Bang Bang

This play is proof that you can deal with important social issues, even issues that are hard to discuss without offending someone, and still write a funny play. After three days in a row of intense drama, this was a relief.

The basic plot is simple – a man writes a play inspired by a real life incident, in which a young black man is shot by a black female cop. The writer comes to visit the cop, to get her perspective. Comedy ensues. But so does a serious discussion of racism, systemic and casual; of stereotypes; appropriation of voice; and the line between fiction and reality.

Jeff Lillico was brilliant as Tim, the writer. But he was matched in every way by Kadijah Roberts-Abdullah as Lila, Karen Robinson as her mother Karen, Sebastien Heins as Jackie and Richard Zeppieri as Tony.

In the battle of shots, it is hard to know who got the most zingers, Tony or Karen. And in the long rants, Tim was matched by Lila. Jackie got the most physical laughs. Everyone had a job to do and did it well. The whole cast maintained a fine balance between humour and serious discussion of the issues. Eventually, the play ends with no happy solution, because there isn’t one. Writer and director Kat Sandler hit exactly the right tone.

But it was worth a standing ovation and it got one!

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Posted in Factory 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jerusalem

British playwright Jez Butterworth is not a familiar name to me, but knowing that Mark Rylance originated the role of Johnny “Roster” Byron, I was keen to see this play. If you don’t have tickets, get some right away. Opening night was sold out and the two standing ovations should generate sales.

Kim Coates returned to the stage after 30 years in television and film to undertake this role. You may know him from Sons of Anarchy, Godless or some of this other tv roles. But this role is one that any actor would want. A combination of Falstaff, Big Daddy and all the other larger than life male roles, it offers tremendous scope to rant and rage against the injustices of modern life. Coates was absolutely brilliant.

He was supported by a terrific cast of young, or at least young looking actors as his acolytes, perhaps better described as drug customers. I was particularly struck by Christo Graham as Lee, Peter Fernandes as Davey and Philip Riccio as Ginger.

Nicholas Campbell was almost unrecognizable as Professor, shambling, smiling and babbling on about anything that struck his fancy. He has always seemed larger than life in his tv roles (DaVinci) so this role seemed almost out of character. But he was great.

The only two actors I recognized had small but key roles – Diana Donnelly was very believable as the long suffering Dawn, and Michael Spencer-Davis was the timid bureaucrat.

It is hard to describe what the play is about in anything but the most general terms. It could be the individual against society; unbridled capitalism against the bucolic rural life; the Pied Piper, seducing children with his tales and his drugs. It is all of these and more. Rooster is a story teller and he seduces us all with his fantastic tales.

The set design deserves a special mention. You step into the woods as you enter the theatre and the woods eventually engulf you. Get a ticket to see what I mean.

This was a co-production of The Company Theatre and Outside the March, directed by Mitchell Cushman.

Posted in Company Theatre, Outside the March, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hang

Debbie Tucker Green has written a play about the possible involvement of the victim with defining the punishment, in this case capital punishment. In a country with no capital punishment, this causes a stretch in the willing suspension of disbelief that is such an essential part of the theatrical experience.

The play takes place in real time. Eighty minutes of agony. The bureaucrats cannot  complete a full sentence, and keep themselves moving by voicing cliches. The victim, as we eventually realize she is, says very little, but stares balefully at the others. Sarah Afful is the master of the baleful stare. You can read what she is thinking when she does not say a word. Vladimir Alexis and Zoe Doyle are excellent in their roles, but extremely annoying, until the last few minutes when you can work up a little sympathy for them and the impossible job they have.

It is an interesting exercise, but not a great play.

 

Posted in Obsidian Theatre, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Humans

Thanksgiving in American homes seems always to be full of drama, and this one is no exception. Parents, grandma and sister visit the newly cohabiting couple in their scuzzy apartment in New York. Some of it is very funny, some is sad, some is quite depressing. All of it seems very realistic. The characters are brought to life by a stellar cast that includes Sara Farb, Laurie Paton, Ric Reid, Alana Hawley Purvis, Richard Lee and Maralyn Ryan.

The difference from many plays or movies about American Thanksgiving is that there is no chaos, no over the top drama, no insanity. There are no unusual people in this family. There is drama – infidelity, job loss, breakups and disease, but nothing that you can’t imagine having to deal within your own life. So they are indeed, The Humans. This is what makes it interesting, funny and depressing all at the same time.

Director Jackie Maxwell has taken Stephen Karam’s play and made it her own.

Posted in Canadian Stage 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lear

If you don’t have tickets to this Groundlings production, get them right away! You do not want to miss Seana McKenna as Lear.

Graham Abbey has assembled a stellar cast for this production combining Stratford,  Shaw and Soulpepper company members with others familiar from television and a few talented newcomers.

The show definitely belongs to Seana McKenna. I still shiver thinking about the moment she stood above her daughters and courtiers and pointed in anger. A single word had them all and everyone in the audience, frozen in fear. Amazing. Her descent into madness was both believable and sad. This is the first time I have actually felt sorry for Lear. To those who question whether Queen Lear can be as good or as authentic as King Lear, the answer is an emphatic yes. In some ways Queen Lear makes even more sense.

Other notable performances were delivered by Antoine Yared as Edgar/Poor Tom and by Jim Mezon as Gloucester. Kevin Hanchard as Kent was also excellent. Interestingly, the daughters played by Deborah Hay, Diana Donnelly and Mercedes Morris were not as strong as I expected. Deborah Hay did get a laugh when she told Edmund  (Alex McCooeye) to bend his head to kiss her. He had to bend a long way!

This was a great way to start the 2018 theatre season!

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Unholy

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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Heisenberg

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.

Posted in Canadian Stage 2017, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment