Summerworks reviews: b side, …And You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next, a girl lives alone, The Private Life of the Master Race

by Lynn on August 16, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

More from SummerWorks.

b side

It takes place in a laneway. Toronto, Ont.

Created and performed by Molly Johnson, Meredith Thompson and Robbie Grunwald

Original composition and sound by Robbie Grunwald

This is part of SummerWorks Lab, in which the work is still in development but requires an audience for further exploration.

We gathered at Artscape on Shaw Street and followed yellow arrows on the sidewalk. We passed one of those mini-libraries on a stand on the street and took a sheet of paper with instructions on our journey.

We then gathered in a laneway at one end and waited for our guides, the two gentle performers, Molly Johnson and Meredith Thompson. We were instructed to look, observe and discover as we made our journey up the laneway. They wear a costume of bright orange with hot pink touches. Eye-popping.

Along the journey, Molly Johnson and Meredith Thompson performed interpretive dance in front of garages, in the middle of the laneway and used other backdrops for their work. At times it looked as if they were worshiping a sun or sky spirit. They carved out space by stretching both arms and legs.

We were given a lemon from a bucket at three points in the journey. We were asked to leave the lemon in a place in full sight or hidden or mysterious. Our choice. I noticed that greenery was everywhere: growing along the overhead telephone wires, weeds in the cracks in the asphalt, in backyards. Garage doors were painted different colours, usually vibrant, sometimes conservatively innocuous. One garage door had various symbols on it: a sun, a moon, stars etc. Many had graffiti. At the end of the laneway was something astonishing—a large urban garden. It had lush plants and a large vegetable garden in huge pots: tomatoes, eggplant, I wanted to wander in that garden but a fence prevented me. Beautiful.

At the end of the journey Molly Johnson and Meredith Thompson give us a surprise (I won’t tell you—you will find out when you see this show, and you must see it). It’s then that the land acknowledgement is made about the original caretakers of this land. Placing this at the end of our journey and not at the beginning, as is the norm, has a poignancy about it since were have been asked to look and see where we are going, to be mindful of things we might not see and to look harder, to listen as well as hear the sounds of the laneway.

I loved this show—I loved the brains and heart of it and the imagination with which it was created.

Remaining performances:

Thur. Aug. 16 5:00 pm

Thur. Aug. 16 7:00 pm

Sun.    Aug 19             4:00 pm

Sun.    Aug. 19            6:00 pm

The following shows are  

….And You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next

 At the Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W. Toronto, Ont.

Written and performed by Graham Isador

Directed by Jiv Parasram

Writer-performer Graham Isador wanted to share his favourite stories that he has written for various publications: Reader, Buzzfeed, etc. Presently he writes for Vice. He tells us how writing for these on-line, etc. publications came about. He says this is not ‘stand-up’ comedy, although there is an attempt to be funny. He says it’s really story-telling with a beginning, middle and end. Jokes and stand-up have that form too.

A spiffy maroon jacket hangs on a microphone stand. He enters and put it on with a nod to how stunning the jacket is (it is really smart-looking). He stand in front of the (unnecessary) microphone, and like stand-up, give us his act, in a confident voice although the delivery is quick and without variation. His facial expression is unchanging, unsmiling and dull. There has to be some reason why we are listening to these stories, either they are compelling or the performer is. Unfortunately the stories initially don’t grab until perhaps the end, and Mr. Isador  with his feigned sombre look is phony and a turn-off.

Interestingly his director, Jiv Parasram, used the same unsmiling stance for his show, Take d Milk, Nah? Earlier this year at Theatre Passe Muraille with much better results. Mr. Parasram is a gifted story-teller that draws the audience in.

I kept asking myself with Mr. Isador, why am I listening to these unfunny, unremarkable (for the most part) stories in outlets that come and go with the speed of the internet. I couldn’t find the answer.

Ironically his writing at Vice is interesting.

Remaining performances:


Fri.  Aug. 17    10:00 pm

Sat.  Aug. 18   9:00 pm


a girl lives alone

At the Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W., Toronto, Ont.

Written by Jessica Moss

Directed by Jessica Moss and the company

Cast: Aldrin Bundoc

Tiffany Deobald

Anita La Selva

Samantha Madely

Jessica Moss

Andrew Musselman

Alexander Thomas

Asha Vijayasingham

Jessica Moss has written an atmospheric murder mystery. A woman is murdered in her apartment and the rest of the tenants are spooked. They don’t know who the murderer is. They speculate, they assume, they are afraid to leave their apartments and yet seek companionship to ease their loneliness.

While it starts with lots of atmosphere, screaming and creepy sound effects, this is not a who-done-it. Jessica Moss does not seem to be interested in writing that. Rather this is a show of atmosphere and how our minds play tricks on us if we let it. The show is more about the Foley artist in the stage left corner making all the sound effects—we see him do it all and of course it’s fascinating. The problem is that the play is empty. One must be suspicious of program notes that tell us what the play is about without actually writing the play that supports it. Sure, Moss plays a needy woman who lives across the hall from another needy woman, but the play is weak on substance and point. It is interesting though to watch the actors mime opening and closing doors, walking down the stairs etc.  with all the attendant sound effects.

Jessica Moss has written other plays that are interesting, a girl lives alone (what is it with these titles in lower case letters??) alas is not one of them. But it has afforded Moss an opportunity to write for a big cast. I hope the exercised for her was educational.

Remaining Performances:


Sat. Aug. 18    10:00 pm

Sun. Aug. 19. 8:30 pm.


The Private Life of the Master Race

At the Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W., Toronto, Ont.

Written by Bertolt Brecht

Translated and adapted by ted witzel and Susanna Fournier

Directed and created by Esther Yun

Scenographer, Akiva Romer Segal

Lighting by Shannon Lea Doyle

Cast: Tess Benger

Keith Brown

Jasmine Chen

Jason Collett

Brittany Cope

Jennifer Dzialoszynski

Stella Kulagowski

Craig Pike

Neil Quinn

Rouvan Silogix

Edmund Stapleton

This is presented as a cabaret with round tables and chairs around the playing area. There are song and dance acts; a magic act in which a person from the audience is asked to participate, a strip tease act in which a member of the audience is asked to prick strategically placed balloons on the stripper’s body. A master of ceremonies introduces each act with extravagant excitement and a bit of cynicism. Interspersed there is fear of what is going on outside: roundups, people disappearing or sounded out for being different. It’s a chilling time. While the show is by Bertolt Brecht and has Master Race in the title, we don’t only think of Nazi Germany as the focus of the ‘entertainment.’ We also think of what is going on with our neighbours to the south.

Esther Jun has her cast in modern dress and not period costumes. She is a smart, bold director. This gives a sense of the universality of the piece. The adaptation by ted witzel and Suzanna Fournier is sharp and conjures a time in German in the 1930s and any other place with an oppressive political attitude in 2018. The cast is uniformly strong. Terrific piece of theatre.

Remaining Performance:

Thurs. Aug. 16,   10:30 pm

www.summersorks. ca

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