Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Summerworks '09: Picks and Pans so far...

I've had a chance to see a few plays since SummerWorks (Toronto's indie theatre and arts festival) kicked off on August 6th. Here is my opinion of what I've seen so far...

Hmm...Shadow puppetry, short films, political humour, silly/funny at times. Bob Wiseman plays accordion, guitar, piano and sings songs that are sometimes deemed "actionable" by those in the legal profession. The show is too loosely structured to reveal what the theme is, and the movement from one piece to the next is too disjointed. My favourite moment is the satirical piece featuring a silent film clip accompanied by Bob on accordion, but on a whole, this performance is too long.
Venue B: Factory Studio Theatre
Tues. Aug 11th 6:00pm, Thurs. Aug 13th 10:00pm
Sat. Aug 15th 4:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 8:00pm

YES! When someone gets it right you know it and you feel it. d'bi young plays benu, from young girl in Jamaica with her "Granny" to young woman in Canada dealing with the pre- and post effects of pregnancy. This is a workshop for a play that will be launced next year in Montreal. Like many in the audience, I was blown away by d'bi's performance and the accompanying music by the multi-talented Waleed Adbulhamid and Tova Kardonne. Kimberly Purtell's lighting design transforms d'bi into a luminous black pearl with the use of shadows and lights.
Venue C: Passe Muraille Mainspace
Thurs. Aug 13th 8:30pm, Fri. Aug 14th 10:30pm, Sun. Aug 16th 4:30pm

The Centre
Women from the future go back in time to examine women from the present day. I was expecting the equivalent of a good, short sci-fi story, but what I saw was bad acting, an even worse decision to do accents (pseudo-Afican? not even sure what that was supposed to be) and a script that seemed hastily put together. My high hopes for b. current's training unit, rAiz'n dwindled away as I watched this play. Disappointing.
Venue B: Factory Studio Theatre
Tues. Aug 11th 10:00pm, Fri. Aug 14th 4:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 8:00pm

The Crush of Beauty
Fantastic acting and good chemistry between actors (Elva Mai Hoover, Tiffany Martin) can take a simple story about a hostile teen and an ailing older woman and turn it into something special and engaging. (See my Aug. 6th review). Add this one to your list.
Venue I: St. Andrew’s Playground (Adelaide and Brant--a few blocks east of the Factory Theatre on Adelaide West)
Tues. Aug 11th 7:00pm, Wed. Aug 12th 7:00pm, Thurs. Aug 13th 7:00pm, Fri. Aug 14th 7:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 3:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 3:00pm Chairs are provided.

Je serai toujours la pour te tuer/I'll Always Be There to Kill You
See the French version, skip the English. Sometimes you need to do more than translate the script; you need to translate the culutre as well. Watching the English performance of this play was like watching a dubbed movie where the voices just don't match the characters and the characters don't suit the setting. Imagine Catherine Deneuve with Fran Drescher's voice. Now imagine Catherine with Fran's voice having a croissant at a Tim's in Sudbury. Not the same as Catherine having a croissant in Paris, is it? Well, that's how I felt watching the English version of this play. The sensiblities just weren't right. Where the French script about a woman who hires a man to kill her moves with a natural rhythm, the English seems forced and jerky. Where the French crackles with farcical elements, the English seems clunky and leaden. Actor, Christian Smith tries his best in the English version, but he is outdone by Manuel Verredyt in the French. Geneviève Trilling, who appears in both the English and French version, is weak in the English but delivers a very funny performance courtesy of the French script by Sophie Tonneau.
Venue C: Passe Muraille Mainspace
Wed. Aug 12th 10:00pm (English), Sat. Aug 15th 6:00pm (English), Sun. Aug 16th 12:00pm (français)

The play revolves around the relationship between mothers and daughters. What is refreshing for Toronto audiences, is that it is set in Trinidad and references Martinique (French dialogue is also used). I would like to see this play again after it's been workshopped and expanded. I would also like to see it with a stonger cast, which should still include stand out actors, Denise Pinnock and Tanisha Taitt, who do a brillant job of fleshing out their characters.
Venue B: Factory Studio Theatre *50 minutes
Thurs. Aug 13th 6:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 12:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 8:00pm

My Funny Valentine
Dave Deveau delivers a very stong performance as a young man haunted by the killing of Lawrence King, an openly gay teen who was murdered for giving another boy a Valentine. In addition to the young man, Deveau also plays several characters including, King's younger brother,a young girl, a female teacher disturbed by society's "tolerance", and King himself. I did not want to see this play and went because I had been introduced to Deveau by a mutual friend. I was familiar with the case (which is still on-going), and did not want to immerse myself in a sob-story or something so emotionally draining that I wanted to give up on life. For those of you who share that same aprehension, let go of them and buy a ticket to this play. Deveau's script of the tragedy is fictionalized, but he does an incredible job of humanizing the story with his various characterizations, situations, and journey into what King and those around him may have been like. Well done, Dave Deveau and director, Cameron MacKenzie.
Venue D: Passe Muraille Backspace *50 minutes
Wed. Aug 12th 8:00pm, Thurs. Aug 13th 10:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 6:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 12:00pm

Say Nothing Saw Wood
By and featuring Joel Thomas Hynes. The play won a Newfoundland Art's and Letter Award for Best Dramatic Script, but I fell asleep watching Hynes move back and forth within a lighted block (simulating jail) on the stage floor, and listening to him recount the incidents that lead to him being incarcerated. Great performance, but in a 75 minute play in a very dark room, I need more variety of expression in the voice in order for inertia not to set in. The addition of music to the performance would also help to engage me without taking me out of the story being told. There is a wealth of musicians from NFLD that could compose and perform music to suit this play. Liked the story on paper, but have problems with the staged version.
Venue B: Factory Studio Theatre *75minutes
Thurs. Aug 13th 8:00pm, Fri. Aug 14th 10:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 4:00pm

Sketch'In Toronto
This workshop piece about the lives of four women is directed by d'bi young, and presented by her arts centre, anitafrika!dubtheatre. The work is performed by women of varying ages, and combines choral elements, movement and individual narration to reveal what women do in order to survive and to feel safe. Each actor devleoped her own character's story with the group working as a whole to develop the workshop to date. It will be interesting to see where it goes from this point. I think the piece would benefit from the unique viewpoint of a trans (male to female) character.
Venue D: Passe Muraille Backspace
Tues. Aug 11th 6:00pm, Wed. Aug 12th 4:00pm, Fri. Aug 14th 8:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 12:00pm

SummerWorks Website: www.summerworks.ca
SummerWorks runs until August 16th.

Photo Credit: All images courtesy of www.summerworks.ca with the exception of Keen, My Funny Valentine, Sketch'in Toronto (photos by donna g)

CORRECTION NOTICE: My sincere apologies to LS. In my original post I stated that the piece was about 4 prostitutes. Only 3 of the 4 characters were, in fact, prostitutes. I thank LS for pointing out this misinterpretation.  Please read her comment below about her role.


LS said...

Just to make it very clear the play is about 3 prostitutes NOT four as you mention.
My character was not a prostitute and I would like to make that very clear seeing as it is mainly autobiographical!
I am really not sure how you got that impression. My 3 monologues were about the following: a holiday romance gone wrong, a great experience of losing my virginity and a bad intimate experience with a pro baseball player.
Thanks for letting me clear that up!

donna g said...

Hello, LS, thank you for correcting my error. I have published your comment and will also correct my post.

donna g

LS said...

Thank you I really appreciate that!

Anonymous said...

I saw this play and I also thought it was about four prostitutes. If this piece is to be expanded LS needs to define her character more. Yes I understood the three monologues but when you add those to the other stories in the piece, it was easy to "interpret" that all the women were "in the life"

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