Intense, complex psychological game of cat & mouse in interrogation thriller Caught

Sabryn Rock, Meegwun Fairbrother & Jakob Ehman in Caught – photo by Michael Cooper

Theatre Passe Muraille (TPM) continues its 2015-16 season with resident playwright Jordi Mand’s intimate and gripping Caught, directed by Sarah Garton Stanley.

Sixteen-year-old James (Jakob Ehman) has been caught for theft over $2,000 by department store security guard Trisha (Sabryn Rock) and is being held for questioning in the store’s security holding room while they wait for the police to arrive. James dances around her questions, particularly keen to withhold his name, parents’ cell numbers and address. Cagey and suspect as he continues to rationalize his actions, he has no luck winning over Trisha, who’s becoming increasingly irritated at having to deal with this kid, as well as the poor walkie talkie reception with the officer en route. And by the time the cop arrives (Dan, played by Meegwun Fairbrother), machinations and misunderstandings are well underway. As the interrogation continues, connections and relationships are uncovered – and the balance of power shifts with every new revelation till the three-way dynamic reaches a fevered pitch.

Caught is a short, tight one-act that turns up the heat gradually during the course of the proceedings – and this excellent cast is more than up for it. There’s a tightly wound, restless edge to Rock’s Trisha; intensely focused and earnestly dedicated to her job – perhaps too much so – she’s a suffer-no-fools, by-the-book kinda gal who will occasionally colour outside the lines when circumstances force her to do so. She takes ‘serve and protect’ very seriously and maybe a bit too personally – to the point that she finds herself choosing between justice and the law. Ehman’s performance of James weaves charming, even lovable, precociousness with an infuriating sense of rich kid entitlement; Puck-like, bright and emoting innocence, you’d love this kid if he weren’t such a manipulative little asshole. Fairbrother brings a great sense of inner conflict to Dan and is a great foil for Rock’s Trisha. An imposing figure who can intimidate with the best of them, Dan is a pragmatic, no-nonsense guy – something he has in common with Trisha; however, that’s where their similarities end. As events unfold, it’s clear that Dan is more concerned about his application for promotion, and must choose between departmental politics and justice.

With shouts to production designer John Thompson and assistant Elizabeth Traicus for realizing a tight, realistic interrogation space – one that includes a large cut out window for the audience to witness the action therein, making us part of the system.

An intense, complex psychological game of cat and mouse in interrogation thriller Caught.

Caught runs till Apr 24 in the TPM Backspace – box office info here; you can book tix in advance online.

Check out the awesome new trailer (by Hallie Seline):



SummerWorks: Delightful, magical story time with Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales

children's talesThis year’s SummerWorks has been full of opportunities to see and hear some imaginative, unique pieces of storytelling – and Erin Fleck’s Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales, directed by Maya Rabinovitch, is a brilliant example.

A young man brings light to his darkened town. A very cranky pony named Heathcliff falls in love with the mistress of the household at his new home. A man named Sam is fascinated by the post. The ghost of a murdered young woman haunts an opulent underwater ballroom.

The audience is enveloped in the atmosphere of story time; the Studio of the Lower Ossington Theatre has been transformed into a large tent made from bed sheets, with quilts, blankets and cushions creating part of the audience seating space on the floor, and a small table with a lamp and various curios. An overhead projector presents several images, with multiple transparencies causing images to morph: three stag heads become three stag skulls; a clock appears and dissolves; and a cuckoo clock materializes, followed by framed pictures, a window and a table in a quiet room.

Then, using transparencies and overhead projection, and paper articulated shadow puppets, four tellers retrieve a sheaf of paper from various places in the room and read the stories. And they are marvelous – the stories and the storytellers. With shouts to puppeteers/tellers Talia DelCogliano, Erin Fleck, Michelle Urbano and Brian Webber. The cast also includes a roster of guest narrators: Glyn Bowerman, Sascha Cole, Marcus Jamin and Jordi Mand (I believe Jamin was the guest last night).

With shouts to the design team: Sarah Fairlie, Fleck and Daniel Briere (puppets), Roxanne Ignatius (set) and Pip Bradford (lighting); and to Fairlie for video art direction and Brad Casey for music direction.

Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales is a delightful, magical piece of storytelling fun – quirky, darkly funny and thoroughly enjoyable.

There’s one more performance: tonight (Sun, Aug 17) at 7 p.m.

World premiere of Nightwood production of Jordi Mand’s Between the Sheets – riveting & heart-wrenching

I had the pleasure of attending another world premiere of a work by an emerging female playwright last night: Nightwood Theatre’s production of Jordi Mand’s Between the Sheets, a two-hander directed by Kelly Thornton, and starring Susan Coyne and Christine Horne, onstage at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space. Don’t let the short running time (approx. 1 hour) fool you – there is a lot going on in this hour in the classroom during parent/teacher interview night. And the stakes are huge.

Kelly Wolf’s set took me back to the first day of school, and I found myself walking past a perfectly rendered third grade classroom as I found a seat. Along the top of the green chalkboard are four printed cardboard trees, each set in different seasons, starting with Fall. Above the chalkboard, students’ paintings are taped up all along the wall. There is a large clock with big numbers and hands. A cubby with books and craft supplies. Small desks, with colourful duotangs set on top and blue chairs in front of them, dot the light blue floor in groups of three, miniature islands – smaller worlds within this small world. And in the background, the sound of rhythmic clapping, perhaps skipping too. Schoolyard games.

As the lights go down and come back up on this microcosm of life, we see Teresa, the young grade three teacher tidying up and preparing to leave following an evening of meetings with parents when Marion, the mom of a student named Alex, appears unexpectedly at her classroom door. A discussion of Alex’s social and academic progress turns to accusations of infidelity, as Marion accuses Teresa of having an affair with her husband Curtis. The intense battle of words that follows has both women fighting for their lives – riveting and heart-wrenching, with unexpected flashes of humour, and even compassion and understanding. In the end, as both are left to pick up the pieces of the evening’s revelations, Teresa is alone once more, the ticking of the clock becoming louder as it echos throughout the empty classroom.

Outstanding performances from both Coyne and Horne, with Horne’s Teresa showing surprising guts and strength beneath the sweet and fragile exterior, and Coyne bringing lovely layers to Marion – from imperious corporate lioness to exhausted, frustrated and confused wife and mother. Nice work, ladies! And I was very happy to bump into both of them as I was leaving so I could tell them so.

Also want to give a shout out to Nightwood’s 10,000 Women campaign in support of women’s voices in the arts, a fundraiser that the company is launching with this production. The aim is to get 10,000 donations of $10, with each donor offering the name of a woman in their life that they want to honour – the names will appear in print at the end of the campaign. For more info – and to donate – check out this page:

Between the Sheets runs at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space until October 7, with a post-show talkback – parenting and relationship expert Sara Dimerman with moderator Diane Flacks – coming up tomorrow night (Thurs, Sept 27):

For more info and reservations, please visit the Nightwood Theatre website:

Between the Sheets, February & Gay Play Days – plus Nuit Blanche!

The good times just keep on rollin’, my friends. Here are just a few fabulous arts and culture events happening right now or coming up soon:

Nightwood Theatre’s production of Jordi Mand’s Between the Sheets at Tarragon Theatre (extra space) – started its run last night and runs until Sun, Oct 7. Directed by Kelly Thornton, and featuring actors Susan Coyne and Christine Horne. Get the 411 on this production at Nightwood’s site:

The world premiere of Lisa Moore’s play February at Alumnae Theatre (main stage) – Fri, Sept 21 – Sat, Oct 6 with a Q&A talkback with Moore, director Michelle Alexander, and the cast and creative team after the Sun, Sept 23 matinee. For details and reservations, visit the Alumnae website:

Gay Play Days, a festival of LGBT theatre, at Alumnae Theatre (studio) – Fri, Sept 28 and Sat, Sept 29 at 8 p.m. Featuring short plays: Intervention by Bruce Harrott, The Object of Her Attraction by Tina McCulloch, Stupid Bitch by Durango Miller and Ramblings of a Middle-aged Drag Queen by Darren Stewart-Jones (starring Philip Cairns), as well as a staged reading of Sky Gilbert’s Hamilton Bus Stop, starring Ellen-Ray Hennessy. For the scoop, visit their Facebook page:

Nuit Blanche 2012 (Toronto) lands a bit early this year – starting Sat, Sept 29 at 7 :03 p.m. and running till sunrise on Sun, Sept 30. I’ll be heading out to see Dr. Draw ( at the Rivoli at 8 p.m. and Lizzie Violet reading horror poetry in Small Audiences at the Theatre Local space at Artscape Wychwood Barns  at 3:30 a.m., among other artists. Check out the program/locations here: