Review: "August: Osage County" at Soulpepper Theatre

Review: "August:  Osage County" at Soulpepper Theatre

Just as Toronto Raptors fans were tearing up Yonge Street on the way to the NBA final this weekend, Tracy Letts’ August:  Osage County was burning up the distillery district as it opens its run at Soulpepper Theatre.  The searing portrait of a Dysfunctional American family (and the capital D is purposeful) makes Macbeth look like just another episode of Full House. 

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Review: "The Brothers Size" at Soulpepper Theatre

Review:  "The Brothers Size" at Soulpepper Theatre

A compelling drama, The Brothers Size, opened last Friday as a Canadian premiere at Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto.  Written by academy award winning American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, it follows the lives of young black brothers in a small bayou town of Louisiana.  Although the plot is relatively uncomplicated, the great depth of this play comes from the often searing relationships among the men, the embracing of the difficult themes of race, poverty, and misguided male identity, and a unique and astounding style born from the African religion and culture of Yoruba.

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Review: ‘Copenhagen’ at Soulpepper Theatre

Review: ‘Copenhagen’ at Soulpepper Theatre

There has always been something about Michael Frayn’s three hander ‘Copenhagen’ which has always intrigued me. West End actors were keen on performing the piece. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but one of the characters mentions an important context involving all three which made me gasp along with other audience members sitting around me. After seeing Soulpepper’s production of Mr. Frayn’s complex play, tautly directed by Katrina Darychuk, I’ve now understood its fascination for actors and their desire to add this production to their resumes.

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Review: ‘Little Menace: Pinter Plays’ at Soulpepper

Review: ‘Little Menace: Pinter Plays’ at Soulpepper

Rarely have I ever had a chance to see a Harold Pinter play because one hasn’t been done so far.  So, when I heard Soulpepper would be doing a series of Pinter one acts, I was intrigued and ventured forth to the Distillery District. 

I don’t remember reading Pinter plays during my undergraduate years at Western in studying English Language and Literature.  For shame, for shame, I know but I learned more about the term ‘Pinteresque’ from conversations with others in my involvement in community theatre or in discussions with other actors there.

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Review: The Virgin Trial’ at Soulpepper

Review: The Virgin Trial’ at Soulpepper

I had the opportunity to see Kate Henning’s extraordinary The Last Wife in 2017 at Soulpepper and was marvellously drawn back into the Tudor world and its events of the court of Henry VIII, Katherine Parr, his surviving wife and Henry’s three children from various wives – Mary, Bess (later Queen Elizabeth I) and Edward. I’ve always held a fascination with the world of the Tudors and found that Ms. Henning’s text completely captivated my attention. 

For one, I liked the fact the story is told in ‘modern English’ as it was easy to follow the events of the plot since I remember a great deal of them from studies during my undergraduate years and in teaching English language and literature to secondary school students.  When I had read that Ms. Henning was completing a trilogy of the story, I was looking forward to continuing the journey with the characters. The fact the second part would be directed by Alan Dilworth with Ms. Watson returning was a bonus.

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Review: "Rose" at Soulpepper Theatre

Review: "Rose" at Soulpepper Theatre

I wanted so very much for the North American/world premiere opening night of ‘Rose’ to soar through the rafters of Baillie Theatre.

Well, it didn’t completely reach that height for me except for the ‘eleven o’clock’ showstopping number in the second act by a completely believable and touching Hailey Gillis as the title character.

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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: "The Royale" at The Young Centre

Review: "The Royale" at The Young Centre

I tremendously respect and admire playwrights who bring an immediacy of personal reactions to their stories of racial conflict and tension within the theatre. The Stratford Festival’s recent production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is only one example that comes to my mind. I had read in earlier press releases that Marco Ramirez’s “The Royale” deals with racial tensions in the Jim Crow era.  As I sat quietly waiting for the play to begin, I wondered if audiences are becoming saturated to the point where we feel nothing about this theme?

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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: "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: "Orlando" at Soulpepper Theatre

Review: "Orlando" at Soulpepper Theatre

To see actors who have received proper professional training in the use of two core instruments – their bodies and their voices – and to tell a story that keeps its audience riveted for just over two hours was marvelous in every extent. Soulpepper’s opening night production of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (adapted by Sarah Ruhl) was magically executed by five creatively talented actors who never once faltered in telling this story of gender identity with the utmost empathy.

One of the production highlights that worked so well for me was the simplicity of Orlando’s staging. Upon entering the auditorium, I was immediately struck by a theatre in the round setting, so very different from the traditional proscenium arched stage that I am accustomed to seeing in this venue.

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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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