We missed this play last year, when it had a sold out run, so I was happy to have another chance to see it. The script has been updated slightly to recognize the events of the past year -Muslim bans, Nazi rallies, the Million Women March and the public disgrace of so many sexual predators.

A play that takes the format of a debate among four women on the subject “should women give up on organized religion? or even God?” A rabbi, a Muslim, an excommunicated Catholic nun and an atheist/lapsed Jew confront each other in a debate moderated by a man, of course. Blair Williams played that role in the performance we saw. The rabbi was Niki Landau, Bahareh Yaraghi was the Muslim,  Barbara Gordon, the nun and Diane Flacks, who also wrote the play, took the role of the atheist.

If it were just a debate, we could have all stayed home and lived comfortably with our own biases. But this was a play, so it gave us insights into four fascinating women and the internal struggles each faces in addition to their religious struggles. The staging relied heavily on lighting to move the characters in and out of time and place, and the lighting designer and director are to be commended. They even managed to incorporate music and dancing and love making.

We were at a matinee performance, where the vast bulk of the audience were students from The Linden School. They were an attentive audience, but had trouble formulating questions in the talk back afterwards. I guess teenagers are still inarticulate in public.

I cannot imagine school groups from the southern or midwestern states being permitted to attend this play, with its questioning of God and its portrayal of lesbian lovemaking. Thank heavens we live in a city and a country where no one, not even a group of teen age girls, bats an eyelash.

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Written by Simon Stephens and directed by Matthew Jocelyn, the play starred two well known actors Carly Street as Georgie and David Schurmann as Alex.

When you think of Heisenberg, you think of uncertainty. His famous principle (you can not know both the position and the direction of an object at the same time), would not strike most of us as a logical basis for writing a play. But it works extremely well. Two characters meet, are not a likely pairing, but act and react in not always logical ways. Normal people don’t ask strangers for money. Normal people don’t give it to them. What happens if they do?

We were at the first preview, but I can’t imagine it can get any tighter. It all worked extremely well and was a gem of a play, polished by a professional team.  It was especially nice to see David Schurmann get a starring role. We are used to seeing him play the solid second at Shaw, not the leading role.

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World premiere always sounds so pretentious, but every new play has to start somewhere! And we were lucky to be at a performance of this one man play yesterday in Toronto. The audience was very small (so was the theatre) but the play deserves to be seen by more people.

A play about a man’s great grandmother, grandmother and mother, where he plays all the parts, and two pianos, could be many things – confusing, strange, weird?  But this play was totally engrossing. The story unfolded gradually as he revealed the women and their stories in a series of interludes, weaving back and forth among the women.  Each woman has a story, but none of them really wants to tell the story that she has kept secret and unacknowledged for so long. Eventually, the layers are peeled back and the truth is revealed. The music was important to the story. My lack of musical knowledge kept me from really appreciating how it added depth, although I could appreciate the musical talent of the actor/playwright.

The reviews were not great, but I disagree completely. I loved this play. The author is both a wonderful writer and an excellent actor.

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Life After

A new Canadian musical by Britta Johnson. Lots of talent in the show – Dan Chameroy, Trish Lindstrom, Barbara Fulton among the ones we knew, and Ellen Denny as Alice. She was new to us, but very good. The same can be said of Kelsey Verzotti as Hannah.
Reza Jacobs was the music director. Peter McBoyle was the sound designer.
With all this talent, it should have been a fantastic show. Unfortunately, a play about dealing with the death of your father is depressing and nothing in the production could overcome that basic fact. No memorable songs, although no bad ones. Great voices, interesting staging, but ultimately it was too depressing to enjoy.

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Fish Eyes

Written, choreographed and performed by Anita Majumdar.

Rashomon in Port Moodie BC – three views of the same situation from teenaged girls points of view. Boys with Cars, Let me Borrow that Top and Fish Eyes are three stories connected by the slim thread of an incident involving the girl who likes the dumb popular guy, his girlfriend and another girl who observes and dances.

The angst of teenaged girls is universal, but this set of plays adds the extra stress of being a non white girl in a white community.

The author performer is very talented and holds the play together beautifully. Her on stage transformation from Indian girl to blonde valley girl is hilarious. The stress of being pushed to conform to the family’s culture while trying to fit in with the kids at school is common to many Canadian kids today. While I did not experience this particular stress or pressure, I could certainly identify with the pressure to conform. This is a universal story.

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1837: The Farmers’ Revolt

Written by Rick Salutin in 1973-74 with Theatre Passe Muraille, this production directed by Philip Akin is perhaps even more relevant now than it was then.

The cast of eight played so many parts that the individual credits are not listed, just the actors’ names: Ric Reid, Donna Belleville, Sherry Flett, Marla McLean, Cherissa Richards, Travis Seetoo and Jeremiah Sparks. Ric Reid should get a special mention for his portrayal of William Lyon Mackenzie.

This play gives us a different view of the history that would probably have been in the history books, if Canadian history had actually been taught in a way that was at all memorable. All I remember is the name William Lyon Mackenzie and the fact there was a rebellion, not why or anything else.

The introductory fashion show of famous Toronto leaders was fascinating and revealing. The rest of the story makes more sense in light of the concentration of power demonstrated in this small scene.

Great staging and a dramatic ending gave us a very positive ending to our week at the Shaw Festival.

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Wilde Tales

Described as stories for young and old by Oscar Wilde, adapted for the stage by Kate Hennig, this one hour event is hard to describe. Silly, amusing, stupid, dark, pompous and preachy all come to mind. Overall, it seemed like a waste of good acting talent. If there had been an intermission, I would have left then. As it was I had to stay to the end. The actors are not likely to list this one at the top of their bios.

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