Archive | July, 2015

Preview: Dusk Dances Festival

31 Jul

Credit: John Lauener

Credit: John Lauener

Let’s be honest, in the summer months it feels like you can’t throw a tennis ball without hitting a site specific production of Shakespeare set in one of Toronto’s public parks. Nothing against the Bard, but a little variety never hurt either. Fortunately those who may enjoy the experience of taking in the performing arts under a clear summer night’s sky and are looking for said variety might be wise to check out the Dusk Dances Festival – an evening of short contemporary dance pieces (don’t worry, no Ode to Grecian Urns here) performed in Withrow Park – just a short walk from the Pape or Chester subway stations. The festival runs from August 3rd to 9th. Tickets are pay-what-you-can ($10 suggested donation). More details in the press release below.


 

The 21st Dusk Dances Festival returns to Withrow Park this summer with another week of exciting and entertaining dance works from Canada’s finest dance makers including Esmeralda Enrique, Danny Grossman, Sylvie Bouchard & Marie-Josée Chartier, and Lua Shayenne.

Over the weeklong Festival, four-10 minute pieces will be presented, plus the new addition of a final 30-minute work (evenings only) by renowned choreographer Tedd Robinson for Cloud 9. Founded by Sylvie Bouchard (Dusk Dances and BoucharDanse), Karen Kaeja (Kaeja d’Dance) and Claudia Moore (MOonhORsE Dance Theatre), Cloud 9 commissions choreographers to create masterful ensemble works for dancers over 45 years of age.

Each performance, hosted by the genial Brad Brackenridge who guides the audience around the site, begins with the Cuban sounds of Guaracha Y Son and a free outdoor Salsa class with master teacher Miko Sobriera. The Dance programme includes:

RECUERDOS (TARANTO)
ESMERALDA ENRIQUE SPANISH DANCE COMPANY
CHOREOGRAPHED BY ESMERALDA ENRIQUE
Performed by: Esmeralda Enrique (dancer), Nicolás Hernández (guitarist), and Tamar Ilana (singer)

RECUERDOS speaks to the strength and fluidity of memories.  The cycle of life repeats itself and memories reoccur in the next generation.  History is providing a chance at redemption, a journey that can be heartbreaking or rewarding; a journey of discovery.  Premieres this year at Dusk Dances.

BELLA
DANNY GROSSMAN DANCE COMPANY
CHOREOGRAPHED BY DANNY GROSSMAN
Performed by: Michael Caldwell and Meredith Thompson

BELLA was inspired by the opera music of Puccini and a mutual love of Marc Chagall.  In 1977 Danny Grossman and Judy Jarvis set out to make a duet for themselves on top of, under and around a table. When Mary Kerr arrived to design the sets and costumes, she took her inspiration from the Chagall images they had been inspired by and created a beautiful painted horse as the centerpiece for this charming love duet.  First premiered at Dusk Dances 2007.

PHOTURIS VERSICOLOR
CHOREOGRAPHED BY SYLVIE BOUCHARD AND MARIE-JOSÉE CHARTIER
Performed by: Sylvie Bouchard and Marie-Josée Chartier
Photinus appearance by: Michael Caldwell, Live insect-o-sonics: Philip Strong

Twin fireflies get separated at birth. After a journey apart, they find each other again, in a cluster of trees, at Withrow Park. See how they grow to become photuris versicolor, or as they like to call themselves, “femmes fatales!”  World Premiere this year at Dusk Dances.

MURMURE DE FEMME / WOMAN’S WHISPER
LUA SHAYENNE AND COMPANY
CHOREOGRAPHED BY LUA SHAYENNE
Performed by: Miranda Liverpool, Kassi Scott, Natasha Phanor, Lua Shayenne and Shireen Ali,
Drummers: Yohan Franics, Walter MacLean

MURMURE DE FEMME | WOMAN’S WHISPER is an ode to femininity:
Born to bear the weight of ceaseless adversities
I am she
Stalled in cyclic time
I remain – a woman
Rest your back against mine
Learn the rhythm of my breath
Listen carefully to every pulse in my veins
Memorize the cadence of my heart
In the flux of tempo and beats
We rise as one soul
Lua Shayenne
Premieres this year at Dusk Dances.

DISCONCERTANTE
PRESENTED BY MOONHORSE DANCE THEATRE
CHOREOGRAPHED BY TEDD ROBINSON
Performed by: Karen Kaeja, Graham Mckelvie, Claudia Moore, Ron Stewart and Linnea Swan

MOonhORsE Dance Theatre presents a Cloud 9 commission- DISCONCERTANTE
– by award-winning choreographer Tedd Robinson, winner of the 2014 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts. This 30-minute ensemble work to the music of Chopin is beautiful, magical, touching, comical, theatrical and captivating.
Premiered in June 2013 in partnership with Young Centre for the Performing Arts, premieres this year at Dusk Dances. *Please note: DISCONCERTANTE will not be performed at the matinée performances

DUSK DANCES 2015
WITHROW PARK, Toronto
South of Danforth between Logan and Carlaw (Chester Subway Station)
Nightly Performances: August 3-9, 2015
Opening Band and Salsa class start at 6:45pm
Dance Performances start at 7:30pm
Matinée Performances: Thursday, August 6 & Sunday, August 9
Opening Band and Salsa class start at 1:45pm
Dance Performances start at 2:30pm
Pay-What-You-Can: Suggested donation $10 per person
More info: http://duskdances.ca or call 416.504.6429 X24
FB/DuskDances@duskdances #DuskDances2015

Panamania: Week 2!

17 Jul

We were busy covering the beautiful madness that is the Toronto Fringe Festival last week, but now that it has wrapped up we cast our attention to the other massive arts festival currently bringing the city to life; Panamania (the cultural festival associated with the ongoing Pan Am Games). With legendary Canadian artists like Rick Miller and Robert Lepage premiering new theatrical works, and international fan favourites like The Flaming Lips playing free concerts, Panamania is a gold medal performance it its own right.

Here is a handy tip sheet of everything going on over the next few days. Full details can be found on the Panamania website. Get out there and see something!


 

FRIDAY, JULY 17

PANAMANIA LIVE @ NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE (FREE)

12:30pm – Rafael & Energia Dominicana

5:30pm – Tkaranto Bounce

6pm – Adonis Puentes & the Voice of Cuba Orchestra

7:30pm – Alexander Abreu y Havana D’Primera

8:15pm – Chico Trujillo

9:15pm – Greta Hodgkinson in Venom

9:45pm – Alexander Abreu y Havana D’Primera

 

CIBC PAN AM PARK (FREE)

1pm – Juan de Marcos & Afro Cuban All Stars

2:30pm – Nelson Tagoona

3pm – Dextrous One

5pm – Devin Cuddy Band

6:30pm – Colin James

8pm – The Arsenals

 

PANAMANIA LIVE @ THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT (FREE)

12:30pm – Ash & Bloom

3:30pm – Jeremy Ledbetter & CaneFire

5:30pm – Chloe Charles

7:30pm – Kytami

9:45pm – Eva Avila

 

PANAMANIA PRESENTATIONS THEATRE

OPENING NIGHT – LEO is a mind-bending, funny, surreal, and surprisingly touching work that

challenges the senses and tests perceptions of reality through a solo physical theatre piece that combines the clever interplay of acrobatics and high tech video projection.

7pm Leo Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront Centre (WP) $ Runs until July 19.

 

THE POSTMAN follows Canada’s first African-Canadian postman, Albert Jackson, on his original route in the Annex. This site-specific presentation tells the story of Mr. Jackson’s journey to overcome racial protest and rise to his ultimate position at Canada Post.

7pm – The Postman at Harbord Street and Albert Jackson Lane in the Annex, (WP) $ Runs until July 26.

 

IT COMES IN WAVES is an interactive¾audience members canoe to Gibraltar Point¾site specific performance exploring communal rituals around loss and grief.

7:40pm – It Comes In Waves at Artscape Gibraltar Point at Toronto Island (WP) $ Runs until July 24.

 

887 explores the concept of memory in the digital age of data storage and how theatre and art is still relevant today. Created by internationally renowned director/playwright/actor Robert Lepage.

8pm – 887 at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (WP) $ Runs until July 19.

 

World premiere of THE WATERSHED by Annabel Soutar and directed by Chris Abraham, follows an artist and a country struggling to chart a sustainable course between economic growth and environmental stewardship. Co-produced by Crow’s Theatre and Porte Parole.

8pm – The Watershed at Berkeley Street Theatre (WP) $ Runs until July 19.

 

Upon learning of the staggering statistics of people who will be displaced because of the rising sea levels caused by climate change, theatre artist Ravi Jain found himself asking: “what can I do?” Inspired by the ancient text of the great Indian epic: the Mahabharata, GIMME SHELTER questions our responsibility to action when facing problems that seem too big to solve.

8pm – Gimme Shelter at Young Centre for the Performing Arts (WP) $ Runs until July 18.

 

VISUAL ART

World premiere unveiling, CHALLENGE AND TRIUMPH BY DAVID M. GENERAL – At the 1907

Boston Marathon, Canadian long distance runner Tom Longboat smashed the previous world record by a whopping five minutes. An inspiration to Aboriginal and Canadian people, sculptor David M. General has created a tribute to Longboat to his legacy as a Canadian sport icon.

10am – Challenge and Triumph by David M. General at Ontario’s Celebration Zone (WP). Runs until Saturday, August 15.

 

WATERCOLOUR

In celebration of the culture and artistry of the 41 participating Pan Am countries, the Textile Museum of Canada has brought together 41 artists from each country to create unique, captivating sails. Comprised of renowned, emerging, and mid-career artists, these carefully selected designs will animate Lake Ontario with colourful demonstrations of rich cultural diversity, honouring the Pan Am Sailing events.

5:30pm – Watercolour – Sailboats leave from the Ontario Celebration Zone at Harbourfront Centre, and head east toward Sugar Beach.

 

INTERNATIONS/ INTERSECTIONS BY PLANET INDIGENUS 2015, large-scale installations that depict modes of transport by contemporary First Nation artists. The exhibit will be held at the Aboriginal Pavilion at Fort York.

10am – InterNations/InterSections by Planet IndigenUS 2015 at Aboriginal Pavilion at Fort York

National Historic Site (WP) Runs until August 9.

 

THE POWER PLANT presents Toronto artists Nadia Belerique, Lili Huston-Herterich, and Laurie Kang and collectives Bik Van der Pol, Tecerunquito, and YES! Association/ Föreningen JA! Juxtaposing. The artists work together for the first time to investigate intrinsic playfulness and performativity of objects and photographs in their individual artistic practices, ultimately offering temporality as an instinctual means of organizing individuals non-hierarchially. The exhibit runs from June 19th to September 7th, at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.

10am – The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. Runs until Saturday, August 15.

 

REQUIEM OF WATER by Meaghan Ogilvie is an act of remembrance to the spirit of water that has been forgotten. Ogilvie was inspired by the Anishinaabe culture and their women’s responsibility to the maintenance and respect of water. She contends that the goal of the REQUIEM OF WATER exhibit is to heighten public awareness and encourage thoughtful responsibility towards our precious water resources and the role we play in caring for them.

10am – Requiem of Water: Underwater Photo and Video Exhibition at Brookfield Place (WP) Runs until August 14.

 

WATER’S EDGE, Six internationally renowned fine art photographers, each originating from a Pan Am country, come together for this world premiere, curated by No. 9, a Toronto arts organization that raises awareness for environmental concerns. The exhibition will be held at Union Station Great Hall and Pearson International Airport from July 10 – August 15, and it explores the integral yet tenuous relationship we have with our natural water supplies.

10am – W at er ’s Edg e – Union Station and Toronto International Airport (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

 

YOUNG WORLD FACES OF PAN AM from July 10 – August 15 Commerce Court at 199 Bay Street will hold large-scale portrait photographs featuring 41 Torontonian women who have family backgrounds reflecting the diversity of the 41 participating nations and territories.

10am – YOUNG World Faces of Pan Am at Commerce Court West (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

 

DANCE

OPENING NIGHT – LIMITLESS, Starring the young and talented Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli, ILL- Abilities™ is an international breakdance crew featuring differently-abled dancers across the Americas with the goal of spreading inspiration and positivity from their message, “No Excuses, No Limits!”

7:30pm – Limitless at Young Centre for the Performing Arts $ Runs until Saturday, July 18

 

FASHION

SMARTER. FASTER. TOUGHER. AN EXHIBITION ON SPORTS, FASHION + TECH, The diverse world of sports permeates every aspect of our lives from health, fashion and culture to technology, design and architecture. From parkas to wetsuits, this exhibition showcases the evolution of sportswear technology.

11am – Smarter. Faster. Tougher. An Exhibition on Sports, Fashion + Tech by Design Exchange

(WP) $ Runs until October 12.

 

SATURDAY, JULY 18 2015

PANAMANIA LIVE @ NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE (FREE)

2pm – The Souljazz Orchestra

3pm – Danny Michel & The Garifuna Collective

5pm – Grupo Fantasma

6pm – Torreblanca

7pm – Victory Celebrations

7:30pm – Los Amigos Invisibles

9pm – Greta Hodgkinson in Venom

9:30pm – Amon Tobin

 

CIBC PAN AM PARK (FREE)

12pm – Urban Fusion

12:35pm – Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli & Nico Archambault

1pm – Rafael & Energía Dominicana

3:30pm – Ron Davis’ Symphronica with The Lombard Twins

5:30pm – Kytami

6:30pm – Kiesza

 

PANAMANIA LIVE @ THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT (FREE)

1pm – Jay Douglas & The All Stars

3pm – Chantel Collado

5:30pm – Jackie Richardson

7:30pm – The Arsenals

9:45pm – Molly Johnson

 

PANAMANIA PRESENTATIONS THEATRE

1pm & 7pm – Leo Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront Centre (WP) $ Runs until July 19.

2pm & 8pm – The Watershed at Berkeley Street Theatre (WP) $ Runs until July 19.

7pm – The Postman at Harbord Street and Albert Jackson Lane in the Annex, (WP) $ Runs until July 26.

7:40pm – It Comes In Waves at Artscape Gibraltar Point at Toronto Island (WP) $ Runs until July 24.

8pm – 887 at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (WP) $ Runs until July 19.

8pm – Gimme Shelter at Young Centre for the Performing Arts (WP) $ Runs until July 18.

 

VISUAL ART

10am – Challenge and Triumph by David M. General at Ontario’s Celebration Zone (WP). Runs until Saturday, August 15.

10am – InterNations/InterSections by Planet IndigenUS 2015 at Aboriginal Pavilion at Fort York National Historic Site (WP) Runs until August 9.

10am – The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

10am – Requiem of Water: Underwater Photo and Video Exhibition at Brookfield Place (WP) Runs until Aug 14.

10am – W at er ’s Edg e – Union Station and Toronto International Airport (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

10am – YOUNG World Faces of Pan Am at Commerce Court West (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

 

DANCE

7:30pm – Limitless at Young Centre for the Performing Arts $ Runs until Saturday, July 18.

 

FASHION

CUTTIN’ STYLE CARIBBEAN, GALA FASHION SHOW AND DINNER

Experience the beauty of the Caribbean as its colours and essence come to life through fashion and design. The Cuttin’ Style Caribbean Gala is a ticketed event of Haute Couture Caribbean design and dinner, hosted by Project Runway Season 9 winner Anya Ayong-Chee.

8pm – Cut tin ’ S tyle Carib b e an G a la Fa sh ion Sh o w a n d Dinne r at Westin Harbor Castle.

 

11am – Smarter. Faster. Tougher. An Exhibition on Sports, Fashion + Tech by Design Exchange (WP) $ Runs until October 12.

 

SUNDAY, JULY 19, 2015

PANAMANIA LIVE @ NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE (FREE)

1pm – Metro Marine Modellers

2pm – Les Hay Babies

3pm – Electric Ukelele

5pm – La Bottine Souriante

6pm – Pupy y Los Que Son Son with Yaima Sáez

7pm – Victory Celebrations

7:30pm – Kiesza

9:30pm – The Flaming Lips

 

CIBC PAN AM PARK (FREE)

12pm – Good Vibrations featuring Nylons & The Watch

1:30pm – Urban Fusion

2pm – Chocquibtown

2:30pm – Spicy Circus

3:30pm – Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli & Nico Archambault

4pm – Good Vibrations featuring Nylons & The Watch

5:30pm – Spicy Circus

5:45pm – Dragonette

7pm – Spicy Circus

 

PANAMANIA LIVE @ THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT (FREE)

1pm – Luanda Jones

3pm – Ron Davis’ Symphronica with The Lombard Twins

6:30pm – Rafael & Energia Dominicana

8:30pm – David Rudder

 

PANAMANIA PRESENTATIONS THEATRE

1pm & 7pm Leo Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront Centre (WP) $ Runs until July 19.

2pm – 887 at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (WP) $ Runs until July 19.

2pm & 8pm – The Watershed at Berkeley Street Theatre (WP) $ Runs until July 19.

7:40pm – It Comes In Waves at Artscape Gibraltar Point at Toronto Island (WP) $ Runs until July 24.

8pm – 887 at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (WP) $ Runs until July 19.

 

VISUAL ART

10am – Challenge and Triumph by David M. General at Ontario’s Celebration Zone (WP). Runs until Saturday August 15.

10am – InterNations/InterSections by Planet IndigenUS 2015 at Aboriginal Pavilion at Fort York National Historic Site (WP) Runs until August 9.

10am – The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

10am – Requiem of Water: Underwater Photo and Video Exhibition at Brookfield Place (WP) Runs until Aug 14.

10am – W at er ’s Edg e – Union Station and Toronto International Airport (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

10am – YOUNG World Faces of Pan Am at Commerce Court West (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

 

FASHION

11am – Smarter. Faster. Tougher. An Exhibition on Sports, Fashion + Tech by Design Exchange (WP) $ Runs until October 12.

 

MONDAY, JULY 14,

PANAMANIA LIVE @ NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE (FREE)

12pm – Retrocity

12:30pm – Lisa LeBlanc

1:30pm – Retrocity

5:30pm – Retrocity

6pm – The Dead South

7pm – Victory Celebrations

7:30pm – Amanda Martinez

8:30pm – Plena Libre

9:30pm – Spanish Harlem Orchestra

 

CIBC PAN AM PARK (FREE)

11:30am – Freestyle Soccer

12:45pm – Spicy Circus

1pm – La Bottine Souriante

2:30pm – Spicy Circus

3:30pm – Freestyle Soccer

5pm – Pupy y Los Que Son Son with Yaima Sáez

6pm – Spicy Circus

6:30pm – Half Moon Run

9:30pm – Lights

 

PANAMANIA @ THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT (FREE)

12:30pm – Colombian Cooking Demonstration featuring Natalia Martinez

1:30pm – Mexican Cooking Demonstration featuring Paola Solorzano

2:45pm – Peruvian Cooking Demonstration featuring Ivan Tarazona

6:30pm – O.I.P. Dance Centre

8:45pm – CHOCQUIBTOWN

 

PANAMANIA PRESENTATIONS

VISUAL ART

10am – Challenge and Triumph by David M. General at Ontario’s Celebration Zone (WP). Runs until

Saturday, August 15.

10am – InterNations/InterSections by Planet IndigenUS 2015 at Aboriginal Pavilion at Fort York

National Historic Site (WP) Runs until Sunday, August 9.

10am – The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

10am – Requiem of Water: Underwater Photo and Video Exhibition at Brookfield Place (WP) Runs until Friday, August 14.

10am – W ate r’s E d ge – Union Station and Toronto International Airport (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

10am – YOUNG World Faces of Pan Am at Commerce Court West (WP) Runs until Saturday, August 15.

 

FASHION

11am – Smarter. Faster. Tougher. An Exhibition on Sports, Fashion + Tech by Design Exchange (WP) $ Runs until October 12.

2015 Fringe Picks: Part 5

12 Jul

Due to time constraints and the annoyingly inconvenient human need for sleep, we were unfortunately unable to cover all the shows that we thoroughly enjoyed. Even thought the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festival is nearly over (single tear), here are a few late nods to works that deserve recognition:

The Untitled Sam Mullins Project – Sam Mullins explores his younger self’s inhibitions and hang-ups through a collection of personal and insightful stories. One about his father’s unexpected run-in with a has-been baseball star is particularly profound. Between his artful sense of narrative and his trademark delivery, which has a hint of rhythmic staccato, Mullins proves he is more than just your average one-person storytelling act.

High Tea– James and Jamesy, two peculiar Englishmen, take the traditional tea party to extremes in this imaginative and surreal physical comedy that features many an audience member donning costumes and playing memorable parts.

The Philanderess – Sophia Fabiilli’s modern-day take on Shaw’s The Philanderer is one part bedroom farce and one part egalitarian treatise on 21st century love and sexuality. Smart and funny, Fabiilli’s work is well supported by genial cast – especially the energetic Jakob Ehman whose performance is turned up to eleven for the entire 60 minutes.

That’s Just 5 Kids in a Trench Coat! – Sketch troupe Dame Judy Dench and director Marty Adams hit this one out of the park. Their hilarious sketch revue is characterized by clever writing and skilful performances, but it is the gently demented and often unexpected touches that elevate it from good to great.

Me With You – The topic of mental health can be tricky artistic territory if not handled with care and respect. Fortunately Myrthin Stagg and Oliver Georgiou, the creative team behind this two-hander, have clearly done their homework and the simple story that opens with a brother unexpectedly showing up at his sister’s doorstep with all his belongings makes for a moving snapshot of mental illness. Innovative staging and choreography, effective lighting design, and a strong percussive soundtrack from composer Elliot Loran all contribute to the emotional and theatrical effectiveness of the work.

2015 Fringe Picks: Part 4

11 Jul

The last weekend of the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festival is upon us! Here are more capsule reviews of some excellent offerings:

 

pool (no water)

Credit: Samantha Hurley

Credit: Samantha Hurley

This provocative work from English playwright Mark Ravenhill is brought to live with a deft production from Toronto company Cue6. A recently famous artist invites a group of her still-struggling bohemian friends to visit her at her new abode (complete with outdoor pool), but the night takes a dark turn after the artist suffers a debilitating mishap. It is in the aftermath of the accident that her friends’ true natures and appetite for opportunism are tested and exposed.

The undercurrent of envy that defines the single-voice work is beautifully communicated by performers Chy Ryan Spain, Allison Price, Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman, and Daniel Roberts. Director Jill Harper elegantly marries the script with vigorous blocking and physical theatre elements that enhances the already alluring story.

 

Served

jill_welsh_ron_kelly_served_promo_shotPlaywright Graham Isador’s smart ensemble comedy about the behind-the-scenes world of restaurant servers is elevated beyond the typical “My Crazy Job Fringe Show” (of which there are many) by examining the existential questions that all of us with joe-jobs eventually confront.

Director Tom Arthur Davis makes remarkable use of the confined space in the Epicure Café; even a surreal dream sequence is accomplished with surprising success given the limitations of the venue. Performers Jillian Welsh, En Lai Mah, and Ron Kelly are all delightfully spot-on in their parts, but it is the chameleon-like Glyn Bowerman who steals the show as a series of difficult and eccentric customers.

 

Peter N Chris present: Here Lies Chris

pnc_-_here_lies_chris_program_photo_cmykThis dynamic duo are back with another hysterical offering, this time pushing the boundaries of their usual narrative and adventure-heavy shows by incorporating some unexpected and laugh-out-loud funny meta-theatre. The gist of the story is that when Chris dies in a banana peel-related accident, his best friend Peter must travel to parallel universes to find his replacement and bring him back home. It’s a clever concept on which they are able to hang a myriad of unique scenarios – and work through some personal (and very fourth wall-breaking) business.

These two are modern masters of character and physical comedy and should not be missed.

 

The Dinner Table

dt_poster_may_25This intimate little show from creators/curators Ali Richardson and Ben Hayward is site-specific theatre at its best and a wonderful departure from the buffet of comedy, musicals, and one-person shows that flavour the Fringe experience. Each night twelve lucky patrons are invited to sit down at the dinner table with a notable member of the theatre community to hear them tell a story about “home” – whatever that means to them. The storytelling is accompanied by food selected by the guest of honour and served up by Hayward and Richardson. It’s a dead-simple concept but one that makes for a rich and multi-sensory experience.

On the night this reviewer attended, it was Sky Gilbert, founding member of Buddies in Bad Times, that ambled through his memories of the sights and characters of Toronto’s Church Street, seasoned with a few pointed socio-political observations (he’s not a fan of the condo boom), while everyone nibbled on an assortment of cheeses and sipped on luscious red wine. The casual atmosphere led to conversation bubbling up amongst those at the table, and once the allotted runtime was over, at least two thirds of the audience stayed to continue to chat and linger.

Here’s hoping The Dinner Table becomes a regular event so that even more can experience its magic.

2015 Fringe Picks: Part 3

8 Jul

It’s been an incredible festival so far and we are only half-way there! Here are yet more reviews of some top notch shows at this year’s Toronto Fringe!

 

God’s Beard! (The Only Sketch Show That Has Ever Happened)

Credit: Call Back Headshots

Credit: Call Back Headshots

Sketch troupe, Falcon Powder (comprised of Jim Annan, Scott Montgomery, and Kurt Smeaton), have been winning awards and wowing Toronto audiences for years – and now Fringe audiences finally have a chance to see what all the fuss is about. A sort of restructured ‘best-of’ of their material (I suspect the parenthetical in their title, ‘The Only Sketch Show That Has Ever Happened’, is an inside joke for their followers), God’s Beard is sketch at its best; tight writing, unique conceits, polished performances, palpable chemistry, clever blocking, smart and seamless transitions – it’s all there in spades. Unlike less seasoned troupes, Annan, Montgomery, and Smeaton all know and play off their hits well, making their characters particularly well-developed.

While Falcon Powder’s Second City origins are evident, there’s an edgier side to their material that is very much welcome. Their sketches range from chipper songs about the supernatural side-effect of having pals, to absurdist gems like a wordless bit about a trio of xylophonists and a theatre-of-the-mind scene about a plane waiting for take-off.

Those who have seen Falcon Powder before will have no problem thoroughly enjoying some material for the second time, and those who haven’t have an enormous comedic treat in store for them.

 

SwordPlay: A Play of Swords

julian_frid_seann_murray_julian_frid_kaitlin_morrow_conor_bradbury_josef_addlemanSketch/Theatre company extraordinaire, Sex-T-Rex, are back and adding to their canon of imaginative, inventive, visually arresting, and flat out hilarious homages to various tropes and genres. In past they’ve tackled sci-fi, action/adventure, and the western, and based on its title you’d be forgiven for assuming that their latest offering lampoons the blood-soaked world of Game of Thrones. There’s definitely some of that mixed in there, but in truth it is more of an ode to childhood fantasy and video games, with plenty of swashbuckling thrown in for good measure.

Performers Josef Addleman, Conor Bradbury, Julian Frid, Kaitlin Morrow, and Seann Murray each play a multitude of parts with grandiose aplomb, and director Alec Toller ensures that every gag and detail is communicated with precision and clarity.

Swordplay: A Play of Swords is a ripping yarn greatly enhanced by its creators’ almost supernatural ability to create vivid scenes in the mind’s eye using little more than some fabric and foam swords – and some poofy shirts. Not to be missed.

 

Capsule Reviews

We see a lot of excellent shows but don’t always have time to post full write-ups for everything worth catching. Here are some noteworthy Fringe offerings and our thoughts in brief:

 

Morro and Jasp do Puberty

Credit: Alex Nirta

Credit: Alex Nirta

These clown sisters played by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee (along with director Byron Laviolette) are Fringe legends (this is their ninth year at the festival) and with good reason. Their trademark chemistry, spontaneity, audience interaction, and hilarious personae are on full display in this remount of one of their greatest hits (although who’s kidding – they’ve never put on a bad show) in which the motley duo tackle the topics of menstruation, boys, sex, and awkward slow dances. If you’ve never seen Morro and Jasp before, do yourself a favour and get yourself a ticket.

Also worth noting: The duo are taking their show to the Edinburgh Fringe (not an inexpensive venture) and are crowd funding to help pay their way. Check out their Indiegogo campaign here.

 

A Man Walks into a Bar

Credit: Jon Roberts

Credit: Jon Roberts

Playwright (and co-performer) Rachel Blair’s taught and clever play starts with the telling of a joke set in a bar, but quickly evolves into a nuanced and challenging dialogue about gender and stereotypes that is guaranteed to generate conversation long after the curtain comes down. Even something as simple as a costume change manages to speak volumes.

Blair and fellow cast member Blue Bigwood-Mallin navigate the script adeptly and give affecting performances; their forced smiles eventually giving way to the true tension at the heart of the piece.

 

Lockeye & Pond in Death Killing Machine

lockjawjpg2050This piece could use a bit of tightening and perhaps a stronger directorial hand, but it’s nevertheless a delightfully goofy and unique take on the spy genre – think James Bond meets The Odd Couple. The talented cast, led by Reid Brackenbury and Eric Miinch, are clearly having a good time on stage, and that atmosphere of fun and improvisation certainly augments the audience experience.

 

My Big Fat German Puppet Show

frank-meschkuleit-compilation-shayne-grayFrank Meschkuleit’s one-man show is a remarkable feat of showmanship and puppet artistry. Meschkuleit’s plays the part of a deceptively voluminous Teutonic emcee/ringleader who draws the audience in with kindness and quirky philosophical tidbits but also keeps them at arm’s length with gentle barbs. His quick wit and prodding demeanour make him an endearing host and his presence alone would make for a worthy hour of entertainment.

But he is hardly alone; puppets ranging from a zombie magician diva to a famous physicist all make memorable musical appearances. The sheer detail of his handcrafted companions is remarkable and a testament to both his mastery and love of the craft. Magical stuff.

2015 Fringe Picks: Part 2

5 Jul

More reviews of wonderful offerings to check out at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival!

The Orchid and the Crow

Credit: Andrew Wuttke

Credit: Andrew Wuttke

Those who have been regular attendees of the Toronto Fringe will undoubtedly light up at the mention of the three little words “Die Roten Punkte”. This Australia-based faux brother-sister comedy punk rock duo are Fringe legends – not only in Toronto, but around the world. One half of DRP is musician and performer Daniel Tobias who has abandoned his wig, makeup, and German accent to present a wry, touching, and song-laden story of his unusual upbringing as a member of a bacon-eating, Christmas-celebrating family of atheistic Jews, and of his own personal battle with cancer. It’s far from navel gazing though; interspersed with the personal details are astute satirical elements, like a catchy song about Yahweh’s peculiar obsession with foreskins.

Tobias’s diverse and artfully composed music (co-written by Clare Bartholomew) is a highlight, with expertly produced backing tracks setting his work apart from the myriad of two and three piece combos that so frequently adorn Fringe stages. Another highlight: Tobias’ fearlessness and generosity as a performer. Although one should not expect it to be a regular part of the show, a wonderfully spontaneous moment occurred at the performance this reviewer attended in which the scientific merit of an analogy about the Brontosaurus was challenged by a member of the audience; rather than dismissing it, Tobias embraced the opportunity for an aside to the scripted show and made comedic hay.

Smart and entertaining stuff.

 

In Case We Disappear

Credit: Nancy Ribeiro

Credit: Nancy Ribeiro

Vanessa Smyth’s gentle one-woman show is a wonderful hybrid of song, story-telling, spoken word, and poetry. The work as a whole is structured as a series of short first-person pieces, each beautifully intimate and thoughtful, and often bittersweet. A simple bed-side table and lamp both set the mood and allude to the work’s origin as a bedtime game she and her brother used to play.

Smyth almost literally invites the audience into her mind and her heart, sharing stories of love that was and love that might have been; even comparatively funny bits like her staccato take on the experience of being a server at a sports bar end with unexpected aplomb. Smyth uses a microphone to artfully enhance the feeling of intimacy in the appropriately cozy Tarragon Extra Space, her sing-song voice becoming almost as much a character as she herself.

A soothing and magical little piece from an utterly charming artist.

 

Summerland

work14-oriThis is almost certainly the largest show in the history of the Toronto Fringe – and a mammoth production in any context. Written by Anika Johnson, Barbara Johnson, and Suzy Wilde, and featuring a cast of one hundred – yes, one hundred – truly talented young performers (many from the Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts) Summerland is a musical that stands heads and shoulders above all other offerings in terms of scale and ambition. Set in a real high school (Harbord Collegiate in this case), it opens with echoes of the Breakfast Club; a collection of divergent high school archetypes – all in trouble for various infractions – get sent away together to a special camp for alternative discipline. It is when their bus crashes on the way up to the camp that things take an unexpectedly magical turn.

Summerland’s music is bang-on, mixing Broadway ballads with epic rock opera (the use of atypical instruments like the electric organ is particularly effective). While the writing and dialogue could be more sophisticated at times, there are some very solid one-liners, and the youth-empowered story as a whole is imaginative and well-constructed. It’s very much like the musical version of a quality YA novel.

The cast is ripe with talent; there is something truly magical about hearing a chorus of 100 of young and finely tuned voices singing in perfect harmony. While there are too many to mention by name, Mercedes Morris in the part of ‘Queen Raven’, demonstrated particularly notable dramatic and vocal prowess. Director Ann Merriam and Choreographer Honey Frid also deserve special recognition for their powerful and dynamic staging – no doubt an intricate challenge that they made look deceptively easy.

One quick word of advice that many at the performance this reviewer attended did not heed: Arrive early and feel free to wander the halls before lining up to enter the auditorium; the performers are milling about in true site-specific fashion, and you can catch some great little scenes that set the mood before the main show begins.

2015 Fringe Picks: Part 1

2 Jul

Less than 24 hours into the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festival and there are already two shows that made our list of picks! Here are our reviews.

People Suck

peoplesuckcastphoto2This hilarious song cycle co-written by Peter Cavell and Megan Phillips pays homage, nay, celebrates the worst in all of us; through catchy tunes and deviously clever lyrics, the crappiest facets of humanity are dissected and put on display for all to enjoy. Cavell and Phillips’ songs each tackle one of many relatable archetypes – flakes, Darwin-defying idiots, religious zealots, annoying co-workers, etc. – but without ever coming off as distastefully cynical. Balancing out the comedy are two earnest and well-placed numbers that are as touching as the rest are funny.

Musically speaking, the show is wonderfully varied; there is a tonal through-line to it all, but each composition draws from a different genre or style. One particularly clever highlight is a nod to Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘A Little List’ in which those who butcher grammar and the English language are taken to task.

Performers Ashley Comeau, Allison Price, Connor Thompson, Arthur Wright, and Megan Phillips command the stage with ease and are a treat to watch. While some are vocally stronger than others, the quintet’s collective decades of comedy and improv expertise (most are alumni of the Second City program) is plainly obvious.

Director Kerry Griffin impressively turns a little into a lot, with sharp blocking and choreography (one bit involving a visual representation of evolution was particularly well done) defying the sparse stage with ease.

A little relatable schadenfreude and a lot of catchy music makes this show one not to miss.

 

Gavin Crawford: “Friend” “Like” #Me

gavin_selfieCanadian comedy heavyweight, Gavin Crawford (of ‘The Gavin Crawford Show’ and ‘This Hour has 22 Minutes’ fame) and director/co-creator Kyle Tingly deliver a sharp quasi-meta treatise on our relationship with social media. It’s not virgin territory, but through his unique lens, Crawford brings new insight and personal reflection to the issue. Oh, and it’s funny as hell too.

Framed as a story about an increasingly bad day in which Crawford, playing himself, attempts to finally sit down and write his Fringe show but is distracted by the bottomless pit that is social media, “Friend” “Like” #Me is laced with a plethora of delightful tangents and trademark character pieces, and more than a couple self-effacing jokes (his vocal critique of one-person shows is a particularly wonderful bit of irony).

Those who saw his previous stage work, Sh**ting Rainbows, will be pleased to know Crawford is still in fine form – and those who only know him from his work on television may find delight in seeing a grittier and more earnest version of the affable performer than they might expect.