Ominous Sounds at the River Crossing: There are no bridges

publicity photo for Ominous Sounds by Jason Sherman

Monice Peter, Angela Chu, and Alex Poch-Goldin (Photo by Matt Reznek)

Especially if you’re over 50, don’t bother with this play; you don’t have that much good time left.

Jason Sherman’s new script Ominous Sounds at the River Crossing; or, Another Fucking Dinner Party Play is funny — but only for about the first ten minutes. After that, there’s another hour and 45 to go — without a break — and the chairs at Performance Works turn into torture racks. (Seriously. I could barely ride my bike home.)

So, if you’ve already bought tickets, enjoy that opening sequence! Six actors enter the stage tentatively. Everybody’s afraid to speak and we soon understand why: they all terrified of causing offence. They can’t decide how to determine what pronouns to use or how to talk about race — or not talk about it. They can’t even decide if they should take a vote on whether they should take a vote.

The characters are taking their absurd situation seriously and, theatrically, that tension works. Besides, their anxiety is recognizable: the shifting cultural landscape can be unnerving, especially to those of us who have been used to barging about oblivious to our privilege. And Sherman gives his satire an existentialist boost: with a nod to Jean-Paul Sartre, the actors have entered the stage but there is no exit.

Then the script goes off a cliff: it gets ham-fisted — and the evening never recovers. [Read more…]

Lights — but not much action

publicity photo for the play Lights

This isn’t a production shot, but it’s cool. (Photo of Susinn McFarlen by David Cooper)

On opening night, several people told me that they enjoyed Touchstone Theatre’s production of Adam Grant Warren’s new play Lights. I did not. I’m going to lay out my reasons, not because I’m trying to suck the pleasure out of anybody’s experience, but because I have faith that discussion and a variety of opinions can be helpful.

In Warren’s script, a guy named Evan flies to St. John’s to spend Christmas with his mom Nancy, who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

The best thing about this play is that it doesn’t turn Nancy into a tragic figure who’s entirely defined by her illness. She’s witty. She’s a family member and everybody’s trying to figure out the next steps. Similarly, Evan’s wheelchair doesn’t define him, although issues do come up. He accuses Nancy of selfishness, for instance, because she insisted on raising him in a lovely house — full of stairs. [Read more…]

Certified: You’d be crazy not to see it

Touchstone Theatre is presenting Jan Derbyshire's Certified at the Vancity Culture Lab.

Jan Derbyshire: let her tell you a story, let her sing you a song. (Photo by Ben Laird)

Jan Derbyshire’s Certified is pretty much perfect. And how often do I get to say that?

Certified is about Derbyshire’s journey with mental illness and mental health, but it’s not one of those stories that collapse into the horrors of madness. Derbyshire allows herself to be vulnerable, but she’s also levitatingly funny. And she changed the way I see the world. [Read more…]

The acting in Happy Place is stronger than the script

Pamela Mala Sinha's script for Happy Place is receiving an excellent production at the Firehall Arts Centre.

In Happy Place, the psychiatric patients are discouraged from asking one another questions. Instead, they play imaginative games with rocks. (Photo by Tim Matheson)

The storytelling in Happy Place could be more focused and compelling, but some of the play’s content pierces to the heart of the current cultural moment and the cast is stellar.

In Happy Place, playwright Pamela Mala Sinha takes us to an upscale inpatient treatment centre for women who have attempted suicide. Samira has just arrived. She knows that she was raped and tortured five years earlier, but she can’t remember the event in enough detail to identify and accuse her attacker. “I want to cut it out of my head. What I can’t remember,” she says. [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…]

Jordan Tannahill writes plays for and about queer youth

Jordan Tannahil, Age of Minority, Late Company, Touchstone Theatre

Playwright Jordan Tannahill pulls ideas out of the news—not his hair (excellent photo by Lacey Creighton)

When I interviewed young queer playwright Jordan Tannahill about Late Company, which Touchstone is presenting at the Firehall November 21 to 30, he also told me about Age of Minority, the trilogy of plays that earned him a GG nomination this year.

All three solo plays feature queer youth.

The Late Company preview will run in the Straight next week. As a kind of warm-up, I thought you might like to hear what Tannahill had to say about Age of Minority, which is the first TYA collection to be nominated for a Governor General’s Award in Drama:  [Read more…]

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