Hilarious, frank & real – grown-ups dealing the best they can in Sex After Kids

A father/adult daughter conversation that ventures into TMI territory – for both of them.

A date between two single parents that ends with a note that reads: “I’m really really sorry for drugging you.”

A couple with an infant and a non-existent sex life are both tempted to stray.

These are just a few of the moments presented in the multi-storied Sex After Kids – now playing in Toronto at the Carlton. This film, by Canadian writer/director Jeremy LaLonde, was a labour of love, of friends and family, on many levels – funded through a crowdsourcing campaign and populated with an impressive ensemble of Canadian talent, including some familiar faces from the cast of Lost Girl (Paul Amos, Katie Boland, Kris Holden-Ried, Christine Horne and Zoie Palmer), veteran actor Gordon Pinsent and some truly adorable kids (including LaLonde’s son and daughter).

This is a hilariously frank, real and poignant look at the sex lives of parents – mostly new parents – and how the grown-ups deal with the challenge of navigating their drastically altered lives and relationships, and coming to grips with how their own identities have changed in the process. Everyone is flawed, struggling and doing the best they can to deal with his/her situation, to varying degrees of success. Not everyone gets a happy ending, but life moves on. I laughed a lot, gasped several times and really felt for these characters. This is an outstanding and generous cast, and the stories were woven together brilliantly.

It was especially gratifying to see Sex After Kids last night, as actor Amanda Brugel and her Brug’s Army hosted a fundraising screener – including a food and clothing drive, and cast meet ‘n greet – for Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter.

Sex After Kids has been held over for another week at the Carlton, so if you’re in Toronto, get your butt on over there to see it.

Check out the trailer:

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Fierce family tragicomedy – The Beauty Queen of Leenane @ Red Sandcastle Theatre

BeautyQueenTook a trip to east end Toronto ‘hood Leslieville last night to see the opening of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Red Sandcastle Theatre. Directed by Wes Berger, this Beauty Queen features an outstanding foursome of a cast: Rosemary Doyle, Lynne Griffin (who Lost Girl fans will recognize from season one ep. “Food For Thought” as Halima, the nice Aswang lady who becomes Lauren’s patient after cooking up a bad batch of foot soup), Paul Kelly and Sean Sullivan. Doyle is also the owner/A.D. of Red Sandcastle Theatre – if you missed my recent blog interview with her, you can read it here.

The first play of McDonagh’s The Leenane Trilogy (which continues with A Skull in Connemara and finishes with The Lonesome West; the latter had a fine production mounted by  the Toronto Irish Players a couple of years ago), The Beauty Queen of Leenane is a story of fierce, often brutally funny, family dysfunction – in this case, it’s a mother (Griffin as Mag Folan) and daughter (Doyle as Maureen Folan) at each others’ throats.

Mag and Maureen are begrudgingly settled into their lives of not-so-quiet desperation in their small rural family home – and their dynamic of mutual sniping and vengeful, petty tortures has a cellmate quality to it. Added to the mix are the Dooley brothers Ray (played by Kelly) and Pato (Sullivan), long-time neighbours and, in Ray’s case at least, family frenemies. And Pato’s recent return from work in England to visit for a family do offers an oasis of possibility for Maureen. Since this is a Martin McDonagh play, no one is as they seem, and plans have a way of twisting and turning. And the darkly funny family dysfunction at the Folan house may be far more complex and feral than it appears.

Griffin and Doyle have excellent chemistry as the feuding mother and daughter. Griffin deftly works the layers of Mag’s girlish charm and passive aggressive, high-maintenance Irish mother – and it’s a pleasure to watch her sly, devilish delight as she plots interference. Doyle does a stellar job, giving us a Maureen who, beneath the bored, put-upon 40-year-old spinster, has a deep well of sexuality, ambition and potentially darker passions bubbling near the surface. Kelly is a treat as Ray, the rough and tough-talking simple younger brother who adores Australian soaps, and provides some much needed comic relief. Sullivan is lovely as Pato, a sweet and gentlemanly bachelor of a certain age – full of longing and youthful enthusiasm, like Maureen – but frustrated and underachieving in a job that’s beneath his ambition.

I’ve really come to enjoy McDonagh’s writing. It’s raw, fierce and discomfiting – and pulls no punches (I also had the pleasure of seeing an excellent production of McDonagh’s The Pillowman, mounted by Rarely Pure Theatre last year). McDonagh’s work is not for the faint of heart. Don’t come out expecting the quaint, cozy Irish of Barry Fitzgerald and “Tura Lura Lural” – there’s nothing wrong with that, but you won’t be getting any of it here.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane continues its run at Red Sandcastle Theatre until February 1,with performances on Jan 24, 25, 28, 29, 30 and Feb 1 at 8 p.m., and a 2 p.m. matinee on Jan 27. Given the popularity of this play, the short run and the intimacy of the space, I highly recommend booking a reservation in advance. You can do so by calling the box office (416-845-9411) or via Rosemary Doyle’s Twitter page.

Production photos by Paul Kelly and Sean Sullivan:

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Season finales – Lost Girl & Republic of Doyle

Playing catch-up in this post, as the week has been busy with music and theatre goings-on. This comes with the usual SPOILER ALERT if you’re not up-to-date on Lost Girl season two or Republic of Doyle season three.

So – Lost Girl season two finale (Sunday, April 1). I’ve re-watched both the pre-show and episode – and feel like I’m in a bit better a place to put some thoughts down. The pre-show was big, big fun – not only as it gave fans a chance to see the core cast and one of the writers (Steve Cochrane, who hosted the evening), but also to see other fans (including #LostGirl tweeter and season finale Toronto party organizer Faenonymous, who was wearing an awesome t-shirt he made: a picture of Trick with the text DID MY TROLL GET OUT? on it). It was great to see the camaraderie among the cast and how their on-screen/off-screen chemistry is so strong – and so much fun.

The Lost Girl s2 finale episode was incredible – the love, strength and devotion of these characters was out in full force as Bo and her friends, who are tied to her by blood, battle the Garuda. The good guys won! As we all pretty much expected, super succubus was aroused during the fray, and some quick action on Trick and Kenzi’s part was able to sever the bonds and calm her – but the end of the episode showed that the dark force had taken hold. But to what degree? Bo’s sly grin as she regards herself in the mirror doesn’t bode well. Other question marks at the end of the episode: will Lauren take her chance now that the Light are currently without an Ash and leave – or will her feelings for Bo cause her to stay? Now that Dyson has his love back, will he pursue a romantic relationship with Bo, and possibly restart the love triangle? What is the nature of that condition on Kenzi’s arm (a result of a jar of some unknown green goop breaking and spattering on her arm at the Norn’s) – dangerous or transformative?

Outstanding work from the entire cast. Congrats, all! So looking forward to season three (which, rumour has it, starts shooting very soon).

If you haven’t checked out Dorothy Snarker’s Lost Girl snapcaps on the AfterEllen.com, I highly recommend you do so. Here’s her take on the season two finale: http://www.afterellen.com/node/99921  I especially love the screencaps and Kenzism of the week.

Republic of Doyle (RoD) had its season three finale on Wednesday, part two of a drama/action-packed episode that had the Doyles scrambling to clear Malachy’s name in a series of police and informant murders. Fist fights, gun play, speeding cars and bomb explosions galore in this one. The Doyles get their man – in this case, woman (a former officer who Mal mentored) – but in the process, Jake’s beloved GTO is seriously damaged, then destroyed (in one of said bomb explosions), Des sustains a life-threatening gun shot to the belly, and Mal and Rose are under arrest until the police sort out what really happened. And that’s where we’re left hanging.

Another fine cast and an excellent Canadian production – shot in St. John’s Newfoundland. Can’t wait for a season four (not sure if they’ve got the green light on that yet – here’s hoping!). If you haven’t checked out RoD, take a look: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1297754/

Episodes online in Canada – Lost Girl: http://www.showcase.ca/lostgirl/episodes.aspx

Republic of Doyle: http://www.cbc.ca/republicofdoyle/

And now, the voids of those Sunday and Wednesday night time slots to fill…

Lost Girl brings some sexy fun back

Okay, so the world may be ending soon, but our friends on Lost Girl are multitasking masters. BIG SPOILERS ahead if you’re not caught up on season 2: “Into the Dark.”

After the pain and sacrifice of the previous episode – and past animosities –  Bo and her chosen family find some closure as the episode opens with Ciara’s wake at the Dal (featuring Ashley MacIsaac on fiddle). As Ciara’s friends mourn her, we are reminded of Lauren’s loss of Nadia – and she and Dyson have a lovely moment at the bar over a glass of whiskey. Bo finally gets to ask Trick a question that’s been on her mind (and ours) for some time: Is he her father? Nope, but close. Grandpa! A very sweet and touching reveal/family reunion scene.

Lachlan’s funeral is less well-attended, but Lauren and Bo are there – and Bo meets with the Morrigan there, who (after having a chat with the Nain Rouge) she realizes she needs help from in the coming battle. Bo needs to borrow Vex. And this is where the fun begins. Vex has been imprisoned for punking the Morrigan in a particularly humiliating (and sexy) way, so of course, she’s not just going to let him go. Bo is sent to retrieve a top secret briefcase stored in a Light Fae vault and bring it back to the Morrigan. Mission accomplished, but then a gang of Redcaps wants Vex too so she has to get the briefcase back in order to save Vex from them – by succubus sexing it from the Morrigan.

Then, of course, there’s Kenzi going all “Honey, I’m home!” on the Norn with a chain saw in order to get Dyson’s love back (they did try asking nicely earlier in the ep., but that Norn is one nasty bee-yatch). Best. Kenzi. Entrance. Ever. If not the best entrance ever on the show.

Bo and Lauren even get to have a moment. (Finally!) When Bo arrives at Lauren’s after being injured in the fight with the Redcaps, Lauren thinks Bo needs healing sex, but Bo just needs an aspirin. Bo’s super succubus moment with the Lich comes up in conversation – Lauren believes it was triggered by the way they feel about each other. They get so close to kissing but don’t (it was torture to watch but so erotic at the same time), as it turns into a eureka moment for Lauren, who realizes what she must do to preserve Lachlan’s venom.

Lovely two-hander scenes throughout this episode: Lauren/Dyson, Bo/Trick, Kenzi/Dyson, Bo/Lauren and Bo/Kenzi – not to mention some sexy ones: the Morrigan/Vex’s punking partner Paulo and Bo/the Morrigan. And that cheeky monkey Vex is almost a lovable scoundrel. Again, amazing work by the entire Lost Girl cast. And thanks to the writers for the much needed comic relief.

For those of you not on the Twitter, here’s the video I tweeted yesterday in honour of that lovely Bo/Lauren scene. It’s even got lyrics, so sing along:

One more episode to go for season two – and don’t forget the pre-show special, on just before the final episode. Bo’s super succubus will be returning big time – but will Bo be able to bring herself back?

Lost Girl – the devil you know

The post comes with the usual spoiler warning for those who aren’t caught up with Lost Girl season two episodes to date.

Sunday’s episode “Lachlan’s Gambit” put me in mind of some lyrics from yet another great Canadian female singer/songwriter, Jann Arden: “The devil won.”

This time. This battle – but not the war.

The good guys lost two more in the battle with the Garuda in an episode that saw Bo and friends/allies step up and sacrifice. Ciara returned to assist, only to be killed by the Garuda’s firey sword. Lachlan sacrificed himself to gain the upper hand and prove to Bo that she is, indeed, the one who needs to lead this fight – and took care to leave an important weapon to assist in the continued fight. Dyson also returned and took a serious beating from a gang of Berserkers so Bo, Hale and Kenzi could get away from the Garuda’s lair – with Kenzi sneaking back to retrieve his broken, but still breathing, body. Trick, Hale and Kenzi really stepped up and showed huge courage and care for their friends in this episode.  Lauren’s scientific know-how will be challenged, in order to preserve Lachlan’s venom so his sacrifice won’t be in vain. All overcame personal fear, pain and sorrow to exhibit great bravery, and put the welfare of others before themselves – true loyalty and friendship.

And on top of this, Lauren – deep in mourning for Nadia, and initially furious and hurt when she sees Bo early in the episode – manages to find some sense of acceptance, and goes to Bo’s home and arms to find a bit of peace away from the constant turmoil of her life. It dawned on me that asking for intimacy is braver than asking for sex. A truly beautiful, tender Bo/Lauren scene of love, intimacy and support.

Once again, the entire Lost Girl cast shows us consistently amazing strong work. One of the big reasons I love the show is the ever-evolving characters and their relationships. And that is thanks, in a big part, to this excellent ensemble. Kudos, all.

Two episodes to go for season two. One thing for certain is, like it or not, Bo really has to take leadership in this fight.

T.V. cross-over episodes I’d like to see

What with all the intensity on Lost Girl lately, I turned my thoughts to the lighter side of t.v. and came up with some cross-over episode ideas. See what you think…

Rizzoli and Isles with Republic of Doyle: I think this would be best set in St. John’s, with our Boston gals Jane and Maura travelling there on a cross-border case that coincides with a case that Leslie is working on. Hijinks will, of course, ensue. During the course of the investigation, Jake flirts with Maura (who is flattered by his Nfld charm) and Des gets goofy over Jane (who is irritated by him), while Leslie, Tinny and Rose look on with a combination of amusement and embarrassment. As usual, Malachy thinks Jake and Des are both eejits.

Lost Girl with Once Upon A Time: Seeing as both shows could use a light, fun episode, this pairing of mythical worlds juxtaposed with our everyday world has promise for some big fun. Bo and Emma Swan swap places via some magical object (not a body swap, but a location swap), where they each must join forces with the other’s allies to discover the mystery of the object, and get back to their respective homes and friends. Bo hanging out with Henry and Mary Margaret, and duking it out with Regina, while Emma works with Bo’s intrepid  Scoobies – awesome potential!

Glee with Smash: Rachel and Kurt move to NYC during their summer break before starting theatre school, where they become roommates with Sam and last-minute additions to the Marilyn! workshop ensemble. Kurt is attracted to Sam and struggles to be true to Blaine, who has decided to stay and work in Lima before attending college in Boston. Rachel becomes pals with Karen and helps Karen find her inner diva.

Have any cross-overs you’d like to see? Give ’em a shout out in Comments.

More theatre for me tonight; this time, it’s Soulpepper’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Back with the scoop on that tomorrow.

Heartbreak & hard choices on Lost Girl

Okay, so I’ll try to keep the spoilerage to a minimum – but be warned. I just may get carried away and I’m still processing the hugeness of recent developments, as well as dealing with that lost hour of sleep from Saturday night.

The Showcase synopsis forewarned of pre-war casualties in last night’s episode of Lost Girl “Truth and Consequences.” And, boy, there were casualties. Relationships. Innocence. Death. To quote some lyrics from one of my favourite Sarah McLachlan tunes: “Hold on. Hold on to yourself. This is gonna hurt like hell.”

Kenzi had to make a hard choice about her relationship with Nate. Bo had to choose how far she was willing to go in these early days of battle with the Garuda. And Nadia’s disturbing ailment – confirmed as part possession/part Fae Congo virus – forced Lauren and Bo, and even Nadia herself, into a deadly decision. Meanwhile, Hale steps up and shows leadership in organizing a sit-down between Lachlan and Trick, and Dyson is AWOL. This episode was as heartbreaking as it was gripping – and left the audience feeling that this is only the beginning of the sacrifices to come.

Big props to Lost Girls Anna Silk, Ksenia Solo and Zoie Palmer for their outstanding performances. Thank you for that, ladies.

Three more episodes of season 2 to go, including a special finale pre-show event before the final s2 episode on Sun, April 1.