Review: "The Valley" at Theatre on the Ridge

Review: "The Valley" at Theatre on the Ridge

Like many other Canadian playwrights, Joan McLeod enjoys writing about Canada. But what sets her apart is her desire to peel back the peaceful veneer of Canadian society and reveal the stark reality of conflict and unease that often goes unacknowledged. This is true of her 2013 play, The Valley, which takes an unflinching look at mental health and, more specifically, the interaction of on-duty police officers with citizens suffering with mental illness.

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Review: Driftwood Creates a Rockin’ Fairy Tale with "A (Musical) Midsummer Night’s Dream"

Review: Driftwood Creates a Rockin’ Fairy Tale with "A (Musical) Midsummer Night’s Dream"

Creating Shakespearean productions that are accessible and intriguing entertainment for people of all ages is a true challenge. To do it consistently for a quarter century, well, that’s another thing entirely. Yet, the Driftwood Theatre Group has been doing just that since 1995.

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Review: Factory Theatre Presents "The Tashme Project: The Living Archives"

Photo of (L-R) Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa, provided by June Park.

Photo of (L-R) Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa, provided by June Park.

  • Paul Love, Associate Toronto Critic

“The Tashme Project: The Living Archives” was born from the desire of creators Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa to learn more about their Japanese Canadian heritage and the plight of their people during World War II when all Japanese Canadians were interned, displaced, or deported by the Canadian government. Ms. Manning and Mr. Miwa felt that talking with those who experienced this horrible treatment and sharing the details about what they faced was particularly important because there seemed to be a lack of communication between the generations that lived through the internment and the ones that were born after the fact.

The show is unique in its presentation because Ms. Manning and Mr. Miwa play themselves, as well as people they interviewed. It is admittedly a bit confusing the first time the actors abruptly become other characters, but once this is clear, it is fascinating to watch as these two performers constantly become very different characters. Ms. Manning was particularly adept at switching from herself to older women, clearly expressing the world-weary voice and slower, hunched movements of a person much older than herself. Because the people being interviewed were second generation Japanese Canadians, or Nisei, who were children and teenagers at the time of the internment, it is quite moving to hear about the horrible treatment of Japanese Canadians through the innocent perspective of a child.

There were times during the performance when characters with very specific mannerisms and/or vocal tones seemed to appear more than once, and I wondered if these were characters from earlier in the show sharing more of their stories. If that is the case, perhaps differentiating specific personalities through a projected name or image, or sound cue might have allowed a stronger connection for the audience. There were a couple of moments, too, when both actors’ volume dropped a bit, making the dialogue difficult to pick up. But these are minor quibbles in a show with such an important message being delivered in such a memorable way.

Director Mike Payette matches the interwoven quality of the story and conversations with a lot of fluidity in the actors’ movements around the stage, bringing the action to an abrupt halt at moments that are about the spoken words and nothing more. Patrick Andrew Bolvin’s sound design, along with George Allister’s visual imagery and David Perreault Ninacs’s lighting design, creates an almost surreal atmosphere, pulling us from the present to the past and back again, amid moments of both calm and chaos.

“The Tashme Project: The Living Archives” is a production that has a lot to say, and all of it important. As Canadians, we should all have a better understanding of this dark aspect of our country’s history.  

Show Details

The show is being staged until February 10th, 2019 at the Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. in Toronto.

Showtimes are at 8:00 pm Tuesday to Saturday with 2:00 pm matinees on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as a special 11:00 am matinee on Wednesday, February 6th.

The show is approximately 85 minutes, with no intermission.

More details are available at www.factorytheatre.ca.

Review: Soulpepper Presents 'A Christmas Carol'

Review: Soulpepper Presents 'A Christmas Carol'

Like Sherlock Holmes, Ebenezer Scrooge is a character whose renown has seemingly outgrown his source material. His grumpy “Bah humbug!” has become as well-known a catch phrase as any in the realm of theatre. Soulpepper is currently taking theatregoers on their annual journey to 19th century London to experience Michael Shamata’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, amid the hustle and bustle of Toronto’s Christmas Market in the beautiful Distillery District.

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Review: Apocalypse for Tea — Soulpepper and Necessary Angel Present "Escaped Alone"

Review: Apocalypse for Tea — Soulpepper and Necessary Angel Present "Escaped Alone"

It is in those rare moments where one gets to see something uncommon in theatre that stirs the heart and makes one’s love of theatre grow. Case in point — Caryl Churchill’s “Escaped Alone”, being presented by Soulpepper in conjunction with Necessary Angel Theatre.

The play explores the relationship of three friends in their sixties or older, Vi (Brenda Robins), Lena (Kyra Harper), and Sally (Maria Vacratsis) — and a lesser-known neighbour they don’t know as well, Mrs. Jarrett (Clare Coulter), who arrives and joins them for tea in Sally’s backyard. Mrs. Jarrett listens intently as the three women chat about their lives and neighbourhood, finishing and cutting off each other’s sentences as only long-time friends can do. The action occasionally freezes, and Mrs. Jarrett delivers chilling and surreal accounts of apocalyptic visions, often with details that satirize our current social media climate (for example, people taking selfies amid a disaster event in case they get a chance to post them at some point).

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Review: Obsidian Theatre and Soulpepper present "Oraltorio: A Theatrical Mixtape"

Review: Obsidian Theatre and Soulpepper present "Oraltorio: A Theatrical Mixtape"

It’s not too often that I find myself sitting in a theatre, moments before the curtain rises, and I am not really sure what it is I’m about to see, which is an exhilarating feeling. The parenthetical “A Theatrical Mixtape” gives a bit of a hint of what’s to come, but it still wasn’t enough to prepare me for the incredible sonic ride I was taken on moments later: Two young Black women — B-Girl and the DJ — growing up in Toronto struggle with their identity and heritage, navigating their way forward through an exploration of their social and cultural history, presented as a heady mixture of singing and spoken word poetry connected and surrounded by a soundscape of music, audio clips, and sound effects.

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Review: "I Call myself Princess" at Aki Studio

Review: "I Call myself Princess" at Aki Studio

I Call myself Princess is a remarkable new play that deals with cultural appropriation in the best way possible — by taking back that which was stolen. Paper Canoe Projects and Cahoots Theatre, partnering with Native Earth Performing Arts, are presenting this world premiere of I Call myself Princess, written by Jani Lauzon.

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You’ll Want To Be Part of Their World — Port Hope Theatre Festival Presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid

You’ll Want To Be Part of Their World — Port Hope Theatre Festival Presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid

More details are available at https://capitoltheatre.com/.Although the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale was first published nearly 200 years ago, the version of the Little Mermaid that most people have ingrained in their minds is that of the hugely successful Disney animated film that started the Disney Renaissance of the late 80s and early 90s. The version of The Little Mermaid that is now being produced by the Port Hope Theatre Festival at the beautiful Cameco Capitol Arts Centre in Port Hope, Ontario, is the Disney telling, which was adapted for the stage and made its Broadway debut in 2008.

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Review: "Bed and Breakfast" at Soulpepper

Review: "Bed and Breakfast" at Soulpepper

Soulpepper is adding a splash of fun to the dog days of summer, with Bed and Breakfast, a comedy by Canadian playwright, Mark Crawford. Bed and Breakfast is a delightful romp about a young gay couple, Brett (Gregory Prest) and Drew (Paolo Santalucia), who are growing ever tired of Toronto’s urban rat race and frustratingly competitive real estate market. An opportunity drives them to move to small-town Ontario and turn a beloved deceased aunt’s house into a bed and breakfast.

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Review: Driftwood Weaves Some Midsummer Magic with "Rosalynde" (or, As You Like It)

Review: Driftwood Weaves Some Midsummer Magic with "Rosalynde" (or, As You Like It)

Breathing fresh, modern relevance into a play written some 420 years ago is challenging to say the least. Sure, there are themes and archetypes that transcend time, but when the play is old enough to be seemingly written in a different language, the challenge certainly remains for any theatre company tackling the works of William Shakespeare. The Driftwood Theatre Group takes on this challenge so effortlessly with their production of Rosalynde (or, As You Like It) that you find yourself wondering why Shakespeare is so notorious for being difficult to understand in the first place.

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Review: Theatre on the Ridge presents "Peter Pan"

Review: Theatre on the Ridge presents "Peter Pan"

It was more than 100 years ago that playwright and novelist J.M. Barrie created his most iconic character, Peter Pan. Since that time, the boy who wouldn’t grow up has been well-represented in everything from plays and books to movies and TV shows.

At its heart, the play is about the discord between the fun and innocent nature of being a child and the seriousness and responsibility of being an adult. While Barrie explores the darker side of this conflict in his original play and in his subsequent novelization, Theatre on the Ridge’s production focuses on the more lighthearted and magical aspects of the story, making the show much more accessible for children. And that is a very good thing because, let’s face it, there is not enough theatre available for kids to enjoy.

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Review: "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" at Soulpepper

Review: "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" at Soulpepper

In the early 1980s, African-American playwright August Wilson began writing what would become known as his Pittsburgh Cycle, a series of ten plays —each set in a different decade of the 20th Century — telling stories about the Black experience in America. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom tackles the 1920s. Ma Rainey was an early Blues singer who earned the title “Mother of the Blues” and who, decades after her death, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is mainly through Ma Rainey’s session musicians that much of the story of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is told.

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