space. As time goes on conversation becomes more expressive.

The young Israeli man continues running, cajoling, determined to ‘finish the job’ but we don’t know what that is and it’s questionable whether he knows either. The Russian misses his family and son desperately. The young woman is the most compassionate and encouraging.

There are references to weapons, as if they are all at a checkpoint. Part dance, part performance art, part spoken word, lots of running and a bracing workout for both performer and audience.


Besides being performance art, is there a point to it?


From the program: “three figures run in a circle, struggling to continue, as they spiral into the depths of Israeli consciousness. As their journey becomes harder and more painful, their stories break down, revealing the wounds of contemporary Israeli society.”

Even without reading the program there are sharp reminders of life in Israel. Even that simple comment: “Do you have any weapons” shines a light on life in a country with military checkpoints.

The struggle to keep running is questioned but they persist. You get the sense of living in a place in which you do question your very existence and how hard it is to continue…but continue they do. When the audience files out after the show, the cast doesn’t stop running around the performance space.

Marathon certainly made me appreciate the stamina of the performers, and made me aware of how out of shape I am. The show is thought-provoking and impressive. We watch for more than an hour as these people never stop running, jumping, lunging, talking and referencing life there.


And now for something perhaps different, Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Tell us about that one.


Written by Italian playwright Dario Fo with Canadian references added by director Ravi Jain, and dramaturge, Paula Wing. Dario Fo is a rabble rouser, politically savvy, and a Nobel prize winner.

The story is this, a charming madman with a penchant for impersonation is brought into the police station for questioning about a recent bombing. He uncovers a police cover up involving the accidental death of an anarchist a bit before his own arrest, or was it an accident? Did he commit suicide?

The mad man spins a breathless tale impersonating a professor, a judge and a one-eyed, man with a wood stump for a leg, as he entangles the police more and more into his bizarre story, to trap them in their lies.

There are sobering moments when the madman points out that corruption is everywhere, in the open and no one seems to care enough to do anything about it. Apathy is everywhere.

He looks like he is taping all sorts of incriminating information while he spins his tales. But if no one cares, what is the point? Perhaps to make us rise up in indignation? Stranger things have happened.

One of the strangest things is witnessing a typical upscale, overfed, over refreshed Soulpepper opening night audience, whipped into singing a rousing version of “Solidarity Forever”—a great union song.

Irony on toast, that was.


Is the production as wild as it sounds?


Wilder. Director Ravi Jain has a gift for the visual joke and the silly. There are many instances when clothes, files, paper and bags are thrown across the stage, in dizzying ballet of farce, as the characters try and get rid of evidence. It’s all razor sharp in its delivery and impressive in its execution.

Of course the show lives and dies on the abilities of the leading man playing the madman. Kawa Ada gives an explosive performance as the mad charmer. His character revels in his cleverness, quick thinking, and his impeccable ability to make all those shifty police squirm and dance to his tune.

Rick Roberts as the Police Chief has that arrogance and condescension of a guy in power, but who is easily duped as well. And Roberts does something with his hair that is inspired.

At times I think the play wears a bit thin, but the performers and the eye-popping invention of director Ravi Jain keep the production bubbling along. And the Canadian barbs are dandy.


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

Marathon plays at the Theatre Centre until Friday, Feb. 6, 2015.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist plays at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until February 21.

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