Archives for November 2016

Why did Topdog/Underdog win a Pulitzer? This production isn’t telling.

Playwright Suzanne Lori Parks is a big deal—but why?

In Topdog/Underdog, an African American man makes a living doing whiteface as Abraham Lincoln—and getting shot.

I don’t know if I’ve really seen this play yet. Topdog/Underdog won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Its author, Suzan-Lori Parks, is considered by many to be an important voice in American theatre. But, in this production from Seven Tyrants Theatre, Topdog/Underdog is boring and the script looks awkward.

There are several possible explanations for this disjuncture. One is that the play just isn’t very good. All sorts of mediocre scripts have won Pulitzer Prizes. I’m lookin’ at you, The Heidi Chronicles and Talley’s Folly. [Read more…]

This Spelling Bee is a holiday in innocence

Ryan Mooney directed Spelling Bee for Fighting Chance.

There’s an impressive line-up of talent in Fighting Chance Productions’ 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

If you need a holiday in innocence, check out The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

The musical features three eccentric adults, but it’s the vulnerability of its six quirky kid characters that makes the piece so charming. As they compete against one another in a spelling contest, these preadolescents wear their hearts on their sleeves. You can’t help but feel for Logainne as she strains to avoid disappointing her ambitious gay dads. The home-schooled Leaf lives up to the hippie eccentricity of his name, wearing a helmet and cape at all times and communicating through a sock puppet that has more confidence than he does. And, although her parents have essentially abandoned her, Olive generously befriends the gruff, insecure William. [Read more…]

Brothel #9: exquisite physical production, stellar performances

Touchstone Theatre is presenting Anusree Roy's Brothel #9.

Adele Noronha and Laara Sadiq are extraordinary in Brothel #9.

It’s immersive. There are so many compelling textures in Touchstone Theatre’s production of Brothel #9 that, watching it, you feel like you’re somewhere else.

In Toronto playwright Anusree Roy’s script, a young woman named Rekha arrives in a rundown building in Kolkata, thinking that she is about to start work in a light bulb factory. But she soon finds out that her brother-in-law has sold her into prostitution. Jamuna, an older sex worker, informs Rekha that escape is impossible: Birbal, their pimp, has excellent contacts; he will track her down wherever she goes and his revenge will be violent. When a policeman named Salaudin arrives, Rekha thinks that he might help her, but Salaudin takes Rekha into a back room and rapes her. Apparently unmoved by Rekha’s cries, Jamuna makes fish curry in the main room and sings to herself. [Read more…]

Fall in love with—and at—Green Lake

Katie Hoffman's Green Lake is being produced by Solo Collective.

In Solo Collective’s Green Lake, the script, set, and performances are all lyrical.

Playwright Katey Hoffman continues to be one of the most exciting new voices on the local theatre scene: not everything about Green Lake works, but a lot of it does and the script is as original as all hell.

With Cheyenne Mabberley, Hoffman wrote The After After Party, a gross-out girl comedy that was a hit at this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival. That script kept its audience in giddy, breathless surprise for its entire length. To her credit—she’s an adventuresome artist—Hoffman is trying something very different with Green Lake: there’s still plenty of quirky humour in this script, but there’s also a much more serious emotional undertow. [Read more…]

Green Lake: the tenderness of girl crushes and absent dads

Alexandra Lainfiesta won a Jessie for her work in Green Lake.

The sweet agony of teen love in Katey Hoffman’s Green Lake.

Playwright Katey Hoffman continues to be one of the most exciting new voices on the local theatre scene: not everything about Green Lake works, but a lot of it does and the script is as original as all hell.

With Cheyenne Mabberley, Hoffman wrote The After After Party, a gross-out girl comedy that was a hit at this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival. That script kept its audience in giddy, breathless surprise for its entire length. To her credit—she’s an adventuresome artist—Hoffman is trying something very different with Green Lake: there’s still plenty of quirky humour in this script, but there’s also a much more serious emotional undertow. [Read more…]

Trump offended by Hamilton actor’s “harassment” of Pence

The artists of Hamilton asked Mike Pence to protect their rights.

When Mike Pence attended Hamilton on Broadway, maybe he didn’t know what the show was about.

Last night, Vice President-elect Mike Pence was met with boos and cheers when he attended a performance of the musical Hamilton on Broadway.

After the performance, Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr in the show, read a statement from the company that began, “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sirt. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

According to the New York Times, the statement was written by Miranda, Hamilton’s director, Thomas Kail, and its lead producer, Jeffrey Seller, with input from the cast.

You can witness the full statement in this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qn-IgTM3H08&feature=share

Late last night, Miranda tweeted: “Proud of ‪@HamiltonMusical. Proud of ‪@BrandonVDixon, for leading with love. And proud to remind you that ALL are welcome at the theater.”

Before 9:00 am this morning, Trump was on Twitter, complaining about the cast’s treatment of Pence. In his first tweet, he wrote: “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!” He followed that up with: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

Hamilton celebrates diversity and the role that immigrants played in the American Revolution.

Peter Dickinson’s Long Division is trapped in its head

Pi Theatre is presenting Peter Dickinson's Long Division at the Gateway.

Lauchlin Johnson’s set for Long Division is a beauty.

There should be laws—similar to child labour laws—that prevent the overworking of metaphors.

Playwright Peter Dickinson buries the heart of his play, Long Division, beneath a series of monologues that declare and develop the metaphor of mathematics so academically that almost all of the extended speeches feel more like lectures than stories. [Read more…]

Tommy: even harder to perform than it looks

Renegade Arts is producing Tommy.

Little Tommy and Big Tommy struggle—sort of—in The Who’s musical.

The Who’s Tommy is beyond the abilities of this company. And that’s not a big knock on Renegade Arts; this material is ridiculously difficult.

In this stage version of the story, which is based on The Who’s concept album from 1969, Tommy’s dad comes home from WWII, in which he has presumably been killed in action, and murders his mom’s new boyfriend. Having witnessed the shooting and been told by his parents to shut up about it, Tommy becomes catatonic—famously a “deaf, dumb, and blind kid”. As a young man, he also becomes a pinball wizard. And, when he miraculously recovers from his catatonia, he is surprised to find that his fans want to treat him like a guru, to become like him: to Tommy, the miracle is that he can finally be more like them. [Read more…]

Detroit: comedy of despair

Mitch and Murray Productions is presenting Detroit.

Luisa Jojic consoles a drunken Jennifer Copping in Detroit.

In Detroit, Lisa D’Amour has created a kind of comedy of despair. It’s fueled by fierce, often futile, resistance.

Ben, who has lost his job in banking, spends his days trying to build a website to sell his services to people who are scrabbling to get out of debt. When the play starts, Ben and his wife Mary, who seems to be an alcoholic in training, are entertaining their new neighbours, a younger couple named Sharon and Kenny, on their back deck. Sharon and Kenny met in rehab. [Read more…]

Now or Later: shiny but nonsensical

Christopher Shinn's Now or Later feels like an undergraduate seminar.

In Now or Later, things get rocky for a potential First Son, who is gay—and, more importantly, clueless.

On its surface, Now or Later is a shiny political object. But, at least in this interpretation, the play doesn’t make sense.

This mounting from Fighting Chance Productions is beyond timely. The story takes place on the eve of an American presidential election. We’re in John’s hotel room. He’s the son of the Democratic president-elect and John Sr.’s staff is desperately trying to put out a political fire. John started it. On the Internet, fuzzy pictures have surfaced of John and his friend Matt at a party at their Ivy League university. John is dressed as Mohammed and Matt as a popular evangelical Christian preacher named Pastor Bob. The staff members and John’s parents all want John to issue an apology, but he refuses, insisting that doing so would restrict his freedom of expression. [Read more…]