Archive | August, 2013

Preview: Bendy Sign Coffee

22 Aug

Mkm puppet pic 01Callaghan_4x6postcardPuppeteer and sketch artist Kaitlin Morrow is back after her stint in Sex T-Rex‘s hilarious Fringe entry, Callaghan! And the Wings of the Butterfly, with a repeat performance of her “Comedy Bar Pilot Week” winning show, Bendy Sign Coffee. Joining her are her cast-mates from Sex T-Rex, which should make this two-nighter of over-caffeinated puppetry a highlight of the long weekend. Here are all the details, shamelessly pulled from the facebook event page:

After taking top prize in last year’s Pilot Week competition, “Bendy Sign Coffee” is back and this time in its natural habitat – a coffee shop.

Join Sex T-Rex and a quirky cast of puppets as we tell the story of Joan, a young puppet trying to make a living in a neighbourhood coffee shop in downtown Toronto who must literally battle her deepest fear to save little Jenny’s birthday party.

A hilarious OPENING ACT by puppet MC:
and some sweet-sweet post-show TUNES on F’Coffee’s licensed patio by:

sponsored by: Muskoka Brewery

AUGUST 29&30
F’Coffee – 641 Queen St East
Doors@ 8pm
Advance TIX (available @ F’Coffee) – $10
$15 @ the door.

For more info: I

Photo credit: Dan Lim, 2013. Concept Art: Dana Harrison

Summerworks Picks: Part 4

16 Aug

Due to time constraints, these productions aren’t getting the word-count they deserve, but are all strong entries in this year’s festival, which sadly winds down this weekend. Catch a few more shows while you can!

disappear_0113-copy-620x426How to Disappear Completely

Israeli lighting designer Itai Erdal’s utterly moving piece is best defined as a theatrical conversation, and the unfettered directness of the communication between performer and audience is only one of the many reasons that one may find oneself tearful by the curtain call. Erdal’s piece revolves around the story of his strong-willed mother, her losing battle with cancer, and his attempt to document via video the events and conversations leading up to her death. Fortunately Erdal is a natural and confident storyteller and he affords the heavy material the right amount of levity to make for a surprisingly entertaining – if ultimately bittersweet – 60 minutes. Erdal’s integration and dissection of his craft, in the form of lights and lighting cues he controls and discusses from the stage, doesn’t run completely parallel to the personal narrative, but this second facet to the show is fascinating enough (at least from a layman’s perspective) that it still adds considerably more to the experience than it distracts.

Enough-Rope-Photo1-620x500Enough Rope

This non-narrative performance-based piece manages to both parody and pay homage to its chosen genre with great aplomb – an apt combination for such a notoriously love-it or hate-it format. A physically confined tent-like setting breeds intimacy and circus-esque aesthetic choices hint at the tone of the show which is both tongue-in-cheek and earnest in equal measure. Rather than try to confront the audience, the quartet of dedicated performers engage with them, the spontaneous back-and-forth impressively quick. Charming and inventive stuff.

ADAM041-620x500The Art of Building a Bunker or Paddling the Canoe of my Self down the River of Inclusivity and into the Ass of the World

This incredibly politically-uncorrect comedy about a mid-level government employee forced to attend sensitivity training comes courtesy of Toronto clown community notable, Adam Lazarus, and director Guillermo Verdecchia. Bunker keeps one in stiches for the first half, but eventually the meat of the piece emerges which Lazarus, as the sole actor, supports with a fiery yet calculated performance. One may never agree with the protagonist or his views, but his journey does give one unexpected insight into the concepts of human fear and vulnerability.

to-myself-at-28-smTo Myself at 28

Queer theatre legend/pioneer/still-kicking-ass-and-taking-names-er Sky Gilbert takes to the stage with protégé Spencer Charles Smith in a piece that – in the hands of a lesser artist – could have come off as self-indulgent. Fortunately, Gilbert’s self-effacing, fourth-wall breaking, and reflective style, makes this sometimes contentious conversation with a younger version of himself (as embodied by Smith) an honest and refreshing work. Smith deserves special credit for mirroring Gilbert so effectively while still adding his own cheeky touch.

Late-Company-photo-credit-Erin-Brubacher-620x500Late Company

Playwright Jordan Tannahill impresses again with a nuanced and mainstage-worthy piece about the consequences of bullying and the extent to which those consequences reach far beyond the victim. Given the premise it would be easy to slip into preachy territory, but Tannahill artfully avoids it, instead giving some breathing room to every side of the argument – even those than come off as archaic. Director Peter Pasyk and the top-notch cast work together to present a taught yet natural performance; the always captivating Rosemary Dunsmore delivers a particularly strong turn as a mother in mourning.


Summerworks Picks: Part 3

12 Aug

salomes-clothes9528-copy-620x500Salome’s Clothes

This tender and nuanced work about, Queen, a caring and level-headed single mom raising her two whip-smart daughters is unfettered by overwrought drama or unnecessarily complicated staging, and as such is able to deliver tremendous emotional impact. Donna-Michelle St. Bernard’s subtle yet powerful script leaves one wanting to shout in protest from one’s seat as the remarkable mother wilfully blinds herself in the name of stability and comfort. Even more impactful is the play’s conclusion, expertly staged by director Clare Preuss, in which the condensed passage time is used to great effect to punctuate the consequences of Queen’s singular misstep.

The cast of three, helmed by Karen Robinson as Queen, deserve much kudos. Their ability to communicate profound emotional truths through remarkably natural performances – and without having to resort to wailing matches or vitriolic breakdowns – is akin to a breath of fresh air.

Summerworks Picks: Part 2

11 Aug

More treats from the Summerworks theatre lineup!


Holy Mothers

This translated import from Austrian playwright Werner Schwab is most definitely not for those with sensitive constitutions, but it is nevertheless a strangely charming piece of theatre blanketed with delightfully dark humour. At the centre of it are three aging cleaning women (Vickie Papavs, Astrid Van Wieren, and Lorna Wilson) who spend their downtime regaling each other with unpleasant and exaggerated tales about shit, vomit, and their troubled children, as well as simple and hopeful fantasies about better lives filled with romance and goulash. Didactic philosophical statements about the nature of life interspersed in the script feel clunky, but do break up the scatological content and give the characters some depth. Schwab’s greatest choice is to have his piece literally parody itself, giving one the sense that it’s all part of a grand and well-crafted joke.

Director Elizabeth Saunders and set/costume designer Anna Treusch’s aesthetic choices enhance the piece greatly; the kitsch-adorned set and the characters’ personalized costumes communicate just as much as the dialogue. All three performers are commendable, but Vickie Papavs deserves special mention for her quirky and sympathetic portrayal of Mariedl, the pious and off-kilter member of the trio.



Yet another splendid offering from one of Toronto’s most reliable independent companies, Theatre Brouhaha, helmed by playwright and human spitfire, Kat Sandler. Delicacy is set in an upscale condo owned by Mark (Andy Trithardt), a pompous writer and Tonya (Tennille Read), his uptight interior designer wife as they entertain Colby (Kelly McCormack) and Len (Kaleb Alexander), a free-wheeling fauxhemian suburbanite couple they met at a swingers club. While the plan is for an experimental evening of spouse swapping, the socially-obligatory socializing that precedes it goes awry and produces more tension and cathartic soul-baring than arousal.

Sandler manages to comment on the urban lifestyle and its superficialities, contemporary racial perceptions, class relations, sexual politics, and the fallibility of love and marriage – all while still giving priority to her story, characters, and sharp and witty dialogue. The performances do the script justice with strong turns from the entire cast; each actor embracing their character’s archetype while still giving them palpable depth and humanity.


The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw

This toe-tapping musical, billed as a “bluegrass opera” is a quaint piece of storytelling from playwright Peter Anderson, supported by a talented and energetic cast and an outstanding soundtrack. Perfect summer fare.

Using the familiar trope of the southern farm boy who makes a deal with a devil at the crossroads in exchange for musical prowess (or in this case, a supernatural banjo), The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw is a treat to sit through. While the cast are clearly having a ball on stage, and director Jennifer Brewin manages to evoke mood, location, and folksy charm with impressively few resources, it is John Millard’s music that is the true star of the show. Staying true to both the style of bluegrass and the expositional conventions of musical theatre, Millard’s score for banjo, bass, fiddle, and guitar is tuneful, moving, and far more interesting than the cookie-cutter ballads that have come to define the Broadway musical (I’m looking at you ‘Wicked’). His use of choral harmony is a particularly haunting treat.


Summerworks Picks: Part 1

9 Aug

One day in and we already have a gem of a show to tell you about!

Tender Napalm

Philip Ridley’s not-at-all-straightforward piece (the contrast in the title is appropriate) may be about two young people stranded on a tropical island, it may be about two people falling in love at a bittersweet party, it may be about both. There are few structural barriers to the reality presented, making for a delightfully fluid and vibrant experience. Ridley’s script is rich with overlapping themes; love, lust, violence, and loss all permeate the story without it ever feeling contradictory or overwhelming.

Director Cynthia Ashperger keeps her cast in constant physical and emotional motion, making the transitions between scenes (and the term is used loosely) impressively seamless. She, along with her talented cast (Kyle Purcell and Amelia Sargisson) capture the spirit of children playing make-believe while offsetting it with some very adolescent and adult moments.

Purcell and Sargisson both impress, each walking a fine line between aggression and remorse, reality and imagination. Sound designer David Mesiha also deserves a nod for his work.

Summerworks Preview: Enough Rope

9 Aug

We’ve invited some of this years participating companies to submit mini-questionnaires to both pitch their shows, and offer up some creative insights. Here is our first response from the fine folks behind Enough Rope.

Michael Bradley, Tosha Doiron, Nicole St. Martin and Zoe Sweet – Creators and Performers   We created the show collectively so we thought we’d answer your questions the same way. Here are some of our thoughts.Tell me about your Summerworks show in 100ish words or less:

Inspired by the writings of Franz Kafka and Ilse Aichinger, four performers set out to tear apart their art and their egos. In an intimate encounter between audience and performers, we raise questions through a series of abstracted parables. Can art exist in a vacuum? Does what we MEAN to say matter? What do you mean to see? What is art compared to the cares of everyday life?Now do it as a Haiku:

Hay strewn and eaten
Audience is instrument
Crash symbols play for no oneWhat else are you looking forward to at Summerworks?

“Seeing unfamiliar artists’ work!”
“I am looking forward to so many shows where the audience is a part of the experience. I am looking forward to a renaissance of live art in a world of video on demand”
The shows: “Shutzen, Camilla’s Bones, Family Stories, How to Disappear Completely, Hammer, How Can I Forget, Field Guide and more!”I think the biggest challenge or issue facing independent theatre artists today is…

Our own sense of needing to cater, to please, to fit in. Fuck that!You have been commissioned to write a musical about Rob Ford, but cannot use his name in the title for fear of litigious retribution. What do you title your show?

Bob O’Car Varrrrrooooom! or  Car Wars 2: A Crack in the Pavement

Photo Credit: Michael De Sadeleer


Summerworks Preview: Midway Along The Journey of our Life

8 Aug

MidwayAlong5x8Your Name: Daniele Bartolini

Your Role: Director, Creator

Tell me about your Summerworks show:

This show is designed for one audience member at a time where they are lead through the alleyways of Toronto and interact with different characters. Every audience member has a completely unique experience.

Now do it as a haiku:

I found myself lost
All around me were strangers
Through them I found home

What else are you looking forward to at Summerworks? 

The Art of Building a Bunker, How can I Forget?, Show and Tell Alexander Bell.I think the biggest challenge or issue facing independent theatre artists today is…

Building up your own audience, and being able to develop an artisctic dialogue with them.You have been commissioned to write a musical about Rob Ford, but cannot use his name in the title for fear of litigious retribution. What do you title your show?

As an Italian I would call it: The blonde Berlusconi.

Summerworks Preview: Wild Dogs on Moscow Trains

8 Aug

WDotMT Victor ImageYour Name: Anthony MacMahon

Your Role: Writer/Producer

Tell me about your Summerworks show:

Wild Dogs on the Moscow Trains is a new play set against the backdrop of the Moscow riots. Three young Russians grapple with political freedoms and flesh eating drugs in a world where animals are becoming human and humans behave like animals.

Now do it as a Haiku:

Three Russian roommates
Bleeding, stripping, and needles
Existential pain

What else are you looking forward to at Summerworks?

The Art of Building a Bunker, Tender Napalm, Final Savage Land

I think the biggest challenge or issue facing independent theatre artists today is…

The eternal struggle of cooperating with your peers in the industry and competing for the same small audience.

You have been commissioned to write a musical about Rob Ford, but cannot use his name in the title for fear of litigious retribution. What do you title your show?

The Lord Bob Beer Store Cabaret, where our glorious leader wears cute summer dresses and sings about socialist issues.