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:



Harry’s big finish

Hey y’all – so I finally got out to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 last night – and it was awesome! It opened nearly a month ago and between my schedule and trying to get together with friends to see it, it took some time to sort out a date to go. And like many endings, it was a bittersweet evening at the movies. That’s it. No more Harry Potter stories.

The last book/movies have an amazing combination of adventure, suspense and heartache – and I love how some of the supporting characters get a chance to shine. Neville Longbottom really comes into his own and brings it. And you do not want to cross Mrs. Weasley. Ever.

No spoilers here, but here are the trailers for the final installement of J.K. Rowling’s final book about the boy wizard. Here’s the first trailer:

And here’s the second:

Of course, there’s always Pottermore website – which is to be up and running in October:

I had no problem with the final book being split into two films – and thought that where they ended part 1/began part 2 worked very well. What did you think of the final films?

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:

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:

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:  Also, check out this piece about Moscovitch and the play from the Globe & Mail:

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?

A vacation resort? Seriously?

A short time ago, I saw an ad for a golf resort in Okanagan, B.C. – I think it was one of those pre-show ads in a movie theatre. And I kid you not, it’s called Predator Ridge.

Seriously. Here’s the website:

Apparently, you can also live there.

Now, call me a whimp-ass baby for saying this, but a name like “Predator Ridge” doesn’t exactly fill me with the sense of ease and relaxation that I look for in a vacation destination. And did you check out the logo? It’s a frickin’ bird of prey with its talons outstretched! I hope the folks who visit/live there don’t have any small pets. Or children for that matter.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what is up with this?! I thought golf was supposed to be this understated, finesse kind of game. How much understated and finesse are you gonna have on their “immaculately groomed fairways” when you’re fighting falcons for your golf balls? The Peregrine cottages sound particularly idyllic – and I guess you won’t have to worry about mice, chipmunks or squirrels hiding peanuts in your loafers. Though you may find a chipmunk or mouse head here and there.

There’s oodles of family-friendly activities on hand: bbq’s, music on the patio, wine tastings, junior golf, weekly rounds of the most dangerous game… Nothing promotes character in a youngster like fighting for survival on a golf course riddled with raptors. Sweet Tippi Hedren!

I guess there’s just no accounting for what some folks will go for. The illusion of danger in the wilderness while safely enclosed within a resort – all the excitement but none of the inconvenience. And complete with spa services. That and, I hate to say it, in all likelihood the only predator left around there is in the name.

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:

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:

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:

More long weekends needed

I don’t know about you, but I count the days till a long weekend. Work days, that is. As I write this, it’s just under a day and a half – and counting.

This upcoming long weekend is a relatively recent addition to the calendar – and Simcoe Day is a civic holiday, as opposed to a stat holiday. This means that some folks will be working – and, most importantly, the Beer Store will be open. Even more recently, Family Day was introduced and we now have a long weekend in February.

So this leaves us with March/April (depending on when Easter falls), June and November as the only months without a long weekend. I think this is preposterous. Okay, so not preposterous, but something that’s easily remedied. Here are my suggestions:

March/April: Some kind of Spring Thaw celebration. Let’s face it, February and March (which I like to call “the month of Farch”) are pretty grim, so it would be a nice pick-me-up.

June: Johnny Depp’s birthday (June 9). If it doesn’t fall on a Monday, this could be celebrated the second Monday of the month. Okay, so it’s also my birthday. It’s also Michael J. Fox’s, Arlene Paculan’s, Natalie Portman’s and Tennille Read’s – and I’m sure loads of other people’s too.

November: Second Thanksgiving. Now, who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? This could be scheduled in the Monday after American Thanksgiving to create a double holiday long weekend (much like Canada Day and July 4). More turkey/tofurkey for everyone!

What holiday Mondays would you like to see filling out the calendar?

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:

For more info on the history, check out the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum site:

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.