Reviews from Next Stage: Winter of 88, Consumption Patterns, Literally Titanium, Every Silver Lining, Morro and Jasp: Save the Date

by Lynn on January 15, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

More from the Next Stage Festival, Factory Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Winter of 88

Written and directed by Mohammad Yaghoubi

Lighting by David DeGrow

Music by Behrang Baghaee

Cast: Aida Keykhaii

Amir Zavosh

Armon Ghaeinizadeh

Jonathan Shaboo

Parmida Vand

Sarah Marchand

Playwright/director Mohammad Yaghoubi captures a day in the winter of 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war and how it affected the people experiencing it. In the play a mother and her daughter-in-law wait for one of their family to return home. Gun fire and explosions can be heard outside getting closer and closer. Terror pervades.

We hear a voice-over between scenes of the playwright talking to a woman in Farsi with an English translation projected on the back wall, about how he approached various scenes. These blackout moments were then followed by the scene he was talking about. Interesting.

Consumption Patterns

Written by Kevin Shea

Directed by Jill Harper

Movement director and choreographer, Patricia Allison

Cast: Jennifer Dzialoszynski

Sochi Fried

Ben Sanders

Jonathan Tan

Playwright Kevin Shea writes about conspicuous consumption, among other things, in his interesting play. One character buys sex, another buys things, another makes pottery but is lonely in her marriage. A character at the end of the play and his wife have divested themselves of possessions in an effort to find solace in a small community in the Maritimes. He wants to have children but his wife doesn’t want to bring a child into this world. He says that he hopes he can bring her around to his thinking about children. That quiet statement (thank you Jonathan Tan for an elegant performance) gave me chills.

The acting is wonderful with Sochi Fried as the lonely potter giving a heart-squeezing performance. The production works a treat under Jill Harper’s unobtrusive direction, but Patricia Allison’s movement and choreography too often seem unnecessarily distracting.

Literally Titanium

Creator and performer, Ophira Calof

Director, Sanja Vodovnik

From the website for Next Stage: “In the age of body positivity, where does chronic illness fit? Disabled artist Ophira Calof plays her body as a character finally getting its moment in the spotlight, using music, comedy and storytelling to explore the relationship between her body and mind as they navigate a world that wasn’t built for them.”

Ophira Calof conveys the sense of being confined in her body and her motorized wheelchair as she negotiations the stage with fearlessness and joy.

Every Silver Lining

Written by Laura Piccinin and Allison Wither

Director, Jennifer Stewart

Music director, Aaron Eyre

Cast: Joel Cumber

Starr Domingue

Alex Furber

Daniel Karp

Luke Marty

Erika Nielsen

Alison J Palmer

Alex Panneton

Laura Piccinin

Jada Rifkin

Ben Skipper

Allison Wither

Musicians: Aaron Eyre (Keyboard)

Erica Nielsen (Cello)

Alex Panneton (Percussion)

This is a very ambitious musical about cancer. Andrew is 17 years old and he has cancer. His sister, Clara, loves him but feels conflicted when she has to accompany him to chemo because it cuts into her only pleasure, competitive swimming. Andrew’s parents of course are consumed with worry about his health. His friends are angry at him when they learn he had cancer and hid it from them. The musical ends with the various characters reflecting on how lucky they are for knowing Andrew.

The cast is stellar, composed of some of the city’s leading musical theatre artists. Jennifer Stewart directs this with efficiency and economy.

While the musical is ambitious, perhaps it needs a rethink of how many stories should be covered in this piece. The inclusion of the friends’ anger seems to come too late in the musical, as does Clara’s belief that her parents didn’t love her.  Over amplification of the 10 cast members and the three members in the band drowned out some of the lyrics.

Morro and Jasp: Save the Date

Creators and performers, Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee

Directed by Byron Laviolette and Kat Sandler

Sound and lighting by Mark Andrada

Set by Roxanne Ignatius

Costumes by Heather Marie Annis with Roxanne Ignatius

Jasp (Amy Lee) is getting married and she’s fretting about every detail of the wedding. Her sister Morro (Heather Marie Annis) is anxious to help her with creating the perfect wedding. But will these two sisters be close after the wedding now that a husband is on the scene?

Morro and Jasp: Save the Date is pure joy. The writing by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee is laugh-out-loud funny, the observations are sharply focused and the physical humour, from a veil that never ends, to the frantic cake-tasting, will make you sore from laughing.  And for all its humour the piece is tender, sweet, touching and quite moving thanks to the wonderful performances of Annis and Lee.

Next Stage continues to Sunday, Jan. 19.

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