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.

 

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