Sunday, 7 August 2011

SummerWorks Reviews: Long Dark Night, Dancing, Still Life

SW Description: A film noir musical comedy set in the red light district of an anonymous city, Long Dark Night follows one night in the life of philandering alcoholic private detective Skip Tracer as he becomes entangled with the beautiful but dangerous Femme Fatale.

My Rating: Play *** 3/5 stars; Actress, Jessica Moss ***** 5/5 stars

My Review: Jessica Moss is the best reason to see this play. She is perfect in the role as Irene Pffeffener, the secretary in love with her drunken, not so bright, private dick boss, Skip Tracer (John McNeill). Moss has the right cadence for her 1940’s Gal Friday character and a good singing voice. Her comic timing and wonderful chops brings the right comic timing and vocal ability to the show’s first song, “Good For You”, an internal monologue in which she expresses her love for Tracer. Moss dominates her duet with Colin Murphy’s Frankie, a shady insurance man. Perhaps a body mic would help Murphy project beyond the front row of Theatre Passe Muraille, but his lyrics were lost to anyone further back. With songs that reveal character and further the plot, Murphy’s lack of vocal range has a negative impact on the play.

Her vocals don’t come in until late in the play, but Julianna Ozorio (Tuesday Mae) has voice has the right smokiness needed to play the role of an aging nightclub owner. Her first song offers up some advice that will never be forgotten. (Title is a spoiler). Besides her ability to sing, Ozorio can also act; she plays the part of a brassy dame with a few years on her like nobody’s business as demonstrated in another great song, “You Don’t Have to Go Home.”

Sonia Linder is adequate as Femme Fatale and there are a couple of scenes later in the play where I connected with her character, but she needed to add more va-va-va voom! to the role of a mysterious woman looking for her missing husband.

John McNeill shows that he has seen a few film noirs himself, parodying the genre’s gumshoes with evident delight. His Skip Tracer is soaked in just the right amount of booze and buffoonery to act as the perfect foil for Moss’s plucky gal friday, Irene.

Marring this amusing little play is the intrusive positioning of the slide projectionist at the back of the stage. Surely there is a better place for her to do scenery changes. Annoying!

Remaining Shows:
Passe Muraille Mainstage
Monday August 8th 8:00 PM
Wednesday August 10tth 10:30 PM
Friday August 12th 5:30 PM
Sunday August 14th 5:30 PM

dancing to a white boy song
SW Description:
3 actors, 3 stories, 3 arts forms…
A multidisciplinary theatrical creation exploring the issues of youth, immigration, culture and the tensions of ‘otherness’, told through the eyes, voices, and bodies of 3 characters through poetry, movement, visual imagery and spoken words.
Inspired by personal stories and experiences of the African immigrant.

My Rating: *** 3/5 stars

div align="justify">My Review: This play succeeds on so many levels that I really wanted to give it more stars. Actors, Simeon Taole, Esther Kamba, Keriece Harris give equally strong performances playing multiple roles, but the description promised 3 main characters and, regrettably, not all three are equally developed. The strongest of the three characters, is that of a young girl struggling to fit into Canadian school culture and dealing with a body that does not look like the other girls. Harris plays this role with versatility, humour and gravity. Taole is convincing in his role as a PHD student whose intelligence is and hyphenated culture is questioned in Toronto and in South Africa. Kamba is superb as the mother of the school girl, but her role as a single woman new to Canada does not offer her enough of a chance to show us who this woman is. This is a shame, since, there is no doubt that Kamba is a talented actor. Program notes suggest that this is a work in progress, so I am hopeful that this character is one that will be augmented in the next incarnation of this project. Maybe at that time I can give it the stars it deserves.

Remaining Shows:
Theatre Centre
Tuesday August 9th 7:30 PM
Thursday August 11th 5:00 PM
Friday August 12th 10:00 PM
Saturday August 13th 12:00 PM

Still Life
SW Description: After an attack, four twenty-something's are confronted with their truth. The experience of that night reveals the joys and struggles of being queer in Toronto today.

My Rating: *** 3/5 stars

My Review: Still Life is a relationship drama about love, infidelity, and queer identity. Steven the cook, (Andrew Aquino) is in a relationship with Matt (Indrit Kaspi), the dancer. Steven cheats on Matt with Andrew the artist and “kept woman”. Alisha Stranges plays Sarah, a woman trying to find her place in the LGBT and straight world; she is also friends with Steven and Matt. Stranges is the best of this quartet, with a natural style that seems effortless. Having seen her twice in two months, I have concluded that I will see anything to which her name is attached.

lemonTree theatre creation has invented a method called “authentic theatre” or ‘authenticism”. One of its eleven step manifesto is to “improvise to rmember whow to listen to one another.” In respect to Still Life, this ability to improvise delivers dialogue and body language that is realistic and for the most part believeable.

The play successfully reminds Toronto dwellers that discrimination against the LGBT community (and any “outsider”) is still present and thriving in our supposedly enlightened city. Safety and freedom of expression are only to be had in certain packets of the city and at certain times of the day. It is refreshing to see this topic espoused by a theatre collective of young people, so that their peers will realize that the battle for human rights is a continuous one.

A hand held light, often passed from actor to actor, highlights scenes of tension and violence, and sex. Stage furnishings of two or three chairs allow for a versatility of scene set-ups and the simple blocking of the actors result in creative use of the small stage. Bathhouse references and sub-themes of shade-ism (Steven is Asian), relationship roles (Andrew is a “kept woman”) and dressing like a “dyke” are nicely woven into the play, lending authenticity to this queer drama.

Where the play stumbles is in the dead-ending of some of the improvised dialogue. At times, lines were tossed but another actor did not run with the ball and the idea was lost. There were also times when actors spoke over one another and neither bothered to clarify what they said, so that the audience could understand what they missed hearing.

Remaining Shows:Theatre Passe Muraille Backstage
Tuesday August 9th 7:00 PM
Thursday August 11th 4:30 PM
Saturday August 13th 9:30 PM
Sunday August 14th 2:00 PM

No comments:

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...