by Lynn on April 15, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

Short bits on shows about to close or have.

Under the Stairs

At Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Ont

Written by Kevin Dyer

Directed by Micheline Chevrier

Music by Reza Jacobs

Set by Teresa Przybylski

Costumes by Anna Treusch

Lighting by Michelle Ramsay

Sound by Adam Harendorf

A thoughtful, lively production of a serious subject—isolation of children and the effect of grief on a family.

Tim (Kyle Orzech) is a young kid who hides in the closet  just under the stairs  when his parents fight, and they fight often. There is a secret in that anger. A rag-tag group of kids seem to be Tim’s secret saviors who look out for him. When he goes in the closet a hand comes out of one of the coats and holds his hand in comfort.

The set by Teresa Przybylski is simple, efficient (the stairs revolve to reveal many hiding places) and colourful. Reza Jacobs, musician extraordinaire, has composed the music which encapsulates the feelings of both the children and Tim’s warring parents.

Micheline Chevrier creates a sense of momentum with her smart cast. There is a feeling of rushing around to either escape the depression that exists in that house or to express the anger that exists because of some secret. As Tim, Kyle Orzech is that sad kid you just ache for. His parents are always fighting and they seem to have forgotten him. There is something they aren’t telling him and he’s isolated because if it, finding solace in that closet.

Neema Bickersteth as a saddened Mum and Martin Julien as an angry, bitter Dad beautifully convey the conflicted feelings of a couple who are angry about something, hurt because of it, and anxious to solve the problem. And they both are mortified that their problems have affected their son.

Fiona Sauder as Violet leads a band of rag-tag mystery kids who are confident and know the secret and try and comfort Tim. Sauder is fearless as are the rest of the ‘kids’.

Playwright, Kevin Dyer has written a meaningful, important play about kids who are forgotten because their parents are at war with each other. It’s a terrible statistic that if a couple looses a child or something happens to a child because of their carelessness, it affects the marriage with each partner blaming the other for what happened, and it usually ends in divorce. That doesn’t happen here. Dyer gives his story the hard edge it needs and the second change this family deserves. Terrific.

Young People’s Theatre Presents:

 Opened: April 4, 2019.

Closes: April 16, 2019.

Running Time: 75 minutes.


Wedding at Aulis  

At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Sina Gilani

A version of Iphigenia in Aulis by Euripides

Directed by Alan Dilworth

Set by Michelle Tracey

Lighting by Itai Erdal

Sound by Debashis Sinha

Choreography by Monica Dottor

Cast: Ghazal Azarbad

Derek Boyes

Alana Bridgewater

Leah Cherniak

Sascha Cole

Frank Cox-O’Connell

Raquel Duffy

Sebastian Heins

Stuart Hughes

Brenna MacCrimmon

Nancy Palk

Nicole Power

Alice Snaden

Sarah Wilson

Jennifer Villaverde

Liver theatre. And dull at that.

 NOTE: I might know one person who willingly eats liver because he/she likes it. The rest of us eat it (if at all) because it’s “good for us”. “Liver Theatre” is that stuff that we would usually avoid but know it’s good for us and so go. Which brings me to Wedding at Aulis.

The Story. The story is really fascinating and full of possible emotion. Agamemnon, a Greek warrior has pledged to his brother Menelaus to get his wife Helen back.  Helen has run off with Paris, a much better catch and gone to Troy. The whole of the Greek army pledges this. But the winds to sail are bad. However to appease the snotty god who demands it and get the calm winds to sail, Agamemnon must sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia. After some soul searching he agrees. The pretext to get Clytemnestra, Iphigenia’s mother, to bring her to Agamemnon, is that she (Iphigenia) has been promised as a wife to Achilles. So Clytemnestra thinks her daughter is to be married.

 The Production. The audience sits in two rows of the most uncomfortable seats imaginable. The seats are encased in metal bleachers around the round playing space. The soldiers where the kilt like garb of soldiers; or robes.

Director Alan Dilworth has the whole cast, all 15 of them, walk into and fill up the round space, facing each other. Then they half turn and look at us with pensive, accusatory, withering looks. Are we responsible for what happened? Should we hang our heads in shame, not knowing what those looks are for? Can we please put a moratorium on such pretension in future? I wish.

The three fates are unremarkable and confusing because there is a variation of styles (contemporary, earnest, hip etc. ) that make no sense. The chorus enter, singing, as if a dirge, The effect of both these groups is that it’s so dull. They are lifeless. There is no urgency to any of this and it all seems so precious.

For some reason Nancy Palk plays an Old Man. Why? What is to be gained by this gender-bent casting? And why does she have an accent (Yiddish??) when no one else does? Alice Snaden begins as an innocent Iphigenia. She is fearful when she is to be sacrificed but then euphoric. This happens so quickly. Where is the justification? She arrives for her sacrifice in a shimmering red silky long dress. As she lays on a table ready for her father to kill her, she seems to writhe as music plays. It’s almost sexual as her body tenses and she strokes herself. What is that about? With all this supposed attention to presenting a Greek drama I wonder why Alan Dilworth has the sacrifice—albeit suggested—done on stage, when Greek drama had all the gory stuff done off stage.

I was grateful for Stuart Hughes, a commanding, reasoned Agamemnon. I also appreciated Raquel Duffy who plays a fierce Clytemnestra, who will do anything to defend her daughter. This is a performance full of fire, rage, clear-eyed motherly anger. It’s a jolt of life in this otherwise lifeless, dull production.

Comment. I think playwright, Sina Gilani has done an interesting, fascinating job in creating the world of ancient Greece. The language is not contemporary but has a sense of another time. The speeches from Agamemnon to his brother Menelaus are terrific, in which Agamemnon childes his brother for being a lousy husband. Why else would Helen want to get away from him. Gilani brings out the blinkered masculinity of the men of Greece, that a pledge to enter war is iron-clad, that a man’s honour is more important than being intelligent and smart. There were so many possibilities to realize this story with a better production. Instead we have this dull lump of liver theatre instead. You go because you think it’s good for you. Better theatre is good for you and tastier.

Soulpepper Theatre presents:

Began: April 8, 2019.

Closed: April 14, 2019.

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