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.

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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.

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Review: “MAGNUM OPUS: Resurgere Ex Cineribus” at Kickstarter HQ

Review: “MAGNUM OPUS: Resurgere Ex Cineribus” at Kickstarter HQ

On a snowy Tuesday night in Greenpoint, I found myself at the headquarters of Kickstarter. Objectively speaking, it’s hard not to describe this location as anything other than an unconventional location to present the world premiere a brand new short film production. However, MAGNUM OPUS: Resurgere Ex Cineribus – the new art film presented recently presented by a group called “The Void” – is anything but a conventional film, or even a conventional work of art.

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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.

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Off-Off-Broadway Review: “The Waiting Game”

Off-Off-Broadway Review: “The Waiting Game”

In the appropriately titled play “The Waiting Game” by Charles Gershman, what quickly becomes apparent to the audience is that everyone in the play is waiting for something. Sam is in a coma from a drug overdose, waiting to wake up, die while in the coma or have someone terminate his life by pulling the plug. His husband Paolo is waiting for Sam to wake up because he thinks he is communicating with him via Gmail chat. Geoff is Sam’s new boyfriend since Sam left Paolo, and he is waiting for Paolo to grant him conservatorship so he can pull the plug and end Sam’s life. Tyler is Paolo’s new tryst and he is waiting for Paolo to give up drugs and commit to a relationship. Everyone knows everyone else and knows each other is waiting for something to happen so life can begin or for that matter end. Add to the plot drugs, sex, AIDS, and four confused, self- loathing homosexuals and the result is evident or at least self- prophesizing.

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Review: “Between the Threads” at HERE

Review: “Between the Threads” at HERE

“Between the Threads” is a new work of theatre by the Jewish Women Project featuring six female identifying artists as they explore their own identities as jewish women in America today as well as their connections to the traditions of the past. Told through the multiple perspectives of the six women accompanied by music and dance, “Between the Threads” asks the question “What does it mean to live between the world of tradition and the modern world, as a jewish woman?”

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Review: "WITNESS UGANDA" - A Rocking Documentary Musical at The Wallis

Review: "WITNESS UGANDA" - A Rocking Documentary Musical at The Wallis

Winston Churchill in his 1908 book “My African Journey” said Uganda is the Pearl of Africa. After watching Witness Uganda at The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, I declare this musical is a sparking diamond onstage.

The energy and music reminds me of the award-winning 90s rock musical RENT. Instead of watching impoverished young and creative artists struggle under the shadows of HIV in New York City, I watched a group of teens and children in Uganda orphaned by AIDS, and how one man’s life changes forever by helping them.

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Off-Broadway Review: “Mies Julie”

Off-Broadway Review: “Mies Julie”

August Strindberg’s naturalism and themes transfer brilliantly from his “Miss Julie” to Yaël Farber’s adaptation of Strindberg’s classic. Farber’s “Mies Julie” is currently running at Classic Stage Company in repertory with the Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s “The Dance of Death.” Like the 1985 stage version of “Miss Julie” at Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre, Mr. Farber’s 2012 adaptation takes place in South Africa.  Shariffa Ali’s electrifying staging replaces Strindberg’s celebration of Midsummer’s Eve with the “restitutions of body and soul” churned up by the Xhosa Freedom Day celebration.

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Review: "The Music Man" Brings a Joyful Noise to Washington, DC

Review: "The Music Man" Brings a Joyful Noise to Washington, DC

DC audiences have been treated to a respite from the every day drama of Washington politics. This welcome break comes in the form of the Broadway Center Stage production of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man. Now playing at The Kennedy Center through February 11th, The Music Man offers up a big dose of lightness and joy.

The story is a familiar one. A con man shows up in River City in the guise of a band leader named Professor Harold Hill. His goal is to profit off the townspeople. He does this by uniting them against a common enemy – in this case a pool table. Although this story has been told for decades, the idea of manipulating people against a common enemy feels sadly relevant for today.

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Off-Broadway Review: “Eddie and Dave”

Off-Broadway Review: “Eddie and Dave”

The present-day social climate in the theater world has fervently addressed non-traditional casting, gender identity, and diversity as part of an effort to be inclusive and accepting. When a production exhibits a little gender bending, there should be a valid explanation or reasoning behind the decision, whether it be historical, social, or dramatic persuasion. In the case of “Eddie and Dave” penned by Amy Staats and running at Atlantic Stage 2, it seems to be purely for fun, adding a bit of desperately needed humor to the banal script.

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Review: “Good Faith: Four Chats About Race and the New Haven Fire Department” at the Yale Repertory Theatre

Review: “Good Faith: Four Chats About Race and the New Haven Fire Department” at the Yale Repertory Theatre

“So, I get a call a few years ago from a renowned institution, which I attended and to which I still owe money. ‘Would you care to dramatize a multi-year racially charged Supreme Court Case involving a bunch of firefighters in 2003?’ First I think: I will fail; this subject lies in that evil zone where boring meets offensive.”

When Karen Hartman, or at least the nom de plume of Hartman played winningly by Laura Heisler, says those words at the beginning of Yale Repertory Theatre’s “Good Faith: Four Chats About Race and the New Haven Fire Department” she is wrong. “Good Faith,” which was commissioned by the Rep and had its world premiere February 7th, is neither boring or offensive. It’s a smart, surprisingly engaging piece of docudrama that seeks to make sense out of a thorny and controversial event in New Haven’s history. It’s an imperfect work – “Faith” occasionally drags and is overly verbose – but a fascinating one nonetheless, directed with a steady hand by Kenny Leon

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Review: "Exposed" at the MCS Theatre

Review: "Exposed" at the MCS Theatre

Ms. Heckler’s direction and the ensemble’s script are equal parts shockingly brave and vulnerable, a raw dissection of one girl’s decisions magnifying a nation’s sickness. The dialogue in the show is lifted from interviews with, tweets at, and scenes of female pornstars and the effortless juxtaposition of different formats from monologues to sound clips to choreographed interpretive porn scenes elucidate the team’s overall creative mastery.

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Review: “Black Garden” at The Tank

Review: “Black Garden” at The Tank

“Black Garden” is a theatrical collage set in the warring nations of Armenia and Azerbaijan and tells us several stories involving people such as an Armenian woman struggling to recall a lost lover through amnesia, a man being imprisoned and accused of espionage, two corrupt political leaders, and diaspora Armenians on the search for love and struggling to understand who they are.

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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.

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Review: “The Manufactured Myth of Eveline Flynn” at Theatre Three

Review:  “The Manufactured Myth of Eveline Flynn” at Theatre Three

“The Manufactured Myth of Eveline Flynn” at Theatre Three took the audience on an emotionally-charged, whirlwind journey through the shifting life, and mind, of self-described daydreamer, Eveline Flynn, played by the vibrant Lauren LeBlanc. This production not only traverses some uncharted waters, but it also does so with a unique flair and fresh perspective which breathes life into its characters in an accessible way.

Created by talented Dallasites Michael Federico and Ian Ferguson, “The Manufactured Myth of Eveline Flynn” places the audience inside the imaginative mind of a woman searching for meaning and connection while slipping in and out of a turbulent inner world. At first, we believe she’s an eccentric escapist but quickly come to discover that there’s much more to her story.

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Review: Julia Sweeney is Older, Wider and Wonderful

Review: Julia Sweeney is Older, Wider and Wonderful

Opening night at the Geffen Playhouse of “Julia Sweeney: Older and Wider” I didn’t recognize the beloved 90s Saturday Night Live superstar, as she walked out onstage dressed in black pants, shirt and shoes.

The friendly comedian who created and brought the androgynous character “Pat” to life on SNL, is older.  Her hair has turned gray and she is a tad wider, however within two minutes, this raw and vulnerable woman sparkles onstage with joy and giddiness performing in the small and intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater.

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Review: “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at Westchester Broadway Theatre

Review: “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at Westchester Broadway Theatre

The production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” that opened Thursday night at Westchester Broadway Theatre is the real McCoy, a fact that will delight devotees of Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller and his music—the Harlem-style swing that bridged Ragtime and mid-century jazz idioms. It will also tickle anybody with a scintilla of rhythm. Those lacking that innate quality should sit back and let the syncopated melodies and mischievous wordplay get their toes and fingers tapping.

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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: Hollywood’s HELLO, DOLLY! is a Show Stopper

Review: Hollywood’s HELLO, DOLLY! is a Show Stopper

Walking up to the front of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, I noticed a sparkly tiara and bouquet of red roses with petals scattered around Carol Channing’s star. Channing who passed away on January 15, 2019 was the quintessential Dolly Gallagher Levi in the musical “Hello, Dolly!” She brought Dolly to life over 5,000 times.

I remember seeing the Tony Award winning actress perform the role at the Hollywood Pantages when I was a young girl. About seven years ago, I saw her again dining with friends at Culina inside the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. She received the same adoration from the servers at the restaurant, as she did onstage.

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Review: "An Inspector Calls" at The Wallis

Review: "An Inspector Calls" at The Wallis

The entertaining J.B. Priestley whodunit historical thriller “An Inspector Calls” enlightens  Beverly Hills audiences thanks to Paul Crewes, the Artistic Director at The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts. He invited director Stephen Daldry and his touring production to perform for an exclusive West Coast engagement through February 10, 2019.

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