SummerWorks Reviews: Someone Between, What Linda Said, Reality Theatre

by Lynn on August 4, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At various venues in the downtown area, Toronto, Ont.

This is the 27th year for SummerWorks, a curated 10 day festival of one act plays, music, dance, live art and other kinds of performance. . Because I’m never here for the Fringe, SummerWorks is my festival of choice to glut on to see new shows and talent and stuff from people more experienced. The volunteers are cheerful, welcoming, efficient, and helpful to a person. Ordinarily it’s a smooth-running festival. I say ‘ordinarily’ because the opening day (yesterday), which I spent at Factory Theatre, had too many glitches.

I know it’s the first day, but come on folks, you’ve been doing this for 27 years! I saw three shows, but slated four. I had to cancel one because they were holding the show because of technical difficulties. I can appreciate that. But I had to cancel seeing it yesterday because my schedule was so tightly arranged that even a variance of one minute would have screwed things up. Cancelling that one show eased the schedule

That said, of the three shows I did see, all of them started late, in spite of the printed material saying the shows start on time. In other years shows have started right on the nose on time. Not on opening day yesterday. Not acceptable. Sorry. (I can only speak for Factory Theatre. I go to the other theatres later in the festival.)

In every case we were let into the theatre five minutes before the show was to start. Not enough time. In every case we started late, in one case as late as seven minutes. We have to be allowed into the house at least 10 minutes before curtain. That makes for a smooth transition to curtain time so we begin on time.

We can print our tickets before hand and come to the theatre ticket in hand, ready to drop them in a box as we go into the theatre. Nope, not this year it seems. This year, even with the ticket in hand we have to go, ticket in hand, to a nice person with a clipboard who has a list of all the people who pre-booked, so our name can be ticked off a long list. Unnecessary and time consuming. Why can’t we just drop our precious tickets in a big box and be done with it? If a person forgot the ticket then the list comes in handy. I have great faith that these glitches will be solved.

Now to the shows of the first day:

Someone Between

Written and Performed by Chantria Tram
Directed by Paula Wing
Original Staging by Milena Buziak
Movement by Andrea Nann

Chantria Tram is a Khmer-Krom. Her’s is the story of living in two worlds, her parents’ world and her own. The story has references to Viet Nam, Cambodia and India. Her parents risked their lives to escape their country. The journey was harrowing as Chantia Tram so expertly tells it. Her mother wants Chantria to keep up the cultural traditions as she (her mother) was taught. This might also mean returning ‘home’ to marry her cousin and perhaps bring him to Canada. Chantria of course has her own thoughts. This makes her someone between two cultures.

Chantria Tram writes with poetic insight and thoughtfulness about her experiences and her parents. She has huge respect for what they went through and how they survived to give their children a better chance. She can appreciate how her mother wants her to carry on the traditions.

The play begins with the opening of the flower festival and the various ceremonies that entails. Tram’s movements are graceful and evoke another culture. Her describing the various ceremonies dispel a mystery we might have had. There is grace, gentleness, cultural respect and appreciation in the piece.

Paula Wing directs this with equal respect and attention. It’s a lovely piece and a wonderful way to begin SummerWorks.

Highly Recommended.

What Linda Said

Written by Priscila Uppal
Directed by Gein Wong
Cast: Tracey Hoyt
Kimwun Perehinec

Priscila Uppal is a York University professor of poetry. She is also a published poet. She was a friend of celebrated Canadian playwright Linda Griffiths. Uppal was diagnosed with an aggressive kind of cancer at the same time that Linda Griffiths was dying of breast cancer. To cope with the effects of chemo, Uppal imagined a free-wheeling conversation with the spirit of the deceased Linda Griffiths and herself in an empty space. The play is the result of that imagined conversation. Alas, the play is dire. As for the production, Tracey Hoyt as Linda and Kimwun Perehinec as Priscila are stalwart.

While there are many passages of poetic invention, there is precious little that makes this a compelling, viable play. The same problems hampered her previous attempt at playwriting, 6 Essential Questions.

Much of What Linda Said seems a stream of consciousness with riffs on sea creatures and great turtles in the ocean, trying to create a painting, and dwelling on the illness. For most of it Uppal is the star of her own invention. She complains about: the medical system; her treatment and the pain from it; her husband with his own issues of depression and drinking; her mother (real problems there, as witnessed with 6 Essential Questions). And while Linda Griffiths is allowed to voice some of her own concerns late in the play, Linda Griffiths doesn’t say much and for all intents and purposes seems an irrelevance. Linda Griffiths, an irrelevance—Mindboggling.

Pricilla Uppal comes off as whiney, self-absorbed, self-indulgent and even narcissistic. The program note says: “In What Linda Said, the two meet in an imagined space where the living and the dead passionately, poetically and comically explore how cancer has affected each of their lives, friendships, art and futures.”

I wouldn’t mind seeing that play. This infuriating play isn’t it.

Not recommended.

Reality Theatre

Written by Julia Lederer
Directed by Rebecca Applebaum
Cast: Akosua Amo-Adem
Krista Morin
Andy Trithardt

Julia Lederer’s plays are full of off-the-wall observations and imagination and Reality Theatre is the latest example.

A man has signed a contract with the devil to remain young forever. A portrait he has of himself keeps aging. (Hmmm that sounds familiar). The devil works in the Starbucks; head office Seattle and trying to change the contract is challenging. A woman who plays the spoon in a production of Beauty and the Beast has philosophised her position in that show into a different realm of reality. Three people are caught in the fast-paced world of ever changing technology, which in turn changes them, because rather than figure out a problem, Google does it for them.



Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.