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Thread: Live Theatre in Toronto

  1. Default Eternal Hydra-Buddies in Bad Times

    I wish, I wish, I wish I'd seen Eternal Hydra by Anton Piatigorsky (directed by Chris Abraham) early in its run so I could have the pleasure of seeing it again, but it ends on May 31st. Crow’s Theatre presentation of this now two-act play (from it’s original one act) has got to be, for me, one of the highlights of this year. I’ve seen too many well written plays stagger under the weight of bad or mediocre actors. Likewise, I’ve seen too many fine actors embarrassed by sloppy scripts and amateur direction. This cast is uniformly excellent and does the superbly written words proud by giving them such emotional and intellectual life.

    David Ferry, Sam Malkin, Liisa Repo-Martell, Karen Robinson are so good I can’t (and won’t) praise one more than another. They had me from the moment the lights went up and didn’t let go for a second. Amazing!

    “The play is set in motion by the discovery of a long-lost novel, whose pages sparks an academic controversy that reaches as far back as the American Civil War and irrevocably entwines all those who come in contact with it. Obsession, identity politics and the myth of genius all come to play in this post-modern look at the making of a modernist masterpiece.”

    That's from the website, and is as good a summary as any. Frankly, I don’t trust myself to write one of my own; it would probably run as long as the play itself (I’m still a little high from it.) It’s a rare thing to have the mind and the heart so enthralled at one time.

    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  2. Default Riverdance- Canon Theatre

    I wouldn't have gone to see "Riverdance" if it hadn't been a substitution in last year's Mirvish season, pinch-hitting for "The Boys in the Photograph" being staged this year. I remember what an effect that "wall of feet" had when I first saw them on television almost 14 years ago. But that was before its international success turned it (and its creator) into both cliché and parody. So, cynical me sat in the audience ready to make mock and instead was impressed by the technical and physical virtuosity. Forget narrative and think of this as a variety night for foot stompers and singers. (I've no idea why a Spanish dancer showed up, or why the Russians came on, but who cares; they were good and they were fun.) I was glad I saw it and I'm glad to know that this is its farewell engagement. No disrespect to the tremendous talent on stage, but the brand is worn out, its "best before date" gone, like "Stomp" and "Tap Dogs" before it.

    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  3. Default Dora Nominations Announced

    Glad to see so many worthy productions nominated. Especially happy for "Eternal Hydra"!


    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  4. Default Awake and Sing!-Soulpepper Theatre

    "Awake and Sing!", Soulpepper Theatre's production of Clifford Odets' play ( first performed in 1935). It's the depths of the Depression (the REAL one). Bessie (Nancy Palk) rules her family with an iron fist and a mean mouth. As she tell us, she's had to be both mother and father to Ralph (Jonathan Gould) and his sister, Hennie (Sarah Wilson). The father, Myron (Derek Boyes) is a somewhat dotty dreamer, having long since given in (and up) to his wife. Jacob (William Webster) is Bessie aged father, a devout Marxist and a devotee of Enrico Caruso; all his dashed hopes and thwarted dreams are fixed on his grandson, Ralph. Moe, the lodger (Ari Cohen) is a one-legged louche, hardened by war and life. Morty (Michael Hanrahan), Bessie's successful brother, is thrown into the mix.

    So, stick these characters in a claustrophobic, emotional hothouse of an apartment in the Bronx and their should be fireworks. Why aren’t there nearly enough of them? Where accents often aren't necessary, in this play they’re essential. There's a rhythm to the Yiddish constructed English, peppered with contemporary slang, that is crucial to the play. Only a few of the actors pull it off convincingly for any length of time. Of the cast Michael Hanarahan, Derek Boyes, and Ari Cohen deliver the most consistent accents and speech patterns; they appear effortless, not memorized.

    Nancy Palk falls into a caricature of a Jewish mother too often, and too rarely shows us how deadly her brand of maternal love can be. When she finally reveals how HER dreams were destroyed, how HER ambitions were thwarted in her youth it comes to us almost too late.

    There are other passions brewing in this little American melting pot: Ralph is in love with a "shiksa" who his mother loathes. Hennie’s in love with Moe, but dupes (at her mother’s command) the hapless Schlosser (Oliver Dennis) into marrying her when she becomes pregnant. Everybody wants out. Everybody needs money to do it. There's an insurance policy involved. Someone dies. Marriages dissolve and there's an unbelievable conversion near the end, where the young (and jilted Ralph) sees the light of Socialism and decides to devote himself to the union cause.

    The play was written at a time when there were even fewer safety nets in America then there are now. Communism was seen by some as the only solution to the destructive forces of Capitalism and as the only alternative to the rising wave of Fascism sweeping Europe, an opinion that got Odets into trouble years later, trouble he got out of by “naming names”.

    Oh, and there's only one intermission, not two as stated in the playbill.
    Last edited by Benc7; 2009-Jun-20 at 10:52.
    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  5. Default Globe Article-Interesting Article

    Don't let the title fool you: "Movies offer escape. Theatre lets us understand."; it's a silly and meaningless attention grabber. It's the opinions of the people interviewed that are of interest and worth reading.

    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  6. Default Scorched-Tarragon Theatre

    What better way to spend this first perfect day of summer than in a dark theatre watching, people being raped, tortured and shot? I missed “Scorched” the first two times around and I swore I’d see this latest incarnation before it too disappeared. The play, by Wajdi Mouawad(beautifully translated from the French by Linda Gaboriau and directed by Richard Rose) has received some of the most effusive reviews I’ve ever seen in this town. The play begins in Montreal; twins Simon (Fabrizio Filippo) and Janine (Sophie Goulet) have come to notary Alphonse Lebel (Alon Nashman) to hear the contents of their mother’s will, a woman who hasn’t spoken a word for the five years preceding her death. The will orders them not to mark her grave until they find the brother they didn’t know they had and the father they thought was dead. This takes us to the mother’s homeland, never referred to by name, but somewhere in the Middle East as evidenced by the set which consists largely of sand. A lot of sand. We see the mother’s (Nawal) life acted out by three woman of different ages: Janick Hébert is Nawal from age 14-19, Allegra Fulton at age 40 and Diana Leblanc plays her at age 60. Actors do double, and sometimes triple duty. This must be a bitch of a play to act in; the emotional and physical demands are prodigious.

    The script is poetic, lyrical, and dense; there’s so much to savour. It is, at times hilarious, with most of the humour provided by the notary who utters some of the funniest malapropisms since Mrs. Malaprop herself. “We see the train at the end of the tunnel” is both comical and all too true; the train of truth is bearing down on everyone. This play is about war and its absolute dehumanization of everyone it touches and the freaking futility of revenge that spins itself into the past and destroys the future. It’s almost Greek in its tragic proportions, a bloody, violent play, full of secrets that are revealed one after another by a cast worthy of the script and a director fully in charge of its vision. The action doesn’t beckon us along, it force-marches us. Truth will out and the truth is horrendous. Revelation after revelation about the missing father and brother, hard sought, pile one on top of the other, until the end when there is (for me ) one revelation too many. The playwright, so strong for the entire play, has what I call a “Tennessee Williams moment”: something bad happens and not content with that, he makes it MORE awful and tips over the top . Like in “Suddenly Last Summer” when Sebastian is murdered by the village boys that he’s exploited. That’s horrible enough but believable. Then Williams takes that giant step further and has them EAT Sebastian! Right. Yeah. Whatever. So to, in this play, the events are terrible but credible but that one extra thing that is meant to resolve and clarify all of these relationships left me with my mouth agape. Crap!

    Worth seeing? Absolutely! Is it, as the Globe put it “… the best piece of theatre this country has produced this millennium”? So close, but not quite.

    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  7. #67


    I'm tempted to see one of my favourites - Loot. Have you been?

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Urban Shocker View Post
    I'm tempted to see one of my favourites - Loot. Have you been?
    I'll see it on Friday. The buzz around it has been really good so I'm looking forward to it. A few laughs are always welcome.
    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  9. Default Independent theatre can be hard to find

    From this morning's Toronto Star: a look at the lack of suitable, affordable space for small independent theatre in Toronto. The tenacious resourcefulness of artists in making due with what they find is reassuring.

    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  10. Default Loot-Soulpepper Theatre

    This Soulpepper Production of “Loot”( the 1966 farce by British bad-boy, Joe Orton) is the first time I’ve seen an Orton play on stage. Maybe 43 years are too many for the play to remain as outrageous and daring as it must have seemed at the time. Maybe 43 years aren’t enough, and I’m still too close to appreciate it. Or, maybe, it’s just not that good of a play taken out of the context of the decade, and away from the life of the man that produced it.

    Two working class guys, Hal (Matthew Edison) and Dennis (Jonathan Watton), have robbed a bank. One of then is an undertaker and the other has a dead mother close at hand. They are in love with each other when they’re not in brothels or thinking about women or fathering children. Utter cads, the two of them, with not a shred of decency. Now, how to smuggle the money out of the house? Hmm…why there’s the coffin with mummy in it! There’s nurse Fay (Nicole Underhay), care-giver for the said mother who seems to have made a career of marrying and then disposing of her husbands. All seven of them. The father, upright Catholic, Mr.McLeavy (Oliver Dennis) is straight man and fall guy for the shenanigans that ensue. Inspector Truscott (Michael Hanrahan), masquerading as someone from “the Water Board” is "Clouseauesque" in his methodology, but mean and violent as Clouseau never was. There’s a great deal of entering and exiting, as befits a farce, and a great many indignities are foisted on the dead mother, particularly her teeth. The Church, both Catholic and Protestant, is skewered. Virtue is punished and vice rewarded.

    Although there are chuckles to be had, there aren’t as many as I’d hoped for. Timing is everything and the timing of this cast is off; they step on the laughs which is almost as bad as begging for them. This was pointed out in a review I read earlier in the week and they’re STILL doing it. For this the director, Jim Warren, must take some responsibility. If they aren’t listening to the audience are they listening to each other? This play is pre-Benny Hill, pre-Monty Python, Pre-Ab-Fab and you can hear their distant antecedents in it. We’ve seen too much and, frankly, far better in the four-plus decades since this was written. Perhaps we’ve seen all that BECAUSE of this play: we move forward in steps, and this play (and the playwright) represents one of those steps.

    Orton wrote this to give the finger to the “Old Bill”; he and his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, spent six months in jail for defacing library books (some times obscenely) and ripping out illustrations (some 1600 of them) to decorate their apartment. Orton led a wild and openly gay life at a time when just being gay was cause enough for arrest. His murder, at the hands of his lover, shocked the world. “Ortonesque”, a word coined to describe his work, is defined as witty, subversive, sexual and deliberately shocking. An apt description of his short life.

    When I left the theatre, I could see the CN Tower from the Distillery, lit up like a rainbow flag for Pride Day. Yeah, we’ve taken quite a few steps, thanks to people like Joe.

    Last edited by Benc7; 2009-Jun-27 at 01:50. Reason: Clarification
    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  11. Default Doras awarded, good news from Tarragon

    The 2009 Dora Awards were handed out; I'm thrilled to see so many excellent productions and people honoured.


    And from Tarragon Theatre's latest news letter: the 2008-09 season gave them the "highest number of subscribers-ever". Excellent!
    Last edited by Benc7; 2009-Jul-01 at 11:16.
    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  12. Default Affordability of Toronto Theatre

    I think there's still a misconception that live theatre in Toronto is an expensive proposition; it doesn’t have to be, and most theatre groups bend over backwards to take affordability out of the equation.

    If someone wants to “test the waters”, there are rush seats available at every theatre in town. TIX is a really good place to find same-day tickets at half-price. Soulpepper, Tarragon, Factory, Canadian Stage, Buddies in Bad Times, even Mirvish and DanCap offer rush seats. Matinees are often cheaper than evening performances, weekdays and evenings cheaper than weekends; preview performances can be cheaper still. If you’re under thirty, or a senior citizen, the theatrical world is your very affordable oyster.

    I’m a big proponent of subscriptions; they offer guaranteed seating at very, very good prices AND they give you the opportunity of seeing plays that you might not otherwise choose to see. Some of my best experiences have come from seeing something in a subscription series I wouldn’t have chosen: anyone want to see a play about the patriation of the Canadian Constitution? I didn’t either, but I did, and ended up seeing something really good.

    I’ve mentioned only a few of the theatre companies that exist in Toronto; there are many smaller, newer ones forming every week. Finding out about them and their productions (before they disappear or morph into something new) is fun in itself. Every theatre group in this city has a mandate and style as unique to itself as a fingerprint; discovering that is one of the great pastimes this town has to offer.

    Last edited by Benc7; 2009-Jul-01 at 11:15.
    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

  13. #73


    Haven't seen it, but a Fringe friend who did quite enjoyed this:


  14. #74


    The Fringe Festival is now underway. If anyone is looking for something to see, might I recommend Charles Manson and Timothy Leary at Folsom Prison. A friend of mine is the playwright, and I went last weekend and it was fantastic. It's also been very well reviewed.

  15. Default Icarus Redux- Fringe Festival

    This year, I had "The Fringe Festival” all figured out; I would go to the venues easiest to get to and see whatever was on. Well, life intervened and I got to see…nothing. So, today, my last stab at the Fringe, I went to St. Vladimirs’ Theatre on Spadina and saw two in a row: “Icarus Redux” by Sean O’Neill and “Weaverville Waltz” by Randy Rutherford.

    I would say Icarus Redux is a play “in becoming”, something the playwright makes clear in his notes on page one of the rather slick programme. One might say that about the Fringe as a whole; most of the works presented will never go beyond what's staged at the festival. A few will, and I hope this is one of them. That there WAS a multi-page programme indicated that this might be something a little more ambitious than usual. The myth of Icarus and Daedalus is used as a departure point for the examination of loss and anger and love between a father and his son, or is it the father and his younger self?. At this stage of the play’s evolution the two actors( Jonathan Whittaker (Daedalus) and Alex Fiddes (The Boy)), the set and the lighting are better and clearer than the play itself. Of the two actors, Whittaker (the older and more experienced) shows us what good acting is all about. I could have watched him on stage doing his part solo and would have departed, satisfied. Fiddes is young; he has still to learn speak clearly on an un-amplified stage. And he really has to learn to respect the words he’s been given. This is a tiny theatre; I sat in the third row and still missed too many of his words and sometimes whole lines. The set and the lighting would be good on any stage but at the Fringe, it’s quite something. And having said all that, the play is an ambitious, unrefined, amorphous series of ideas and emotions. Short scenes of great poignancy (especially with Whittaker) don’t seem to add up to anything. An attempted rape scene might be acceptable in a longer work but it comes on us too fast in this 55 minute production. I don’t like having things handed to me on a plate but I really don’t like having to work through something that's being presented as complex when it’s merely unfinished and confusing. I look forward to a further incarnation of this work, maybe as a one-man show with Whittaker.
    "Fish will be the last to discover water."

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