“How Black Mother’s Say I Love You” Dissects Mother-Daughter Relationship

“I love you” doesn’t slip easily from Daphne’s tongue. But they are words that her grown daughter Claudette hungers to hear from her mother. That disconnect—which spirals outward to include Claudette’s sister Valerie, their dead sibling Cloe and multiple generations of black women with roots in Jamaica—is at the heart of Trey Anthony’s How Black Mothers Say I Love You at the Great Canadian Theatre Company.  Opening on International Women’s Day at GCTC, Anthony’s play is about many things: mothers and daughters, walled-off emotions, self-sacrifice, how we compromise to survive, the resilience of hope, and love, and family. Whether Anthony,...

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From the Space-Race to Filial Tensions, Robert Lepage’s “The Far Side of the Moon” Explores Reconciliation

In The Far Side of the Moon, Philippe and Andre, two estranged brothers, deal with the aftermath of their mother’s death. Written, directed, and designed by French-Canadian artist Robert Lepage, with music by Laurie Anderson among others, the show has been periodically on tour since its 2000 premiere in Quebec City. All roles have been performed by either Lepage or by the French-Canadian actor, Yves Jacques. On this current tour, it is performed by Jacques who gives a strong physical performance. Philippe, who the performance mainly focuses on, is an occasional teacher, a part-time telemarketer, and a long-term Ph.D....

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Still Unsettling: The Continuing Power of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart”

Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart is a play fueled by anger. Anger at the political, medical and media establishment of the day for its reluctance to accept the reality of a mounting AIDS epidemic. Back in 1985, Kramer made enemies on all sides with a play that is an only slightly fictionalized account of his real-life efforts in New York City to awaken the prevailing culture — including a gay, closeted mayor —  to the reality of the frightening plague enveloping it. And because it takes no prisoners in its indictment, it remains perhaps the most unsettling play to...

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Trey Anthony’s “How Black Mothers Say I Love You”

Trey Anthony, the acclaimed playwright of the smash hit Da Kink In My Hair, brings her newest work to the Great Canadian Theatre Company with How Black Mothers Say I Love You. With a powerful nod to the Caribbean community, Anthony weaves a complex and heartwarming story of immigration, family, and sacrifice. Making her directing debut in Ottawa, Kimberley Rampersad helms a cast of newcomers to the GCTC stage: Bénédicte Bélizaire, Lucinda David, Malube, and Samantha Walkes. How Black Mother Say I Love You runs on the GCTC stage from March 6 – March 25. “Anthony has delivered another important play about the...

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Nijinsky At The NAC: A Truly Cathartic Encounter Between The Dancer And His Creations

The National Ballet of Canada’s staging of John Neumeier’s Nijinsky, the artist who, by his personal and professional life, has certainly had the most influence on contemporary dance in the world, will go down in the annals of dance drama performance. For the spectator, it does help if one is aware of the history of the Ballet Russe and the different individuals who worked with Nijinsky during his brief professional life because Neumeier’s vision of the work does not try to reproduce autobiographical accuracy or even imitate the many performances that attracted attention to Nijinsky’s dancing. His emphasis is elsewhere....

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On Words In Motion: “Brodsky/Baryshnikov”

In scholarly debates on contemporary theatre, the question about language has primary importance. Critics as well as scholars, interested in diversity on stage, often discuss the advantages and the limitations of using two or more languages, the working of surtitles, and the rules of hospitality when a producing company decides not to translate their productions to the host audience. Brodsky/Baryshnikov (directed by Alvis Hermanis) that played this weekend in Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre, with Mikhail Baryshnikov on stage reciting the poetry of his close friend and recipient of the 1987 Noble Prize in Literature, Joseph Brodsky, is proof in...

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“What A Young Wife Ought To Know”: Birth Control Docudrama

Hannah Moscovitch’s play What A Young Wife Ought To Know, which is based on a compilation of letters women sent to famous birth control advocate Dr. Marie Stopes in the 1920s, tackles an uncomfortably difficult theme. It is particularly hard to watch nowadays when crimes, attempted against women, are coming to light every day. The subject matter of Moscovitch’s play, which is so deeply sad and disturbing, does not allow the spectator to relax for one minute from the overwhelming horror. Nevertheless, the playwright, with the director, technical crew, and actors, create an intimate, haunting story and infuse it with so...

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“887”: A Shared Collective History About the Nature of Memory Itself

Like pinpoints of light scattered across the map of shows, I have attended over thirty years, a Robert Lepage production always stands out as something special. His reach into the subject matter of any endeavour he conceives, develops, and then as much as embodies as performs, triggers all the receptors in the theatrical brain. In 887, Lepage re-creates a past that is intimately his own, and yet also a shared collective history.  This isn’t just a memory play, so much as a play about the nature of memory itself. Recalling the past in 887 requires looking through the windows of time – literally – to...

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OLT’s “An Inspector Calls”: Dark Comedy or Impactful Social Drama?

The Ottawa Little Theatre’s production of An Inspector Calls, the classic mid-20th-century drama by British writer J.B. Priestley and directed by Jim McNabb, is one which leaves something to be desired for the more socially-conscious viewer. As a performance given by actors, it is not entirely unsuccessful; the laughter elicited from the audience at even odd moments during the show attests to this. The task of meaningfully transmitting Priestley’s message of social responsibility for others, however, is where McNabb’s vision falls short. Set in April 1912, the play begins with a scene of celebration at the home of the...

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Review: “Mr. Shi and His Lover” Blurs Time and Allusion Through Contemporary Opera

Jonas McLean reviews Mr. Shi and His Lover, Wong Teng Chi and Njo Kong Kie’s contemporary Mandarin language opera about love, gender, sex, and power: Meta-theatricality has long been a common technique in theatre of all kinds, and certainly in forms such as opera. The National Arts Centre is no stranger to shows that directly address their audiences, or shows that deal explicitly with the challenges of theatre. In fact, I don’t recall the last time a show at the National Arts Centre left the fourth wall fully intact. Mr. Shi and His Lover is therefore not unique in this regard, but – rather...

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“Mr. Shi And His Lover:” A Tautly Executed Superlative Piece of Musical Theatre

A word of advice: If you’re going to see this superlative chamber musical, take the time to read the introductory notes from Macau Experimental Theatre that accompany the National Arts Centre’s program as well as the program itself. That material will give you not just the show’s background–for instance, it’s based on a two-decades long, real-life love affair between two men: a French diplomat and a Peking opera singer who presented himself as a woman–but also provide invaluable explanatory musical and storyline anchors for a show that, like its concerns with love, deceit, identity and the nature of performance,...

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“An Inspector Calls”: OLT Production Suffers from Problematic Staging Choices

Social responsibility and time, two of J.B. Priestley’s major preoccupations, are at the center of An Inspector Calls. One of his best-known works, the drama is part social manifesto and part mystery in a drawing-room setting. With its underlying theme of the obligation to care for others and the playwright’s signature interest in time shifts, An Inspector Calls delivers strong criticism of class divisions in Great Britain immediately before the First World War as the scene is set for the mysterious inspector of the title to call on the wealthy Birling family and dent their complacency. An Inspector Calls, which premiered in Russia in 1945...

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Review: “An Italian Christmas Carol” Haunts Past And Future

Toronto, Ontario.  Mae Smith reviews DopoLavoroTeatrale (DLT)’s immersive An Italian Christmas Carol, an interactive theatrical experience for an audience of one person at a time: An Italian Christmas Carol is an immersive theatrical piece not to be missed, and one best understood by experiencing it. Drawing you into the grim reality of a newcomer’s struggle to find a home in a new country and then shaping this experience through the projection of their desires onto the single-person audience, DopoLavoroTeatrale (DLT) delivers a magical and melancholic trip into Christmas for one Italian Immigrant in Toronto. As a solo-audience member, you are invited to...

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“The Lorax” An Exciting And Transformative Experience For The Whole Family

The story by Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) that has made its way through various forms of animated cartoon films, is now playing at the Royal Alex in Toronto, after an opening performance in October 2017 in London. Yes indeed!! We have all been watching the National Theatre Live bringing performances at the Old Vic and the New Vic, into Canada via satellite. This time, the David Mirvish production of The Lorax brings a whole British cast and creative team from the Old Vic into one of its own theatres in Toronto for a perfectly executed and utterly polished performance of...

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Review: “Pawâkan Macbeth’s” Call For Reconciliation Spans Time, Language, And Place

Edmonton, Alberta. Connor Meeker reviews Pawâkan Macbeth: A Cree Tragedy, a co-production between Akpik Theatre and Theatre Prospero of Reneltta Arluk’s adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy: Adapting one of the Bard’s swiftest and punchiest plays, Theatre Prospero and Akpik Theatre’s Pawâkan Macbeth: A Cree Tragedy reimagines the Scottish Lord in Western Canada. Playwright Reneltta Arluk’s adaptation—or “takeover,” as she prefers to call it—skillfully interlaces a canonical Shakespearean tragedy with Indigenous myth and worldview, creating a poignant and darkly humorous production. Arluk sets the action in Plains Cree territory in the 1870s, before the signing of Treaty 6—a tumultuous time of conflict between First Nations warring...

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Review: Circadia Indigena’s “Greed/REsolve” Assaults The Senses

Vancouver, British Columbia Annie Smith review’s Circadia Indigena’s Greed/REsolve, a contemporary dance piece in two acts devised collaboratively by the inter-Nation collective: By the end of Circadia Indigena’s Greed/REsolve, I felt as though I had been assaulted by an icy ocean wave. Once I had let the effects of the pummeling of the icy water subside I felt renewed, invigorated–and scoured by sand. Going into the performance I hadn’t been able to wrap my head around the program description printed in the Talking Stick Festival’s brochure. After the performance, listening to the dancers at the Q&A, I began to understand some of the power...

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“OCD Love:” LEV Dance Company Delves Into A Paradox, The Strange Psychic Disruption Of The Troubled Body!

This latest work by the Israeli dance company LEV Dance, created by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar is a terrifyingly complex moment of corporeal inventiveness that subjected the dancers to the most demanding feat of choreography I have ever seen. Physical dislocation of the body coupled with neurological disturbance, a mind dislocated by obsessive-compulsive desires, appears to take possession of these human bodies, leaving these creatures transformed into life forms of questionable origin, projected from the psychic depths of Eyal and Behar who conceived this work. A lone artist on stage during first few moments of the evening, a...

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Tracing With Body And Music In Jeff Ho’s “Trace”

In his debut as playwright, Jeff Ho presents a solo piece that explores his family history through three generations of women. Structurally merging text and music, Trace plays with the non-linear and conflicting nature of family memory, and candidly mines trauma and hostility alongside love and loyalty, through Ho’s artful embodiment and Nina Lee Aquino’s strong direction. Performed on a smartly crafted minimalist set of raised platforms with only two upright pianos as set pieces (co-designed by Aquino and Michelle Ramsay), the show centers on Ho’s skilled embodiment of the three core figures of Great Grandma, Grandma, and Ma. Notably,...

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Sitting With Amanda Parris’ “Other Side Of The Game”

Shelley Liebembuk reviews Cahoots Theatre and Obsidian Theatre’s world premiere of The Other Side of the Game, written by Amanda Parris and directed by Nigel Shawn Williams: Five actors enter the stage, each carrying a folding chair. In unison, they slam the chairs down and sit staring into the audience for one…two…three minutes. The silence is broken by a sharp collective scream, as the actors expand their voices and bodies out for a brief moment, only to then contain themselves again in the impasse of continued waiting. The silence resumes. One actor breaks the stasis with a quick scratch. Shortly thereafter, another...

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Dana Michel’s “Mercurial George” – Illegibility, Identity, Blackness

Illegibility, Identity, Blackness The lack of black choreographers/ black voices in Contemporary Dance has created a large gap in the understanding of blackness, allowing that label to be thrown at any choreographer who bears the racial marking of being black. In the solo work Mercurial George by the Montreal-based choreographer Dana Michel, she confronts this racial imposition heads on, creating an anarchist ecology of things where identity and blackness can emerge in this illegible yet affectively charged mode of experience. Dana Michel is slowly revealed within the spotlight on stage left, her chest bare, her legs wrapped in white tights and...

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