One weekend, four plays – SummerWorks closing weekend

And we’re back. Juggling a busy summer social schedule, with an impromptu trip out-of-town the first weekend of the festival, I managed to do a bit of SummerWorks catch-up this past week, seeing most of the shows I managed to catch this past weekend, including three yesterday. SummerWorks 2012 has wrapped – and here’s the scoop on the four shows I saw on closing weekend.

Medicine Boy (Anishnaabe Theatre Performance – Scotiabank Studio Theatre). Written by Waawaate Fobister, directed by Tara Beagan, and featuring an all Indigenous creative team and cast, Medicine Boy takes us on a hero’s quest as Mukukee (Garret C. Smith), guided by the mysterious and mischievous storyteller Daebaujimod (Jonathan Fisher), is transported via visions, dreams and memories of personal family history – with images projected on the fabric of the set – on a mystical journey of self-discovery and identity. From the smell of sage and the sound of crickets before the play begins, to images of violence and terror that mark the residential school experience, and the enraged wild girl Mukukee encounters, as well as moments with his deceased mother (both female roles played by PJ Prudat), the audience is carried along this journey with laughter and tears – through the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. An amazing cast, and an engaging and moving production.

Terminus (Outside the March – Factory Theatre Mainspace). I managed to squeak in after waiting on stand-by for the closing performance of this Irish spoken word ballad by Mark O’Rowe, directed by Mitchell Cushman, and featuring another outstanding cast of three: Maev Beaty, Ava Jane Markus and Adam Wilson. With a black metal and nylon strap set, resembling the supports of a crane against girders of a building in progress and at the same time a pair of black wings, the audience is seated across the upstage half of the stage with the set and playing space taking up the downstage half – making for an incredibly up close and intimate experience for both actors and audience. A mother (Beaty) estranged from her daughter tries to help a young woman in peril, while a young woman looking for love (Markus) finds her evening out with friends taking a nasty, then supernatural turn, and a shy young man who adores the music of Bette Midler proves to be a tortured and dangerous fellow (Wilson). Both lyrical and profane, terrible and wonderful, beautiful and grotesque, Terminus is a riveting, visceral and powerful piece of condemnation and redemption.

The Hearing of Jeremy Hinzman (Foundry Theatre – The Theatre Centre). This is verbatim theatre project, created by Josh Bloch and Oonagh Duncan, and directed by Richard Greenblatt. With dialogue taken from transcripts, interviews and using live video of actors re-enacting newscasts, it is the true story of a U.S. soldier who became the first American citizen to request refugee status in Canada. Canada’s dilemma: in order to grant his request, it would have to find that the United States’ war in Iraq was illegal. Socially conscious, enlightening and engaging, Hinzman features a fine ensemble of multi-tasking actors: William “Bill” Colgate (Hinzman’s lawyer Jeffry House), Joris Jarsky (Hinzman and Jimmy Massey), Dov Mickelson (Brian Goodman, who presided over the hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada), Sarah Orenstein (counsel representing Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Judy Sgro), Jamie Robinson (Chuck Wiley) and Kevin Jake Walker (Joshua Key), with most cast members doubling up for newscasters, political pundits, etc. Hinzman’s case is ongoing.

France (or, the Niqab) (Old Pirate – Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace). Playwright Sean Dixon and director Tanja Jacobs bring a social message home through laughter. Featuring yet another trio of brilliant actors – Salvatore Antonio (who Lost Girl and Saving Hope fans will recognize), Charlotte Gowdy and Beatriz Yuste – France (or, the Niqab) is a smart, irreverent, sexy and funny look at the assumptions people make about both women who wear the niqab and those who don mini-skirts and high heels. Antonio does double duty as the hilarious Clouseau-esque police officer, and as the charming and handsome mystery man who pays the fines of women charged with wearing a niqab in public in exchange for a photograph. Yuste also takes on two roles: the quick-witted, good-humoured Samira who is charged with wearing the niqab in public, as well as the hysterically opinionated  secretary of the mystery man. Gowdy is the wry-witted, ballsy high heel wearing lawyer Tabatha who takes on Samira’s case – on the condition that she wear the traditional clothing for one business day. Movement, dance and music are incorporated into the production: from Tabatha trying to work out how to wear the garments to a lovely dream sequence – where the two women dance together in a bond of sisterhood and woman power. Great big, thought-provoking fun.

Come to think of it, all of the plays that I saw this year were thought-provoking, engaging and entertaining – making the theatrical experience of each play both worthwhile and unforgettable.

Also check out what these other good theatre blogger folks had to say about the SummerWorks program:

Mooney on Theatre: http://www.mooneyontheatre.com/

Theatromania: http://www.theatromania.ca/

What did you like at SummerWorks this year?

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Author: life with more cowbell

Arts/culture social bloggerfly & Elwood P. Dowd disciple. Likes playing with words. A lot. Toronto

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