Saturday, December 24, 2011

Theatre For Thought, December 24, 2011

joel fishbane

The Best-Of list is a rite of passage for the weekly columnist and, like most rites of passage, it can be both annoying and instructive. What can really be accomplished by trying to remember some show you saw in February? On the other hand, if you do remember a show you saw in February, that definitely says something about the show. 
Still art is a subjective thing. Saying something is “the best” is a pretty definitive thing to say about something that, at the end of the day, still comes down to a matter of taste. 

With this in mind, I’m not calling this a “Best Of” list. Think of it as my equivalent to raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens: in other words, these are simply a few of my favourite things.

“’I want you to bite it off,’” said the dull, monotone voice of the stage manager.

My award for Favourite Theatrical Moment definitely goes to the vomiting effect in Centaur’s God of Carnage, not because it was so shocking, but because on opening night they managed to splatter some people in the first row. This included Mainline’s AD, Jeremy Hechtman, who probably wishes he could go back to the days when they gave him tickets in the back row. 

As a runner-up prize, I’ll have to cite a certain moment from another opening night, this one from Jeremy Taylor’s Big Plans. Produced in under two weeks, the actors just barely knew their lines, prompting several moments when they had to call for line. One such moment happened just as the cannibal character was about to slice off a portion of his companion’s body. 

“Line!” said the companion.

“’I want you to bite it off,’” said the dull, monotone voice of the stage manager.

At this point, the audience broke into laughter that infected the actors and effectively stalled the production for several minutes.

My award for Favourite Fringe Show definitely goes to Bezelbrute’s Manga, a show which deserved more attention at the MECCAs than it got. And speaking of the MECCAs, I was pleased to see John Dinning get the award for his set for Schwartz’s: the Musical. It was definitely my favourite set of the year - he recreated the deli so perfectly that I’m pretty sure I saw the mustard stain I put there the morning of opening night.

Still, Schwartz’s does not get the award for my favourite musical of the season – that goes to Segal’s Lies My Father Told Me. I’ll confess a little bias here. Composer / lyricist Elan Kunin and I are friends, but I’ll go to my grave stating that the score deserved more attention than it got (it was overshadowed by some over-enthusiastic praise heaped onto star Theodore Bikel). As a runner-up for favourite musical, I’m going to cite Process Theatre’s production of The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee, which was an enthusiastic and slightly giddy production.

As a fan of Geordie Theatre, I’m happy to say Mocshplat was one of my favourite shows of 2011 – the other would be El Desarrollo de la civiliacion venidera (The Development of the Coming Civilization) which appeared at the FTA in June. There’s also a soft spot in my heart for Sidemart Theatre’s recent spoof / satire Whiteman Whisky’s Comedy Revue and Uncalled For’s Hypnogogic Logic, which ran at the Wildside and will appear in Toronto this coming January. And while I’m talking about Uncalled For, I might as well tell Dan Jeanotte that his performance in Equus was my favourite of the year. 

And what do I want to see in 2012? Well, a little more Shakespeare would be nice and not the “In the Park” kind. And, really, would it kill English Montreal to produce a little Chekhov? Anything by Jean Anouilh would also be appreciated – I’d love to see Becket, though I’d settle for his adaptation of Antigone.  And I’m also going to keep hoping BTW puts on David Mamet’s Race. And since Montrealers seem to love endorsing new work, might I suggest bringing ex-Montrealer Jacob Richmond back into the fold? His musical Ride the Cyclone has been getting rave reviews across the country – so why should everyone else have all the fun? 

To quote my agent, “Happy Everything to You and Yours!”. Now get off the Internet and go kiss a loved one. 

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