Theatre Kraken’s “Cry-Baby” Triumphs Over Its Material

If you lower your defenses, Theatre Kraken’s production of Cry-Baby is capable of providing you with an uproariously enjoyable time at the Gladstone Theatre. This is less due to the material—an uneven stage musical derived from John Waters’s 1950’s movie starring Johnny Depp—than to the spirited ensemble work of a 19-member cast and the sturdy contribution of a six-piece band under Chris Lucas. Only the most dedicated sourpuss would be able to resist the trashy pleasures afforded by this cheeky reworking of one of the most durable themes in dramatic literature—the one where the bad boy from the wrong...

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“Dissidents” At ARC

The Story: In this English language world premiere of Quebec playwright Philippe Ducros, a man, Him, sits silently behind a glass partition. Her sits on the outside of the glass partition. We assume Her is possibly a psychiatrist or psychologist as she poses questions to Him and leads him (and us) to understand why he is behind this glass partition. Has Him committed a crime of some kind? What kind? We discover a possibility that Him has done something wrong, but is it real? Is it imagined? The Other One enters and tries to extract information from Him about...

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“BANG BANG” Is Equal Parts Disarming And Disturbing

Toronto, Ontario web editor Hayley Malouin reviews the world premiere of Kat Sandler’s BANG BANG at Factory Theatre. At turns delightfully hilarious and grippingly sinister, BANG BANG’s straddling of comedy and drama enables its complex exploration of police violence and artistic license.  On my train ride home from Factory Theatre following the world premiere of Kat Sandler’s BANG BANG, I found myself audibly giggling in remembrance of the play’s dynamite comedy. The next moment, I burst into tears–a fact I failed to hide from the passenger sitting next to me. This (admittedly embarrassing) response is telling of BANG BANG’s nuanced and moving examination of the array of questions,...

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“Gracie” At The GCTC Is A Terrific Theatrical Experience

Gracie By Joan Macleod, directed by Eric Coates A GCTC Production Gracie is like many eight-year-olds. She loves the doll her new best friend has given her. She really, really wants a bike. She is sad to be moving to a new home in a strange country but is comforted by having her family around her. From here, her life is very different from that of other children around the same age. Her new community in British Columbia, like her birthplace in Colorado City on the Arizona-Utah border, is part of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—an...

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Compelling Performance And Complex Metaphor In “King Arthur’s Night” Make For Remarkable Theatre (PuSh Festival)

Vancouver, British Columbia Jocelyn Pitsch reviews King Arthur’s Night, Neworld Theatre’s retelling of the Arthurian legend. With a neurodiverse cast and an emphasis on text and metaphor deconstruction, King Arthur’s Night is a compelling, comedic, and critical take on cultural myths and dynamics of power.  The legend of King Arthur and his court is usually told with a focus on its tragic and dramatic elements. From its opening moments, King Arthur’s Night announces that it will be different. Neworld Theatre’s telling is a lyrical and comedic feast with a spectacularly uplifting sonic landscape by Veda Hille. Hille’s score carries the narrative through its occasional lags to produce...

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Foster On Aging: Amusing But Often Tasteless

Jones And Barry In The Home by Norm Foster; a 3P Productions, Directed by Derek Ritschel As we age, we have two choices: to make the most of the golden years or to admit defeat, viewing the time we have left as a dark tunnel leading to oblivion. In Norm Foster’s 2015 play—number 55 from Canada’s most prolific playwright—Jonas and Barry, who meet at Gateway Gardens seniors’ residence, represent the two viewpoints. Jonas aspires to be an aging Don Juan. Barry, whose daughter Rosie works at the home, has given up on the thought of a happy ending. Because...

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“Snake Oil”: A Thought Provoking Show

Snake oil began as a traditional Chinese medicine, particularly effective in easing joint pain. Brought to North America by Chinese railroad workers in the 19thcentury, it was made from the fat of the Chinese water snake — a species not found in the West. Seeing the medicine at work, western profiteers began manufacturing much less effective, completely fraudulent or placebo versions of a bottled wonder drug and selling it as a cure-all. Sales depended on just how convincing any oily, traveling promoter could make his marvelous medication sound. This is where Sam Saginaw, the fast-talking salesman in playwright Jayson...

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“Fun Home” By The Musical Stage Company As Part Of The Off Mirvish Series

Emotionally moving for its’ superlative vocal work and outstanding individual performances The Story I must admit that I knew nothing about Fun Home, so I had to do some online research, scan the Mirvish press release, and read the program. Based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, Fun Home is the recipient of several awards including 5 New York Tony Awards (Best Musical in 2015). In 2006, The New York Times named Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic as one of the best books of the year. It was created from memories of Ms. Bechdel’s childhood and the detailed journals she kept since age 10...

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“Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of…”: Docudrama Musical for Black Lives Matter

The Beginning Of A Most Important Dialogue Initiated By This striking and moving staging of rage! This docu-drama or docu-fiction, a form of musical theatre that ties together reality and fiction inspired by real-life tragedies, concerns events that took place in Montreal (the death of an unarmed Freddy Villanueva in 2008) and the shooting of unarmed Trayvon Martin in Florida (2013) which set off the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the US. We are immediately drawn back to Shakespeare’s work The Lamentable Tragedy Of Titus Andronicus (1623) whose ending is inspired by Seneca’s Thyestes. The Roman play concerns the horrific torture...

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“Blink” An Unblinking Look At The Pitfalls Of Electronic Romance

Blink by Phil Porter, A Plosive production. Directed by Teri Loretto-Valentik Back in another era, dramatist Harold Pinter used to contend that his often enigmatic plays were really about the breakdown of communications between human beings. But that was well before the dawning of a new electronic age, before the advent of smartphones and digital cameras, Twitter and Facebook. A play like Phil Porter’s Blink wouldn’t have been conceivable a couple of decades ago. Its vision of the way people choose to communicate would have seemed the stuff of science fiction. Yet the piece now on view in an...

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Bearing Down On The Bechdel Test: Laurie Fyffee At The Ergo Arts Pink Festival!

In 2017, I came across the Ergo Arts Pink Festival with a mandate as follows: “Ergo Pink Fest is a 3-day theatre festival of staged readings in Toronto conceived and hosted by Ergo Arts Theatre. The idea for the festival was formed when Ergo Arts Theatre’s Artistic Director, Anna Pappas, read in the 2015 Equity in Theatre study by the Playwrights Guild of Canada that: The greatest disparity in gender equity happens in the playwright category. While some progress has been made over the past two years in changing the dominant voice in theatre, Ergo Arts is committed to continuing the push forward toward equitable and...

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Labour Politics In Audrey Dwyer’s “Calpurnia” Problematize Allyship

Shelley Liebembuk reviews Calpurnia, a co-production between Nightwood Theatre and Sulong Theatre of Audrey Dwyer’s considerations on race, class, family, and the Finch family of To Kill A Mockingbird renown: In Calpurnia, playwright Audrey Dwyer beautifully takes up the dinner-party-gone-wrong trope, laying out an unsparing exploration of reckoning with the blind spots of privilege in the pursuit of social justice and effective allyship. The play opens onto the hearth of a wealthy Jamaican-Canadian family, where we meet 20-something daughter Julie (played by Meghan Swaby) sitting at the dining room table in her pajamas and struggling to write her screenplay. Julie is the catalyst of the piece....

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A Disturbingly, Yet Fascinating Vision Of A “What If” Scenario Of Human Test Subjects

The Story (From the press release) Two subjects, Corcoran and Filigree, are imprisoned in a human test lab and are joined by a third, Millet. Under constant surveillance by The Eye–a futuristic, multinational corporation dedicated to manufacturing the best products money can buy–the three roommates undergo sickening experiments in the name of consumer satisfaction. When not tending to suppurate wounds, burning skin, and itchy backsides, Corcoran, Filigree, and Millet make the best of their horrifying circumstances by telling each other tall-tales, spying on the neighbors, and trying to finish a seventeen-year-old crossword puzzle. Will they survive? Or will they kill...

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“Betroffenheit” Corporeal Exchange As Innovative Now As The Work Of Pina Bausch In The 1970’s

Betroffenheit (consternation, a state of shock, dismay) a co-production by Kidd Pivot Company and the Electric Company Theatre. Written by Jonathan Young, Choreographed and Directed by Crystal Pite. Here Betroffenheit indicates very quickly, a state of trauma, set off by a personal crisis that the individual, a lone young man enclosed in a hospital room, has experienced but, cannot get out of his mind. In spite of the presence of a psychiatrist, and of individuals who seem to want to help him, the grief and the personal tragedy have possessed him deeply and we see how he can never...

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“Betroffenheit:” An Emotional Spectacle Which Transforms The Power Of Dance

Betroffenheit, a creation by renowned Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite and writer Jonathon Young, is at once a powerful visual and emotional spectacle. A well-executed combination of dance and theatre, the production explores the difficult subjects of trauma and addiction through searing and imaginative physical manifestations of one’s inner demons. A co-production between Pite’s (also the director) Kidd Pivot group and Young’s Electric Company Theatre, Betroffenheit has received critical acclaim since it premiered at Panamia in Toronto three years ago. Indeed, it’s a pity that it played at the Babs Asper Theatre in the NAC for only two nights (April 6 and...

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The NAC Comes Up Trumps With “carried away”

carried away on the crest of a wave By David Yee, Directed by Kim Collier. A NAC English Theatre Production run until April 1. Again and again, the stage of the NAC Theatre takes on an eerie beauty—one that is often not quite of this world yet stays anchored to a heartbreaking reality. That reality is the 2004 earthquake and tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people in the area of the Indian ocean. A key thread running through David Yee’s compelling play—carried away on the crest of a wave—suggests not just aftershocks around the world but an...

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“All Those Unnatural Bonds:” Talking Sexuality, Shame, And Female Friendship With Hannah Moscovitch web editor Hayley Malouin interviews playwright Hannah Moscovitch about female representation in Canadian theatre, ‘vagina pieces,’ and her current works in production (Bunny, What A Young Wife Ought To Know, and Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story): “Honestly, I have a branding issue,” Hannah Moscovitch tells me. With show programs and press releases full of juicily quotable lines like “a young woman discovers the power of her allure” and “a young working-class wife who has a lot to learn about love, sex, and birth control,” it’s easy to forget that Moscovitch’s work breaks with traditional characterizations of women far more than it establishes them. “I tend to...

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“Idomeneus”: Digging For Truth In Myth

  In the end, it’s all about the story. The story you remember, the story you want to tell, and the story you don’t want to admit happened. After surviving a 10-year siege and the final horrific battle for Troy, Idomeneus sails home leading a fleet of eighty ships. A storm arises and every vessel in his fleet but his own goes to the bottom of the Aegean. Why? Why, after all that? But it’s all about staying alive, so Idomeneus promises the gods that if he and his remaining crew survive, he will sacrifice the first living thing...

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“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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