Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) War of the Worlds

Welles Does Wells
by Jim Murchison
When Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre brought H. G. Wells War of The Worlds to life on radio it created widespread panic through the United States and brought the young wonder kid Orson instant international fame. The Gladstone’s production under the direction of Teri Loretto Valentik is decidedly lighter.

This is the third radio play I've reviewed but the first that has had a Halloween theme. While the set is familiar this is a different sort of fun from the Christmas shows. For the most part the direction of this play has a tongue in cheek goofiness. There are some true moments of drama mixed in. Primarily these occur when the Martians are engulfing all and when the focus shifts to the very serious Orson Welles played by Zach Counsil. Counsil does not try to imitate Orson Welles but he captures his dramatic essence and is omnipresent throughout even when he is in the background.

Michelle Leblanc as Wilmuth, Stranger and others, plays primarily male voices although dressed elegantly in a floor length gown. Good thing this is radio or we would have had a harder time believing it in that gown.

As for the three voices of the radio announcers, they were so effective and believable that they could probably all successfully pursue broadcasting careers if acting doesn't pan out for them. Since Laurence Wall and Dave Gerow already have steady jobs with CBC they will likely keep their day jobs but maybe eke out more opportunities to satisfy the theatre itch. David Holton may have the more difficult decision if selected in the next broadcaster draft. In any event there was an authentic feel to the broadcast although the one gag involving Professor Pierson went on a bit long for my taste.

In radio the real star is often the sound effects that finish the illusion that you are live at the scene. Karen Benoit provides a great deal of fun and spacey scariness particularly playing the theremin. If you aren't familiar with the instrument you will be familiar with the squeaks and squawks and weird whistling sounds that have said space to us since the infancy of audio science fiction dramas.

It should be a fun time for all and it is something that you can take the whole family to. It's a short run so try to make it.

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission

Review: (Montreal) A Brimful of Asha

Tradition versus modernism, mother versus son
Step into the Jains’s kitchen for a delightful family fracas
by Sarah Deshaies

Asha Jain has a problem. Her youngest son, Ravi, refuses to get hitched. This dilemma, which is one shared by scores of parents, is magnified by her family’s traditional Indian background, which calls for quick and early nuptials for offspring.

You know of Asha Jain’s problem because that one rebellious son is also a performer, director and playwright. And, horrified by his parents scheming to find him a wife, he’s determined to make sure the world knows about their devious plans.

Review: (Montreal) Le paradis à la fin de vos jours

Returning to Nana
by Élaine Charlebois

In Le paradis à la fin de vos jours, Rita Lafontaine plays Rhéauna ‘Nana’ Rathier, a character inspired by the mother of beloved Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay. In this piece, Nana finds herself in paradise where she must spend the rest of eternity surrounded by her deceased family members, namely her boisterous mother and critical mother-in-law. 

As Nana, Lafontaine gives us a heartwarming and simultaneously heartbreaking performance. Having been Tremblay’s muse since 1968 when she took on the role of Lise Paquette in the classic Les Belles-Soeurs, and having embodied Nana on stage more than 175 times in Encore une fois, si vous permettez, Lafontaine shows awesome confidence and control in her performance. Throughout her monologue, the actress so perfectly captures the essence and wit of French Canadian culture in Quebec. Banalities are described in hilarious detail, turning everyday occurrences into great stories to be told. 

Review: (Toronto) Coma

Lorraine Klaasen
Coma, an undead family drama 
by Rebecca Lillian

It’s Halloween weekend. It is a time for all kinds of undead stories. The play, Coma, is a good choice if you are: a) fed up with the usual ghoulish undead type of stories (ghosts, vampires, zombies and so on) and b) are looking for something a little less horror and a little more family drama. Coma is a good drama about serious issues. 

I typically don’t do dramas. Dramas can be relentlessly boring. However, in this case, the characters and story were endlessly interesting. The premise: a mother, Nana (Lorraine Klaasen) trapped between life and death who is unable to communicate with her children. The relationship between siblings Ifueko (Bridget Ogundipe) and Osasu (Wale Ojo) developed nicely and is what brought life to the play. The siblings navigate between right and wrong and family secrets are exposed. 

Review: (Montreal) Andreï ou le frère des Trois Soeurs

photo by Théo Gravereaux
Three Sisters Redux
by Aleksandra Koplik

Anyone who is familiar with Chekhov’s work would agree that doing a spin-off of the Three Sisters is no easy task. Actually, it’s bloody impossible without ruffling a few feathers. This isn’t the “Joey” of “Friends”, for crying out loud.

The work’s creators Justin Laramée and Olivier Aubin set up camp in Espace Libre. The black box concept automatically warns you that this play steps outside the limits of traditional theatre. The stage is lit with a gigantic chandelier made of spotlights (to represent the wealth of the bourgeoisie). We see a three legged sofa (the fourth leg is symbolically held up by a stack of books), an old television, a cassette player/recorder and a line of tables in the very back containing all the props used by the actors during the 90-minute show. The actors have enough space to allow them the possibility to shift freely and exaggerate their movements.

Picture of the Week, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from the batshit gang from Theatre Brouhaha's Sucker. Courtesy of photographer Zaiden.
(Front: Andy Trithardt, Kat Sandler [Writer/Director], Jessica Moss. Back: Colin Munch, Astrid Van Wieren, G. Kyle Shields)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Evil Dead the Musical

Daniel Williston (photo by David Hou)

Deliciously Goofy Gore-soaked Fun
Toronto favourite still has its weak spots, but there’s no denying it’s a fun night out.
by Christian Baines

It seems pretty redundant to assess the strengths of Evil Dead’s writing as a musical now. The semi-original Canadian camp-fest has been touring with incredible success since 2003. If audience enthusiasm at the Randolph Theatre on Tuesday night is any indication, there’s still quite a bit to come. That’s not to give the show a free pass, but understand that at this stage of its life, Evil Dead is as much a raucous cult experience as it is a musical.

It belongs to that most difficult, yet persistent genre, the bloody B-grader – though if you’re going in expecting another Little Shop of Horrors, Bat Boy, or even Reefer Madness, it may be time to adjust your expectations. Evil Dead has a few well publicized tricks up its sleeve that these shows don’t, but its book and score don’t aim for anywhere near say, Bat Boy’s level of character development or sophisticated snark. The score doesn’t particularly grasp for originality and the lyrics contain as many forced moments as they do inspired ones. Henry Winkler? Yeah... even Ash (Ryan Ward) calls them out – in character – on that one.

But damn if the end result isn’t bloody good fun!

Review: (Toronto) The Birth of Frankenstein

Birthing Pains
Seen-Before Frankenstein
by Jason Booker

To paraphrase Mary Shelley, nothing can come into existence with a basis in the past and there can be no future for it unless it lives in the present.

First, the present. Litmus Theatre has created Birth of Frankenstein, an hour-long show based on the writings of Shelley and her influential literary contemporaries. The play specifically focuses on the life of the author as it influences her well-known magnum opus, Frankenstein.

A collaboratively written piece, created by actors Claire Wynveen, Adriano Sobretodo Jr. and director Matthew Thomas Walker, Birth of Frankenstein tells the tale of Mary Shelley (Wynveen) using four actors to play multiple roles in fleshing out Shelley’s personal life. Within the opening minutes of the piece, death announces its presence with the demise of Mary’s mother during childbirth, followed by her Catholic upbringing by her political father, Percy Shelley’s courtship of her and her odd connection to stepsister Claire Clairmont (Tosha Doiron) and Claire’s lover, Lord Byron (Adrian Proszowski). As a result, only the final ten minutes of the show deal with Mary’s fictional monster and his creator (Sobretodo), recapping commonly-known details and incorporating a few newly illuminated portions of her life into the story.

News: Vancouver International Dance Fest announces 2014 lineup (Press release)

News: (Toronto) COC announces fund-raising and attendance figures for 2012/13

In a Word... Lauren Brotman and Jack Grinhaus on Dirty Butterfly (Obsidian/Bound To Create, Toronto)

Maintaining the Edge
Juggling the match and the dynamite
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

B2C Theatre engages audiences with familiar and relevant themes presented in unfamiliar ways. They strive to create cutting-edge theatre that aggressively reaches its audiences by exploring dark themes, rich texts, heightened physicality and tension, and bold visual imagery through a fusion of artistic forms. Their aim is to ‘provoke and charge the soul’ by creating intense and visceral productions that have a modern, social, and artistic relevance to the world today. Lauren Brotman and Jack Grinhaus share artistic directorship...and more.

CHARPO: Before we dive into the show, a little birdie told me you've just had a child. You share theatre and life projects. How does that dynamic play out?

BROTMAN:  In rehearsal we have an amazing caregiver on site with us.  That way we're not separated from our 2.5 month old for the 9 hour day, but we can still work rigorously on the piece. Breaks are all about feeding Ethan and spending time with him which keeps us all connected. At home we spend a few hours a night producing, one of us with our son, and the other working on the check list, switching after every task.  We also make sure we have an hour or so before bed where it's just the three of us. While it's a hugely challenging time, I couldn't feel more lucky that everything that is important to me is so incredibly intertwined right now.

GRINHAUS:  He's a true theatre baby. A trooper that has a dirty butterfly onesie and is a producer on sight, being in charge of breaks and all. But our lives as artists have always coincided with our personal lives. Lauren and I have lived and worked together since the inception of B2C, so Ethan joining us was just the next logical step.

Video of the Week, October 30, 2013

World Stage is coming and we "lurve" this trailer for it. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

After Dark, October 29, 2013

Shaken AND Stirred
Great art makes you remember great art
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I had the great good fortune this week of having one of those moments that we all seek - usually through drugs, weird sex, rich food (name a vice). Those of us who appreciate art are lucky to have those kinds of moments from art. They are rare indeed.

It is an intake of breath. It is finding yourself prayerful. (Oh! My God! Oh! My God! or, for the anti-theists, Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!) It is having something stick with you for long after it is no longer before you. Indeed, it is to have something invade your dreams and - years after - be vividly remembered. It's not just something very good - it's something perfect which also comes along at the right time in the life of the individual.

It got me to counting those moments in my 56 years and I'd like to share the four of them. (Please share yours in the comments section below!)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: (Toronto) le fa le do

(photo by Marc Lemyre)
Weird Science
by Shannon Christy

The notion of eternal youth must have intrigued man from the moment we crawled out of our primordial goo and set foot/fin on the surface and looked down to see in a reflection that we had some lines. The quest for eternal youth has been something civilization has been searching since the Pyramids to the modern notion of the Singularity. Le fa le do is the Théâtre français de Toronto’s attempt to throw their hat in the ring to come up with an entertaining if improbable answer to this age-old mystery. 

The Question...Tommy Taylor (You Should Have Stayed Home)

All You Can Do Is Laugh
by Estelle Rosen

Tommy Taylor is a theatre artist, activist and NGO fundraiser living in Toronto. Recently he was assistant director / video designer on Keystone Theatre’s Dora award-winning silent film meets stage project, The Belle of Winnipeg, adaptor/director of Dear Everybody at the CanStage 2009 Festival of Ideas and Creation and winner of the 2010 InspiraTO 10-minute playwriting competition for Sandwich. Mr Taylor was the director of Vancouver based playwright Jordan Hall’s award-winning Kayak for its North American premiere in the 2010 SummerWorks Festival (CBC and NOW critics pick). He is a graduate of the Centre for Cultural Management (University of Waterloo/ CCCO), The Vancouver Film School and Humber College’s Community Arts Development Program.

Mr. Taylor was arrested (but never charged) and detained during the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto. He has since turned his account of the experience into You Should Have Stayed Home, one of the top shows at the 2011 SummerWorks Festival, now on a cross-Canada tour.

CHARPO: The title says a lot! You spent an unforgettable 48 hours during the G20 weekend in Toronto which is the basis of this piece, with the surtitle  A G-20 Romp. It doesn't sound like a romp! Tell us about those 48 hours. Besides Montreal, you've been touring this piece in Whitehorse, Vancouver, Toronto and later this month in Ottawa. Does your live performance of this story feel like re-living the experience?

TAYLOR: The 'You Should Have Stayed Home' part of the title is based on what a lot of people told me after G20. It seemed like a pretty popular sentiment amongst a lot of Canadians. I titled the play after that in the hopes that people who felt that way would come to see the show. The surtitle, "A G20 Romp" alludes more to the style of the show, which isn't a heavy handed lecture, which surprises people. I've had a lot of folks tell me they weren't expecting to laugh so much at a story about Canada's largest mass arrest. Yes, people find many parts of the show outrageous and sad, but there are some things that happened during my arrest and detention that are so ludicrous, all you can do is laugh. 

It can certainly be a hard story to tell, but I'm very fortunate that there is a scene in the show that features anywhere from 10 to 25 participants who join me on stage as fellow detainees. We've had over 150 Canadians join us on the tour so far to stand up for civil rights, and that's been incredibly powerful. Having those people in each community standing with me is an astounding source of strength. Discovering that Canadians view G20 as not a Toronto issue, but as a Canadian issue has been inspiring. Canadians are seeing the same problems happen in their cities, like what happened with policing of the Quebec Student Protests or the Vancouver Olympic Protests. Anyone who wants to participate when we come to Montreal can email us at - love to have you get in the cage with me Montreal!

You Should Have Stayed Home continues at MainLine Theatre in Montreal October 30-November 2 
Arts Court Theatre in Ottawa November 20-23

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Abduction From the Seraglio

Ambur Braid, Lawrence Wilfiord (photo by Bruce Zinger)
I Need a Hero
by Shannon Christy

At some point one wonders why the cavemen bothered to paint on their walls.  Theories abound but I have always been convinced that it was boredom.  Art to a large sense is a desire to alleviate the pain and monotony of routine.  In this sense Opera Atelier’s production of Abduction From The Seraglio is just that, a relief from the minutiae of life.

Abduction From The Seraglio is about the kidnapping of three youths by a Turkish Pasha who installs them in his seraglio or harem and a rescue attempt by their friend.  It is about the emotions, and especially the passions of life in youth and the mercy of a foreigner with plenty of opportunity for humour.  I have always walked a fine line with Mozart’s humour.  On one hand it can seem to stretch new boundaries and eliminate innate prejudices but on the other hand it can be as the American comedian Bill Hicks would say, a lot of purple-headed dick jokes.  I tend to prefer it when new boundaries are stretched but this production seems more in tune with purple-headed dick jokes. 

Sunday Feature: Jessica Kostuck on Far Away (Bad Dress Productions, Toronto)

A not-so-distant dystopian future
by Jessica Kostuck

A graduate of McGill University’s English Drama and Theatre Program, Jessica Kostuck is Artistic Director of Bad Dress Productions. Previous credits include Third Floor (Assistant Director, Thousand Islands Playhouse), 21 Days (Director, 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival, Patron’s Pick Award), The Vagina Monologues (Director, V-Day McGill) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Director, Players’ Theatre). 

What thrills me about Far Away is that it’s not – so many aspects of the play can be traced back to one's own reality. From our set to our costumes to our original score, everything is very familiar, but slightly different. It’s that feeling when you walk into your apartment and wonder – was someone else just here? 

In Far Away, Joan’s world drastically changes when she witnesses a violent event. Years later, Joan gets a job as a hatmaker, and she and Todd unravel the threads of a political conspiracy. Joan realizes that everything in her life has been connected, has been leading up to her placement in this hat factory. As she gets more involved in the rebellion movement, Joan must examine if she’s the one in control of her destiny - if she’s the player or the pawn. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of

Debut play by Omari Newton critiques both hip hop and authority figures
by  Sarah Deshaies
You’re waiting amongst dozens of other people, quietly chatting and mingling. Then the sirens blair, and a svelte, First Nations transvestite bursts into the crowded lobby, eager to stroke and chastise the waiting audience members. She works the room in red, lace-up heels and a leather jacket.You’re her “tourists”, on a journey into a tale of mythological hip hop and riotous rebellion. Welcome to Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of, the brave if sometimes long-winded debut of playwright Omari Newton.

Review: (Toronto) 360 Screenings

Inside the Secret
by Jasmine Chen

The tag line for 360 Screenings is “Step in to the film”. This immersive screening experience begins even before you enter the venue. Outside 10 Adelaide Street East, at 10:50pm, there’s a long line stretching down the block. Already, the world of the film is being created for us by actors who interact with the audience while they wait. 10 Adelaide street, is a heritage building, the sixth venue to house a 360 Screening. I’ve passed by this address so many times, but for the first time tonight I’m really noticing it. The Ontario Heritage Centre was built in 1909 originally as a bank. Pillars loom above us as we wait. Soon, we’re ushered into the lobby where the space is dressed as a new setting altogether. I won’t give anything away, though, because that’s the best part: not knowing what to expect. How it works is 360 Screenings does not reveal the location of the screening until a day or so before. You are then given recommended actions, like what to wear and what to bring. All of these actions are suggested to help you better connect as a participant. When I say “participant”, I mean: expect to be engaged. The performers are not only open to your curiosity, but they will actively seek you out and involve you in the world of the film. Clues are everywhere, if you look for them. In speaking to different characters, you’ll be led closer to the discovery of what you’ll be watching later on. 

Review: (Vancouver) Communion

Photo by Tim Matheson
Stunning production gets under your skin
The actors, the design, the direction, the script

by David C. Jones

“It’s the question” we are told from the beginning. We want comfort and clarity and certainty but how do we achieve it. We can clasp to our career, our religion, our relationships, or to booze and pills. We make choices but often lose confidence with them. We want advice and permission.

Daniel MacIvor is a renowned Canadian playwright, who explores morality and mortality, defensiveness and neediness and wraps it in dripping sarcasm.

This 2010 tale is told in three scenes and it concerns three women whose lives intersect. Leda is a recovering alcoholic with terminal cancer who is seeing a cool as cucumber psychotherapist named Carolyn who is helping her reconnect her former drug addict, now very devout, daughter named Annie.

Review: (Toronto) The Nefarious Bed and Breakfast

by Gregory Bunker

The Nefarious Bed & Breakfast, a comedy by Monkeyman Productions, sees a former supervillain – Dr. Notto Nefarious – turn a new leaf as the sole-proprietor of a Toronto bed and breakfast. His first guests are anything but normal, and Nefarious soon finds out there’s more to running a B&B than forced conversation and croissants. Especially when his clients have their own reasons for being a part of this particular B&B.

Review: (Montreal) Une vie pour deux

Evelyne de la Chenelière, Jean-François Casabonne, Violette Chauveau (photo by Caroline Laberge)

The Corpse
by Aleksandra Koplik

Une Vie Pour Deux is a a play about a middle-aged couple, Jean and Simone, who decide to go on vacation to Ireland in the hopes of reviving their relationship. There, Jean finds a dead woman's body washed up on the beach. The whole play itself concentrates on Jean and Simone's growing obsession with the cadaver. They try to imagine who this woman is and why she died. We learn that the deceased woman's name was Mary and that she was pregnant with a married man's child. This of course requires further probing from our leading characters in terms of the moral aspects of the situation, so much so that Mary becomes a stone in their already unstable relationship.

Review: (Toronto) You Can Sleep When You're Dead

Lea Russell (photo by Samantha Hurley)

No rest for the wicked-ish
by Dave Ross

“A beating heart is snatched from a person’s chest… a man in the kitchen tries to save his life from a cook’s savage hankering...a priest initiates an exorcism for the good still left in the demon’s host.” These are some of the events promised you in the Campbell House Museum this Hallowe’en, as Theatre Lab mounts their interactive theatre experience You Can Sleep When You’re Dead.

Review: (Toronto) Sucker

Jessica Moss, Andy Trithardt (photo by Zaiden)
Modern (Adams) Family 
by Spencer Malthouse 

When their parents are killed in a whimsical tragedy, Jamie (not-Jewish) decides to be a Rabbi and Beth realizes that she is a vampire. Theatre Brouhaha’s Sucker is an uproariously heart-warming story of a brother and sister struggling with the death of their parents. It is a tragicomic story of the bizarre ways people deal with grief.

News: (Toronto) FireWorks series announced (press release)

News: (Montreal) SIPA announces lineup for Short Works Festival (Press release)

creating a/broad, October 26, 2013

The Secrets of a Sidewalk Typist
by Cameryn Moore

When I’m in New Orleans, the Sidewalk Smut—you know, that weird little sidewalk gig where I pound out off-the-cuff custom pornography on a typewriter for strangers—takes up much more space in my consciousness than at any other time of the year. I can actually make money to live on, if I put in the hours, so I do, making up for mediocre box office in the previous four stops of my tour. New Orleans is also the only place where I’ve met other sidewalk typists (they’re all poets). It makes me realize how much I crave collegial interactions with people who share my same pursuits. It’s easy with Fringe performers, we’re fucking everywhere, but sidewalk typists are a very rare breed and not really out there.

So earlier this week I felt moved to contact the Buskers’ Hall of Fame, a website and podcast collection dedicated to interviews and oral history from buskers. I’ve known about them for a while, but was reluctant to reach out, afraid of being rebuffed. I have never been quite sure that Sidewalk Smut fits under that rubric, any more than palm-reading or caricature artists. But here in New Orleans it is really clear that I share the same urban space with them, and frequently street musicians pass by and there is always a smile or at least a friendly nod. We are all doing things out here on the street for money, and anyway, here I start feeling a little lonely, even with my poet neighbours, because I know that for the rest of the year, I will be alone and I don’t want to be. I want a fucking guild, some space, virtual or real, where we can chat over some equivalent of a water cooler and bitch about the assholes and discuss crowd psychology and admire each other’s patter and signage. All that stuff.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bonus Feature: Video - Keir Cutler "Shakespeare Authorship / Crackpot to Mainstream"

Keir Cutler has allowed us to upload the presentation he made at this year's Shakespeare Authorship Conference in Toronto. The title: Shakespeare Authorship / Crackpot to Mainstream

Enjoy (and comment)!

CharPo's Real Theatre! October 25, 2013

A Fly On The Wall, October 25, 2013

People are Strange
by Jim Murchison 

When I was a young man contemplating a life in the theatre an aunt of mine wondered at the choice. It wasn't that she thought it was an unstable way of life which it is. What she was concerned about was that it might be an unsavoury way of life that would bring me in touch with people that had strange points of view or lifestyles. My response was that I preferred it to politics. She understood my point and said, “Yes, I suppose.”

I have met some odd people in my life whatever that means. I met a man that told me he had multiple litigious personality disorder. In other words he didn't like going to court, but he was possessed by personalities that insisted on it and it was as much of an ordeal for him as those he dragged into it. The man was quite brilliant. At one point he had been charged himself with harassment of a female employee of a large company and he argued that they were actually lovers that had met at group counselling sessions where he was learning how to cope with his litigious personalities and she was being treated for compulsive lying disorder. Every time that she would insist that they were not lovers, he would point to that as proof that they were since she was afflicted with an ailment that made her incapable of telling the truth. He would just point at her and smile and say, “There, you see.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Armstrong's War

Matreya Scarrwener, Mik Byskov (photo by David Cooper)

Powerful performance by Matreya Scarrwener
Simple story about the power of stories
by David C. Jones
It takes awhile to get going but Armstrong’s War delivers some powerful and hopeful moments and a surprisingly effective performance by Grade 10 student Matreya Scarrwener.

Ms Scarrwener is one half of Colleen Murphy adroitly written drama about a wheelchair bound Pathfinder trying to collect her Community Service badge by reading stories to a wounded solider back from the Middle East. It teeters close to ‘Hallmark movie of the week’ but manages to stay clever and holds a couple of surprises.

Director Mindy Parfitt has cast actors who would be the age of their characters and she also has to navigate some of the more predictable turns in the script, which she manages with a light but truthful touch.

Review: (Toronto) The Double

Adam Paolozza, Viktor Likawski (photo by Lacey Creighton)

Move over Gollum, there’s a new neurotic in town. 
by Keely Kwok 

It’s almost the end of Act Two. The bass picks up the pace, a lively tune, and Viktor Lukawski (as one of the many caricatures he plays) yanks a vintage microphone from the wings. “What’s this doing here?” he wonders with a chuckle and some doo-wop pizzazz. 

Then he announces what we’ve all been waiting for: Golyadkin and his Double Act! 
Oh he couldn’t possibly, it would be indecent! Wait, yes he can. No really, he shouldn’t. Forget it, give him the mic! And a confident Golydkin (Adam Paolozza) breaks out into song accompanied by musical genius, Arif Mirabdolbaghi, on the double bass. Golydkin cleverly changes the lyrics to classic tunes like “Just the Two of Us” and “Man in the Mirror” to make light of he, himself and well, himself. It’s little contemporary touches like this that make The Double feel so fresh. 

Picture of the Week, October 24, 2013

Stratford has had a hell of a season and it comes to its end this weekend, with the final performances of Fiddler on the Roof which makes this photo of the show by Cylla von Tiedemann appropriate. It is, of course, the moving scene in the piece when Tzeitel (Jennifer Stewart) and Motel (André Morin) get married - all to "Sunrise, Sunset", perhaps one of the loveliest songs in musical theatre - pure and simple like this captured moment.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Lion in the Streets

Nikki Duval, Natasha Mumba (photo: Maxime Coté)

Where Lies the Wounded Scavenger
by Caitlin Murphy

Though Judith Thompson’s Lion in the Streets premiered almost 25 years ago, sadly, there is no lack of resonance right now for plays that tackle themes of bullying, isolation, and the perverse thrill we often get from ostracizing others.  Presented by the National Theatre School’s graduating acting class, and directed by Ravi Jain, this production comes at the material with claws out, but doesn’t quite control its swipe.

In the half-light of the play’s eerie opening, the company surrounds Isobel, a young Portuguese girl, like a pack of wolves, and sings the haunting Hellos of Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit.  Isobel, we soon realize, speaks to us from the dead, a victim of the title’s lion, itself a metaphor for society’s random acts of savagery and the hurting souls behind them.  Isobel takes us on a tour through the streets of her old neighbourhood, where, behind closed doors, broken people desperately seek solace, often through the suffering of others.

Review: (Toronto) Farther West

Matthew MacFadzean, Tara Nicodemo (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Of Love/Obsession
by Beat Rice

Going farther west is the dream and solution to all of May Buchanan’s life. A prostitute since the age of 14, May travels across Canada and finds herself in Calgary, as a leader in a house with three other prostitutes.

John Murrell's Father West's story is one of passion, obsession, self-preservation. It bubbles up and explodes in the trio of May Buchanan (Tara Nicodemo), the Constable Seward (Dan Lett), and Thomas Shepard (Matthew MacFadzean).  Both men relentlessly yearn for her to the point of obsession.  Seward starts off as an officer of the law who pursues her in order to arrest her for immoral behaviour, but he is also trying to fight his desire for her. It is as though his conflict with her morality is battling with his inability to accept his desire for a whore, and it comes out as an obsessive ‘investigation’.

News: (Toronto) Dark Comedy Festival Announces Lineup (Press release)

In a Word... Stephen Heatley (Cocktails at Pam's, Staircase Theatre Equity Collective)

Lemoine's Controlled Chaos
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Stephen Heatley has worked in professional theatre for over 40 years. During his 12-year stint as Artistic Director of Theatre Network in Edmonton, he directed over 30 world premieres.  He also directed outdoor productions of Shakespeare for the Free Will Players from 1991-1995 and has directed for theatres as diverse as the Blyth Festival and La Boit a Popicos Theatre pour enfants.  Before arriving as a faculty member at the University of British Columbia in 1999, he spent five years as Associate Artistic Director of the Citadel Theatre where he ran the Theatre School and directed in each of the theatre’s performance spaces. Mr. Heatley is the 2013 recipient of UBC’s Dorothy Somerset Award for Development in the Performing Arts and recently directed Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle for Theatre at UBC.

CHARPO:  This first question may seem odd, now that you are in BC, but it is germane, I promise: tell us about the theatre scene in Edmonton.

HEATLEY: I would tell you about the scene in Edmonton but it would be entirely historic as I haven't lived there since 1999.  I do get back there from time to time but my knowledge of the evolution of the theatre community is limited to little bits of information, hearsay and gossip.  I know that the Fringe continues to evolve – I took a show there in the summer of 2012 and was overwhelmed by the scale of the event (which was always huge, now it is even more so).  I know that the Citadel is still the main player.  What were the smaller companies back in the 80s have either established themselves as regular mid-sized companies or have found their own particular niche (Northern Light Theatre, Catalyst Theatre, Theatre Network, Workshop West Theatre).  Stewart Lemoine's company has passed on to a new Artistic Director in Jeff Haslam, but the same aesthetic holds.  Sorry I can't be more specific than that.

Video of the Week, October 23, 2013

Two great companies come together: Alberta Ballet presents Les Grands Ballets Canadiens' Sleeping Beauty. (Not like you remember it)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

First-Person: Larry Beckwith on Brief Lives and Toronto Masque Theatre

William Webster (photo by Tariq Kieran)

Pushing Tin
by Larry Beckwith

Larry Beckwith enjoys a successful and versatile career in the arts in and around Toronto. He studied violin and musicology at the University of Toronto. Since then, he has vigorously pursued his interests in choral music, baroque and contemporary music, theatre, radio, teaching and writing. As a professional singer, he has appeared regularly with the Elora Festival Singers, Tafelmusik Chamber Singers, Opera Atelier, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Exultate Chamber Singers. An accomplished baroque violinist, Mr. Beckwith studied with Jeanne Lamon and was a founding member of the Aradia Baroque Ensemble. In 2003, he founded Toronto Masque Theatre, which - under his artistic leadership - has presented more than 25 critically-acclaimed programs of interdisciplinary performing art, including a cycle of the five major music theatre works by Henry Purcell and stage works by Molière, Stravinsky, John Blow, John Beckwith, Monteverdi, Handel, Charpentier and others. Through TMT, Mr. Beckwith has commissioned and premiered new works in the spirit of the masque by Canadian composers Abigail Richardson, James Rolfe, Omar Daniel, Dean Burry and Alice Ho. Larry Beckwith runs the celebrated strings program at the arts-intensive Unionville High School and lives in Toronto with his wife, soprano Teri Dunn, and their two daughters, Alison and Juliet.

As Toronto Masque Theatre celebrates its 10th anniversary this season, it’s given  me a chance to look back, take stock and marvel at the adventures we’ve had so far. It also excites me to imagine the coming 10 years, knowing they will be filled with interesting and innovative projects with a wide range of artists from various disciplines.

Toronto Masque Theatre (TMT) was born out of a desire on my part to create a company that would have, at its very core, the objective of bringing different performing arts disciplines together in a positive, creative working environment; one that valued the individual talents of all performers. 

After Dark, October 22, 2013

On The Subject of Venues...
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

When I moved to Montreal in 1974 there was one theatre that required a bus trip to the end of the line (and to get to that bus, depending on where you lived, required a bus or metro ride to the beginning of the line). People went because the company, long gone, was excellent and played to packed houses. However, the house was tiny and the very professional non-professionals who worked there made not a cent.

Not too long after that, I had a talk with a young director who, in explaining why his alternative company was now performing at Centaur Theatre, was spending the money to do rent the venue. "People don't remember plays or actors, they remember parking spots." This resonated because the little company of my opening paragraph and, later, my own company did exactly the same thing: rent a hall at Centaur. 

At some time or another in the life of a small, indie company, pragmatism sets in. Found spaces are well and good, but there are realities.

Let me share some others...

Monday, October 21, 2013

News: Chris Abraham wins $100K Siminovitch, Mitchell Cushman named protégé (press release)

The Question... Alison Smyth on Evil Dead: The Musical

Madcapping It
One moment without focus could lead to serious injury.
by Estelle Rosen

Alison Smyth's performance as “Francine Valli and others” in Jersey Boys (Toronto/Dancap) won her the 2010 Best Featured Female Award for Toronto.  Selected theatre credits include: “Shelley/Tracy Understudy” in Hairspray! (Toronto/Mirvish); “Diana” in Anne Of Green  Gables – The Musical (Charlottetown Festival); “Yves” in Head À Tete (Magnus Theatre).  Ms Smyth also made an appearance in the Hairspray film (New Line Cinema) as an “Auditionee”. An emerging theatre director, Ms Smyth has directed successful productions of “Anne Of Green  Gables – The Musical” (Toronto) and Aladdin (London, ONT).

CHARPO: Does reprising a role five years later bring with it things learned from the earlier experience and as an emerging director, is it tempting to visualize directing this piece?

SMYTH: Yes! Reprising a role five years later brings with it many things learned from the previous experience - mainly: revisiting/rediscovering acting choices and faster/easier memorization of lines and blocking.

Cheryl is one of the most intense and challenging roles I've done thus far in my career.  Already having a solid character base gives me the opportunity to focus on the many new elements of this 2013 production.

Openings We're Tracking This Week, October 21-28

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Feature: Rick Miller on Venus in Fur and "Comfort"

by Rick Miller (photos by David Hou)

“You don't have to tell me about sadomasochism. I'm in the theatre!”

(from Venus in Fur, a play by David Ives, 
adapted from the novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch)

Judging from the photo above, the idea of ‘comfort’ seems an appropriate lens through which to examine Venus in Fur, the play I’m currently co-starring in with Carly Street at Canadian Stage in Toronto. This Tony Award-winning two-hander by playwright David Ives is now the most produced play in the United States, and it’s easy to see why. It’s smart, sexy and seductively entertaining, while tapping into ongoing debates about gender inequality, power struggles and sexual mores.

CanStage artistic director Matthew Jocelyn uses the word “labyrinthine” when speaking about Venus in Fur. It’s an apt description, in that the play leads us through a jarring set of twist and turns as it spirals to its quasi-mythical climax. The ‘comfort zone’ that is established early on with the audience slowly dissolves and becomes more and more unsettling and uncomfortable. When the lights come up from the final blackout and we settle back into the familiarity of a curtain call, Carly and I both feel the rush of having taken the audience – and ourselves – on an incredible ride.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Review: (Toronto) You Should Have Stayed Home: A #G20 Romp (Touring to: Montreal, Ottawa)

When You're Not So Lucky
A vital story to hear
by Gregory Bunker

Toronto’s downtown G20 meeting in 2010 was insanity: all of a sudden the city became foreign, and news feeds made sure flaming police cruisers and black bloc vandalism were the most memorable moments for those who weren’t there. Few have heard a first-hand account of the largest violation of civil liberties in Canadian history. Abuse and arrests were indiscriminately dished out to peaceful protesters, passersby, even tourists. I was also unwittingly caught up in it, and I was lucky to get out. Tommy Taylor, the playwright and sole performer, was not so lucky.

What makes Praxis Theatre and The Original Norwegian’s You Should Have Stayed Home a vital story to hear is the detail, the honesty, and the loss of naïveté – not just Taylor’s but Canadians’ in general - about corrupted power structures. What makes it touching is that Taylor handled the ordeal just as you or I might have. Why couldn’t he just get a break?, you keep asking yourself. He was nice. He did as he was told. This is Canada and police can’t just arrest you without reason, and they certainly can’t get away with it. But Taylor was let down, of course. And still, he is too nice about it. (And so are we, the public, but this is his show.)

Review: (Ottawa) Tartuffe

Petrina Bromley, Andry Jones (photo by Andrée Lanthier)

Molière Lands on the Rock
by Jim Murchison

What would have happened if Molière had time travelled and crash landed into Newfoundland in 1939. He would have not been out of place. In fact the blend of Molière's biting social satire and the Codco affinity to salty, salacious self deprecation is so symbiotic that it is hard to say where Molière leaves off and Andy Jones's adaptation takes over in this wonderfully performed and meticulously directed skewering of religious hypocrisy.

creating a/broad, October 19, 2013

by Cameryn Moore

I was going to write something about my Sidewalk Smut sessions this week, in which I really found my groove and got some decent writing out of it, but I don’t actually like to brag about stuff like that (oh god, writer’s jinx is predictably horrific), but then I got a request from the Internet on Thursday, and it was like a big, delicious bowl of manna dropping right in my lap. 

(Let this be a lesson to you: if you ever approach a writer whom you don’t know with a request for anything, it may wind up in the public sphere. That may happen even if you are best friends and/or seriously romantic with said writer, but at least in that case you have the opportunity to liquor them up before the request and yell at them when the blog post goes viral.)