Live and in person at the Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W. Toronto, Ont. Produced by Aluna Theatre, playing until Feb. 25, 2024.

Written by Jorgelina Cerritos

Directed by Soheil Parsa

Scenographer, Trevor Schwellnus

Costumes by Niloufar Ziaee

Sound by Thomas Ryder Payne

Cast: Beatriz Pizano

Carlos Gonzalez-Vio

A beautifully rendered play of waiting, longing, identity, purpose and hope.

When the lights go down, we hear the sound of the full force of crashing waves on a shore and the sense of the wind as well.  Kudos to sound designer, Thomas Ryder Payne.

A man (Carlos Gonzalez-Vio) and a woman (Beatriz Pizano) are on a dock by the sea. The sound of the waves underscores the scenes.  She wears a black dress over a blouse, and simple shoes. She is sitting at a small desk with two neat stacks of paper. She is marking the papers of one pile with a pencil and putting the marked papers on the other pile.

The man is standing on another part of the dock looking wistfully out to sea. He is unshaven and wears a worn sleeveless shirt and black mid-calf cargo pants. There is a ring of salt around the bottom of each pant leg. He is barefoot.  She is a clerk in some unknown department and he is a fisherman (hence the ring of salt.)

He needs a certificate to prove who he is so he can get on with his life. He does not know his name or his date of birth or where he comes from or his parentage. He does not suffer from amnesia. He just does not know. She is exasperated at such an absurd thing. She is meticulous about her job, ensuring all the information needed for the completion of forms is provided. She has no patience for this man. She keeps looking off to her right, into the distance to call “next” for the next non-existent person in line to be served. There never is anyone there.

Welcome to the absurdist world of Salvadoran playwright, Jorgelina Cerrito’s 2010 award-winning play, On The Other Side of the Sea.

Over the course of the 90-minute production the man, known only as “Fisherman of the Sea,” tries to engage the woman, we learn is named “Dorothea.” She is bitter about her situation. She lives in the city but is relegated to this beach ‘office’ because of her age. The administration wants only younger people in the city and has moved her out here to do drudge-work. She was in love with a man once who went to sea and has not returned. He holds the key to her unborn children. And she hates the sea and never goes swimming in it, so this placement is particularly onerous.

She is determined to get the information she needs for the forms for this fisherman. Initially she dismisses the man because he does not know his name or details of his life, a situation she finds unbelievable.

He is frustrated too but in a milder way. He can see beauty in his boat, the sea, the air, the sky, the sunrise and things that matter in his life. He once found love with a wonderful woman and wanted to marry but did not have the papers that offered his first name, last name, address and age.  He wanted to own a dog with whom he bonded in the pound, but did not have the needed papers of identity/birth certificate.

As rigid as Dorothea is in her determination to properly fill the forms only with factual information, that is as patient Fisherman of the Sea is to wait for her to soften and help him. There are echoes here of Samuel Beckett’s 1953 absurdist play, Waiting for Godot as two characters banter, philosophize, support each other and wait for another character (Godot) who never arrives. So Dorothea waits for customers and Fisherman of the Sea waits for his birth certificate.

Over the course of this beautifully directed, gently paced production by Soheil Parsa, Beatriz Pizano as Dorothea, and Carlos Gonzalez-Vio as Fisherman of the Sea, establish their characters. As Dorothea, Beatriz Pizano sits straight-backed in her wood chair. When she sits in the chair, she snaps her dress firmly under her. It’s a terrific bit of theatricality that so illuminates Dorothea’s character.  Her pencil strokes are sharp, methodical and don’t vary. There is only one way to do this job and she does it with determination.

As Fisherman of the Sea, Carlos Gonzalez-Vio is curious, more relaxed, friendly, inquisitive. He is mindful of the distance between them. That’s why the subtle closing of the distance between them and the relaxed body language of both actors for their characters is so beautiful to witness. The trio of sensitive director and his two gifted actors realizes the beauty of this delicate play. The business that suggests hope, is breathtaking.    

Aluna Theatre presents:

Plays until February 25, 2024.

Running Time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

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Live and in person at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen St. E., Toronto. Presented by the Eldritch Theatre. Plays until Feb. 24, 2024.

Written by William Shakespeare

Conceived and performed by Eric Woolfe

Directed by Dylan Trowbridge

Designed by Melanie McNeil

A pair of Depends will be helpful in coping with the horror and hilarity of this inventive, smart, artful rendition of the play.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play about murder, ambition for power, psychological intrigue, witches, supernatural interference and the intense love of Macbeth for his wife, Lady Macbeth and vice versa.

In the creative hands and minds of actor/creator Eric Woolfe and his equally inspired director, Dylan Trowbridge, the play becomes MacBeth: A Tale Told by an Idiot, still full of murder, ambition for power, but with the addition of puppets, it becomes all of the above with the addition of hilarity.

A plaid stage curtain with shredded bits hangs down and the sides of the curtain are attached to the side walls to reveal a large, black caldron with many and various puppets arranged along a structure at the back. Endless kudos to designer Melanie McNeil who continues to top herself with inventive sets.

We are primed from the get-go what we are in for. A baby in puppet-form is carefully laid on a ledge of the caldron. MacBeth (Eric Woolfe), bald but with a blotch of purple/red blood on the top of his head, with drips down his forehead and sides, appears—wide-eyed and haunted—holding a dagger that he then stabs into the baby and slices it open. Fistfuls of red fluff-guts are hauled out of the wound and tossed all over the place. The guts are followed by a deck of cards that miraculously appears from the wound. The baby is tossed aside and magic card tricks ensue.

Welcome to the gory, weird, gruesomely funny, magic-filled world of creator Eric Woolfe.

Eric Woolfe plays MacBeth and manipulates and gives voice to a plethora of puppets that play all the other parts. It’s an education in puppetry. Woolfe uses finger puppets, hand puppets, stick puppets and head puppets just to name a few. Eric Woolfe wears his Lady MacBeth puppet on his head or held in his hand. This Lady MacBeth is one of the most striking, dramatic, stylish, controlled, haunted and driven Lady MacBeths, alive or otherwise, I have ever seen. And interspersed with the puppets is a healthy sprinkling of magic, either with magically appearing playing cards, or mysteriously disappearing coins that improbably appear over there, or other examples of dexterous tricks.

While Eric Woolfe and his gifted crew go for the “EEWWWWW” factor to horrify the audience or catch them unawares with a joke, a funny line or a reaction, Shakespeare’s play is served in this edited, swift-paced production. Irreverence might be the idea skimming the surface of the production, but serious attention to detail and rigor is the bedrock of everything Eric Woolfe creates. When he is acting with his puppet characters, he’s fully into the character of MacBeth. The lines are crisply delivered and the intention honestly conveyed. That goes for his performance of the other characters as well.

Humour and drama are serious business and both are beautifully realized in MacBeth: A Tale Told by an Idiot. It’s typical of the artistry of Eric Woolfe, and then some.

Eldritch Theatre Presents:

Runs until Feb. 24, 2024.

Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

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Live and in person at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, Ont. Presented by Soulpepper. Plays until Feb. 18, 2024.

Adapted and directed by Gregory Prest

Based in part on De Profundis by Oscar Wilde

Original music and lyrics by Mike Ross and Sarah Wilson

Set and lighting by Lorenzo Savoini

Costumes by Ming Wong

Sound by Olivia Wheeler

Projection design by Frank Donato

Cast: Damien Atkins

Jonathan Corkal-Astorga

Colton Curtis

Damien Atkins gives a towering performance as Oscar Wilde in De Profundis: Oscar Wilde in Jail, but the piece is a jumble of styles, tone and songs and is so overproduced, that the full power of the original letter is diluted. A disappointment.

The Story. From the production website: De Profundis: Oscar Wilde in Jail is a musical fantasy based on the letter Oscar Wilde wrote while incarcerated for two years at Reading Gaol, to his love Lord Alfred Douglas. The letter was written a page a day over a period of three months, collected at the end of each day, and handed over to Wilde on his release from prison. 

In 1895, Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labor in prison for gross indecency for his relationship with Lord Alfred (Bosie) Douglas. He wrote the long letter entitled “De Profundis” in Reading Gaol (Jail) in the last three months of his sentence, beginning in March 1897. The letter was written to “Bosie” and was a bitter indictment of Lord Alfred Douglas’ behaviour towards Oscar Wilde over the time they were together. The letter described prison life, loneliness, Wilde’s life lived for excess and pleasure, his love and devotion to “Bosie,” his philosophy on life, art, living, and later in the letter, religion.

The full version of the letter (unabridged) was only fully released for publication in 1960. Before that time Wilde’s literary executor, Robert (Robbie) Ross heavily edited portions of it pertaining to Bosie.

The Production. Adaptor/director Gregor Prest writes in his program note his respect for Oscar Wilde’s work “De Profundis” (Latin for: ‘from the depths’). Prest talks about love when it seems impossible as one idea he wanted to explore. The program note from the Artistic Leadership of Soulpepper: Gideon Arthurs (Executive Director) and Weyni Mengesha (Artistic Director) refer to “Wilde’s letters are woven through actual testimony from his trial for ‘gross indecency’, songs and epigrams to create something truly unique.” This suggests that other sources than the letter are incorporated into this production.

Unique it is. Successful is another matter.

Designer, Lorenzo Savoini creates a sense of elegance immediately when one enters the theatre and sees a huge ornately framed painting of a lush arrangement of flowers hung across the stage. One immediately thinks of Oscar Wilde’s world of beauty.

An upright piano is at the side of the theatre. A man in costume and a large hat announces he will offer background about Oscar Wilde and begins to wax poetically about the man. We hear a groan of “Oh God” behind the curtain. The man continues to speak and again, the voice behind the curtain calls out “Robbie”, a side door opens and Oscar Wilde (Damien Atkins) appears in a dressing gown asking Robbie (Robert Ross, Oscar Wilde’s close friend) what he is doing.

Robbie says that he is giving a deeper context to the audience about who Oscar Wilde is. Wilde looks at the audience and tells him to get another audience and disappears behind the door. Lots of laughter.

And so, with this light-bantering exchange adaptor Gregory Prest has upstaged the seriousness of the show before it even begins. And he begins on a disingenuous note as well. We don’t need a deeper context about Oscar Wilde, and certainly not from a character we don’t know.  We already know who Oscar Wilde is. That’s why we are in the room, and of course to see the wondrous Damien Atkins play Oscar Wilde. Interestingly, we are given no information about Robbie from Wilde. In fact, Robert Ross was Wilde’s one-time lover and after that a loyal, true friend who was a support when Wilde was in jail and when he was released.

The production proper begins with pings of composer Mike Ross’s electronic music to set a tone, I imagine. The music will vary from electronic to contemporary etc. The framed painting disappears, replaced by the stark gloom and claustrophobia of Wilde’s prison cell. There is an uneven concrete wall at the back and sides, a bucket as a toilet is in a corner, a narrow wood bench as his bed is against the wall and utensils for eating are under the bench. It beautifully establishes the oppressiveness of Wilde’s cell. He spent 23/24 hours there in solitary confinement.

Wilde (Damien Atkins) stands barefoot in the gloomy light (illumination also by Lorenzo Savoini) in a crème-coloured prison uniform of top and pants that has some kind of design on it (trees? Can’t tell). Damien Atkins as Oscar Wilde stands facing the audience; serious, haunted, wounded. He begins the letter, “Dear Bosie….” Atkins is initially measured in his pacing. His voice is deep and mellifluous. But then the speed ramps up as Wilde recalls the hurts, betrayals and slights that Wilde endured because of Bosie. Atkins then goes into warp speed as a torrent of elegant invective and anger pours out of him. It is hard to keep up with it all, he is speaking so fast. The speech illuminates the mind of a man who is perceptive, intuitive, psychologically astute about how manipulative and shallow Bosie is and aware of his effect on Wilde. But then he rages about why Bosie has not written to him or come to see him. No matter how knowing Wilde is, he’s consumed by his love for the morally bankrupt, Bosie.  

I wonder who that speech is for? I know it’s a letter for Bosie, but it’s being verbalized in a theatre where “life is lived on purpose.” Is it for Bosie? If so, it’s too fast to make sound points with the man you want to slam with points. Is it for the audience? Then ditto, slow down. At its simplest level it’s the speech of a man who has probably said and resaid it to himself, polishing and honing it for full force for all of his prison sentence. Fine, it should be said slower for full effect. (not glacial, but so that we can hold on to the points and appreciate their ‘smack’ value).

At times Damien Atkins as Oscar Wilde sings songs of loss, regret, anger etc. composed by Mike Ross with lyrics by Sarah Wilson. I don’t see why the songs are needed or what they offer besides the original letters. The show is based on one of the greatest letters of heartache, despair and perception ever written. I don’t see what these songs offer aside from a weaker version of more of the same in the letters, never mind that Damien Atkins has a wonderful, powerful voice.

Then there are the fantasy dreams of Bosie (Colton Curtis). For this the side walls are pulled back, more space is created downstage of the cell as well and the claustrophobic cell disappears. The boyish Bosie, played by a graceful, manipulative Colton Curtis, does various dances that are balletic and seductive. He captures Bosie’s shallowness and beauty to a ‘t’. But again, so does the original letter. The inclusion of “Bosie” seems overkill. Indeed, while it’s obvious that Gregory Prest has a close relationship with the material and shows sensitive and bold attention to the material, I found the whole endeavor overproduced, masking the true power of a gifted actor alone on a stage, performing one of the most moving pieces of writing of a tortured soul.  

 Presented by Soulpepper Theatre.

Plays until February 18, 2024.

Running time: 100 minutes (no intermission)

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Authenticity is dangerous and expensive” is literally what’s wrong with the fashion, entertainment, and journalism world. People should critically speak their truth if they’re so inclined. What’s the point of everyone applauding each others mediocrity???


Live and in person at the Coal Mine Theatre, Toronto. Produced by Coal Mine Theatre. Playing until March 3, 2024.

Composed by Ted Dykstra

Libretto by Steven Mayoff

Directed by Peter Hinton Davis

Musical director, Bob Foster

Choreographer, Kiera Sangster

Set and costumes by Scott Penner

Lighting by Bonnie Beecher

Sound by Tim Lindsay

Cast: Max Borowski

Saccha Dennis

Kaden Forsberg

Allan Louis

Allister MacDonald

Jacob MacInnis


Carly Street

Kelsey Verzotti

Band: Piano, Bob Foster

Guitar, Percussion, Haneul Yi

Bass, Kat McLevey

Seductive, provocative and disruptive, with a compelling performance by Jacob MacInnis as Dion.

The Story. The story is based on The Bacchae by Euripides. Dionysus is the God of wine, intoxication, sensual pleasure, you name it. In this case, the name is Dion (they/them), a non-binary, self-proclaimed Demi-God). The god Zeus was their father and the mortal Semele was their mother. She died in childbirth. Dion has come to lead the people (mainly women) of a city-state (Thebes) “somewhere in time,” into the hills to drink intoxicants, dance naked and enjoy a state of ecstasy. They have ulterior motives for all this.

Pentheus, the hot-headed, right-wing leader of this city-state, arrives back from being away to learn of this troubling situation. Pentheus’ mother Agave is one of the runaways, as is his uncle Cadmus. Agave has issues with her father Cadmus because he loved her dead sister Semele more than he loved Agave and that’s left her bitter and angry. Cadmus in the meantime is in deep mourning for his dead daughter.

Pentheus decides to find Dion in the hills and face them with the truth—that Semele was wanton and not a ‘bride’ of Zeus; that Dion is human and not at all God-like. Dion seeks and gets their revenge on Pentheus for such a slander.

The Production and Comment. Composer Ted Dykstra and librettist, Steven Mayoff have created a sung-through rock opera based on Dionysus, or Dion for short. And while it’s based on a Greek myth, DION is a theatrical creation for our modern times.

Scott Penner has created an evocative set. The audience sits on either side of a red strip playing area that runs the length of the space. At either end is a pedestal on which is either a statue of a naked man or a naked woman, draped with a swath of material, looking into a mirror. There are two chairs at either end facing the playing area. Two members of the chorus sit quietly in the chairs at either end, as the audience files in. Again, Scott Penner has designed costumes that are seductive—bare-midriffs, fishnet stockings, boots, pants with wild phrases on them: “EVOE,” “divinity,” “sex,” etc. They are also witty. I note crowns peppered in the material of one member of the chorus that is reminiscent of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s crowns in his artwork. The crowns seem like a witty choice to include for a follower of the equally iconoclastic, Dion.

Tiresias enters, played by the exquisite SATE, and sings “The Word Evoe.” It’s an archaic word that means “the exclamation of Bacchic frenzy.” Ted Dykstra’s music up-ends our expectations of a rousing rock opera opening. The music is intoxicatingly melodic and understated. Steven Mayoff’s lyrics are crisply, expressively sung by SATE as the blind Tiresias. Tiresias sings that Evoe can mean joy or pain and many other things. “The Word Is Evoe” is a perfect song for a world that has gone insane. One can imagine that Evoe is part of the word “devotion” at its most crazed intensity. The song gently brings the audience into the dark world of director Peter Hinton-Davis’s vision for the piece.

Dykstra’s music is melodic and throbbing like a heart-beat or like sexual panting. Steven Mayoff’s libretto is bristling with intelligence, wit and envisions the wild, almost out of control world the characters and we live in.     

Dion (a mesmerizing Jacob MacInnis) is a supreme influencer of the hedonistic life, with ulterior motives of revenge. Through manipulation, seductive cajoling and a careful supplying of intoxicants, Jacob MacInnis as Dion ‘gently’ addles the brains of their followers to do their bidding. It’s more than fandom for rock stars. It’s more insidious than that.  MacInnis is watchful—their deep-set eyes pierce into the abyss and into the troubled soul of any doubter. Each song is sung in a clear, pure voice. The movement is never rushed—the hold they have on their followers is tight. It’s a mesmerizing performance of an artist with compelling power.

On the other hand, Pentheus, as played by Allister MacDonald, is an explosion of constant rage. Pentheus has the makings of a perfect dictator as energetically portrayed by Allister MacDonald. He has nothing good to say about those who work for him. He is a master of technology and spews lies and invective through his texts and his bombastic speech. He is all threats and swagger. He is easy pray for Dion.

Agave (Carly Street) and Cadmus (Allan Louis) are the wounded souls at the other end of the spectrum. Agave pines to be loved by her father Cadmus. Carly Street plays Agave with a ground-down grace; in this world she is lost and angry at her father. Allan Louis first appears as Cadmus, fastidiously dressed in a tailored suit and gleamingly shined shoes. When they both meet as part of Dion’s followers their decorum has been shed and they are in the throws of the intoxicating revere. It’s then that they are able forget their rage and grief and forge a new respect, that is until Dion has one last trick to play.

Kiera Sangster has choreographed the piece with a lively sexuality involving the Chorus and the various participants. Bonnie Beecher’s lighting is vivid. At times cones of light encase both Dion at one end of the space and Pentheus at the other. For Dion it’s empowering. For Pentheus it seems confining. There is a lot of impressive work done by the Chorus who flip and twirl florescent rods of changing light.

The confining and hedonistic world of DION is beautifully rendered in Peter Hinton-Davis’ vision of this world. Sordid? Intoxicating? Mesmerizing? It’s all of them.

Coal Mine Theatre presents:

Plays until March 3, 2024.

Running time: 70 minutes (no intermission).

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Live and in person at the CAA Theatre, 651 Yonge St. Toronto, Ont. Mirvish Productions presents the Crow’s Theatre Production. Plays until Feb. 25, 2024.

Tom Rooney as Uncle Vanya, photo: Dahlia Katz

Written by Anton Chekhov

Adapted by Liisa Repo-Martell

Directed by Chris Abraham

Set and props co-designer, Julie Fox and Josh Quinlan

Costumes by Ming Wong

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Sound by Thomas Ryder Payne

Cast: Carolyn Fe

dtaborah johnson

Ali Kazmi

Eric Peterson

Anand Rajaram

Tom Rooney

Shannon Taylor

bahia watson

The search for love, worth, respect and purpose occupy the characters in Chekhov’s play and Liisa Repo-Martell’s heart-squeezing adaptation.  Beautiful and illuminating.

The Story. From the Mirvish website: “In the waning days of Czarist Russia, Ivan “Vanya” Voinitsky, and his niece, Sonya, toil ceaselessly to run their family estate. After retiring, Sonya’s father, a celebrated professor, returns to the estate with his young, glamorous wife. When he announces his plans to sell the land and evict them all, passions explode and lives come undone.”

Uncle Vanya is a look into the quietly desperate lives of people stuck in ennui and aching because of lost opportunities, unrequited love, profound unhappiness and crippling  boredom. And in Chekhov’s typical way, it’s funny.

Vanya and his niece Sonya run the country estate for Alexandre, a noted scholar and professor, and send him the money the estate makes. Alexandre’s late first wife was Sonya’s mother and Vanya’s sister. When Alexandre’s wife died, he married Yelena, a woman much younger than he was. Because the times are not as prosperous for Alexandre, he’s come to the country estate with Yelena to continue his writing of essays, articles and other scholarly endeavors that occupy his time. In the process he and Yelena disrupt the whole household.

The Production. Note: This is a remount of the 2022 Crow’s Theatre Toronto production but with a restaging.  When the production played in Toronto in 2022, the production was performed in the round, with the audience on all sides of the action and surprises in the various nooks and crannies of the space. There was a remount in 2024 at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton, Ont.  a proscenium theatre, we watch the action straight on. There are still lots of surprises. Now it has moved to the CAA Theatre in Toronto, also a proscenium theatre.

This is the third time I’ve seen this production in its various configurations. It goes from strength to strength. The performances are passionate, fierce, heart-squeezing and so full of the pain of disappointment, regret and humour of Chekhov and his lost, bored, loving characters, that it leaves you breathless.

We are told that there are 26 rooms in this house. It’s so big people get lost in it. Set and props co-designers, Julie Fox and Josh Quinlan, have reconfigured the main room of this manor house so one gets the sense of the size and suggested former grandeur of the estate. The rugs are threadbare and faded. The wood floor is uneven and there are gaps in the wood planks.  A long table and benches on either side are upstage center. Presumably this is where the family eats and Vanya (Tom Rooney) and Sonya (bahia watson) work. The little furniture there is is old, musty and broken down, except for Marina the former nanny’s (Carolyn Fe) overstuffed, worn chair and foot rest facing downstage and a small desk stage right.  Memorabilia, books and lots of stuff are placed under things or around the room etc. A chandelier hangs down from the flies. Beams are above and they are large and thick. There are double doors leading off to other parts of the house. There is a glass floor to ceiling window looking out to a garden and the glass is filthy with grime. One can imagine dust dancing in the shafts of Kimberley Purtell’s lighting. The lighting gives the sense of a faded photograph of by gone times.

Ming Wong’s costumes—well-worn for those who work the estate, and very stylish for Yelena (Shannon Taylor) and Alexandre (an irascible Eric Peterson) who is always in a suit to give off the impression of success. At times Thomas Ryder Payne provides a subtle hum, ‘buzz’ that underscores a speech. It’s one more aspect of something that closes in on these people as they try and endure.

Director Chris Abraham has beautifully, sensitively realized the subtle bubbling of emotions in the play—that bubbling emotion is more noticeable since I am sitting close to the stage. Chris Abraham’s direction illuminates the ache of yearning, of disappointment and lost love. There are furtive looks of Vanya for Yelena, he is so in love with her. There are lingering looks of Astrov (Ali Kazmi) at Yelena, and she giving him a second look, when she thinks he isn’t looking. Scenes are never rushed. They have time to breathe and be. They linger in the air compelling us to see, feel and be aware of each character’s beating heart. I especially sensed that more than ever with this iteration of the play.

With this proscenium staging one gets a stronger sense of the ennui, boredom and despair these people experience. Performances are fuller, richer, deeper and more nuanced. One is keenly aware that Vanya is always shuffling around aimlessly just to give the sense of being busy. What he is really experiencing is crushing boredom, waiting for Alexandre (Eric Peterson) to appear and the household to snap to attention. Tom Rooney plays Vanya as stooped, defeated by life and disappointment. He’s anxious, angry at Alexandre and in secret love with Yelena. When he rages at Alexandre it’s in a torrent of articulation and linguistic dexterity that is breathtaking. Vanya is ground down by life and the lack of its fullness. Brilliant work.

Characters such as Astrov (a haunted, serious Ali Kazmi) talks of how exhausted he is but can’t seem to sit down and rest (part of Chekhov’s quiet humour). I always wonder what would happen if Astrov sat down.  Ali Kazmi as Astrov is compelling, passionate about ecology and the future, haunted by the recent death of a patient, and besotted by Yelena. There is a lot going on in his life and Kazmi, illuminates it with boldness and verve.

If ever there was a character who was pompous, bombastic and a source of hollow pontificating, Alexandre is it and he is played with wonderful arrogance, irritation and much hilarity by Eric Peterson. While Alexandre is revered by many, he’s easily defeated in an argument by Vanya who shows the hollow phony Alexandre is.  

Yelena is the most perceptive character in the play. She knows the secret feelings of those in the house and it’s so clear in Shannon Taylor’s playing of her. Shannon Taylor’s Yelena is full of grace. Conversation stops when she enters a room because characters are compelled to look at her. Taylor is watchful at everybody in the room. She listens to what they say and intuits how they feel. She knows her effect on people but is not destructive with it. She beautifully conveys that her boredom is suffocating, but won’t leave or do anything to relieve the boredom.

bahia watson plays Sonya. Sonya is industrious, efficient, an organizer. She finds things to occupy her and she moves with a purpose and a bright optimism, although keeping her emotions secret, but only just. She is the diplomat, the calmer of frayed nerves, the one who takes charge when all else fails. I think because bahia watson’s Sonya seems fragile herself, but still in control, that Sonya can calm others.

As Marina the old nanny/maid, Carolyn Fe quietly and with care, sees that the family is fed, that the samovar is always on, offers motherly affection and drink to Astrov, is always folding blankets and even when she is sitting in her chair, she’s knitting, being useful. Marina is always smiling and reacting to what’s going on around her. She is industrious and uncomplaining while the others avoid doing anything and complain about it all the time. Chekhov is hilarious.

Telegin, nick-named “Waffles” because of his pock-marked skin, is played with expressive expansion by Anand Rajaram. Telegin is always forgotten, not taken seriously. He is desperate to be noticed so he hangs onto every word of Alexandre, eager to interject a thought or opinion. These interjections are broad, loud and in keeping with a forgotten man, who just wants to be noticed. Eric Peterson as Alexandre, tolerates Telegin, but usually ignores him. 

Finally, there is Vanya’s mother, Maria, played by dtaborah johnson. She seems in a world of her own—flamboyantly dressed, ignorant of her son’s ennui, devoted to every thought of Alexandre, and fancies herself an intellectual.

Liisa Repo-Martell’s adaptation breathes a freshness into Chekhov’s timeless play, that enhances it without distorting it. For example, at the end, as Sonya is comforting Uncle Vanya, trying to buoy him and give him hope, the frequent translation is that after they dedicate their lives to work, they will find rest (in the afterlife?). In Liisa Repo-Martell’s version, Sonya says they will ‘have peace’ which I think is more profound. More comforting. Repo-Martell’s language is both of Chekhov’s time and timeless. There is an intellectual modernity to it.

Comment. Stunning production, wonderful theatre. Heart-breaking and hilarious. Pure Chekhov.

Mirvish Productions presents a Crow’s Theater Production:

Opened: Feb. 7, 2024

Runs until: Feb. 25, 2024.

Running Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes (1 intermission)

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Live and in person at the Park Theatre, London, England.  Adam Blanshay Productions and Park Theatre present the European premiere of Kim’s Convenience. Plays until Feb. 10, 2024.

Written by Ins Choi

Directed by Esther Jun

Set and costumes by Mona Camille

Lighting by Jonathan Chan

Sound and composer, Adrienne Quartly

Cast: Ins Choi

Namju Go

Jennifer Kim

Brian Law

Miles Mitchell

This production is the most moving of all of the productions of it I’ve seen over the 13 years. Perhaps it was because I was seeing it in London and was so happy for its success. Or perhaps it was because the performances just affected me in a deeper way. In any case it’s full of the beating heart of the play. The cast is fine with Ins Choi giving stellar performance as Appa (Mr. Kim).

Background. Kim’s Convenience is Ins Choi’s first play. It’s the little play that could. It started at the Toronto Fringe Festival to great acclaim. It was picked up by Soulpepper and given a real production. It became a tv series and ran for several years. Netflix picked it up. There have been productions across Canada. And now it’s in London, England.

The play is a bittersweet immigrant story; of trying to fit in to a new life but still honouring the traditions of one’s culture; of love and forgiveness.

The Story. Mr. Kim (‘Appa’ in the programme, means ‘Father’ in Korean) has owned and operated his convenience store for 30 years. He is thinking of passing it on to his daughter Janet to run. When she was a kid she helped often in the store, while also going to school to be a photographer. That is where her heart is—to be a photographer. She is now 30 years old, lives at home above the store and is indeed a photographer.

There is a son, Jung but he’s estranged from his father and they haven’t talked in a long time. Jung talks to his mother, (‘Umma’ in Korean), often going to church with her. He regrets the rift with his father and longs to come home.  

The Production. The 200 seat Park Theatre, in London, England, is a very intimate space. The audience sits on three sides around the stage.  This means that designer Mona Camille has to suggest what a Canadian convenience store looks like because having the aisles of shelves full of snacks, canned goods etc. wouldn’t work. The shelves would have blocked off various areas of the audience depending on where they were sitting.

There is a huge poster of an ice-cream drumstick on the wall. There are posters for LOTO 649. Various kinds of potato chips only sold in Canada are arranged on a shelf on the back wall: Pringles, Lays, Doritos etc. There are tubs of Korean noodle soups also on the back wall. I was told that the Canadian snacks had to be brought over to London for the show.  A cash counter is in the center of the space with gums, mints and chocolate bars in the front of it. A cash register is in the center of the counter. There is an aisle stage left and right for entrances of characters. There is no door to the store but when a character enters, at a certain point in the aisle entrance, there is a sound effect indicating a customer has come through the door.

When Mr. Kim-Appa (I’ll refer to him this way since he’s referred to by both names depending on whom he is speaking to) opens the store at 7 am Ins Choi as Mr. Kim-Appa enters from the back where the family apartment is. Ins Choi as Mr. Kim–Appa is grey-haired has a thin beard, walks slowly—he wears sandals, socks, a work shirt and jeans.  He sets out the lottery tickets and makes a cup of coffee using more sugar than a human should use for a cup of coffee. Director Esther Jun knows how to set up a visual joke beautifully and Ins Choi as Mr. Kim-Appa knows how to milk it. He opens a pack of sugar and holds it high over the cup and then adds more sugar from a dispenser, held even higher. This scene takes plenty of time to establish who Mr. Kim-Appa is.

I saw Ins Choi play Mr. Kim-Appa at the Grand Theatre in London, Ont. To see him play the part in London, England creates a whole different vibe for some reason. Maybe it’s being with a British audience who have no idea of what this play means to those who have seen it, or perhaps they are familiar with the Netflix series, in any case I was aware of how the audience was reacting. I was also aware that I was moved more often than I have ever been moved by this play before.

Ins Choi as Mr. Kim-Appa gives a beautifully paced, watchful performance. Mr. Kim-Appa seems angry and frustrated. He has a set idea of who will steal from his shop. He is particularly prickly, commanding relationship with his daughter Janet (Jennifer Kim). Janet does not want to be saddled with the store. She wants to be a photographer. Because Mr. Kim’s son Jung is estranged, that could also put a strain on Mr. Kim-Uppa’s relationship with Janet. As Janet, Jennifer Kim is as feisty as her father in various exchanges. She holds her ground, pushes back, lets him know she’s hurt and wants her own life. He wants her to know that he gave her everything she wanted. Most important, he asks “What is my story?” He says that she and her brother are his story, his legacy. And there are moments of heart-squeezing tenderness from Ins Choi.

Mr. Kim-Appa has watchful relationship with his customers. One gentleman, Mr. Lee (Miles Mitchell) who is described as a Black man with an Asian name wants to buy the store for re-development. Miles Mitchell plays all the Black characters in the play and he segues with ease from one to another. As Mr. Lee, the successful real estate agent, Miles Mitchell is suave, confident and prosperous looking in his tailored blue suit. As a Blackman from Jamaica, Miles Mitchell has the patois down and the fluid body language. As Alex, who was a school friend of Jung’s and is now a cop, he is disarming, charming, shy and respectful. Janet always had a crush on him. Alex never noticed her but does now that she’s grown up.  

Namju Go as Umma plays the quiet peace-maker in the family. She is burdened with the rift between her husband and her son. She is aware of the prickliness between her daughter and husband. She has to keep the peace for all of them. Both parents speak to each other in Korean. There is no need for a translation—we get the gist when there is reference to “Janet” etc. It’s the quiet banter of long-married husband and wife.

As Jung, Brian Law has a sweetness mixed with the guilt of what he did to cause the rift. He is trying to make amends. In a scene with Umma, Brian Law and Namju Go sit on a ledge with their backs to part of the audience. Namju Go as Umma is still but attentive to her son, Jung. He is comfortable in her presence and that’s in his body language too. Again, director Esther Jun directs a moving scene with the characters’ backs, having faith that the audience will ‘get it.’

When Jung comes home Brian Law is anxious about how his father will accept him. Ins Choi as Mr. Kim-Appa is surprised, guarded but open. When Jung he makes suggestions to his father about the store there is such longing in Brian Law’s performance. He has to win his that back and he does. Suddenly new possibilities arise for Mr. Kim-Appa and the future. And he is forgiving without having to say it.

Comment: This is a very intimate space. The whole cast is focused on each other and not distracted by the ambient sound of a British audience. You can clearly hear all the pops of opening cans of pop, rustling in potato chip bags, clinking of glasses of wine—bottles of wine are allowed in the theatre–and the loud ringing of a phone that probably can be heard in the street. All except for the ringing phone, the ambient noise was kept to a minimum. Such is the power of this wonderful production of Kim’s Convenience.

The Park Theatre Presents:

Opened: Jan. 8, 2024

I saw it: Feb. 2, 2024.

Plays until Feb. 10, 2024.

Running Time: 80 minutes (no intermission)

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Heads Up for the Week of Feb. 5-11, 2024

Feb. 5-11, 2024


Factory Theatre.

Written by Joanna Murray-Smith

Directed by Rob Kempson

Sidney can feel her career slipping down the drain. No one loves a pop star when she’s past forty. Unless she wants to join the ranks of the has-beens on the casino circuit, she needs to reinvent herself – and quick. But what if she regains her former glory and still feels that something is missing? 

In its Canadian premiere, ROCKABYE offers a satirical and dark portrait of our self-involved, celebrity-obsessed culture.

Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St  in Toronto.


Feb. 5-23, 2024.


Young People’s Theatre.

By Kanika Ambrose
Based on the novel “The Gospel Truth” by Caroline Pignat
Directed by Sabryn Rock


BUY NOW (Public)

It’s 1858 on a Virginian tobacco plantation. Deep in a forest, a young Black girl named Phoebe sits in the hollow of a tree, a notebook in her pocket and a harrowing choice ahead. Truth is adapted from the Governor General’s Award-winning novel “The Gospel Truth”, and tells the story of a courageous 16-year-old, the arrival of a stranger from the north, and a trail of secrets that could change everything. From the American South to St. Catharines, Ontario, Truth chronicles the fierce strength and resilience of a community as it struggles to find freedom.

Feb. 5-25, 2024

Uncle Vanya

Written by Anton Chekhov

Adapted by Liisa Repo-Martell

Directed by Chris Abraham

At the CAA Theatre, 651 Yonge St. Toronto.


Gunfire and use of haze. Recommended for ages 12+.

In the waning days of Czarist Russia, Ivan “Vanya” Voinitsky, and his niece, Sonya, toil ceaselessly to run their family estate. After retiring, Sonya’s father, a celebrated professor, returns to the estate with his young, glamorous wife. When he announces his plans to sell the land and evict them all, passions explode and lives come undone.

A remounting of the 2022 production originally presented in the round at Crow’s Theatre, this time presented in the CAA  proscenium theatre.

Feb. 6-18, 2024.

De Profundis: Oscar Wilde in Jail

At The Young Centre for the Performing Arts

Adapted by Gregory Prest

Original music and lyrics by Mike Ross and Sarah Wilson


De Profundis: Oscar Wilde in Jail is a musical fantasy based on the letter Oscar Wilde wrote while incarcerated for two years at Reading Gaol, to his love Lord Alfred Douglas. The letter was written a page a day over a period of three months, collected at the end of each day, and handed over to Wilde on his release from prison. 

Feb. 6 -March 3, 2024


At Coal Mine Theatre

By Ted Dykstra and Steven Mayoff

Directed by Peter Hinton-Davis
Musical Director: Bob Foster

Dion: A Rock Opera is a fully sung rock opera based on Euripedes’ The Bacchae.

Pentheus, the conservative right-wing leader of a city-state “somewhere in time” on this earth, arrives home from a trip to learn that all the disenfranchised people in his kingdom have taken to the hills, following a non-binary and self-proclaimed Demi-God named Dion. The runaways from society, rumour has it, are drinking a strange brew, and are often seen running through the hills naked in states of ecstasy. The runaways include almost all of society’s women, including his own mother Agave and his uncle Cadmus.

Please be advised this production uses strobe lights and theatrical haze.



Feb. 7- 25, 2024.

The Other Side of the Sea

At the Theatre Centre

Two strangers meet on a lonely beach, not knowing that their futures
depend on this encounter.

A fisherman with no name and a civil servant at her office desk
oscillate between loneliness, memory, and reality on a journey towards
human connection and renewal.

This powerful, minimalist drama celebrates courage, conviction, and
life itself.
Book Your Tickets Now!

Feb. 8-10, 2024


At Harbourfront Centre, as part of the Torque 2023-24 dance series.

Deciphers, performed and choreographed by independent dancemakers Naishi Wang and Jean Abreu, on stage February 8–10, 2024 at 7:30pm at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, as part of its 2023/24 international contemporary dance series, Torque. This contemporary duet is an intensely physical cultural exchange between dancers, investigating post-colonial histories, the migrant experience and the transcendent nature of human identity.

To purchase tickets and for more information about Deciphers and the complete Torque 2023/24 season, please visit

February 8th – 24th, 2024

Macbeth “A Tale Told By An Idiot”

At the Haunted Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen St. E.

By William Shakespeare
Conceived & performed by Eric Woolfe
Directed by Dylan Trowbridge

“MacBeth is a weird, and involuntary soothsayer. The Weird Sisters inevitably await him, knowing that he is, in part, their kin.” – Harold Bloom

Shakespeare’s blood-soaked king, weird witches, viscera-sopped murders, nightmares of madness, and terrifying occult prophecies crash head on with our ghoulishly giddy bag of timorous trickery! Performed by a solo actor using a diverse range of multi-sized puppets, masks, and parlour magic, cosmic horror, and lowbrow pop, this Mad Mackers is a production like no other! Coinciding with the 400th Anniversary of the play’s premiere, and bound to amaze, horrify and delight you.


Live and in person at the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont. Produced by Shakespeare BASH’d. Plays until Feb. 4, 2024.

Written by William Shakespear and John Fletcher

Directed by James Wallis

Fight director, Jennifer Dzialoszynski

Choreographer, Breanne Tice

Sound by Matt Nish-Lapidus

Lighting by Sruthi Suresan

Cast: Daniel Briere

Joshua Browne

Tristan Claxton

Jennifer Dzialoszynski

Steven Hao

Madelaine Hodges

Melanie Leon

Michael Man

Kate Martin

Julia Nish-Lapidus

Breanne Tice

Le Truong

Emilio Vieira

Jeff Yung

Bold, brisk, energetic, beautifully spoken and rigorous in telling the story clearly, as one expects of Shakespeare BASH’d.

NOTE: So, is The Tempest the last play that Shakespeare wrote or is it The Two Noble Kinsmen by Shakespeare and John Fletcher? Or is The Two Noble Kinsmen the last play of Shakespeare’s that was produced? Questions, questions. For those of us who love our Shakespeare plays and productions, it doesn’t matter in the long run.

The Story. The story is about the power of love and how it can challenge a close friendship. We are in ancient Greece. Theseus and Hippolyta are the rulers of Athens. Three queens plead with them to avenge the deaths of their husbands by Creon, king of Thebes, who refuses to give the kings a proper burial. Theseus agrees to wage war with Creon as a result.

Palamon and Arcite are Thebans. They are also cousins and very close friends. They fight the good fight against the Greeks but are taken prisoner when the Greeks win. From their prison cell, Palamon sees Princess Emilia, Hippolyta’s sister, and falls in love with her. Then Arcite sees her and falls in love with her too. This causes a rift in the friendship and the two men become bitter rivals.

Through various means both are released separately, Arcite is banished and Palamon goes into hiding. But they somehow meet again and have a sword-fight over who will win Emilia. They are discovered again by Theseus who orders they be arrested and executed. Again, good fortune intervenes with Theseus planning a final test. Arcite, Palamon and Emilia pray to the gods for different things and it all ends as it should, which does not necessarily mean a complete happy ending.  

The Production. The performance starts in the lobby with director James Wallis reciting background of the play from Chaucer. Wallis is confident, accommodating and brisk in his discourse. We are then invited to go into the theatre and settle.

The actors arrive in a swirl of elegant movement, forming patterns of relationships. The costumes for the characters are mostly black pants and tops, or rehearsal skirts for some women. There are few props. All the attention has been put into the exploration of the text regarding love, heterosexual between Palamon (Emilio Vieira), Arcite (Michael Man) and Emilia (Kate Martin), and the love of Palamon and Arcite for each other. Is it gay love? It’s a question Director James Wallis and his cast explore in this production.

The play and production also explore power, ruling and the moral dilemmas when tyrants (Creon) decide not to give proper burial to defeated kings. How does Theseus (Jeff Yung) deal with this?

If anything is truly clear in this vibrant production it’s that rigor rules. One gets the sense of the attention to the text and the language from this accomplished cast. There’s nary a slurred word here. It’s all enunciated, crisply. Clarity and comprehension are the result.

And then there are the deeper issues. The women look to the men to do right in a thorny situation. Creon will not give a proper burial to the three kings.  The three queens come to Theseus and Hippolyta (Melanie Leon) for action. They are determined. One can sense the unease of Theseus by Jeff Yung’s thoughtful, measured performance. He is not rash, but when he makes the decision, it is with firmness and determination.

As for the two noble kinsmen, Palamon and Arcite are loyal soldiers to Creon even though they think him a tyrant. When they are captured and imprisoned, they imagine idyllic surroundings together, until they both see Emilia and fall in love with her. The two men become rivals.

As Palamon, Emilio Vieira gleams with an energetic macho vitality. He almost bristles with the urge to enter any contest, fight or surrender to love. Matching him, but in a different way, is Michael Man as Arcite. Arcite is more of an intellectual when solving problems other than physically, although he never shies away from a fight. They are equally matched but in different ways. The sword fight between them created by fight director Jennifer Dzialoszynski, is breath taking. When those swords meet, they clang with force. This is a fight to the death until it’s broken up by Theseus.  At the end of the play one sees the intensity of true love and it’s heartbreaking.

The Two Noble Kinsmen is a play that is rarely done. Don’t miss your chance to see this terrific production.   

Comment. Just before the production began in the theatre, Jennifer Dzialoszynski lets us know the rules of turning off cellphones etc. And there is a replacement for the evening. In this time of COVID or flu or plague or whatever, people get sick and stalwarts step in the help out. One expects that an actor is off and this announces the replacement. Nope. It’s the stage manager who is not there for some reason.  So James Wallis, the director of this production, the co-artistic director of Shakespeare BASH’d will be ‘calling’ the show. That means he calls the cues, makes lights do magic, primes the actors to get ready for their entrances etc. and generally keeps the production going smoothly. And he was brilliant at that too.

From the programme: “Shakespeare BASH’d is an actor-driven initiative that seeks to make classical theatre welcoming, inviting and social.

Shakespeare BASH’d seeks to synthesize the classical with the modern, to look at the plays from a place of curiosity, joy, investigation, truth, and love.”I so love this company and the rigor and passion for Shakespeare they instill in every single production.  

Shakespeare BASH’d presents:

Runs until Feb 4, 2024.

Running time: 3 hours (1 intermission)

NOTE: 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.


Live and in person at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, Ont.  Produced by Theatre Rusticle. Playing until Jan. 28, 2024

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Allyson McMackon

Costumes designed by Lindsay Anne Black (hats), Monica Viani (milliner), Brandon Kleiman, (costumes)

Lighting by Michelle Ramsay

Music composed by Jill Goranson and Kelsi James

Cast: Brefny Caribou

Jill Goranson

Beck Lloyd

Trinity Lloyd

Annie Tuma

A fascinating, wild-ride of a show, as one expects from Theatre Rusticle.

The Story. The programme offers a succinct outline of the story, which I will pare down even further. The Tempest is Shakespeare’s last play. It takes place on an island inhabited by Prospero (the Duke of Milan) and his daughter Miranda who landed there when Prospero was banished by his jealous brother Antonio. Also on the island are two servants, native to the island, Ariel and Caliban.

Prospero has magic powers and conjured a tempest that wrecked a ship carrying: Alonso, the King of Naples and his brother Sebastian, Prospero’s brother Antonio, a councillor named Gonzalo, Ferdinand, the King’s son and Adrian, Francisco, Stephano and Trinculo.

“The actors will tell you what happens to everyone.” (as per the programme).

There is also a paragraph that says: “The Tempest is also a play that happens here, now, in Buddies on this night, told by five actors traversing all these parts.”

In a sense this paragraph and the one that follows that quote is the exploration the actors and director took in exploring the play. That exploration is for the sacred space known as the ‘rehearsal hall,’ where only actors and creators should be. The audience gets the benefit of the results.

The Production and comment. The stage is bare except for a pattered circle of illumination (bravo Michelle Ramsay for the effective, evocative lighting) in the center of which are coloured objects. The five actors enter and pick up one of the objects—they are ruffs that they will wear around their necks when they change characters.

The five actors come to the front of the stage. They all wear a long dress fitted on top, that flares out for easy movement, sinched at the waist by a wide leather binding. They each introduce themselves and list the many characters they will play. They will all have a chance at playing Prospero, Miranda and Ariel. For example, Brefny Caribou is a commanding and at times, impish Prospero; Annie Tuma is a vivid, energetic Miranda; Beck Lloyd is a more serious Prospero.

When an actor is not on stage, they sit in chairs at the side of the playing space. Other props are at the sides and back as well for easy access.

Director Allyson McMackon has envisioned a spare but lively production, full of movement, provocative costumes, head gear and simple additions to establish characters: (bravo Lindsay Anne Black for the hats, Monica Viani for the millinery and Brandon Kleiman for the costumes).

Prospero always wears a flowing cape; Ariel wears a blue ‘fascinator’ with a ship affixed to the top of it; Caliban has a chain linked around the waist—that’s inspired since Caliban is treated as a captive slave. But sometimes a character also had a chain around the waist (Ferdinand), and that clouds the clarity of what character we are looking at. The other courtiers wear ruffs around their necks; the King of Naples wears a crown. Characters are always changing head-gear or other signifiers for a character. And often an actor will put the Prospero cape on another actor who is playing him. Another actor will put the chain around the waist of the actor playing Caliban. This communal activity adds  cohesion to the production.

At times four actors stand upstage wearing the blue head-gear for Ariel and give the lines at the same time.  It works if all four actors are in unison, but it gets fuzzy if they are not and that happens more often than not.

Shakespeare of course is open to all sorts of interpretations and ways of performing his plays. That’s one of the many reasons they have been done regularly for more than 400 years. The language is particular (and subject to change) and the poetry-meter of it is specific. Some actors have a facility with the language/meter others less so. All the actors in this production of The Tempest have the opportunity to try and flex their acting muscles on this challenging playwright.

I’m glad of the chance to see Allyson McMackon’s latest production and ponder all sorts of questions about language, poetry, meter, interpretation and a whole lot of other stuff that will pop up when I least expect it.

Theatre Rusticle presents:

Opened: Jan. 19, 2024

I saw it: Jan. 24, 2024.

Closes: Jan. 28.

Running time: 2 hours. 45 minutes (1 intermission)

NOTE: 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.