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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Me and My Girl

This musical got great reviews, had a great cast and the audience were having a great time. I fell asleep in the first act and went home at the intermission so I could rest in comfort.

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Androcles and the Lion

Theatre always requires the willing suspension of disbelief.  This production of Shaw’s diatribe on religion also requires a willing suspension of stuffy inhibitions. If you are not ready to laugh at over the top tom foolery, this is not the play for you. Helpful hint: if you don’t enjoy pantos, you won’t like this production.

Director Tim Carroll wants the audience involved in the play. So the Lion is recruited from the audience (thank you, Mina, for your enthusiastic role playing) and other members of the audience are given balls, to be used at will to interrupt the plot so cast members can tell personal stories or recite from the prologue. You also get instructions on when to cheer and jeer as part of the audience at the colloseum.

It all adds up to a fun afternoon, where you can ignore Shaw’s preachy lecture and just enjoy the gags. With a forty page play that has a hundred page prologue and a twenty page epilogue, how else can you stretch it out to fill the whole afternoon?

The cast seemed to be having lots of fun, which was a key to making the whole thing work.

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