Hamilton Fringe preview (ish): Sinners & saints in Sister Annunciata’s Secret

sister a's secretDuring Toronto Fringe this past week, I bumped into Nonnie Griffin at the Tarragon, where I learned that she’s taking her solo show Sister Annunciata’s Secret (which premiered almost six years ago at The Annex Theatre) to Hamilton Fringe for a run at the Staircase Café Theatre Main Space. The Hamilton Fringe show is produced by Baby Gumm Productions and directed by Darren Stewart-Jones.

I attended a performance during Griffin’s Annex Theatre run, and covered the show for Alumnae Theatre’s blog. Griffin gave a compelling and powerful performance, and the show has been tweaked since its original production for running time.

Hamilton Fringe runs July 14-24 and Sister Annunciata’s Secret runs July 15-24 (see the show page for various dates/times). Highly recommended. Check out the trailer:


Toronto Fringe: A funny, charming ‘what if’ tale of Dorothy & friends in Emerald City – A musical play

emerald_cityEver wonder what happened to Dorothy and the Oz gang after she returned to Kansas? Well, wonder no more. Baby Gumm Productions presents Darren Stewart-Jones’ Emerald City – A musical play (based on the beloved Wizard of Oz characters by L. Frank Baum) at the Tarragon Main Space as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.

As our story opens, life is not so much fun for Dorothy (Christie Stewart), Scarecrow (Christopher Vergara), Tin Man (Matthew Fuller) and Lion (Dillan Chiblow), as each struggles with his/her life problems. And Glinda (Rory Bray), once Dot’s BFF, is too busy with her new career as a super model to spend time with her friend. As the show progresses, we follow Dorothy and her trio of intrepid Oz pals through a group therapy session with the invisible Dr. Oz, as – through song and dance – their troubles and secrets are revealed.

This is a lovely cast with an impressive set of pipes. Stewart’s Dorothy is a go-getter, full of gumption and hope, and pondering her situation as a modern-day single gal. Vergara brings a wonderfully endearing presence and physically to Scarecrow; Fuller’s Tin Man is sharply handsome and warmly supportive, struggling with staying real and logical, but finding it difficult to mask a broken heart; and Chiblow is adorably anxious as Lion, sweet and cuddly in a leopard print onesie. And Bray nails material girl Glinda, delivering her vocals with the trademark vibrato.

With shouts to music director Nicole Byblow, choreographer Allison Beula and designer Henry Keeler’s fabulous modern-day costumes.

Emerald City is a funny, charming ‘what if’ tale of Dorothy and her Oz friends.
Running until July 13 at the Tarragon Main Space, you can check for exact dates/times for Emerald City here.


Inaugural Gay Play Day – charming, witty & touching LGBT works

Gay Play Day – a festival of LGBT theatre, envisioned and produced by actor/playwright Darren Stewart-Jones (Baby Gumm Productions), launched its first ever run in the Alumnae Theatre Studio last night, featuring four short plays in the first half, followed by a staged reading of Sky Gilbert’s Hamilton Bus Stop in the second half.

Intervention, written and directed by Bruce Harrott, is a charming, witty and insightful look at gay male relationships. Justin (Ryan Anning) is an extremely well put together and handsome, if not somewhat uptight, young man with some serious commitment issues. Enter a roguishly handsome stranger (Eric Regimbald), who offers some wise and timely advice. Very funny, with some lovely, touching moments, and strong work by Anning and Regimbald – with a dash of It’s A Wonderful Life magic realism thrown in.

In Ramblings of a Middle-aged Drag Queen, written and directed by Darren Stewart-Jones, journalism student Ryan’s (B.J. Jeroy)  backstage interview with drag performer Miss Ogyny (Philip Cairns) takes an interesting turn as Miss O talks about growing up in a small Ontario town. Cairns is spot-on as the middle-aged, somewhat rundown drag queen – and that red and silver sequined gown is fabulous – and Jeroy is adorable as the smart, inquisitive college kid.

The Object of Her Attraction, written by Tina McCulloch and directed by PJ Hammond, is a sweet mini-rom com with a fun psychological twist. Laurie (Mary Joseph) and Suzanne (Julie Burris) meet by chance at a coffee shop, each accompanied by the embodiment of her own subconscious (Laurie’s – Naomi Priddle Hunter and Suzanne’s – Tina McCulloch). While Laurie and Suzanne fumble with their emotions, deciding whether to act on the attraction, their psychological doppelgängers provide real-timegut-level responses and advice about the situation – with hilarious results. Really nice work by the cast, also including Pona Tran as the bored and somewhat surly barista, with walk-ons by Hammond and B.J. Jeroy as customers.

In Stupid Bitch, written and directed by Durango Miller, handsome young actor/waiter Matt (Gregory Ragle) is tired and frustrated at continually having to repel the advances of long-time would-be gentleman caller Professor Rachlin (David Bateman) – with some surprising results when Rachlin begins chatting with the restaurant cook Jimmy (Andrew T. Gaunce). Some seriously funny work by this ensemble cast, with some fun melodrama thrown in – especially Rory Moy as restaurant owner/manager Terry. Be careful what you wish for.

Hamilton Bus Stop by Sky Gilbert, starring Nick Green and Ellen-Ray Hennessey, is a raw, funny and real two-hander. Two strangers, a young gay man from Toronto and a middle-aged woman from Ancaster, wait for the bus – both dealing with their own inner turmoil, the stress erupting to the surface during their occasional, often edgy interaction. Two solitudes longing for someone to talk to, struggling to connect in the moment with the person in front of them, but addressing their fears and pain to the audience instead. Intensely funny and poignant, as well as socially astute – with outstanding work by Green and Hennessey – neither character is what they appear. Green’s Retro is all cool, foul-mouthed and dark, masking the devastated, lost boy inside – and Hennessey’s Cookie is all happy-go-lucky and loud, in a leopard-print ensemble that looks like it was designed by the House of Prickley, yet so crushed, confused and worried about her daughter. Looking forward to seeing what happens next with this play.

If you missed Gay Play Day last night, you have one more chance to catch this mini-fest of LGBT works tonight: Saturday, September 29 at 8 p.m. up in the Studio at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley St., Toronto – at Berkeley/Adelaide St. E.). For more info, visit Gay Play Day’s Blogspot site here: http://gayplayday.blogspot.ca/

Perhaps make it part of your Nuit Blanche outing this evening.

Speaking of Nuit Blanche, I’ll be meeting some pals to see Dr. Draw (http://drdraw.ca/) perform at the Rivoli at 8 p.m., then we plan on making our way north to see Lizzie Violet’s horror poetry reading in Small Audiences at the Theatre Local space at Artscape Wychwood Barns at 3:30 a.m. Check out the program/locations here: http://www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca/