Summerworks Reviews: Body So Fluorescent, the aisha of is, Box 4901, Swim Team

by Lynn on August 14, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

More from Summerworks:

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


Body of Fluorescent

Co-created by Amanda Cordner and David Di Giovanni

Directed by David Di Giovanni

Performed by Amanda Cordner

Guest performer, Leila

Amanda Cordner gives a powerful performance about the black woman’s image of herself. She plays several characters: Shaneese, an angry, bold black woman who takes no prisoners and wants to dance and have fun, and God help anyone who gets in her way; Desiree, a friend who breaks up a fight between Shaneese and another person; a quiet spoken black woman (sorry, I didn’t get her name), and Gary a gay white kid who idolizes Shaneese.

Cordner creates a compelling show about a black woman’s identity. Should she be quiet and demure like our unnamed woman or bold, loud, angry and combative like Shaneese? Gary tries to use black vernacular when talking to Shaneese and at one point uses jive talk and the ‘N’ word  in a phone message to her. She reflexively begins to text a reply until she realizes what he’s done. He’s presuming upon her identity, using a word he  does not own. Serious stuff.

But Leila, who describes herself as a ‘real-live Persian Princess’, offers wild coming relief as only she can.

Cordner, as always is a compelling performer. As Shaneese she is an extroverted, sensual dancer and really angry character; as the demure woman, she is contained, watchful and thoughtful. Gary is a loose-limbed kid who wants and needs to belong somewhere. All those goes to create an arresting show of identity, awareness and an idea of self-worth.

Performances left:

Sat. Aug. 18, 1:15 pm

Sun. Aug. 19, 7:15 pm


the aisha of is

Created and performed by Aisha Sasha John

Lighting by Vishmayaa Jeyamoorthy & Jennifer Lennon

This is listed as a dance/interdisciplinary piece. Dance vocabulary is always a mystery to me so I seek out dance pieces to try and learn what the pieces are trying to say. Even if the message is obscure or there is no message at all, most of the time it’s an interesting exercise.

Aisha Sasha John begins by negotiating across he floor in small steps, her hands tightly flowing over each other. She sits in front of a computer upstage, facing downstage. Her face and what she types appears on a large screen behind her.  What she types is cryptic in meaning. She puts on lipstick. During the show she removes clothing revealing another outfit, dress, pants. She sits on the floor and takes out what looks like make-up. She has a bowl of water in front of her and carefully washes her face and dries it. She dances in other configurations. At one point she stands on the top step of a small two step thing,  she takes out a large scroll, unfurls it and begins reading in a voice so quiet, not projected, I could not make out most of it. I was sitting in the third row. She steps down to the first step and keeps reading, then stands on the floor and reads and then slowly ends up almost prone as she continues to read. At the end of the show she said the poem was available outside by donation.

I have no idea what this show is about.

Performances left:

Thursday, Aug. 16      9:15 pm

Saturday, Aug. 18      12:00 pm


Box 4901

Written by Brian Francis

Directed by Rob Kempson

Set and costumes by Brandon Kleiman

Sound by Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski

Lighting by Cosette Pin

Performers: Bilal Baig

Hume Baugh

Keith Cole

Izad Etemadi

Daniel Krolik

Michael Hughes

Tsholo Khalema

Eric Morin

Kyle Shields

Chy Ryan Spain

Jonathan Tan

Chris Tsujiuchi

Geoffrey Whynot

In 1992 novelist Brian Francis, then 21 and a student at the University of Western Ontario, placed an ad in the personal column of the London Free Press, looking for companionship, a relationship, company, etc. He got many replies. He did not reply to 13 of them and now, 26 years later he does.

Brian Francis reads each letter in turn out loud to us and then his reply. The letters to him range from being sweet, snarky, suggestive, open-hearted, funny, irreverent and representative of how gay men then, connected. When Francis replies, he does so from the lens of being 26 years older, mature-minded and wise. He too is very funny but in a thoughtful way.

Rob Kempson has the 13 ‘correspondents’ walk across the back of the theatre and at various times assume a pose or get into a kind of formation that is never distracting and always serves the piece. As Brian Francis reads each letter in turn, the man it is intended to listens and then stands at the back until the last man’s letter is read. We always wonder if one of these 13 men could have been Mr. Right and so does Mr. Francis.

What an intoxicating thing it is to see 13 gay actors breathe life, sex and heart into this intriguing show. Beautifully done.

Performances left:

Tues. Aug. 14    5:00 pm

Sun. Aug. 19      4:45 pm


Swim Team

Written by Jaber Ramezani

Directed by Aida Keykhaii

Lighting by Chin Palipane

Cast: Banafsheh Taherian

Parya Tahsini

Sarah Saberi

Tina Bararian

A fascinating idea. Four Iranian women meet in an appartment to learn how to swim—in a place that has no water. Roya is the woman who will teach them to swim. The apartment and the imagined exercise provides a kind of safe haven. Roya was a swim coach and is qualified to teach the three young women.

A pool is marked off by scarves that are tied together—wonderful image. Aida Keykhail’s direction is full of wonderfully vivid images, ideas and a created humanity. Jaber Ramezani has written a thoughtful, unsettling play that should be expanded or at least fleshed out. Little is said about what these women endure and the politics that bind them, until the very end. That seems tacked on. It should be re-thought and developed. The women try and move a mattress into the ‘living’ room but are unsuccessful. It’s hard to make out why they needed to move it and why they abandoned it. At the top of the show they are all talking Farsi? without a translation. That leaves the audience in the dark. Either cut it or put all that dialogue into English. This is too good an idea of a play to leave your audience in the dark. Other than that, terrific.

Performances left:

Sun. Aug. 19   6:00 pm

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