Broadcast text review of top SUMMERWORKS Shows

by Lynn on August 16, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following reviews were broadcast Friday, August 14, 2015 CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 fm, Summerworks roundup, various outlets until Aug. 16. 2005.

The host was Phil Taylor

It’s theatre fix time with Lynn Slotkin, our Theatre Critic and Passionate Playgoer. Last week you promised us a roundup of the best of Summerworks so far.
What are your picks?

These are six of my top five pics…

Beautiful Man

At the Theatre Centre. The tables are turned in Erin Shields’ cheeky, sharply funny take on objectifying a beautiful man. He’s the accommodating boyfriend of a tv cop who is a woman. Her career is everything to her.
They guy is window dressing.

In Andrea Donaldson’s smartly directed production he’s on a raised platform behind three women beautifully dressed in white, who are first having a manicure and pedicure and then getting toned at the gym. They riff off each other telling the minute details of the tv show about the cop and her relationship with the boyfriend. They are consumed with every inch of the boyfriend and how physically excited or half excited he is.

Anusree Roy is smarmy, chic, and mildly sarcastic. Melissa D’Agostino is almost innocent and wide-eyed but knows how to float a zinger. Ava Jane Markus is matter of fact and still holds her own. Brett Donahue is eye-candy and dandy.

Beautiful Man is a wild romp.

What drew you to that show?

It’s written by Erin Shield’s one of our very accomplished playwrights and it has a killer cast and directors.

Better Angels: A Parable

At Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. A story we have heard before but it still grips because of Andrea Scott’s tight, taut writing.

Akosua comes to Toronto from Ghana to be the nanny for the children of Leila and Greg Tate. The hairs on the back of your neck begin to stick up when Leila asks for Akosua’s passport to fill in information on forms. She will keep the passport safe.

They give her a room in the house that is very small (beautifully realized by Nigel Shawn Williams’ direction. Leila left a good job to become a writer. Her husband Greg is hard working and at his boss’s beck and call. The hairs on the back of your neck stick up more when Leila tries to explain why she won’t pay Akosua any money….she’s in a wonderful country like Canada; she gets room and board…

The performances are terrific. As Leila, Sasha Cole is that hard, but sweet voiced woman who is demanding and commanding. As Akosua, Akosua Amo-Adem is feisty, and noble. And Payson Rock plays Greg as an accommodating but frustrated husband with a secret.

Better Angels tells a hard story with style and a twist.


At Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace

Pristine land, untouched, remarkable glaciers, a greedy oil industry, carelessness in a dangerous workplace and a devastating disaster—Lac/Athabaska described as “A cross-country journey, written in ice, water and fire,” will leave you breathless—truly.

Len Falkenstein’s writing is vivid and arresting, in particular scenes in which characters describe trying to out run a fire, or the effects of a train derailment on the people close to the scene.

The events of the derailment will have echoes of the Lac Mégantic disaster but the play has broader implications and important things to say.

Perhaps a bit of tightening in the writing is in order, but what is there and the way it’s presented is stunning.

It seems like Summerworks is leaning towards the serious fare?

Many of the shows certainly deal with big issues and important stories. And certainly the next one does just that.

The Living

At the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont.

Playwright Colleen Wagner writes of people surviving harrowing situations usually in war-torn countries. In The Monument the mother of a dead daughter comes face to face with the soldier who killed her. What she does to him is harrowing. What he learns from it is shattering. In The Living Wagner continues that theme of war, revenge, justice and responsibility.

We could be in any war-torn country. Several men, who served 10 years jail time for war crimes are newly released to their home villages or towns.

One raped, pillaged and killed three sisters and raped their mother who lived. Personal damage is everywhere—for the survivors and their attackers. The survivors fear retaliation by their attackers. The man who killed the sisters and raped their mother has now come home. He is haunted by the ghosts of the three women he killed. Their mother is sick and silent—she never actually accused him. Now she gets her voice back. She will testify at his new trial. The solution of how he should pay for this new accusation is intriguing.
It’s a sobering play, certainly unsettling but powerful and loaded with poetry and even forgiveness.

Wagner illuminates the bravery and resilience of the survivors. The acting is strong as is the direction.

And now two that are a bit different.

How So?

They are funny, raw, sharply written and of course as wonderfully performed as the other pics in the list.

This is Where We Live

It’s beautifully written by Vivienne Walshe. It’s both muscular and poetic. It takes place in Australia (Walshe lived there for years before returning to Canada….she was born in Vancouver.)

Two teenaged misfits living in a no-hope town. Chloe has a bum leg because of a medical condition. She has a bum-life because her father’s dead and her mother doesn’t care about her. She makes up for her lonely existence by being brash, trash-talking and sexually taunting.

Chris is another kind of misfit, smart, well read, a geek and the son of one of the teachers in the school. They meet…he’s charmed and likes her. She’s tough but sees a kindred spirit.

Jenna Harris as Chloe is in your face daring. Tim Welham as Chris is sweet, edgy, impish and vulnerable.
Both are electrifying. It’s directed with a sure, inventive style by Taryn Jorgenson.

And finally, Stupidhead (a Mucisal Cmoedy)

In otherwords, a musical comedy about dyslexia. It’s written and performed by Katherine Cullen, with original songs by Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson.

The show is billed as being about the glamour of failure; about the celebration of futility. Cullen always felt left out, a misfit because of her dyslexia.

That she is an accomplished actress and writer and part of the celebrated theatre company Outside the March does not mean she is being disingenuous. This show shows another side of her huge talent.

Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson have written a slew of songs, each more clever and funny than the next that talks about failure, striving, loosing a poetry contest, that rap, bop, and gently draw you in. And Cullen as a performer is disarming and witty at the same time. Aaron Willis directs and adds his own inventive touches to the whole funny aching business of dealing with dyslexia

Stupidhead (a Mucisal Cmoedy) is one smart, uproarious show.

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

Beautiful Man, Better Angels, Lac/Athabasca, The Living, Stupidhead and This is Where We Live
All play at Summerworks at various venures until Sunday, Aug. 16.

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