Silent Sky: a good night under the stars

publicity photo for Silent Sky

Henrietta (Jenna Hill) and Peter (Karthik Kadam) pretend to talk about the cosmos. (Photo by Doug Williams)


Writing this review of United Players’ production of Silent Sky isn’t as challenging as, say, astrophysics, but it’s still tricky, okay?

I enjoyed the show a lot. Playwright Lauren Gunderson’s script about the turn-of-the-twentieth-century career of pioneering astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt is witty and moving.

Leavitt’s task as a “computer” at the Harvard College Observatory was to record information from photographic plates about the brightness of stars. As a clerk — and, crucially, as a woman — she wasn’t allowed to look through the telescope. But, working from her observations of the brightness and pulsations of certain stars, Leavitt became the first to understand how to measure the distance to faraway galaxies. It was a watershed achievement. [Read more…]

Night Passing: You can give it a pass

Poster advertising the Arts Club Theatre's production of Scott Button's Night PassingWell-intentioned and over two-hours long, the audio play Night Passing is, unfortunately, boring.

Set in Ottawa in 1958, playwright Scott Button’s script explores the entrapment of gay men and lesbians by the RCMP. Fueled by anti-communist hysteria south of the border, the force was trying to “cleanse” the civil service of queer folk who were, presumably, easier to blackmail.

Entrapment is, of course, blackmail by the establishment.

Just after he moves to Ottawa from a small town, Button’s protagonist, Elliot, is seduced into making out in an alley with a creepy undercover cop who insists on being called Dad. Photos are taken. Dad pressures Elliot into informing on other gay men. [Read more…]

Imagine Van Gogh: Take the leap

iPhone photo of the installation Imagine Van Gogh

Is it trippy? Yes it is. (Photo by me. They let you take videos too.)

Go. But take earplugs. ***

I was happy for hours after seeing Imagine Van Gogh.

To experience the piece, you enter a huge room — in Vancouver, it’s at the Convention Centre — in which the towering walls and, somehow it seems, the floor, are rear-projection surfaces. Creators Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron cover every inch of those planes with details from over 200 paintings that Van Gogh created in the last two years of his life.  [Read more…]

Out of Order: That’s what I call Covid relief!

Screen Grab from Out of Order by The 7 Fingers

Samuel Renaud supports Louis Joyal. (Screen grab)

Oh sweet, sweet sexiness! There’s darkness in this pandemic-themed, pandemic-era production from the circus collective Les 7 Doigts (The 7 Fingers) but, for me, the overriding experience is about the spectacular joys of embodiment and connection.

Through The Cultch, Out of Order is only available online until March 21, so read this quickly then book your tickets. [Read more…]

Poetic Consultations: easy communion

publicity still for Poetic Consultations from Théâtre de la Ville

My temporary phone buddy Johanna White (Photo: Théâtre de la Ville)

I got to talk to a charming actor from Paris. Considering we were complete strangers when we started, our conversation was surprisingly easy and intimate. And, at the end of it, Johanna White performed a poem for me based on her assessment of my needs.

The experience lightened my heart. I recommend it and something similar can be yours — free or by donation. [Read more…]

An Acorn: abstraction over action

publicity photo for impel theatre's An Acorn

From top left: Kelli Fox, Blythe Haynes, Ntara Curry, and Ray Strachan

Early on, the speakers in An Acorn say, “It could be that we dreamed this/It could be that we desired this/It could be that we have no idea who we are.”

It doesn’t take long to figure out that they’re talking about environmental collapse: “I want to get used to the darkness,” somebody says. Another: “The famine will set in soon.” Somebody else: “I knew that in other places the world really was on fire.” [Read more…]

Moby Dick in the Dark: leviathan redux

publicity photo for Moby Dick in the Dark

(Clockwise from top left: Robinson J. Cyprian, Corey Bradberry, Mack Gordon, Elizabeth McCoy.)


Moby Dick in the Dark, the latest production from Theatre in the Dark, is an audio adaptation of Herman Melville’s enormous novel, Moby-Dick: or, the White Whale. Listening to the audiobook takes 24 hours. This audio play lasts a mere hour and 40 minutes, including a ten-minute intermission.

But it still feels long. [Read more…]

K Body and Mind: An excellent puzzle — to start with

publicity still for Wake of Vulture's K Body and Mind

These two, Jasmine Chen and Donna Soares, are really, really excellent. (Photo by Daniel O’Shea)

I liked it best when I was the most confused.

The three-episode video series K Body and Mind, which was written and directed by Conor Wylie, has a fantastic set-up and an extraordinarily stylish mode of delivery.

The story takes place sometime in the twenty-first century. A start-up called The Grove is making cloned bodies available for habitation. Kawabi has recently submitted to having her “seed”, her essence, transplanted into one of the clones. But something has gone wrong. There’s a glitch in the matrix, or there’s a virus, or a hacker, or something: an entity called The Crying Woman has invaded the system and it’s driving the inhabitants of cloned bodies to commit suicide. [Read more…]

Mx: a mixed review from me

publicity photo for Mx at The Cultch

Lili Robinson wrote and stars in Mx. (Photo by Christache Ross)

I’m a white guy reviewing a show about mixed-race identity, specifically the reclamation of Black identity. The lack of diversity in criticism is a serious problem and I’ve been trying to find ways to address it, but I lack resources. I’ve recently had a conversation with a colleague who’s better at accessing money than I am. I hope something comes of that.

For now, I’m going to review Mx because The Cultch asked me to and because I hope that something I say might be helpful. Fair warning: I’m going to approach this more as a technician than as a member of Mx‘s target audience.

Within that context, there are all sorts of cool — and, for me, moving — things about this remount of Mx. I first saw it when it was presented at the Fringe in 2019. It won the Cultchivating the Fringe Award that year, a prize that offers further development and a remount.

Mx has come back stronger. [Read more…]

Fifty Shades of Vinyl: you can do anything to me if you make me laugh

Screen grab from Fifty Shades of Vinyl.

In Fifty Shades of Vinyl, Nico Dicecco displays his skills as both a storyteller and mimic.

The fun started when I was trying to book a ticket for this online show using my phone: voice-to-text translated Fifty Shades of Vinyl as Fifty Shades of Anal. That was just the beginning of the evening.

In Fifty Shades of Vinyl, writers Kyle Carpenter and Nico Dicecco affectionately parody Stuart McLean’s classic CBC radio program The Vinyl Café. (McLean died in 2017.)

Fifty Shades of Vinyl is the midnight version of The Vinyl Cafe: it gets sexual. You should know, though, that it never gets explicit or vulgar. And it’s not dehumanizing. Dale and Marnie, the Fifty Shades versions of McLean’s characters Dave and Morley, love one another more and more as their sex life gets kinkier. [Read more…]

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