Review: MAGGIE

by Lynn on April 27, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton, Ont. playing until May 6, 2023.

Music by Johnny Reid, Matt Murray and Bob Foster

Book and lyrics by Johnny Reid and Matt Murray

Directed by Mary Francis Moore

Choreography/movement by Yasmine Lee

Music supervisor, Bob Foster

Set by Ken MacDonald

Costumes by Samantha McCue

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Sound by Josh Liebert

Cast: Michelle Bardach

Dharma Bizier

Nicole-Dawn Brook

Liam Crober-Best

Jay Davis

Alyssa LeClair

Jeremy Legat

Lawrence Libor

William Lincoln

Sweeney MacArthur

Clea McCaffrey

Andrew McAllister

Jamie McRoberts

Kaitlyn Post

Aaron Reid Ryder

Julius Sermonia

Adam Stevenson


Peter Bleakney

Chris Corrigan

Ethan Deppe

Trevor William Grant

Evan Hammell

Andrew Murray

Spencer Kagain Murray

Rachel O’Brien

A lively, buoyant celebration of family, community and resilience. A beguiling score, but the book needs attention to flesh out the story and fill in the holes in the plot.

The Story. It’s 1954 in Lanark, Scotland, a mining town. Everybody knows everybody. The women are hardworking mainly tending their families. The men seem to be hard drinking after a day working in the mines.

Maggie is a young widow raising three young sons herself. The story chronicles her journey as well as those of her sons. Each character has their issues, some more serious than others.

The Production. Designer Ken MacDonald has created a set of two large apartment buildings, each with many windows. Presumably, this is where the citizens of this community live. There is a clothes line with towels on it, hooked to one of the buildings and is attached to a pole down from it. To show the passage of time from scene-to-scene lighting designer Kimberly Purtell illuminates various windows in both buildings to show people are there. The illuminated windows are not always the same from scene to scene.

In quick succession we are introduced to a pregnant Maggie (Dharma Bizier) and her loving husband Big Jimmy (Jay Davis), a musician with a guitar. (Do we know they also have two other sons?) He sings her a song “I Love a Lassie” and never appears again. I’m not sure if it’s that day or soon after, but it’s the end of the shift at the coal mine for the week. Women, many with baby carriages, wait for their men to appear and give them their pay packets. The men go off to the pub. The women go home. Maggie is the last in line waiting for Big Jimmy. A man rushes up to say that there has been an accident and Big Jimmy didn’t make it. Maggie goes into instant labour and passes out.

Fast forward about 14 years. Maggie has eked out a living doing mending, cleaning etc. Her boys are: Wee Jimmy (Aidan Burke), a young scholar, Tommy (William Lincoln), has hopes of being a soccer star and Shug (Lawrence Libor) who inherited his father’s guitar and hopes to go to California and be a singing star. Tommy and Wee Jimmy keep their heads down and devote their time to their passions. Shug gets involved with a political group of rowdies who loath Catholics and try and make trouble any chance they get. Maggie frets about Shug. There is trouble and dreams are shattered.

I loved how Costume Designer, Samantha McCue suggests that Wee Jimmy’s clothes are hand-me-downs: the pants are too short for him (falling just above his ankles), and there are patches on the legs. With a change in wigs, facial hair and clothes, we get a sense of time passing as the boys mature.

The direction by Mary Francis Moore moves the action of the large cast seamlessly. She does not give in to sentimentality when one of the sons leaves home, tempting though it might be. I thought that was impressive.  

Yasmine Lee’s choreography is simple and evocative for this group of hard-working people who we can believe are not dancers, but are connected to suggest there is a close relationship with each other.

The cast is very strong with first rate singers. Leading the group is Dharma Bizier as Maggie. We get a clear idea of the strength of character Maggie has, from Dharma Bizier’s commanding performance. She is a belter who conveys the heart and soul of her songs; the anguish when her sons are troubled; the joy when they succeed. “Unbreakable” sung a bit into Act I establishes the moral fiber of Maggie. It’s a powerhouse rendering.

For much of Maggie the focus seemed to be on Maggie and her three friends Betty (Nicola-Dawn Brook), Sadie (Jamie McRoberts) and Jean (Michelle Bardach), rather than just Maggie,  as they sang songs of resilience, frustration and tenacity: (“Friday Night in Lanark,” “Everyone’s Gone,” or “Queen for a Day”). Each one, but especially “Everyone’s Gone,” is like an angry anthem. The music by Johnny Reid, Matt Murray and Bob Foster is compelling and catchy. One wants to hear the music again. The lyrics by Johnny Reid and Matt Murray further the story and flesh out character, providing an urgency to the drama.

But the book, also by Johnny Reid and Matt Murray, needs serious attention. The relationship between Big Jimmy and Maggie should be fleshed out so we can learn who Big Jimmy is and how solid his and Maggie’s relationship is before he earns his song that begins the show (“I Love A Lassie”). We need to get more than a glimpse of Big Jimmy in Maggie’s life to have a stake in her pain and suffering at his sudden loss. Another scene that fleshes out their relationship will put his death in perspective.

Further attention is needed to hone in on whose story this is. Each friend has a story. One woman is ‘secretly’ beaten by her bully husband until he’s challenged by the group of feisty women. Another wonders if she will ever marry, etc. Are the friends a chorus or individual stories that splinter the narrative? A decision should be made.

There is a deadly skirmish in which both Tommy and Shug are involved with thugs who are itching for a fight. It’s unclear who is responsible for the death although one goes to prison. Does that mean one brother took the fall for the other? That should be clarified.

Shug, a consistently brooding Lawrence Libor with a powerful voice, has been tightly involved with a group of bullies who pick fights with the Catholics. And yet at the end of the story he leaves for America. Why? How did he make this decision and why? What does he plan on doing there if he has sold his father’s guitar (and how much was that worth if it paid for Shug’s passage?) So many questions that need to be clarified. Some characters such as ‘randy’ Geordie Parven (Sweeney MacArthur), who aggressively comes on to Maggie and Charles (Jeremy Legat), Maggie’s gay brother, seem like caricatures. They need developing. At times the story feels like it’s just a sketch rather than a fully developed journey of these characters.

Comment. Maggie is based on Johnny Reid’s grandmother. It’s a story of a woman who would not back down, was resourceful and resilient. The music and songs are rousing and seductive. The show needs a strong book to match. The present effort needs to be ruthlessly revised and rewritten.

Theatre Aquarius Presents:

Runs until May 6, 2023.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (1 intermission)


Review: NIIZH

by Lynn on April 24, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the AKI STUDIO of the Daniels Spectrum, Toronto, Ont. Playing until April 30, 2023.

Written by Joelle Peters

Directed by desirée leverenz

Set by Nancy Perrin

Lighting and projections by Hailey Verbonac

Sound by Jenna Geen

Costumes by Nishina Loft

Videography by Bawaadan Collective

Cast: Theresa Cutknife

Kole Durnford

Jason McDonald

Aren Okemaysim

PJ Prudat

A gentle and thoughtful play about cherishing home but wanting to leave it, wanting to come back and appreciate it and embracing one’s family.

The Story. It’s about Lenna Little, a young Indigenous woman preparing to leave her father and brother Jay who live on the reserve and go to university in the city. While she has a prickly relationship with her father, she loves her family and the life on the reserve. She respects the land and its beauty and the bounty of the place. But she is like a bird, or Niizh in Cree and longs to explore the wider world.

At the same time Sam Thomas is a young Indigenous man who has been living with his mother in the city but he longs to find out about his Indigenous roots. So he leaves home to go on an extended visit to his aunt KC Thomas who lives on the same reserve and is a neighbour of Lenna and her family. Lenna and Sam form a special bond when they share their hopes and dreams about the lives they want to live.  

The Production.   Nancy Perrin’s set is of the inside of the Little kitchen and front yard. Close by next door is KC Thomas’ house. At the beginning of the play Lenna (Theresa Cutknife) stands on a section of the set stage right of the house and yard. She is in a secret place that belonged to her late grandfather. We get a sense it’s not only secret, it’s sacred because of its expanse, seclusion, lushness and huge sky above. She promised him that she would take care of his beloved land and she has. She has come here to offer him a prayer and to tell his spirit that she is going to university. Theresa Cutknife’s tone in Lenna’s prayer to the spirit of her grandfather is almost reverential. It’s quite moving. Respect for elders and certainly Lenna’s dearly departed elder is so clear in Joelle Peters’ play and desirée leverenz’s direction.

As played by Theresa Cutknife, Lenna is obviously torn about having to leave her responsibility of taking care of her grandfather’s land, but also being true to herself and going off and exploring new worlds, beginning with university. Lenna also has a rocky relationship with her brusque but jokey father Billy Little (Jason McDonald). He runs a store and expects Lenna to help out whenever he requests it, regardless of what plans she also has on in preparation for leaving. Lenna is exasperated with the sudden commands to help and tries to check her attitude. In any case Billy Little, as played with quiet command by Jason McDonald, does not take ‘any lip’ from Lenna. He won’t put up with irritation and what he thinks is his right—that she will help out when he asks her to. So she makes him a sandwich on demand, cleans up after him, helps in the store and grudgingly does his bidding. One gets a sense of how women are considered and treated in that family by how Lenna is treated by her father Billy and her brother Jay (Aren Okemaysim), and references to her absent mother.

Jay comes and goes as he pleases without any demands put upon him. As Jay, Aren Okemaysim is a happy-go-lucky man who maneuvers his world with ease. It’s slowly revealed that there are issues between Jay and his father and they manifest themselves in a way that is different than Lenna and her father—again, there is a sense that a son is treated differently than a daughter.

As Lenna is preparing to leave the reserve for the city and university, Sam Thomas (Kole Durnford) is coming back from the city to the reserve for an extended stay with his aunt, KC Thomas (PJ Prudat). Kole Durnford brings out Sam’s sweetness and camaraderie with Lenna. They are soulmates in a way and share perspectives and attitudes about the world. Sam also finds a warm welcome from his aunt KC. As played by PJ Prudat, she is non-judgmental, accommodating and open-hearted.

The production is directed with imagination and thought by desirée leverenz. In many scenes with Lenna there is an animation of a bird about to take off into the world projected onto the back wall of the set. The bird is symbolic of Lenna’s impending departure from the reserve. I loved that symbolism.

Joelle Peters does have a facility with story-telling and language. I do think that the writing can be tightened a bit with judicious editing.  At times some scenes towards the end are laggy because they go on past the point of useful information. A bit of editing would do to tighten and strengthen the play.

Comment. Niizh is a play and story we can all identify with—we want to go off into the world to explore, but we also want to embrace home and learn more about it. While Joelle Peters has centered the play in Indigenous life and culture, the story is applicable to other cultures, which speaks to the universality of the story.

Native Earth Performing Arts presents:

Plays until April 30, 2023.

Running Time: 100 minutes (with no intermission)


Frozen River (nȋkwatin sȋpiy)

Live and in person, presented by Young People’s Theatre (a Manitoba Theatre for Young People production), Toronto, Ont. Playing until April 28, 2023.

Co-written by Michaela Washburn, Joelle Peters and Carrie Costello

Directed by Katie German

Set and props by Andrew Moro

Costumes by Jay Havens

Lighting by Dean Cowleson

Composer and sound designer, MJ Dandeneau

Cast: Julia Davis

Keely McPeek

Emily Meadows

A beautiful play and production of communication, friendship and respect. Change and progress happen when communication, friendship and respect, are in play.

From the printed information to begin: “Grandmother Moon tells the story of two eleven-year-olds, born under the same blood moon, but in different parts of the world. Frozen River follows their stories as they meet in a forest, and that of their descendants who meet in present day Manitoba. A broken promise from the past can be righted when there is finally an openness to learn from those who have protected and honoured the waterways for centuries.”

Wâpam (Keely McPeek) is Indigenous, living on a reserve with her family. Eilidh (Emily Meadows) is Scottish and lives with her parents. They are both 11-years-old and were both born ‘under the same blood moon’, which means they were both born during a total lunar eclipse. The mystical Grandmother Moon (Julia Davis) watches over both of them, often guiding them.

Wâpam is wise, watchful and quiet. Eilidh is opinionated, confident and a touch bossy. She promises to visit Wâpam on her reserve but never does. A broken promise. There is a falling out between the two friends. Eilidh is critical of Wâpam but Wâpam says that Eilidh never listens to what Wâpam says, so how can there be any kind of true conversation. Eilidh never wants to learn what Wâpam has to say about her life and culture.

Fast forward seven generations, (symbolic in Indigenous culture). Wâpam amd Eilidh are in the same school. It’s early in the morning. Wâpam is there early because that’s when the bus comes to the reserve to take her to school. Eilidh is there too. They are in a room that has a turtle in a glass ‘aquarium.’ “Turtle” in Cree is Okânawâpacikêw. Eilidh says it’s too difficult to pronounce so she just calls it “turtle.” But Eilidh is curious about Wâpam and her reserve and her way of life. She asks questions. Wâpam replies. A rapport develops between the two. A trust develops as well. Wâpam invites Eilidh to her house on the reserve and Eilidh asked her mom if that is possible and yes, permission is given. And the visit happens. The broken promise of seven generations before is now corrected seven generations later. Eilidh put forth an effort and learned to pronounce Okânawâpacikêw for “turtle” as well. Progress, consideration, trust and respect.

Frozen River proves that sometimes a triple collaboration on writing to produce a smart, thoughtful, poetic script is possible. Michaela Washburn, Joelle Peters and Carrie Costello have collaborated on this dandy play to create language that is vivid and evocative.

As Wâpam, Keely McPeek is quietly proud and stands her ground when making her points. She is not cowed by anyone no matter the time period.  She doesn’t rail. She calmly states her case and proves her points. As Eilidh, Emily Meadows has the confidence of one who feels they are right all the time. Eilidh has the ability to change her point of view as she did after the seven generations.  As Grandmother Moon, Julia Davis is ethereal, mystical and pragmatic.

All three actors give lovely performances, engaging, buoyant and personable under Katie German’s fluid, thoughtful direction. I can appreciate that the actors want the audience to be quiet and attentive and so they talk ‘normally’. They are not microphoned. That’s a problem. The audience does settle but hearing what the characters are actually saying to each other, especially the several Cree words, is difficult because the actors are talking too quietly.  Frankly the actors need body-microphones to help the voice carry. Interestingly when the three actors conducted a talk-back they used a hand-held microphone so they could be heard.

The dialogue and especially the Cree is important to hear in this thoughtful play. Please microphone the actors so that everybody is helped to do their very best—the actors conveying the message and the audience being able to hear it.

The entire production is created with care and meticulous attention to detail. Andrew Moro’s set of two disks at right angles to each other is evocative of Indigenous culture and makes the young audience look carefully and deeply. Shadow puppets are reflected in one of the disks. The costumes conjure two time periods seven generations apart. Jay Havens’ costumes beautifully reflect the time seven generations before and in the future.

Beautiful work.  

Young People’s Theatre, a Manitoba Theatre for Young People present:

Plays until April 28, 2023.

Running time: 1 hour.


Live and in person, produced by Soulpepper, at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, Ont. Playing until May 7, 2023.

By Anton Chekhov

Adapted in a new version by Simon Stephens

Directed by Daniel Brooks

Set by Shannon Lea Doyle

Costumes by Snezana Pesic

Lighting by Jason Hand

Sound and composer, Thomas Ryder Payne

Raoul Bhaneja

Oliver Dennis

Ellie Ellwand

Farhang Ghajar

Hailey Gillis

Randy Hughson

Diego Matamoros

Michelle Monteith

Dan Mousseau

Paulo Santalucia

Robyn Stevan

Chekhov’s ache of a play about unrequited love and acceptance is given a cold production by Daniel Brooks that didn’t realize that ache.

The Story. We are on Peter Sorin’s estate. His actress sister Irina has come for a visit with her lover, Boris, a celebrated writer. Irina’s grown son, Konstantin has written a play that will be performed that night in front of the lake and the rising moon. It will star his girlfriend, Nina. Konstantin is nervous because of course his play is being performed in front of his judgmental mother and her celebrated lover. It’s a new kind of play, unlike his mother’s stodgy populist fare. Other guests will attend. The Seagull is a play of unrequited love—many there pine for someone who does not return the affection—obsessions, writing, art and the comedic goings on of those who are melancholy and full of longing. It’s about life and its quirks as only Chekhov can write them, translated and transported to the 21st century by Simon Stephens.

The Production.  This production has been a long time coming. It was all ready to begin performances in 2020 when COVID shut it down. I am always glad to see work of talented, tenacious people. I just wish this production moved me more than it did.

Shannon Lea Doyle’s set is very spare. There are perhaps two chairs, a small rudimentary stage with a red curtain upstage, representing the small stage on which Konstantin’s play will be performed. Behind that, the width of the stage, is a sheet of opaque plastic. Jacob (a very easy-going, laid-back Dan Mousseau), a servant on the estate, sticks a sign on the sheet. It says “Lake”. Simple.

The members of the estate, the friends of the family and the hangers on arrive for the performance. Each has his/her foibles, idiosyncrasies, sadness and yearning. Masha (Ellie Ellwand) is not ‘in mourning for (her) life’ in Simon Stephens’ version of Chekhov’s play, but she’s pretty unhappy on two fronts. She’s in love with Konstantin (Paolo Santalucia) but he’s not in love with her. She is being pursued by Simeon (Farhang Ghajar) a meek man, a teacher, who tries to playdown her sadness compared with his own challenges of supporting his family etc. This adds more depression and weariness for Masha. Ellie Ellwand nicely establishes Masha’s weariness at these disappointments—she is listless and exasperated.

I found Paolo Santalucia’s performance as Konstantin strangely odd—this is a fine actor, but here he seemed, “strangely odd.” He is calm and composed for much of the first scene but when he must be agitated, it’s as if that kicks in. Every thing about Konstantin’s first scene should agitate him. He’s nervous about his play; he’s nervous about his mother and her lover being there and what she might think—he wants to please her but that might be a challenge. He’s nervous that his girlfriend, Nina, is the lead in his play and frets for her. And he knows his mother will be a challenge as a result. When he is talking to his kind uncle Sorin, who is trying to give Konstantin support, Konstantin sits quietly. I found that strange. This is a man who gives in to his emotions. He is frustrated in his life, position, aspirations and place in the world. Sitting quietly just seems wrong for that first scene, certainly since the dialogue suggest otherwise.

We are told by Konstantin that his actress-mother Irina (Michelle Monteith) resents him because it reminds her how old she is with a grown son. The problem is that Michelle Monteith actually looks (is?) too young for the part. I have no problem believing she is an actress, because she is an actress! But she does not look old enough to have a son as played by Paolo Santalucia. She does express Irina’s irritation with Konstantin and his play, when she talks during the performance about one of the smoke effects, and she conveys Irina’s petulance and narcissism nicely. Here is a woman used to being the center of attention and does not want to share that limelight.

She has to share the spotlight with Nina, giddy and joyful as played by Hailey Gillis.

Raoul Bhaneja plays Boris the writer, with an air of distraction rather than watchfulness. He does make notes of observations but that’s a stage direction—it’s the sense of distraction rather than the careful watchfulness that suggested a kind of distance from the whole play. It proved a disconnect with his compelling speech about the obsessive need to write. Again, Bhaneja is a fine actor, as are they all, but there is a coolness to this performance that is not engaging.

Too often performances played “at” or “around” the emotion: the bumbling but kindly uncle; the constantly irritated estate manager, the wise doctor-friend of the family having a fling with an unhappily married woman, who seems almost too cheerful.

Director Daniel Brooks has flair with images, but the production lacked the heart-ache and ground-down despair that is rooted in the play.


Soulpepper Theatre Company presents:

Plays until May 7, 2023

Running Time: 3 hours (1 intermission)


Live and in person at the Tarragon Theatre, Mainspace, in association with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Plays until April 23, 2023.

Written by Makram Ayache

Directed by Peter Hinton-Davis

Set and costumes by Anahita Dehbonehie

Lighting by Whittyn Jason

Sound by Chris Pereira

Cast: Makram Ayache

Noor Hamdl

Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski

Eric Wigston

Bahareh Yaraghi

A dense, complex story of queer shame and the tyranny of Christianity to ‘cure’ homosexuality in a 15-year-old Muslim boy. The writing is poetic and the production is artistic, but more attention is called for in fleshing out the writing of missing parts of the actual story.

The Story. Playwright Makram Ayache has written an autobiographical play that echoes his own life, to a point.

Izzy is a 15-year-old Muslim boy living in a small prairie town, trying to fit in. He finds a kindred spirit in Will a fellow high school student and member of the same Christian Youth group. Izzy is welcomed by Pastor Isaac and encouraged to become a Youth Leader because of his embracing of the weekly meetings. The fact that Pastor Isaac has provided X-boxes, movie nights and pool tables certain would be a lure for young people to join the Youth Group. Izzy is conflicted because of his deep feelings for Will. He might be envious that Will’s mother accepts his homosexuality. Izzy feels he must hide his gayness from everybody. When Izzy gives in to his feelings for Will Pastor Isaac stumbles on seeing both teens having sex. Izzy is horrified as is Pastor Isaac. What follows is Pastor Isaac preaching to Izzy in the hopes of ‘curing’ him of his homosexuality. Pastor Isaac feels he is given a second chance at this kind of conversion with Izzy. Pastor Isaac shunned his own son Jake when Jake revealed that he was gay. Since then Jake has been living on the streets of Vancouver immersed in the drug culture of the city.

There is a parallel story as well. Aadam and Hawa (Adam and Eve) live in the Garden of Eden. The Tree of Knowledge is the center of that world. As long as they don’t eat the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge they believe they are safe from the outside world. They live in ‘fear’ of the ‘white-skinned’ people of the north. But Aadam is curious and ventures out to the desert and finds a white-skinned man, unconscious. Aadam saves him and brings him to the garden but doesn’t tell Hawa. The man’s name is Steve. Aadam is attracted. Steve is as well.  Is Steve “the Snake” of the Bible, offering temptation to Aadam in a different way than have a taste of this apple?

The Production and Comment. The wondrous Anahita Dehbonehie has designed a walled set that has a bench configured all around the three walls of the set. The cast often sit there watching until it’s time to do their scene. Other times characters walk on the benches in slow motion (provocative bit of business that was also used to great effect in Medea in London in the West End in February). There is a deer’s head hung up on the stage left wall. The floor is covered in a maroon ‘sand.’ A ladder leads up from the sand to an illuminated opening in the ceiling. Is this space underground and the ladder leads one up to freedom? No. As is indicated by one of the characters, the ladder is the sacred Tree of Knowledge leading to enlightenment, if only one could partake of its forbidden fruit. There is a trough of water at the lip of the stage running the whole width of it. All these elements factor symbolically in director Peter Hinton-Davis’ vivid, powerful direction.

Anahita Dehbonehie also designed the costumes. They are contemporary and casual for the modern scenes and evocative of biblical times for Aadam (Noor Hamdi) who is dressed in black with a closefitting head cap, and Hawa (Bahareh Yaraghi) who is dressed in these scenes in a long dress and a white head covering that flows down her back.

Whittyn Jason’s evocative lighting is beautiful, eerie, and conjures a world that is mysterious and artful. The head of the deer on the wall is illuminated to emphasize its symbolism (there is an on-line study guide that explains the symbolism of various animals in various religions). Often characters in still profile are also illuminated as if in a painting.  

Is there anything more at odds than the emotions and conflicted feelings of a young man trying to find his place in the world? Then add that the young man is 15 years old, Muslim and gay living in a small town. Such is the world of Izzy (Makram Ayache), bursting with contradictions and conflict, certainly because he is so attracted to his friend Will (Eric Wigston). Izzy seeks a kind of acceptance from Pastor Isaac (Ryan Hollyman) who welcomes him into his bible-study-youth-group and grooms him to become a youth leader in the church.

As Izzy, Makram Ayache brings a quiet urgency to the role. He is embracing of Pastor Isaacs’ equally quiet insistence that the Christian Church is the best way for Izzy’s salvation. Ryan Hollyman as Pastor Isaac is so layered and detailed in his portrayal. Here is a man as conflicted as Izzy. He has been in torment because he shunned his own son, Jake (Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski) because he was gay, and wishes Jake would come home. Pastor Isaac is determined to convert Izzy to being a member of the Christian Church. And with Pastor Isaac’s almost polite relationship with his wife Rebecca (Bahareh Yaraghi) one senses that perhaps Pastor Isaac is himself, gay. Ryan Hollyman as Pastor Isaac gives such an impassioned performance, but one that is delicate, tempered and carefully modulated, that you are attracted to this committed, but perhaps dangerous character.

The young male characters of the play provide sensuality and the heat of sexual desire. Noor Hamdi plays Aadam as a reticent man with Hawa, but one charged with erotic curiosity about Steve (Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski). Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski plays Steve with supreme confidence about his attraction to anyone he meets. And Steve never met an opportunity he could resist in taking his shirt off, thus showing why he has confidence. Shepherd-Gawinski also plays Jake, Pastor Isaacs’ lost, addicted son who wants to come home and for his father to accept him. Eric Wigston is Will, Izzy’s friend through high school and beyond. Will is comfortable with his homosexuality because he has been embraced without conditions by his mother. Eric Wigston imbues Will with confidence and a sense of being settled that Izzy can only envy.

Bahareh Yaraghi plays the only women: Hawa, the first woman, fierce and prescient and Rebecca, Pastor Isaac’s patient, loving, confused wife. Bahareh Yaraghi plays these women with truth, passion and a gripping clarity.

Makram Ayache’s writing is vivid, poetic, erotic, sensual, dense, complex with intellectual thought and describes a difficult time in Makram Ayache’s life, to a point. Director Peter Hinton-Davis’ spins his magic and creates a production that is so artful and full of symbolism one might be dazzled into ignoring the fact that the play needs serious attention to balance, to fill in the holes of the story, clarify the intention and strengthen the play.  

Izzy is Muslim (a follower of Islam), but Pastor Isaacs seems to treat that as an irrelevance, an afterthought, as if he doesn’t have a clue about another major religion. What does being a Muslim mean to Izzy and his family? We are told precious little. We are told precious little about his family at all. Why is Izzy so anxious to embrace Christianity and the teachings of the bible and ignore his own faith? What’s missing in his life besides clarity about his sexuality? One is left wondering because Makram Ayache hasn’t told us. What is missing from the hooves belonged to the deer is any acknowledgement that homosexuality is not accepted by many religions, not just Christianity. There is a reference late in the play about how it’s considered by Izzy’s family, and only fleetingly.

Makram Ayache has written an extraordinary Playwright’s Note that is in the one page handout in place of a proper printed program. In the Note he writes that his Christian Youth Pastor: “…promised me that Christ could heal me of homosexuality. He also told me that Allah, the God of my family, was another demon taking me away from the true path. I only needed to give my life to Christ.”

He also likens Christian Evangelicalism (as a) “deep and necessary part of the greater white supremacy which contours Canadian imperialism.”

I call Makram Ayache’s Playwright’s Note “extraordinary” because these references are not in his play. And calling Christian Evangelicalism a ‘deep and necessary part of the greater white supremacy which contours Canadian imperialism” is not just a reach but a grasp (gasp?) as something not supported in his play. Perhaps focused re-writes are in order to strengthen his arguments to warrant such a Playwright’s Note?

I have a lot of admiration for much of the play and the production—Makram Ayache is a new, vivid voice–but there are my concerns as well. Still, I’m interested in seeing his next work.  

Tarragon Theatre, in association with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre presents:

Plays until April 23, 2023.

Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes approx. (1 intermission)

Available digitally from April 18.


Live and in person at Koerner Hall, produced by Opera Atelier. Plays until April 9 (after a short run of April 6, 8 and 9)

By George Frederick Handel

Libretto by Carlo Sigismondo Capece

Conducted by David Fallis

Directed by Marshall Pynkoski

Choreography by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg

Set by Gerard Gauci

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Cast: Colin Ainsworth

Carla Huhtanen

Meghan Lindsay

Allyson McHardy

Douglas Williams

Plus the artists of Atelier Ballet

And the musicians of Tafelmusik

This being a week in which we have Passover and Easter, I think a perfect event to review is The Resurrectionby George Frederick Handel, in a production created by Opera Atelier.

Note: As with any opera I am not ‘reviewing’ the singing or dancing of The Resurrection because they have a different vocabulary that I would not presume to comment on with any justice.  I will be commenting on the theatricality of the piece.

Opera Atelier planned to produce The Resurrection as a staged production in 2020, but COVID-19 intervened and cancelled those plans. However, the co-artistic directors of Opera Atelier, Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg are fearless and determined. While they were forced to move their production out of the theatre, they decided to present it in the ballroom of St. Lawrence Hall and film it following safety protocols.  

The debut of The ResurrectionHandel’s liturgical opera in Rome in 1708 and Opera Atelier’s debut of the film in 2021 are echoes of each other. In 1708 in Rome, due to papal restrictions during Lent, Handel was forced to move his production to Palazzo Ruspoli in the main hall (the Marchese Ruspoli was Handel’s patron).

But here we are now in April 2023 and by sheer will and tenacity, Opera Atelier is in Koerner Hall live and in person again, presenting this lush opera-ballet as it was meant to be producer.

The Story. It takes place between Good Friday when Christ was crucified and Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of Christ.  It is the story of good vs evil, faith vs despair.  Lucifer (Douglas Williams) rages that he fell from heaven to hell and takes credit for Christ’s death. He is challenged by an Angel (Carla Huhtanen) who is as determined as Lucifer to thwart his intention to spread havoc on earth.

In the meantime, Mary Magdalene (Meghan Lindsay) and Cleophas (Allyson McHardy), who both loved Christ, lament and mourn his death, until Saint John the Evangelist (Colin Ainsworth) announces that Christ will rise again in three days.

The Production. As you would expect of Opera Atelier, the production is exquisite. The filmed version was wonderful but to see the detail of the live version is to be impressed all over again with the artistry of co-artistic directors Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg.

The production of The Resurrection shimmers with elegance, detail, artistry and beauty.  

Director Marshall Pynkoski, choreographer, Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg and their design team have created the scope of the world of Handel’s opera with the simplest of furnishings that suggest elegance. Gerard Gauci has designed a stair formation with an imposing gold bird on the front to provide a place of power for both the Angel and Lucifer.

A sumptuous gold curtain of folds covers the tomb where Christ lay—Saint John touches it delicately in reverence. In person you can see the care and detail of the design. Each fold is exactly like the one beside it, perfectly balanced and it exemplifies the exacting sense of artistry of designer Gerard Gauci.  Kimberly Purtell uses a dappled lighting effect that illuminates the space both subtly and obviously.

In the filmed version there was proper distancing and each dancer wore facemasks that matched their white billowing gowns for the women and white tights and flowing shirts for the men. In the live version, no face masks were required. We could see the reverential gazes of the dancers along with their graceful athleticism.  Later to suggest the joy and celebration of Christ’s resurrection the dancers wave flags of huge swaths of powder blue billowing material. They wave them back and forth, creating a beautiful formation of the huge swaths of material. But then they twirl the swaths of material so that the material produces a funnel effect that is equally as beautiful. Kudos to choreographer Jeanette Lajeunesse Zingg for this creative variation of the show of joy and celebration.

Even if a viewer is not familiar with the ballet of the period, choreographer, Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg makes you notice the stance, arm placement and formality of the dancing. I was struck by a hand formation of Lucifer played with power by Douglas Williams. At times he held out his hands, gracefully, with his index finger reaching out as one sees in “The Creation of Adam” in which Adam is reaching his finger out to touch God’s finger. I thought that an interesting image but the suggestion here is that Lucifer wants to destroy mankind because of being thrown out of heaven. It’s details like this that make this production such a joy.

While I won’t comment on the singing and dancing the acting is very effective in conveying the emotion and passion of the piece. I think that’s a beautiful thing here because you have singers who can act. Carla Huhtanen is the regal but forceful Angel who challenges Lucifer played by Douglas Williams. Douglas Williams is a proud, angry Lucifer.  He suggests danger and power as he struts around in his velvet tights and thigh-high boots. Interestingly, he is deliberately ungainly as he clomps around the stage—I think that a wonderful touch to show Lucifer is no match for the quiet elegance of the Angel.  Both Meghan Lindsay as Mary Magdalene, and Allyson McHardy as Cleophas, play women who love Jesus and are full of sorrow at his passing, and elated when Saint John tells them of the impending resurrection.

As Saint John, Colin Ainsworth is moving and buoyant as Christ’s devoted follower.

Again, I was mightily impressed with the drive, tenacity and determination of Marshal Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg to bring art and beauty to their growing audiences.

And that audience is eclectic. I saw people in stylish clothes and in jeans or sweatpants in the audience. There is a cross-section of ages, ethnicities, social strata all walks of life all made to feel welcome and all joined by their love of opera, dance and the artistry of Opera Atelier to bring them such quality as exemplified in The Resurrection.

There is a printed programme that is substantial, full of information on the cast, creatives, history of the piece and a synopsis. And on the dot of the announced starting time the lights dimmed to begin the proceedings. My subtext here to other theatre companies is obvious.

Opera Atelier Presents:

Played: April 6, 8 and closes April 9.

Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes.


From: Follies Of God

“Creatives are getting more and more thin-skinned, I’m afraid. Teaching is a danger zone, littered with bruised egos and grievances. Directing requires a helmet and a protective cup and two lawyers. It’s even getting tough to level with a friend, and this confuses me terribly, because I want to be told when I’m wrong, when I’m bad, when I’m headed toward a ledge where I and others are likely to be hurt. This is now seen as cruelty or bullying.

“We’re in for tough times if we can’t push everyone to be their best, and this often requires a brief visit to the duck press that is criticism. I’ve never abandoned anyone who told me my work was bad, but I’ve lost a few friends and I’ve irritated a few creatives when I’ve made suggestions on how we can make things better.

“I always wanted to get better. I still do. But I think many more people now don’t want to get better as much as they want to get noticed.”–Mike Nichols/Interview with James Grissom/2011/


Live and in person at the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont. Produced by Punctuate! Theatre in association with The Theatre Centre. Plays until April 8, 2023.

Written and performed by Matthew MacKenzie and Mariya Khomutova

Directed by Lianna Makuch

Designed by Daniela Masellis

Projections by Amelia Scott

Composition by Daraba

Sound by Aaron Macri

Choreography by Krista Lin

I originally heard First Métis Man of Odesa as a radio play about a year ago. It’s been updated and expanded but it’s still timely, unfortunately.

The Story. It’s about Matthew MacKenzie, a Canadian playwright/actor from Edmonton, who is Métis, and how he met Mariya Khomutova, an actress living in Kyiv, Ukraine, fell in love with her and against tremendous odds, married her. For much of the story it played out against the backdrop of COVID and the war in Ukraine.

Matthew MacKenzie and his theatre company, Punctuate! were invited to Kyiv, Ukraine in Oct. 2018 to participate in workshops and do theatre research. One of the Ukrainian actors involved in the workshops was Mariya Khomutova or Masha as he called her. She’s from Odesa.  He was very intrigued by her and she by him. He said very little during the workshops and listened. She liked that a lot and his pronounced forehead.  She would strike up a conversation after their theatre sessions and they discovered they were kindred spirits.

But after the few weeks of these workshops, he had to return to Canada.  Both thought that was the end of that, but she e-mailed him (I sense she takes the initiative to get things going) and what followed was a year long e-mail correspondence where affection was sparked and developed. Matthew MacKenzie then flew to Ukraine to see Masha and the romance blossomed. The war with Russia had not begun yet but there was the danger that that might happen.

Long distance relationships are difficult under the best of times, but this one seems fraught.  How did they cope? The power of love here was fierce.  Over time Masha visited Matthew in Toronto where he lived. She was charmed by Toronto. He was shocked at that. This show by the way is very funny.

He flew to Ukraine to meet her parents—they divorced when Masha was 12—they too fell in love with Matthew. He had to return to Canada so the long-distance relationship continued. In quick succession she discovered she was pregnant. The war between Ukraine and Russia broke out and there was COVID to contend with. All to say, that Matthew was desperate to get to Ukraine to be with Masha and marry her.

The details of this, the intricacies of the timing and the gut-twisting delays and interruptions, leave one reeling with how much tenacity it took to see this through. Eventually Matthew was able to bring Masha to Canada to begin their life together. But we get a real sense of how this separation of Masha from her family, friends and country affected her so much, since war was raging there.

Matthew was supportive, but of course he can only do so much when what Masha wants is her mother there.

The Production. Daniela Masellis has designed a beautiful set. It looks like an ornate proscenium theatre with red curtains along the top and sides in billows—as in the old world. Two appropriately ornate chairs are the only set pieces. The production is terrific for the most part.

 The script by Matthew MacKenzie and Mariya Khomutova, his wife, is an expansion of one they did a year ago as a radio play during COVID, to show a lot of the harrowing details of their journey.

Husband and wife just naturally play off each other. Matthew is very present and listens intently. He’s more laid back. Matthew MacKenzie is a very funny playwright and actor. He’s self-deprecating and understated. His reactions and facial expressions are just as funny as his dialogue.

Mariya also listens intently and is more direct. She is funny as well but in a different way. She states her case and stands her ground. They riff off each other and she challenges him and that’s refreshing. He laments that too often Russian classics and Shakespeare were performed. One person in the audience applauded that statement. But Masha offered a wonderful rebuttal. She loved Russian classics. She loved classics of any kind. She grew up on them and worked in that kind of theatre. They formed the basis of her knowledge of theatre. I thought her answer was pretty sound and forceful to those who have a problem doing the plays of “dead white playwrights” as if this is a real hardship and not a foundation of other work.

Together Matthew MacKenzie and Mariya Khomutova have real charm. What is clear from their writing is the tremendous respect they have for each other and their abilities. They listen, consider, and try to understand the other’s point of view if it’s different.

What I thought was particularly profound about this work is that Masha puts a human face to the worry, fear and anxiety of what is going on in Ukraine, certainly in cities that are bombed. She tells a story of a friend who travelled a huge distance to Mariupol—a bombed out city—to check on her mother whom she hadn’t heard from. The determination of these people is astonishing. And of course Masha was worried for her parents in this war torn country. The worry of one partner of course has an effect on the other. How could Matthew understand what Masha was going through with her family and friends thousands of miles away? But that is the journey of the play. And there is the mundane concern of a baby who just would not go to sleep. They convey that to us as well.

It’s directed by Lianna Makuch in her directorial debut. She has a sense of humour, knows how to realize funny moments and moment of seriousness. If I have a quibble, it’s that she tends to move her actors too often. It’s not necessary to move as often as she moved them.  Stillness is effective as well. With more experience I’m sure Lianna Makuch, the director will pick this up.

All in all, I thought First Métis Man of Odesa put a human face on war, and shows the resilience of the human spirit when love is involved.

Produced by Punctuate! Theatre in association with The Theatre Centre.

Runs until April 8, 2023.

Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.


Now playing live and in person at the Grand Theatre, London, Ont. produced by Canadian Stage in co-production with Vita Brevis, National Arts Centre, Neptune Theatre and the Grand Theatre, where it plays until April 2, 2023.

Adaptors for the stage: Alisa Palmer and Hannah Moscovitch

Based on the novel by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Co-creator and writer, Hannah Moscovitch

Music supervision, orchestration and arrangements, Sean Mayes

Choreographer, Natasha Powell

Set by Camellia Koo

Costumes by Judith Bowden

Lighting by Leigh Ann Vardy

Sound by Brian Kenny

Cast: Tim Campbell

Janelle Cooper

Diane Flacks

Eva Foote

Deborah Hay

Samantha Hill

Drew Moore

Tony Ofori

Cara Rebecca

Maryem Tollar

Amaka Umeh

Dakota Jamal Wellman

Jenny L. Wright

Antoine Yared

Kim Chisholm

Naomi Ngebulana

Musicians: Anna Atkinson

Spencer Murray

Doublas Price

Maryem Tollar

A herculean effort in every way to bring it to the stage. Whether the stage is the best place for this epic is another matter.

Note: Ahhhhh procrastination. This production has played Toronto (where I saw both parts in one day), Halifax, Ottawa, and is now on in London, Ont. on its last leg of this multi-city run.  And for whatever reason I am only writing about it now—as a comment rather than a ‘review.’

Content AdvisoryThis production contains themes and scenes of incest, physical and sexual abuse and violence, partial nudity, graphic and sexual content, strong language, smoke and haze, and e-cigarettes. Content may be triggering for some.

Writer Ann-Marie MacDonald’s huge tome (566 pages) of “Fall On Your Knees” was years in the making to adapt if for the stage and then put that adaptation on the stage. Ann-Marie MacDonald has said that she always envisioned her book as also having a life on stage. While the book is huge, so is the adaptation. It necessitated it be presented in two separate parts: Part I Family Tree, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, early 1900s to 1960s. Part II, The Diary Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and New York City, New York. 1920s to 1967. Each part was three hours long with intermissions.   

I’m totally impressed with the determination and tenacity of those involved to get the huge stage-play up and running. Alisa Palmer and Hannah Moscovitch factor heavily. They are listed as adaptors for the stage. Hannah Moscovitch is listed as Co-creator and writer.  Alisa Palmer directed it and created a production company to co-produce it. I marvel that four theatres signed on to produce it in rolling productions: Neptune Theatre (Halifax), Canadian Stage (Toronto), National Arts Centre (Ottawa) and the Grand Theatre (London) where it will conclude on April 2, 2023.

The play covers several generations and decades of the Piper family. James Piper (Tim Campbell) is a piano tuner tuning the piano of the Mahmoud family. He meets Materia Mahmoud (Cara Rebecca). He is smitten and so is she. They want to marry but her family does not give consent. James is of Celtic descent and Materia is Lebanese. The fact that James is 19 and Materia is 12 does not raise alarm bells. They elope. Her father disowns her. She is soon pregnant and is desperate she have a son, to please her angry father, and also for her husband. The child is a girl they name Kathleen (Samantha Hill who is beguiling). Materia cannot accept or bond with her. But James can and does bond with the child. Kathleen is followed by three more daughters (and here lies one of the family’s many secrets): Mercedes (Jenny L. Wright—righteous and pure), Frances (Deborah Hay—fearless and compelling) and Lily (Eva Foote—a survivor).

Music and sound factor heavily in the production—since James is a piano tuner and Kathleen has a talent for singing. James pushes her to develop that talent. Kudos to Sean Mayes for his music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements.

Set designer, Camellia Koo has created an intriguing set that focuses on the motif of the piano. Thick wires (evocative of piano wires) are held taut on a slant at the back of the stage. Several set pieces and props are also arresting. There is a semi-circle of chairs across the back of the stage. Characters sit on them when they are not in a scene. Two chairs are suspended in air. We realize they represent characters who have died. Over the course of the play more and more chairs will be suspended. Between the drums/props/and other things used to make music, sound, and the set, one is always having one’s attention pulled from the story.

The cast is very strong: Tim Campbell as James Piper is both charming and forbidding. Diane Flacks in various roles is detailed, quietly arresting and always deep into the role. Deborah Hay is nuanced and fearless as Frances who appears wayward but is more subtle than that. Amaka Umeh plays Rose, a character with secrets and grace. As I said, the cast is very strong.

As the director, Alisa Palmer certainly has a vision of the huge sweep of the book. She is not afraid of taking things slowly to unveil the complex story.

But I do have concerns. I think that the theatrical form is an issue. I think the book would have been better served as a limited television series or film that deals clearly with the complexity.

It’s obvious that as the life partner of Ann-Marie MacDonald, Alisa Palmer would be very protective of both the book of “Fall On Your Knees” and the resultant play, hence her close involvement with the project: co-producing-directing-co-adapting for the stage and co-creator.

I think that closeness is a problem. I wonder what kind of adaptation Hannah Moscovitch would write on her own. Information seems missing in this version, the most serious of which is this: Kathleen is a young woman studying opera in New York City. James receives a letter from New York City that was not sent by Kathleen. When he reads it he says to Materia, in a panic, that he must go to New York and he will be back in a week. The next scene is of Kathleen back home, writhing in the pains of childbirth. How long elapsed between those two scenes—between James getting the letter, rushing to New York and Kathleen brought home and giving birth? We aren’t told. It’s suggested she was pregnant in New York. But that’s not really true. This lack of clarity seems a glitch in the story-telling, and it’s one of many glitches. And there is redemption for a character at the end, that is not earned. A big concern.

Sometimes the pace is so slow as to seem reverential. I think that has to be addressed. Dare one say it—but with respect—Hannah Moscovitch should have written the adaptation herself, and another person, besides Alisa Palmer, should have directed it. I applaud the effort to bring it to the stage, but still…..I have those concerns.

Produced by Canadian Stage in co-production with Vita Brevis, National Arts Centre, Neptune Theatre and the Grand Theatre.

Plays until April 2, 2023.

Running time: Each part is 3 hours long.


Live and in person at the Factory Studio Theater, Toronto, Ont., Brenley Charkow

Written by Hengameh E. Rice

Directed by Brenley Charkow

Set by Sim Suzer

Costumes by Niloufar Ziaee

Lighting by Siobhan Sleath

Sound by Heidi Chan

Cast: Mahsa Ershadifar

Omar Alex Khan

Sama Mousavi

Fuad Ahmed

Anahita’s Republic sheds light on the plight of women in Iran and the political implications if a woman speaks up. The production is a noble effort.

Note: Hengameh E. Rice, noted as the playwright, is in fact a writing team: Hengameh born in Iran and Rice born in Edmonton, Alberta. This seems to be the only play the duo has written. Finding out any further information on the writers individually is also a mystery.

The Story. From the press information: “(set in Tehran) Anahita is a woman who refuses to wear the hijab and rules her own republic where she can be free to live, dress and speak as she pleases. To deal with the world outside of her compound, she controls the family business and the life of her brother Cyrus, whose freedom and happiness are sacrificed for her dreams. One night, on the eve of an important secret meeting between leaders of the women’s movement, a young woman in a chador (it’s a piece of clothing. It is for Muslim women. In Iran, women wear a chador in public. The Chador covers the body except the face) comes to Anahita’s compound, carrying explosive secrets that might destroy everything Anahita has tried to build.”

Anahita has not stepped foot out of her compound for years. She runs the family business totally within the compound walls. She has everything she needs. She can swim in her pool; wear whatever clothes she wants; can smoke a cigarette if she feels like it, all without prying eyes or being reprimanded by the ruling regime.

Cyrus, her brother, is a member of parliament and also is involved with the company. As a man, he can go where he pleases. He can tell Anahita about the outside world so she is informed.

The Production. Sim Suzer has designed one of the most beautiful sets I have ever seen in the Factory Studio Theatre, or in any theatre come to think about it. Flowers and flowering potted plants are everywhere. Up at the back of the space is Anahita’s well appointed office with a rich-looking desk, an ornate backdrop, memorabilia on the walls, shelves etc. Down some steps from the office is the garden, lined with flowers, plants some outdoor furniture. The whole design suggests opulence, calm and exquisite taste, both the character’s and the designer’s.

When the production begins, there is the sound of commotion, upheaval of people shouting. Upstage is the back of a woman taking off her hijab. She slowly turns to look at a woman downstage. While this might set up the initial moment when Anahita (Sama Mousavi) removed her hijab in public, we can’t be sure, since we do not know who these characters are. During the play, there are references to another woman who challenged the Iranian regime, hence the confusion of who is this in the first scene? Who is the woman downstage? I think this initial scene should be rethought for clarity.  

Anahita makes her first proper entrance having just come from her swimming pool. Her brother Cyrus (Fuad Ahmed) is dressed stylishly in well-tailored casual clothes—kudos to Niloufar Ziaee for her beautiful costumes-again, they suggest wealth, success and taste. Cyrus wants to discuss an important meeting that they will host. Cyrus has worked hard to organize it. His position in parliament has garnered him power to get things done and organize things his sister can’t because of her ‘confinement’ in the compound.

They are expecting Masood (Omar Alex Khan) one of their suppliers, to bring them the latest shipment. He doesn’t arrive. In his place is Omid (Mahsa Ershadifar), Masood’s daughter. She says he is ill and she has come in his place. Both Cyrus and Anahita are suspicious. Omid wears the chador. She holds it tightly around her. Is she hiding something?

We learn that years earlier Omid’s mother was politically active. Was she the person we saw take off the hijab at the beginning of the production? Was it Anahita? As I said, it’s a scene that should be rethought for clarity.

Almost at the end of the play the playwrights take a sharp turn and the play swerves away from Anahita to her brother without a hint or buildup. And while the press information has this line “she controls the family business and the life of her brother Cyrus, whose freedom and happiness are sacrificed for her dreams” the play does not support that claim. I am often amused by what the press information states the play is about, and what the play as written is actually is about. We are given heaps of new information about Cyrus, his life and his concerns at the end of the play. But this comes from nowhere and should be reexamined as well, again for clarity. The curve results in a separate play it seems.

The cast is valiant under Brenley Charkow’s direction but I found her staging ‘busy.’ Not every character needs to move on every line. Occasionally stillness is profound.

Comment. With Anahita’s Republic playwrights Hengameh E. Rice provide a fascinating look into the rigid world in which the women of Iran live. Even one as financially privileged as Anahita, must isolate in her compound if she wants to live, dress and smoke as she likes, to be safe. Omid, on the other hand, is beholding to her father and his dictates as to whom she can marry. Masood has arranged a marriage for Omid. She does not want to marry this man for various reasons. Her father is adamant. Why she has come to Anahita’s compound is one of her secrets. The playwrights do have me wondering how Omid was able to travel by herself (albeit at night). And that rigidity concerning the lack of women’s right is far reaching. Years before Omid’s mother dared to challenge that rigidity with dire consequences. Those consequences had no effect on Masood’s insistence that he could decide Omid’s life for her.

In the case of Anahita and her brother, there is a more relaxed, contemporary, worldy attitude. Anahita runs the business, very successfully it seems.  

Bustle & Beast Present:

Plays until April 2, 2023.

Running time: 90 minutes.

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