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Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

Review: Imprints

Posted by art On November - 23 - 2011

Imprints
Theatre Gargantua in association with Factory Theatre
Written by Michael Spence
Directed by Jacquie P.A. Thomas
Starring Stephanie Belding, Cosette Derome, Conor Green, Ron Kennell, Kat Sandler, Michael Spence
Runs until November 26 @ Factory Studio Theatre

By Jen Handley

Although some of the publicity for Theatre Gargantua’s latest piece, Imprints, suggests that it is a ghost story, don’t go to see it with the expectation of finding the usual transparent disgruntled ex-beings in period garb; Hallowe’en and its cliché-heavy attendants have come and gone. Theatre Gargantua’s production has not only started from scratch to create its version of exactly what a ghost is, the company has set up the haunted house inside the unconscious mind of its heroine. In fact, Theatre Gargantua has managed to repurpose an Alice in Wonderland format to create something few ghost stories can: a sincere meditation on death. It’s unpretentious, inventively-premised, and, most surprisingly of all, with exuberant playfulness.

In the first moments of the play, the faces of a doctor and nurse, looming hugely as projections on a screen at the edge of the stage, are reassuring their patient as she drifts into what we soon find out is a medically-induced mental and physical “standstill” she has chosen in hopes of surviving until medical science can find a cure for a congenital disease which has killed every one of her paternal ancestors and is now coming for her. They promise the patient, a woman named Lily, that this suspension will seem like the blink of an eye, that she will experience nothing during this temporary death (a prediction many of us might find reasonably likely for regular death). However their masked faces blur into sinister, unfamiliar shapes, and as darkness envelopes Lily’s mind, we hear a horrified whisper, “Oh my God. Oh my God. Something’s gone wrong. I’m still here.” Moreover, she’s not alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Fool’s Life

Posted by art On October - 6 - 2011

Haruna Kondo in A Fool's Life. Credit: Katherine Fleitas

A Fool’s Life
Written and directed by Dan Watson
Featuring Claire Calnan, Julian DeZotti, Haruna Kondo, Derek Kwan, and Richard Lee
Live percussion by Gaishi Ishizaka
Runs until October 8, 2011 @ The Theatre Centre

By Kerry Freek

Are you ready to be enchanted?

Inspired by the life and short stories of Japanese writer Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Ahuri Theatre’s A Fool’s Life is thoroughly delightful, balancing the right mix of magic, absurdity, and darkness with an impressive focus on movement.

Three stories, “The Nose,” “Horse Legs,” and “Hell Screen,” receive the Ahuri treatment. While Ryunosuke died in 1927, director Dan Watson crafts a modern spins when needed without losing Ryunosuke’s original magic. His well chosen cast is talented, funny, and energetic: Claire Calnan is delightfully expressive in the first vignette, playing a monk with an exceptional nose. In the second story, Derek Kwan grows horse legs with ease, galloping about the stage. Japan-based actor Haruna Kondo stands out: she’s particularly wonderful as a crazed, crippled old artist in the final story, writhing in agony and ecstasy as her character struggles to complete his ultimate work—a screen depicting Buddhist hell. Together, the cast performs its choreography with ease and humour, tumbling from one scene to the next. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: In The Next Room or the vibrator play

Posted by art On September - 30 - 2011

Ross McMillan, David Storch, Trish Lindström, Elizabeth Saunders, Melody A. Johnson. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

In The Next Room or the vibrator play
By Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Richard Rose
Starring Marci T. House, Melody A. Johnson, Trish Lindström, Ross McMillan, Elizabeth Saunders, David Storch, and Jonathan Watton
Run until October 23 @ Tarragon Theatre Mainspace

By Jen Handley

While In the Next Room or the vibrator play might not be one you’ll want to see with anyone whom you’d have to explain the concept of a vibrator to, Tarragon’s (Canadian premiere) production is an extremely enjoyable version of Sarah Ruhl’s Tony and Pulitzer-nominated play, and well worth the viewing and occasionally awkward intermission talk.

The play centres around Dr. and Mrs. Givings, a well-to-do New York couple in the late nineteenth century. The dawn of electricity has had a tremendous effect on their lives—not only are they the proud owners of more than a few electrical lights, but Dr. Givings has entered (my apologies for this and all subsequent puns) the field of electrical massage, the nature of which should be fairly clear from the play’s title, for the treatment of hysteria in his well-to-do female (mostly) patients. The play takes place in their living room and, directly opposite, Dr. Givings’ operating theatre, in which stands a table covered with a lavish throw, and a contraption that looks a lot more like a prototypical dentist’s drill than a sex toy. Nevertheless, it seems to improve the moods of his patients tremendously; and soon his wife finds herself longer content to stay in the parlor. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Last Man on Earth

Posted by art On June - 3 - 2011

The Last Man on Earth
Co-created by Phil Rickaby, Dana Fradkin, Stephen LaFrenie, Janick Hebert, Ginette Mohr (Director), Richard Beaune (Dramaturg/Artistic Director), David Atkinson (Music), and Kimberly Beaune (Stage Manager/Production Manager)
Part of the Toronto Festival of Clowns
June 2 & 5 @ Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement

By Jessie Davis

We were led out the back door of Pia Bouman School of Dance, into a parking lot where the evening sun seemed determined not to leave us. Then, as our eyes adjusted to the burst of light, down into the darkness of the adjacent theatre. The setup, though cleaner and painted entirely black, is reminiscent of the freak show at Coney Island—a tiny, intimate space with a handful of amphitheatre-style seats—and we were fortunate enough to find ourselves in the front row.

Quite honestly, at the end of this grueling workday, I was happy just to sit down. I had no idea how thoroughly delighted and enveloped in whimsy I was about to become. Warning: this review contains an obscene count of the word adorable. There really is no better word to describe it. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Aleph

Posted by art On May - 31 - 2011

Diego Matamoros. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

The Aleph
Directed by Daniel Brooks
Featuring Diego Matamoros

Runs until June 18 @ The Young Centre for the Performing Arts

By Jen Handley

For all the richly detailed characters and emotionally resonant moments Diego Maramoros creates, the most impressive aspect of his performance in The Aleph is that you’ll believe anything he tells you.

And that’s saying a lot. Matamoros and Daniel Brooks adapted The Aleph from a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, a slow burner that might bring to mind a mid-twentieth century, Argentine version of one of Poe’s ideas. Without giving away too much, it’s safe to say that the play runs into a mind-bending twist, but it gets there so gradually and stealthily you barely recognize how fantastically outrageous it is even when it’s right in front of your nose. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: La Ronde

Posted by art On May - 24 - 2011

Tyson James heats up La Ronde.

La Ronde
By Arthur Schnitzler
Directed by Ted Witzel
Featuring Lauren Gillis, Mariana Medellin-Meinke, Marcel Dragonieri, Raffaele Ciampaglia, Michael David Blostein, Milan Malisic, Maarika Pinkney, Tyson James, Eve Wylden, and Beau Dixon
Runs until June 4 @ Club Wicked

By Jeff Maus

The text of La Ronde is a product of the early 20th Century. It is frank, adult, and earnest in its presentation of sex. The play is very ‘modern,’ in the dawn-of-the-twentieth-century tradition. Written in 1897 Vienna by Arthur Schnitzler, it’s scene structure, dialogue, and characters all have the recognizable progressive elements of the time. This makes for a dynamic juxtaposition with the more modern burlesque setting, and the Rocky Horror meets Bernardo Bertolucci sensibility of the production.

Not there just to shock the audience or spice up a conventional narrative, sex is literally what the play is about. It isn’t that the red light district’s presentation of the play at Club Wicked is free from shock or heat; it is for adults in every sense. I went in with no knowledge of the play or the production, and was surprised all the way through. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Zadie’s Shoes

Posted by art On May - 24 - 2011

William MacDonald and Joe Cobden. Photo: Jeremy Mimnagh

Zadie’s Shoes
Written by Adam Pettle
Directed by Adam Pettle & Jordan Pettle
Starring Joe Cobden, Patricia Fagan, William MacDonald, Harry Nelken, Shannon Perreault, Geoffrey Pounsett and Lisa Ryder
Runs until June 5 @ Factory Theatre Mainspace

By Kerry Freek

What’s luck got to do with it? Benjamin (Joe Cobden), a gambling addict, has lost the money for his girlfriend’s alternative cancer treatment in Mexico. Unsure of his next actions, he goes to synagogue for the first time in years and meets Eli (Harry Nelken), an old man who claims to be a prophet. With three days until their scheduled departure, Benjamin must choose whether to place faith in Eli’s racehorse tip or come clean to Ruth (Patricia Fagan), whose illness and family troubles already weigh heavily on her mind.

The result? A fairly well constructed dark comedy. Refreshingly, writer Adam Pettle pulls no punches in Benjamin and Ruth’s relationship–Ruth may be physically weak, but she’s no fool. Fagan plays her with strength, honesty, and conviction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Fronteras Americanas

Posted by art On May - 24 - 2011

Guillermo Verdecchia. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

Fronteras Americanas
Written and performed by Guillermo Verdecchia
Directed by Jim Warren
Runs until June 12 @ Young Centre for the Performing Arts

By Kerry Freek

“I am lost,” confides Guillermo Verdecchia, writer and performer of Fronteras Americanas, as he leads the audience on a tour of the undefined (and therefore dangerous) borderlands of the Americas.

Part comedy, part autobiography, part post-colonial rant, this performance of the Governor-General’s Award-winning play sees Argentinian-born Canadian Verdecchia take on several stereotypes often attributed to people from Mexico and Central and South America. Indeed, the first “tour guide” we encounter wears a multi-coloured poncho and has a giant moustache. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Double Bill

Posted by art On May - 12 - 2011

Ins Choi, Brendan Wall, Jason Patrick Rothery, Mike Ross, Karen Rae. Photo: Sian Richards

Double Bill: (re)Birth: E. E. Cummings in Song & Window on Toronto
Created by the Soulpepper Academy
Window on Toronto Directed by László Marton
Featuring Ins Choi, Tatjana Cornij, Trish Lindström, Ken MacKenzie, Abena Malika, Gregory Prest, Karen Rae, Mike Ross, Jason Patrick Rothery, Andre Sills & Brendan Wall

Runs until June 18 @ Young Centre for the Performing Arts

By Jen Handley

Double Bill, which opened this week at Soulpepper, consists of two pieces on seemingly disparate topics: the poetry of E. E. Cummings, and the brief interactions with strangers that urban life involves. What ties the two sections of the show together, and what makes them both so compelling, is the intensity of creative collaboration that runs through each piece. The performance is in itself as much a comment on the surprising and beautiful moments that come from sincere human interaction as some of the poems it borrows, and the meetings it imagines. Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Barnett and Tony Nappo. Photo: Bruce Zinger

The cosmonaut’s last message to the woman he once loved in the former Soviet Union
By David Greig
Directed by Jennifer Tarver
Featuring Tom Barnett, Raoul Bhaneja, Fiona Byrne, David Jansen, Tony Nappo and Sarah Wilson
Runs until May 14 @ Bluma Appel Theatre

By Jen Handley

One of the big challenges of putting on a play about human beings that can’t connect with each other is that it’s hard to get them to connect with the audience.  In The cosmonaut’s last message to the woman he once loved in the former Soviet Union, playwright David Greig begins with a fascinating premise: two cosmonauts are marooned on a broken space capsule with nothing to do but desperately try to re-establish communication with the world, at first with their damaged technology, and eventually with their desperate imaginations. But the cosmonauts are only one part of the story; Greig recreates new versions of their situation in the everyday lives of characters down below. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Simian Showcase

Posted by art On April - 8 - 2011

MONDO’s art department doesn’t often have the opportunity to geek out as much as its neighbouring departments, Comics and Film. It’s just our luck, it seems, that tonight Monkeyman Productions, the self-described “geekiest theatre company in Toronto,” will present four new plays in its Simian Showcase, running at the Imperial Pub until April 16. Videogames, time travel, LARPing, and steampunk culture—it’s all covered. Art department editor Kerry Freek talked with two of the directors over gmail chat earlier this week.

Neil Silcox

First up, Neil Silcox, director of Camilla Maxwell’s Chun Li.

MONDO: How’s the production going? Are you ready for opening night?
Neil:  Yeah, I’m feeling really good about it. We had our Tech/Dress last night and it went over really well with the people who hadn’t seen it before.

MONDO:  Great! What exactly attracted you to “geek” theatre? I’ve seen you in other shows (Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night) and this seems like a bit of a jump away from Shakespeare.
Neil:  That’s a part of what drew me to it. I found myself in—not exactly a rut, let’s say a groove. The top or my resume just kept saying Hart House, Hart House, Canopy, Hart House, Hart House, Canopy. I really loved working with those people, but I thought I needed to diversify. So anyway, one day I’m sitting on the subway and Marty Choderek [one of Monkeyman’s founding members] plops down beside me and we got to talking about Monkeyman and I asked if they were looking for directors. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Art of Time Ensemble’s The War of the Worlds

Posted by art On April - 4 - 2011

Nicholas Campbell in The War of the Worlds. Photo: John Lauener.

Art of Time Ensemble’s The War of the Worlds
Starring Nicholas Campbell, Don McKellar and Marc Bendavid with foley artist John Gzowski
Directed and conducted by Andrew Burashko
Music composed and arranged by Don Parr
March 31 – April 3, 2011 @ Enwave Theatre

By Jen Handley

“And if someone rings your doorbell,” murmured Don McKellar to a mesmerized audience on Thursday night as The War of the Words came to a close, “Remember, it’s not Martians—it’s Hallowe’en.” And although the performance was utterly convincing, it pretty much proved that whimsical point. That’s because this War of the Worlds isn’t just a restaging of the classic Orson Welles Martian invasion radio play, it’s a staging of the staging of it. Art of Time’s production manages to tell the story not just of an alien invasion, but also of a bid for notoriety that was both an artistic and professional gamble, and, in doing so, the ensemble adds a second cast of heroes to the original play without changing a word. Read the rest of this entry »

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