Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Dark Heart (Toronto)

Instead of going to a Superbowl party on Sunday night, I went to the theatre. Honestly, I forgot to put the game on my calendar and when it came down to switching my tickets for Dark Heart or watching the NFL, there was no turning back--Genevieve Adam's new play promised werewolves.

Dark Heart invites its audience at the Assembly Theatre to enter a forest back in 1661 when this land was not yet called Canada. Amable Bilodeau (Michael Iliadis), a green soldier just arrived in New France, gets himself thrown in the middle of marital drama, conflict between the settlers and the native tribes, and supernatural danger when he pulls Metis trader Toussaint Langlois (Garret C. Smith) out of the river.

Three stories begin to weave together, with Toussaint and Amable at the core. Nobleman Seigneur Louis de Lamonthe (Paul Rivers) put his wife Madeleine (Audrey Clairman) into the asylum at the local hospital, not for madness but punishment for cheating on him with a member of the local tribe. But after a few days, Sister Marie St. Bonadventure (Brianne Tucker) assisted Madeline in escaping. Dr. Joseph Sarrazin (John Fitzgerald Jay) and Amable go off to find and protect Madeleine, while Louis blackmails Toussaint into tracking his wife--until all come together in the woods where the loups-garous or werewolf is said to lurk.

The program says that Amable is the protagonist of the play, but I found the women he encountered in New France more compelling. Genevieve Adam wrote one of the most confusing, yet exciting characters for herself in the bone-setter or Eleonore "Lizzie" Ramezy. She seduced both of the male leads in the play, as the true puppet-master. As the only settler born and raised in New France, she seems to hold the most knowledge about how to survive, practically and culturally, amongst all the conflicts whirling around her. I suppose that is the trick of the play--though the men believe they are in charge, it was truly the women like Eleonore pulling the strings.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Calpurnia (Toronto)

I wish I could tell you all to go see Nightwood Theatre and Sulong Theatre's Calpurnia... but the rest of its run sold out after the first week. So instead, I'm going to tell you how this 90-minute family comedy, set around another dinner party, challenged my beliefs about allyship, racism, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Julie (Meghan Swaby) has hit a wall in writing her screenplay, the untold story of the Finch family's maid Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird. As she goes to great lengths to unlock this character's voice, she unsettles and unravels the racial politics within her own house--most importantly, the relationship between her upper class Jamaican-Canadian family and their Filipino housekeeper, Precy (Carolyn Fe).

I have missed going to Buddies in Bad Times! Toronto's LGBTQIA+ theatre felt so much more open than other theatre houses in Toronto. Walking in, I didn't recognize the same faces in the audience. Which meant it wasn't just members of the theatre community attending, but members of so many other communities, too. I also wasn't the only one with crazy-colored hair. Best of all: this rainbow of an audience made up the background for every scene in Calpurnia. Due to the profile staging, I got to watch the other half of the audience react to each uncomfortable moment.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

A New Brain (Brooklyn)

While watching the Gallery Players' highly entertaining production of William Finn's odd but engaging musical, A New Brain, I found my own old brain full of questions. First, about A New Brain itself:

Jesse Manocherian, Justin Phillips
Photo: Alice Teeple

  • What makes a musical worth writing?
  • How does a writer decide what specifically to musicalize?
  • Is Finn's leaning toward silly rhymes a form of brilliance, audacity, or laziness?
  • How do you know when to end a musical?
  • What does a song need to offer in order to be worth keeping in a show?
  • What is Finn really about as a writer?