Friday, 20 April 2018

A Sweet Liar: Theatre Francais de Toronto's Le Menteur/The Liar

The tag line is "Don't believe a word he says", but you can believe me, Le Menteur/The Liar is a fun way to spend a night at the theatre.

(left to right) Nico Racitot, François MacDonald, Alex Coté
Le Menteur/The Liar by Pierre Corneille

Synopsis: NEW TO PARIS, YOUNG DORANTE is immediately lifted into a world of gallantry and prestige. Intoxicated by this new environment, he invents a fictitious identity. But a misunderstanding about two young women’s names, Lucrèce and Clarice, together with his father’s wish that he marry one of the two, leads to a tangled web, in which truth and lies are lost in fantasy. (Source:

My Thoughts: There is much to enjoy about Théatre Français de Toronto's (TFT) production of Le Menteur/The Liar by Pierre Corneille. Full of witticisms delivered in the French style of its day, the rhyming alexandrine couplets are an added layer to the outrageous lies delivered by Doronte. To get the full impact, it helps to understand a bit of French, but even those reading the surtitles will be engaged by the play as a whole since the flowing beats of the language are reflected in the frolicking pace of the action  as directed by Joel Beddows.

Nico Racitot's Dorante holds appeal to modern audiences with his bleached hair, trendy boots and bright, hipster suit, its one shoulder cape and florid material nodding to past centuries. Racitot delivers lies with such readiness and silkiness that it's hard not to be impressed by his character's mendacious abilities. Even side-kick, Cliton, played with scene-stealing timing by François MacDonald, often falls for the fabrications until corrected by Dorante. Trying to be the voice of reason, Cliton cautions Doronte from time to time but his warnings are never embraced. 

Shiong-en Chan Lucrèce (foreground), 
Valérie Descheneaux, Clarice  (background)
Having mistaken the names of Lucrèce and Clarice, Doronte feels impervious to the impact of his falsehoods, creating confusion and minor conflicts between the two women. Valérie Descheneaux shines bright as Clarice and her exchanges with Doronte (he thinks she is Lucrèce) sparkle. Unfortunately for Shiong-en Chan, she is in the shadow of Descheneaux, and her role of Lucrèce is somewhat muted.

Guy Mignault, former Artistic Director of TFT, plays Doronte's loving father, Géronte, who is made into a bit of a bumbler thanks to the multiple misdirections of his lying son. In today's society Géronte would be called a lawnmower parent, over-indulging the whims of his son in an effort to arrange his matrimonial success. Playwright, Pierre Corneille, mainly known for his tragedies (El Cid) inserts a bit of drama into the text with a notable exposition that is delivered with poignancy by the experienced Mignault.

Costumes by Melanie McNeill are cleverly realized. Think millennials dipping into a vintage tickle trunk of 17th century clothing and hacking their finds for the 21st century. I wish I could also give accolades to her set design, but I found the opening and closing of transparent curtains unnecessary.  I read them as an exchange for the usual farcical doors and/or a manifestation of the barriers created by lying, but their use was a distraction to an already good play. I also found the inclusion of karaoke microphones a dispensable tool, as the costumes are such a brilliant way of modernizing the play's youthful characters and their antics.

Rounding out the cast is Alex Cote as Clarice's "fiance", Alcippe; Inka Malovic in the dual role of  Isabelle/Sabine, and Nabil Traboulsi as Philiste.

Valérie Descheneaux, Clarice (foreground)
Inka Malovic, Isabelle/Sabine (background)
Le Menteur/The Liar by Pierre Corneille
Remaining Performances: April 20 - 22, 2018*

*English with French Surtitles 
April 20, 21 (matinee and evening performances
*French only: April 22

Presented by Théatre Français de Toronto
Location: Berkeley Street Theatre 
26 Berkeley Street, Toronto

Complete Details:

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

TIFF17: What I Saw/My Favourite Film

Sally Hawkins as Elisa in "The Shape of Water" 
Photo source:
Of the 34 features that I saw at TIFF17, my absolute favourite is The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor

  1. Ava
  2. Disappearance
  3. Euphoria
  4. Euthanizer
  5. Ex Libris - The New York Public Library
  6. Eye on Juliet
  7. Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami
  8. I Love You Daddy
  9. In Conversations with…Gael Garcia Bernal
  10. In Conversations with…Javier Bardem
  11. Ladybird
  12. Let the Corpses Tan
  13. Mary Goes Round
  14. Miami
  15. Nina
  16. Other Side of Hope
  17. Our People Will Be Healed
  18. Porcupine Lake
  19. Ravens
  20. Roman J. Israel, Esquire
  21. Short Cuts (various Programme selections)
  22. The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales
  23. The Current War
  24. The Gospel According to Andre
  25. The Hungry
  26. The Other Side of Hope
  27. The Racer and the Jailbird
  28. The Royal Hibiscus Hotel
  29. The Shape of Water
  30. The Square
  31. The Swan
  32. The Third Murder
  33. Valley of Shadows
  34. Vampire Clay
  35. What Will People Say

Thursday, 7 September 2017

TIFF17: The First Film

"Ex Libris - The New York Public Library"
Photo source:
I wanted to ease into TIFF17, so my first screening was the Frederick Wiseman documentary Ex Libris - The New York Public Library. Yep, you got that right. I decided to kick off the festival with a three-hour film. Why? Because I'm a library geek and how could I  go wrong with a master documentarian? Still, I watched the film with the general public in mind. Beyond its appeal to like-minded people, this doc has a lot to say about current social and political conditions in the United States. We don't just see people borrowing books, we get a glimpse into the various boroughs in which these libraries are located. The make-up of each area determines the library's usage: some borrowers don't have access to the Internet, cutting them off from what's happening around them and father afield. With hook-ups and laptops available from the library they now have access. While some areas have a high volume of digital borrows, books flourish in others, and culturally diverse materials/talks/courses, help sustain and build community--think sign language and braille! I was especially impressed by the inclusion of discussions on race  as it pertains to the history and composition of the country. I attended a Press and Industry screening, but I'm sure those who attend the public screening will be impressed with the scope of the film, leading to some socially relevant questions during the Q & A.

Visit: for upcoming screening dates and times.

Monday, 4 September 2017

TIFF17: Chatting Short Cuts Programmes with Jason Anderson

TIFF17 kicks off Sept 7 and I don't want you to forget the Canadian and International short films that will be screening at the festival. The beauty of the Short Cuts programmes is that you get the chance to see little gems communicating ideas that you can ponder or laugh about later. I haven't see all the films, but I did get the opportunity to let TIFF programmer, Jason Anderson share his delight in his team bringing these 8 film programmes to the big screen at TIFF. Have a listen and then visit for detailed information.

Friday, 11 August 2017

SummerWorks 17 Review: Mother Sea/Manman la mer & What Do You See?

DOUBLE BILL: Mother Sea/Manman la mer teamed with What Do You See? Please note that you will be stamped for reentry as there is a changeover break between the two shows.

Mother Sea/Manman la mer
Written by Djennie Laguerre
Directed by Rhoma Spencer
Program Description: In the tradition of Haitian storytelling, Mother Sea / Manman la Mertakes us on a journey that joins magic, love, and redemption. It is the story of a woman who can see the future in her dreams but is cut off from her abilities by her mother’s fear. After healing from a mysterious sickness, her dreams disappear along with her sense of self. 25 years later, only her grandmother can restore her faith and her ancestral lineage.

Seasoned storyteller, Djennie Laguerre, always invites her audience to follow along on her journeys. When she says "krick" she invites you to respond "krack", meaning you hear and acknowledge what she sharing, whether its serious or funny. Djennie starts off well with the tale of a young girl discovering her difference, and we are invited into her world of Quebecoise and Haitian aunties. Krick. Krack. However, as the girl's power to see the future is suppressed by her mother (krick!) and depression follows, the responding krack! is barely heard from the audience: the call and response is missing its energy. Djennie is not seeing us, so there is no one guiding the collective. This may be an intentional decision to mirror her character's mood, but it's not an effective choice as it alienates us from the storyteller. Still, Djennie weaves a good tale, and I, along with the rest of the audience, fell in love with the strength and vibrancy of the Haitian grandmother. This is a work in progress, and as such, things are subject to change. Perhaps by your performance, Djennie will have gone back to embracing her audience with her usual warmth from beginning to end.

What Do You See?
Choreographed and Performed by Jasmyn Fyffe
Program DescriptionA new, intimate, probing solo dance-theatre work that seeks to explore a plethora of ideas around the female black body.
Before entering the space, we are encouraged to choose a label and stick in on Jasmyn's back as she stands in silence, naked torso facing the theatre wall. Once we are seated, she remains against the wall, silently, sinuously manipulating fabric, until her hip covering now enshrouds her body. We are then invited by flashing APPLAUSE signs to participate as cheering audience members to a game show a twist. We have become complicit in an ugly truth, and as theatre glides into a movement piece, we are magnetized by Jamyn's incredibly emotional countenance and dancing ability. The labels are revealed, and, even if you didn't select one, we all know how damaging some labels can be. As the title suggests, the piece is subject to your interpretation, so what you take away will be based on your personal knowledge and experiences. One thing that many will agree is that Jasmyn Fyffe is an extraordinary talent. 
Mother Sea/Manman la mer AND What Do You See?
The Theatre Centre BMO Incubator
1115 Queen Street W, Toronto, ON
Saturday August 12th 2:30pm - 3:45pm 
Sunday August 13th 12:00pm - 1:15pm

SummerWorks 17 Reviews: DIVINE, SPAWN

Written by Natalie Frijia, 
Directed by Claire Burns
Program DescriptionOntario is out of water and a pair of bandits search for their last hope – a water diviner by the name of Penn. Stories say she can crack the world like a coconut and make water bubble to the surface with nothing but her hands. But the bandits aren’t the only ones hunting her down. nithungAnd what if there’s nothing left for Penn to divine?

My Thoughts: Amanda Cordner (Penn) has a self-assured stage presence that commands attention. That's what makes a great lead, but, even if she was playing a supporting character, your eye would still follow her, she's that captivating. Unfortunately, not even Cordner's talents can save this mess. The convoluted plot is compounded by affected Western accents that are often difficult to understand, resulting in a loss of thematic focus.  The acting ranges from excessively broad to stilted, and some of the  extraneous "bandits" contribute nothing to the story. What should have been an intriguing dystopian tall tale, instead becomes a comedy as dry as the deserts referred to in the play itself. 

Factory Theatre Mainspace
125 Bathurst Street
Saturday August 12th 7:00pm - 8:15pm
Sunday August 13th1:30pm - 2:45pm

Written by Cheyenne Scott
Directed by Gein Wong
Program Description: Theresa is haunted by the traditional Coast Salish story of the Salmon Spirit, and the death of her mother who drowned in the Pacific Ocean. Now that she’s pregnant, her disconnected family must prepare for a new generation.

My ThoughtsI enjoyed watching this young couple deal with an unexpected pregnancy and their need to create a family, something neither really had for various reasons. The production design, with natural wood as a stand-in for furniture and riverbanks, cascading blue fabric to simulate water, and the background projection of nature all work with the metaphor of spawning.  The inclusion of indigenous folktales and historic truths grounds the work, reinforcing what the young couple must build upon and struggle against as they create their new family. 

It may seem strange to say that a cast of 4 is too large, but in the case of SPAWN, I believe the story would have been more compelling if focussed on the two young leads (Samantha Brown as Theresa and Dillan Meighan-Chiblow as Mikey).  Yes, the main plot surrounds Theresa and her relationship with her father and estranged grandmother, but I found those characters slowed the pace of the action; their contribution could have been summed up through dialogue between the young couple, and an expanded role for the charismatic, Meighan-Chiblow.

Factory Theatre Mainspace
125 Bathurst Street

Saturday August 12th 9:30pm - 10:30pm
Sunday August 13th 3:45pm - 4:45pm

Tickets: (general admission $15) Complete details: 
Photos courtesy of

A Sweet Liar: Theatre Francais de Toronto's Le Menteur/The Liar

The tag line is  "Don't believe a word he says" , but you can believe me, Le Menteur/The Liar is a fun way to spend a night at...