Little Crickets with a whip

SummerWorks adventures continued last night at the Factory Theatre Studio with Little Crickets (by Douglas Campbell, directed by Byron Laviolette, and produced by Foundry Theatre gals Elisabeth Feltaous and Nicole Grainger – and stage-managed by my pal Julie Florio).

Laviolette notes in the program that “Little Crickets is first and foremost a Post Modern parable.” Two teenaged sisters flee Romania to experience Paris and end up staying with a mysterious wealthy man named Mr. Smith. The temptations of Western culture, sexual desires and shifting power dynamics that result are portrayed in a stylized manner (for instance, the actors all have painted on white masks, covering the top half of their faces), both drawing in and distancing the audience – piquing curiosity and also creating a sensation of revulsion.

This all makes for some challenging work for the cast, featuring Peter Nelson, Nicole St. Martin and Shaina Silver-Baird as the three main characters, with support from John Calvin Kelly (playing Number 4, multi-tasking as waiter/butler/museum guard – and is it the same man in all cases?), and Chrissi Chau and Vanessa Orford as Mr. Smith’s two silent doll-like playthings. These guys pull it off and then some – nice work all around in the telling of this complex tale of two girls gone through the looking glass from one abomination of a civilization to another.

This show will definitely leave you thinking and discussing afterwards. Oh, and if you feel funny in your pants and creeped out at the same time, don’t worry – that’s how I felt too.

Little Crickets has two more performances at the Factory Theatre Studio: Friday, August 12 @ 10:30 p.m. and Sunday, August 14 @ 3:00 p.m.

For more info on Foundry Theatre, check out their website: www.foundrytheatrecompany.com

 

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Sex, politics & family

Okay, so – wow. Still wrapping my brain around the vast array of theatre I saw in three very different shows this past Friday night/weekend.

Friday night was Hart House Theatre /Canopy Theatre’s production of Lysistrata – the sex strike at their usual spot along Philosopher’s Walk. This is a frolicking modern adaptation of Aristophanes by Germaine Greer and Phil Willmott, directed for Canopy by Andrea Wasserman. Sexy, fun and political – women from all sides of the battle take over Athens during wartime, banding together to withhold sex from their husbands and lovers until a peace treaty is signed. Sexual politics galore in Act II, during which all the men are visibly hot and bothered under their bath towels – some more noticeably so than others – and getting no relief.

The large ensemble cast includes Claire Acott, Anna Black, Kathleen Black, Andrea Blakey, Rob Bril, Rob Candy, Josh Cornwell-Mott, Dylan George, Thomas Gough, Gaby Grice, Carolyn Hall, Conor Hefferon, Chris Murray, Brian Postalian, Natalie Novak, Lesley Robertson, Lauren Shepherd, Laura Vincent and Nicole Wilson. My Alum pals will recognize Candy, Hall, Hefferon and Vincent – from various Alumnae Theatre productions, including New Ideas.

Lysistrata – the sex strike closed on Saturday, so if you missed it, look out for them next year. In the meantime, you can check out the rest of the Hart House season: http://www.harthouse.ca/hart-house-theatre

Saturday, I got out to my first SummerWorks show You Should Have Stayed Home, written and performed by Tommy Taylor, and directed by Michael Wheeler. The play is a first-hand account of Taylor’s arrest and detention during the G20 in Toronto last year, adapted from his 11,000-word Facebook post on his experience. It’s mostly a one-man show, but he also includes a chorus of detainees (which included Sochi Fried, among others). The show is billed as a G20 romp – and this holds true in that it’s not as grim as the subject matter might imply. Having said that, it’s a seriously inspiring, moving – and, yes, funny – piece of storytelling. The grim part is that it really happened – and it shouldn’t have. Many of us only know about what happened during the G20 through the news reports and footage we saw. Taylor was there – and it’s an important personal story to hear. You Should Have Stayed Home continues this week at the Theatre Centre as part of the SummerWorks festival: www.facebook.com/G20Romp

On Sunday I saw another SummerWorks show, Little One, based on some word-of-mouth and the fact that I got a postcard from one of the production folks when I was at Tommy’s show on Saturday. Written by Hannah Moscovitch and directed/dramaturged by Natasha Mytnowych, and featuring actors Joe Cobden and Michelle Monteith, and young pianist Kaylie Lau, this is an intense family drama with some dark comic moments, accompanied by a haunting live soundtrack supplied by Lau on a toy piano. The story focuses on an adopted brother/sister dynamic within a family that is terrorized and torn by the sister’s mental illness, possibly the result of an abusive early childhood with her birth parents that she can’t or won’t remember. Tender and terrible at the same time – a very powerful piece of theatre. Little One also continues at SummerWorks this week – see the festival site for details: http://www.summerworks.ca/2011/festival-theatre.php  Also, check out this piece about Moscovitch and the play from the Globe & Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/theatre/what-upstages-canadian-playwright-hannah-moscovitch-try-an-elk/article2120153/

The other great thing about summer theatre festivals is the folks you see in the audience and/or out and about. This weekend, I saw a whole bunch of theatre-related folks: Rosemary Dunsmore, Judith Thompson, Linda Griffiths, Joseph Ziegler, Nancy Palk, Rick Roberts, Jon Kaplan, Tal Gottfried, Jenny Young and my pal Heather Allin (who acted in a New Ideas play Tommy Taylor directed a few years ago – Asleep at the Wheel).

I’ll be out at a couple more this week, as well as Driftwood Theatre’s production of Macbeth. What would you recommend at SummerWorks?

Friday night love-in

Back to “real life” after the fun and frolicks of a long weekend.

Friday night was especially enjoyable – and definitely the busiest part of the weekend. It could be summed up thusly: love in the dark with strangers. Twice.

No, I was not hanging out at Wicked. Right after work, I went down to the AMC at Yonge/Dundas to see Crazy, Stupid Love. It was crazy, stupid awesome. Stellar cast headed up by Julianne Moore,  Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, with Marissa Tomei and Kevin Bacon, and fine young actors Jonah Bobo and Analeigh Tipton. Hilariously funny and sweetly touching look at variations on the love story: marriage on the rocks, new relationship and teenage crush. This is not a chick flick – so those of you who can’t do those have nothing to worry about. Go see this movie already. You won’t be sorry.

Right after that, and a quick trip to the bank machine, I headed up to the Toronto Arts Centre to meet Kat Leonard and her pal (and now mine) Lizzie for the Best of Fringe 2011 to see Love, Virtually (by Chloe Whitehorn, directed by David Owen). So now you can see where this is going – have I not mentioned that I’m a sucker for romance? A modern look at relationships that makes me wonder if online dating is now the way most people meet. But beyond that, the play looks at loss and the struggle to let go – all with a live, original soundtrack composed and performed by the lovely and talented Cat Ratusny. A nice, easy coffee house atmosphere, and a lovely ensemble cast: Bunmi Adeoye, Krista Barzso, Michael Donnelly, Alan Norman, Nick Stojanovic, Joshua Wiles and Eve Wylden. Another great combo of funny and poignant. You have one more chance to see this if you haven’t already: tonight at 7 p.m. Check out the Love, Virtually website for more details and info: http://lovevirtually.moonfruit.com/#

Friday night finished with a visit to Wise Guys on the Danforth to see Kat’s friend Ann-Marie B. Zammit, the front gal for The Stone Poets. And Kat wasn’t kidding – Ann-Marie’s vocals are very Janis Joplin. Great rockin’ blues tunes. Check out the band’s website for info and upcoming dates: http://www.thestonepoets.com/index.html

I also saw Cowboys and Aliens on the weekend. I can’t believe this mash-up hasn’t been made before. Big extraterrestrial fun and action in the old west – and you gotta love a cast that features Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde.

One last thing before I sign off: I learned this weekend that, in addition to the Alumnae pals I previously mentioned in the Lysistrata – the sex strike cast, is Carolyn Hall (who appeared in Alum’s production of Pride and Prejudice). That continues its run this week Wed – Sat at Philosopher’s Walk, weather permitting: http://canopytheatre.ca/?p=791

Billy Bishop soars @ Soulpepper

Billy Bishop Goes to War has a history that goes beyond the title character – equally compelling is that it was created and performed by two men who are not only friends and colleagues, but who have performed the musical over a span of 30 years. I finally saw the show for the first time – with my pal Kira – on Friday night.

Soulpepper’s remount of Billy Bishop was directed by Ted Dykstra (who also worked as sound designer), and created/performed by Eric Peterson and John Gray. Peterson plays an array of characters, including Bishop, while Gray is the pianist and narrator – at times taking part in the action, as well as observing it. The play was updated in 1998 to evolve with the performer’s ages (they were in their early 30s when then first performed it) and the current production presents a Billy Bishop in his early 60s, looking back on his life and his experience of battle and survival in WWI, first in the cavalry and finally in the Royal Air Force.

Peterson (who folks will recognize as the curmudgeonly Oscar Leroy from Canadian sit-com Corner Gas) is an irresistible storyteller, shifting from the somewhat frail older man to the gung-ho 20-year-old soldier, itching to do battle but not so fond of the rain and the mud that is the life of the cavalry. Set and props provide a travelled, life lived from a trunk feel – and some of the trunks onstage bear labelling from the show’s travels – and lighting punctuates the framed pictures that Bishop sets up around the stage throughout. The most moving of these are the portrait of his Margaret, to whom he addresses letters throughout, and an image of the cenotaph outside old City Hall in Toronto. The two men sing songs of the period, evoking time and place, and Peterson does a hilarious turn as a female cabaret singer. There are plenty of  laughs – especially when Peterson invokes the various Brits in Bishop’s story – and we get a sense of how Canada and Canadians (“Colonials”) were viewed by the Empire. There are incredibly poignant moments as well, such as Bishop’s recitation of The Dying of Albert Ball, a poem commemorating a very young and decorated British pilot. The Empire likes its poster boys dead – but the Colonies like theirs alive to tell the tale.

For performance dates, tickets and other info, visit the Soulpepper website: http://www.soulpepper.ca/

For more info on the history, check out the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum site: http://www.warplane.com/

Billy Bishop Goes to War is a show for all ages – and you don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy it. He’s an everyman and an improbable hero – and I guess that’s why we like him so much.

More fab outdoor theatre

I’d just been wondering about Canopy Theatre recently, and how I missed them last year – and, lo and behold, my new pal Lizzie sends me and some friends an e-mail suggesting we go see Lysistrata – the sex strike. It opened last night and runs until Aug 6, performed Wed – Sat at 8 p.m. outdoors on Philosopher’s Walk at U of T. Directed by AD Andrea Wasserman, the cast features Alum pals Rob Candy, Conor Hefferon and Laura Vincent.

For more info, check out their website: http://canopytheatre.ca/ 

In particular, check out the sexy production pix http://canopytheatre.ca/?p=955  Gotta love a woman in a toga (or a man, if you’re into that sort of thing).

And here’s their teaser (WARNING: adult content):

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the extreme heat, tonight’s performance (Thurs, July 21) has been cancelled.

The Guild Theatre Festival is still running The Cherry Orchard (http://www.guildfestivaltheatre.ca/index.php) till the end of the month and Driftwood Theatre Group recently kicked off their tour of MacBeth (http://driftwoodtheatre.com/).

Man, with all this amazing theatre happening – not to mention a whole bunch of summer gatherings/meet-ups with friends – I’ve had to perform some serious social triage lately. ‘Cuz, you know, you just can’t do everything. So many choices, so little time – and lack of cloning or time machine technology.

Stay cool today, my friends – it’s nasty out there.

Memories of beer tent

Hanging with Kat Leonard, her peeps, and my pals Kerri, Lynn and Tina after Kat’s Saturday show the first weekend of the fest, drinking beer and eating roti. Getting flyered by MonaRita playwright Shannon Bramer and going to see it that night, Kat’s SM Skye and I passing at the corner as I lined up for the Bathurst Street Theatre and she headed to the Annex. Searching for iced coffee at the tent after I got my ticket for Kim’s Convenience the next day, but having to go to Green Beanery ‘cuz the iced coffee guys weren’t there yet. Going to see Kat’s set at the tent stage that night, hanging with her and her friend Lizzie, sharing a ginormous club sandwich with Kat and blowing bubbles from tiny plastic jars – and having to turn down a comp to Headscarf and the Angry Bitch (from the lovely and talented creator/actor Zehra Fazal) ‘cuz I just had to get home and get some sleep and get up at 6:30 a.m. for the office job (I did see Headscarf later in the fest). Watching some guys at the table behind us build a house of postcards – and rebuilding after it fell. Singing along to Annie Lennox with Skye and the two of us cooking up a comedy sketch idea based on a gal who has two back-up singers with her always, to highlight everyday conversations, especially conflicts. Everyone comparing notes on how frickin’ tired we were – but still having a blast. Bumping into various and sundry folks I know from Cabbagetown Theatre and Alumnae Theatre, and meeting new folks – patrons and artists. Lots of beer on some stupid hot days with some awesome folks – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Now, if we could only bottle it.

My big fat Fringe weekend

I think I can safely say that I Fringed to the max this past Friday/weekend (for me, anyway – my limit is 3 in one day) – and I’m possibly even Fringed out.

Friday, July 15 – Headscarf and the Angry Bitch, a one-woman show created and performed by Zehra Fazal (who hails from Washington, D.C.). So much irreverent awesomeness – and educational too. And just when I thought character Zed Headscarf couldn’t get any awesomer, it turns out she’s a lesbian! Fazal takes us on an entertaining ride with amazing energy and frankness.

Saturday, July 16 – Finally: An Epic Cycle, by Sarah Cody (who also plays our intrepid heroine), directed by Joanne Williams, and featuring actors Cassie Muise, Luke Marty, Derek Perks and Michael Rode, takes the audience on a flawed hero’s journey as she and her roommate search for lost hockey tickets. And they’re not just any hockey tickets – they’re for the Stanley Cup Finals, where the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing. Finally, I saw this play at its closing performance. Lots of fun and nicely cast, with stand-out performances from Marty and Perks.

Wishes Are Horses, written and directed by Peter Bloch-Hansen (who is also one of the two multi-tasking actors) is a stage adaptation of a short story. We see the farcical aftermath when a physicist’s (Steve Flett) theory that the changing nature of the earth makes it possible to manifest wishes becomes public. His and his wife’s (Tina Sterling) lives are turned upside down when he’s fired from his job at the university and they are placed under house arrest by two FBI agents (Leeman Kessler is the other multi-tasking actor). Excellent ensemble and a trippy 50s design sensibility.

Shotgun Wedding, by Leonard Cervantes and directed by Catherine Hernandez, a 90s R&B mix tape musical, is the result of Cervantes wanting to “write a play that made [him] grin like an idiot,” and bring back feelings of a fast-beating heart and butterfly-filled stomach – memories of a time and place with friends and music. This play nails it and then some – and I was grinning like an idiot too. An energetic young cast (Belinda Corpuz, Richie Guzman, Tony Ofori, Arlene Paculan, Mickey Rodriguez and Jeff Yung) sing, dance and act the story of a group of Filipino friends at their friend’s debut – and the celebration takes a turn when it’s revealed that she’s pregnant and her love-sick escort is not the father. Loads of fun and excellent 90s music – I just love those R&B harmonies! And Arlene was particularly adorable in overalls.

Sunday, July 17 – Last day of Fringe (well, Fringe proper – there’s still The Best of Fringe to come), I started my day with a late matinée of Queer Bathroom Monologues, which was doing double-duty on their final day at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, as they were the Paton’s pick for that venue. This verbatim play, directed by Megan Watson, was inspired by author/playwright Sheila Cavanagh’s book Queering Bathrooms, and features actors Hallie Burt, Tyson James and Chy Ryan Spain, who all play multiple LGBTQ characters speaking of their experiences in public washrooms. The script is both fun and touching, using scatological humour, movement and personal storytelling to present the stories of people who just want to be able to use the bathroom in peace and comfort – like everyone else. Excellent performances from the three actors.

We Few They Many is one of the G20-themed pieces in Fringe this year. Written and directed by Kat Edwards, this is the story of the Toronto Mobilization Group, a group of young people who work to facilitate and organize protest groups in the city – and their experience on the weekend of the 2010 G20 in Toronto. Amidst the rioting and mayhem that ensues, some of their group are arrested and detained at the Eastern Avenue detention centre, all the while dealing with individual personal drama, a headline-seeking tabloid newspaper reporter and an informant in their midst. Nice work by this young ensemble cast: Mitchell Court, Anthony Gerbrandt, Rebecca Perry, Tennille Read, Harmonie Tower and Andrew Young.

Swoon! got an extra performance on Sunday as the Patron’s pick for the Factory Theatre Mainspace. Written by the ensemble, with work by Jordan Tannahill, Jason Maghanoy (who also directs), Haley McGee, Ryan Griffith, Darrah Teitel and Alisa Palmer, this comedy drama is about falling in love, out of love and trying to stay in love – told with short scenes, monologue, movement and music. The marvelous and sexy cast includes Andrew Church, Brandon Coffey, Sochi Fried, Nicki Gallo, Darrel Gamotin, Adrienne Kress, Jajube Mandiela, Chris Mitchell, Jessica Moss, Paul Robinson and Aimee Roy (in the rush going from one show to another, I didn’t get a program for this – and it appears that the cast list included in the Fringe program and online had changed – so I have one extra woman listed here). Sexy, fun and heartbreaking, among my favourite moments were a lesbian talking about her struggles to reconnect with her partner as they settle into domestic middle-age, and the moment of calm and peace found with a partner as described by one of the young men.

Best of the Fringe is coming up this week at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Congrats to Kim’s Convenience and Remember, Maggy? – among others – for getting an extra run. See the full program at: http://www.tocentre.com/studio/fringe

p.s. – As I mentioned, I also attended the SummerWorks fundraiser reading of Catherine Frid’s play Homegrown (on Friday night, after I saw Headscarf). The evening was well-attended (I bumped into a several folks from Alumnae there) and I was very happy to hear that, at last count, 14 cities were participating in the simultaneous reading to help SummerWorks make up for their lost federal funding.