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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: Living Dances

Posted by art On November - 23 - 2011

Living Dances
Choreographed by James Kudelka
Performed by Rhonda Baker, Ryan Boorne, Valerie Calam, Michael Caldwell, Lauren EM Chin, Luke Garwood, Andrew Giday, Tyler Gledhill, Jones Henry, Laurence Lemieux, Daniel McArthur, Michael Sean Marye, Christianne Ullmark
November 12 @ Ryerson Theatre

By Tina Chu

Living Dances opened with Fifteen Heterosexual Duets, which saw Kudelka explore heterosexuality through male and female roles. Without a hint of cliché, the choreography’s simplicity lies only in the clarity of each duet and how Kudelka is able to capture and convey personalities without any excess in stylization where each gesture felt necessary and just right.

Admittedly, there were split seconds where certain duets felt ever so slightly dissonant, but overall the piece possessed a coherent and natural progression that allowed the fifteen duets to meld into and unravel from one another.

Particularly captivating were the duets of Valerie Calam and Daniel McArthur. Calam and McArthur were the only dancers to share the same partners throughout the piece and unsurprisingly so, as their compatibility as dancers were unmistakable and aside from Christianne Ullmark and Ryan Boorne’s duet, the pair seemed to truly steal the show. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: ProArteDanza’s Season 2011

Posted by art On October - 6 - 2011

Marissa Parzei and Tyler Gledhill perform in ProArteDanza's Season 2011 piece entitled En Parallèle. Choreographer: Roberto Campanella

ProArteDanza presents
SEASON 2011
Choreography by Roberto Campanella, Guillaume Côté, Robert Glumbek and Kevin O’Day
Performed by Johanna Bergfeldt, Valerie Calam, Marc Cardarelli, Tyler Gledhill, Louis Laberge-Côté, Ryan Lee, Marissa Parzei, Brendan Wyatt, and Mami Hata
Runs until October 8 @ Fleck Dance Theatre

By Tina Chu

When seeing a highly esteemed company such as ProArteDanza for the first time, there is always the question of whether one’s excessive buildup of expectations could outweigh and upset the experience of the performance.

And though anticipating nothing but the best from ProArteDanza, its Season 2011 still exceeded my expectations, with strong choreography from Robert Glumbek, Roberto Campanella, Kevin O’Day, Guillaume Côté and memorable performances from the company’s dancers.

The program begins with Glumbek’s Verwoben, a piece named in German, meaning interwoven. Initially, the title appears to refer to the dancers as they entangle and disentangle themselves from one another, but as the performance takes form, it becomes palpable how the title also lends itself to the idea of intertwining music and movement. 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: from thine eyes

Posted by art On September - 29 - 2011

from thine eyes
Presented by DanceWorks
Co-produced by Native Earth Performing Arts and Signal Theatre
Choreographed and directed by Michael Greyeyes
Written by Yvette Nolan
Movement dramaturgy by Kate Alton
Music composed by Miquelon Rodriguez
Performed by Michael Caldwell, Luke Garwood, Ceinwen Gobert, Sean Ling, Shannon Litzenberger, and Claudia Moore
Ran September 22-24 @ Enwave Theatre

By Tina Chu

Death and dying may be an indefatigably intriguing theme common to art, but as the subject matter for the opening production to DanceWorks’s 2011-2012 Mainstage Series, it comes as something of a surprise.

Thought it’s difficult and obviously sombre subject to approach, from thine eyes presents a collection of four narratives that examine the idea that the unknowable truths of one’s life and of oneself are revealed through the act of dying and that these revelations are the passages into death.

Directed and choreographed by Greyeyes and written by Nolan, the narratives are not only complex thematically, but incredibly dense in detail as stories. It first begins with performer Sean Ling portraying a drug abuser who recalls the experience of himself unleashed as a murderer in a sudden fit of rage. Then, the scene deconstructs into Michael Caldwell’s performance as an abusive man re-living the violent rituals he inflicted upon his partner Ceinwen Gobert, eerily juxtaposed against memories of the recitation of the wedding vows that would begin this traumatic relationship. Next, Luke Garwood and Shannon Litzenberger performs as a couple wrestling to cope with a miscarriage and straddling the line between preserving the memory of their stillborn and being consumed with a past that will never be, a past that could ultimately destroy their relationship. Finally Claudia Moore closes with her depiction of a doctor who, nearing the end of her life begins to be haunted by visions of patients she has lost in her practice, recalling and beginning to understand how their deaths will ease her into her own inevitable end. 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: 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 »

Interview: Doug Benson, Man of Many Pies

Posted by art On May - 1 - 2011

Comedy and bloodshed go together like soybean butter and jelly – just ask any fan of Kick-Ass, Pineapple Express, or the Three Stooges. Maybe this is why so many comedians love UFC. Whatever the reason, as throngs of people – many comics included – descend upon Toronto for the big fight this Saturday night, Toronto comedy nerds stand to benefit as Doug Benson sticks around the city for two shows May 1 at Comedy Bar.

Doug Benson is one of those people you can’t help but love. For one thing, there are just so many opportunities to love him. Into stand-up? Benson has three highly enjoyable albums, now releases a new one every year, and performs live constantly (http://eventful.com/performers/doug-benson-/P0-001-000004119-4). Into improv? It’s not exactly a Harold, but Benson injects improvisation and dialogue into stand-up on The Benson Interruption, a long-running live show-turned-Comedy Central series and podcast featuring comics such as Nick Swardson, Sarah Silverman, and Thomas Lennon. Into movies? So is Benson, and he discusses them weekly with his funny friends on his very popular and always entertaining podcast Doug Loves Movies. Into technologically-sponsored humour? @DougBenson is a tweeting machine. And, finally, into marijuana? Benson’s material, while appealing to anyone on the spectrum between straight-edge and junkie (I assume), is definitely stoner-friendly, and he has been a long-time advocate for legalization and the old-fashioned art of letting your freak flag fly.

Ultimately, it’s easy to love Doug Benson because, no matter the context, you very quickly feel like you know him. He’s open, relatable, and engaging, and I’m not being sentimental when I say that I look forward to seeing him at Comedy Bar this Sunday in the same way I look forward to seeing an old friend. Okay, maybe a little sentimental.

Doug was kind enough to answer a few questions from MONDO. Read on! 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 »

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