Review: 'Chicho' at Theatre Passe Muraille

Review: 'Chicho' at Theatre Passe Muraille

I was pleased upon my arrival at Passe Muraille and being told the production is not pronounced ‘Chico’ as in Chico & The Man but ‘Cheech’o (as in comedians “Cheech & Chong”). I am hoping you are old enough to remember these two references. Mr. Bitter also refers to this fact at the top of the show.

Theatre Passe Muraille has billed ‘Chicho’ as “an ashamed-queer-Catholic-man-boy from Venezuela who hilariously attempts to feel beautiful despite his warring identity politics”.  So much inferred within this statement that I had no idea what I was about to see; however, what I’ve been discovering lately is the theatre of which I know nothing about leaves an indelible mark. This was my first visit to Passe Muraille so I was looking forward to attending.

Read More

Review: "New Magic Valley Fun Town" at the Tarragon Theatre

Review: "New Magic Valley Fun Town" at the Tarragon Theatre

A rather odd and quirky title, but man, oh, man the Toronto premiere of Daniel MacIvor’s ‘New Magic Valley Fun Town’ masterfully said so much for me in those moments where not a great deal was said. This will make sense when you see the production as I’m trying not to spoil where the story leads.

And when an exceptionally remarkable cast played and toyed with my emotions and thoughts right up to the play’s enlightening conclusion, I was completely taken and moved by the journey I had just experienced. Another bonus was the talkback after the performance so, future audiences, stick around for the dialogue and post show conversation.

Read More

Review: "Better Than This" at Fabulist Theatre

Review: "Better Than This" at Fabulist Theatre

Better Than This: The Evolution of Women in Musicals is an informative journey of the history of women's roles in musical theatre. Anyone who is a musical theatre buff will enjoy their favourite songs and commentary performed by four distinct personalities bringing emotion, humour, and pure womanly talent to the stage.

Read More

Review: ‘Good Morning, Viet Mom’ by Cahoots Productions

Review: ‘Good Morning, Viet Mom’ by Cahoots Productions

Cahoots has billed this world premiere of ‘Good Morning, Viet Mom’ as authentic and irreverent. Franco Nguyen travels to Vietnam to look for inspiration for his first feature film and he finds an unexpected subject, his mother.  Mr Nguyen then delves into the personal and shares stories about visiting Vietnam for the first time and being re-introduced to the mother he thought he knew.

Read More

Review: "The Father" at The Coal Mine Theatre

Review: "The Father" at The Coal Mine Theatre

I would bet that Coal Mine’s production will probably be nominated for some Dora awards this year. The social justice issues of examining dignity confronting a debilitating and ultimately life destroying disease has been handled with great respect in ‘The Father’. Beg, borrow or plead to get a ticket and to see true ensemble perfection.

Read More

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.

Read More

Review: "Oslo" by Studio 180 Theatre

Review: "Oslo" by Studio 180 Theatre

In this humble guy’s opinion, ‘good theatre’ should entertain an audience while ‘great theatre’ should entertain and teach us something extremely important about the human condition.

For me, playwright J. T. Rogers has created great theatre with ‘Oslo’, but it is a text richly laden with dialogue so the audience will have to pay close and careful attention. Under Joel Greenberg’s astutely-handled direction, thirteen actors channel emotional and passionate driven performances highlighting the first-ever peace deal between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. (PLO).

Read More

Review: "Mules" by Scotiabank Community Theatre at Streetcar Crowsnest

Review: "Mules" by Scotiabank Community Theatre at Streetcar Crowsnest

‘Mules’ is a dark comedy about choices, trust, friendship, circumstances, poverty and drug smuggling. In ninety minutes with one set and three actors, this play achieves what plays aspire to be. It is dramatic, suspenseful, comedic and emotional. The dialogue is engaging, the characters are complex and the performances are superlative.

Read More

Review: "Boom X" with Theatre Calgary

Review: "Boom X" with Theatre Calgary

Serendipity or the theatre gods must have been at work when I was in Montreal in mid February and saw that Rick Miller was in previews for his production of ‘Boom X’ at the Segal Centre. Back in 2008 when I was still teaching before retirement, I had attended a performance of Rick’s MacHomer: The Simpsons Do Macbeth at Toronto’s Massey Hall, was captivated by his vocal prowess and thought, “Here’s my hook for kids” to get into Shakespeare’s play of witchcraft and murder since the television series was at its’ height of popularity. I met Rick after the show and learned he also performed a condensed version of the play to high school students.

Read More

Review: "The Last Wife" at Centaur Theatre Company

Review: "The Last Wife" at Centaur Theatre Company

Both gripping and riveting, the Montreal Centaur Theatre’s opening night production of Kate Hennig’s ‘The Last Wife’ soared to great heights thanks to a carefully crafted and nuanced vision by director Eda Holmes, and a cast of solid performers who captured a sense of dignity of these British historical characters even in their moments of passion, abuse, confrontation and betrayal. I had the opportunity to see ‘The Last Wife’ at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre and was certainly looking forward to re-visiting this story once again especially in a company world renowned as the Centaur.

Read More

REVIEW: "Come From Away" (Canadian Cast)

REVIEW: "Come From Away" (Canadian Cast)

‘Come From Away’ is billed as the remarkable true story, and that it most certainly is. What made this story remarkable for me when I first saw it was its’ belief in the triumphant and restoring human spirit of kindness and compassion of the people in Gander, Newfoundland, to the stranded passengers on thirty-eight planes on September 11, 2001.  The spirit of goodwill, kindness and compassion still transcends throughout the entire Canadian production.

Is it still remarkable? Yes. Did it bring a tear to my eye? Yes. Is it a story that needs to be seen again? Yes, especially given the tempestuous times in which we now find ourselves worldwide. ‘Come From Away’ continues to touch deep to the very core of who we are as human beings and what we can do under the most horrifying and terrifying of circumstances.

Read More

Review: "Hamlet" by Why Not Theatre

Review: "Hamlet" by Why Not Theatre

A bold, inventive and remarkable retelling of Hamlet produced by Why Not Theatre opened Thursday at the Berkeley Street Theatre.  It is a remounting of a successful run in 2017 at The Theatre Centre in Toronto.  The classic tale is invigorated with a gender bent cast and a bilingual component.  Gender reallocation is not an entirely new format to Shakespeare audiences – consider Stratford Festival’s recent Julius Caesar or Prospero.  Shakespeare himself experimented with men playing women playing men – consider Portia or Viola.  What is more unique and creative is the combination of the spoken word and American Sign Language which elevates this production in profound new ways.  The use of signing has two effects – most importantly, it brings the story to a deaf audience.  Secondly, it adds a brilliant dimension of intensity to the emotion –packed story.

Read More

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: 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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Review: "After the Fire" at The Theatre Centre

Review:  "After the Fire" at The Theatre Centre

Award winning Albertan playwright Matthew MacKenzie enjoys a recent successful run of his production of Bears, a foray into the politics of oil pipelines in our country.  With After the Fire, MacKenzie examines an equally large topic with the Fort MacMurray fires of 2015 and their devastating costs, both human and environmental.  The fires were the costliest disaster in terms of resources that Canada has seen.  Political and societal implications were vast – from South African “volunteers” on strike to a prime minister bent on pride.  Mr. MacKenzie has chosen a very wide issue that fragments into many sub-strata.

Read More

Review: "We Are Not Alone" with 2B Theatre Company

Review: "We Are Not Alone" with 2B Theatre Company

Do I believe that extra-terrestrial beings can exist? Do any of us believe they might exist?

About fifteen minutes into his riveting monologue performance, Damien Atkins asks us by a show of hands how many of us believe in this possibility and how many of us are still not convinced. I did raise my hand in support of other worldly life could possibly exist. Notice I’m not saying ‘does exist’ because I’m not certain of that fact.

Read More