East Coast Kitchen Party

East Coast Kitchen Party — A Hootenanny on Stage

Is the East Coast Kitchen Party a play? No. If you were less than generous, could you say the “kitchen party” theme is a bit of a stretch to give the production a justification to be at the theatre? Sure. But is the Kitchen Party a rollicking good time? Absolutely. And, ultimately, the question as to whether it’s a theatre production or just a heck of a good time doesn’t really matter as the Grand Theatre closes its 2022-23 season.

The show, in a nutshell, is a celebration of east coast music performed by four incredibly talented singers/multi-instrumentalists: Karen Lizotte, Celia Owen, Malia Rogers, and Ian Sherwood. The show is set …


Rubaboo, Andrea Menard explains at the beginning of her cabaret of the same name, is the Métis word for a “clean out the bottom of the refrigerator” kind of soup. And it’s an apt description of what the production is: a little of this, a little of that, and a little of the other, but never a complete, deeply-flavoured dish.

That’s not to say that the ingredients aren’t fresh. Menard is a fine vocalist, and the three others comprising her band are talented instrumentalists and singers. She’s an engaging storyteller, especially when recounting slightly ribald trickster folklore. She and Robert Walsh have written meaningful lyrics addressing historical events with a pointed modern take. And the set backdrop by Cimmeron Meyer (based on artwork by …

Homes: A Refugee Story

Homes: A Refugee Story is billed as a world premiere, and the story of teenaged Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah’s life in Iraq, Syria, and eventually Canada is the rare play that may achieve the lofty promise that phrase implies.

Bakr is, in almost every way imaginable, a normal teenager. He loves playing soccer and video games, and hanging out with his buddies, both in person and on WhatsApp. (I suspect he and my nephew would hit it off like gangbusters.) His dad is a baker. His sisters are… present, as much as sisters are to a thirteen-year-old boy. His first car bomb happens after a service at the mosque, close enough to his house that it …

Boom X

Boom, Clap, the Sound of My Youth

While Boom X may be billed as a power-packed reminiscence of the music and events that shaped the lives of Generation X, it is so much more. And for a production that focuses on musical styles that are (wrongly) criticized for their superficiality (like disco and New Wave), Boom X succeeds due to its depth and the audience’s personal attachment to a master performer in author, director, and star Rick Miller.

Boom X is the second part of a trilogy, sandwiched (appropriately so for Generation X) between Boom, the story of the Baby Boomer generation, and Boom YZ, the story of the Millennial generation. But where Boom and Boom YZ tell the story of Miller’s parents’ and daughters’ generations, respectively, Boom X puts the spotlight squarely …

Controlled Damage

Great Performances Overcome Well-Intended, but Misdirected Moments

Controlled Damage – a look at the life of Viola Desmond, written by Londoner Andrea Scott – is a play with solid foundational elements that is, at times, undermined by ancillary elements that are intended to amplify or contextualize the messages. Unfortunately, good intent can sometimes be compromised by questionable execution.

That said, the overall production is not only positive, but one that delves a little deeper into its themes than the standard Heritage Minute-style Canadian history that only scrapes the surface.

The story chronicles the life of Viola Desmond, a Halifax-born entrepreneur who taught, left Halifax to obtain schooling which she was not allowed in her home province, and eventually owned a hair salon and created products for the Black …

O Christmas Tea

A Holiday Gift that’s Bursting at the Seams with Joy

The holidays, at their best, are about spending time with friends, family, and loved ones. With James & Jamesy bringing the penultimate performance of their cross-Ontario (plus Winnipeg) tour of O Christmas Tea to London, it felt like old friends returning home — and bringing the gift of a production that’s bursting at the seams with joy!

James & Jamesy are veterans of the Fringe circuit and were, without a doubt, consistently one of the “must-see” shows back when London had a proper Fringe Festival. Since London Fringe’s demise, the duo of Alastair “Jamesy” Knowles and Aaron “James” Malkin had not been back to the Forest City. But the duo made a triumphant return …

Elf: The Musical

Elf Gives the Perfect Gift of Holiday Joy

I need to start this review with a couple of key caveats: first, I love the holiday season. Christmas is my thing and I love almost everything about it; second, I can’t stand Will Ferrell, and didn’t like the movie version of Elf.

Fortunately, the Grand’s latest production of Elf is a perfectly packaged gift of holiday joy that exceeds the film that inspired it, and features a Buddy that’s far-and-away a more charming, enjoyable, and downright-Elf-like than both the film version and previous Grand iteration of the production.

Simply put, Izad Etemadi is a revelation as Buddy. It’s a character …

Grand Ghosts

Grand Ghosts: An Homage to Everything in Dire Need of Editing

Grand Ghosts is an exercise in creativity centred around Ambrose J. Small’s attempt to self-exorcise. And in the end, the result is an oft-polarizing experience that would have benefitted from exercising some restraint.

Grand Ghosts is a celebration of theatre’s past, brought to life for a modern audience. It pays homage to the vaudeville era, silent films, the advent of talkies, and legacy musicals. It combines Clara Bow vibes with a Buster Keaton aesthetic, with a hint of slapstick and farce thrown in for good measure.

It is, in many ways, a theatre aficionado’s play. And that has its positives and negatives.

It seems obvious …


Grand Ends Its Season on a High with Grow

There are reasons why sitcoms are popular. They’re simple, predictable, and even though we know it’s all going to work out in the end – and we often see the “twist” coming a mile away – we can sit back and enjoy the journey.

That’s what Grow is. Even though its plot is obvious to the point of being blunt, it’s a light, gentle, amusing extended musical sitcom that’s effervescently shallow in the best possible way.

Grow is the story of two Amish twin sisters who move to Toronto as part of their Rumspringa – a traditional Amish right-of-passage where youth explore the non-Amish world …

The Romeo Initiative

Allswell Productions’ The Romeo Initiative is a Cold War story that’s part of the long-awaited, very welcome reintroduction to live performances by London’s independent theatre community. Their description of it as “half romantic-comedy, half spy-thriller journey” is literally true, which may be both to the benefit and detriment of the play.

While this review attempts to avoid them, it’s difficult to comment obliquely on thrillers without revealing or suggesting plot points. Caveat lector.

The first act is a romance, starting with a “meet cute” between two young vacationing Germans, Karin (Mica Fage) and Markus (Matt Butler), and eventually introducing Karin’s friend Lena (Keren Kayembe). It’s to the playwright’s, actors’, and writer’s credits that this part of the story can be taken both entirely on …


A Room with Too Many Views

Sometimes a story just needs to be left alone to tell itself. All the bells, whistles, and gimmicks in the world don’t serve to amplify the message, but rather subjugate it and diminish its resonance. The long-awaited adaptation of Room serves to drown its three superlative elements in a sea of stimuli, questionable decisions, and pacing issues.

The three superlative elements? An incredible story, penned by Emma Donoghue, and the two leads: the always delightful Alexis Gordon as Ma, and Lucien Duncan-Reid as Jack, who play the two key roles of a young woman abducted seven years previously and her born-in-captivity son, who knows nothing …

Home for the Holidays: A Theatrical Concert

A Light, Welcome Grand Return Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays: A Theatrical Concert is unabashedly a celebration of theatre in general — and, more specifically, a celebration of The Grand Theatre itself. There are gifts for everyone in the production, and while a couple of those gifts may be of the “tie” variety, there are no lumps of coal to be found. It’s a pleasant, family-friendly, holiday show that celebrates the seasons (plural intended) and the gifts the newly renovated Grand brings to the Forest City.

The one gift the production doesn’t bring is the gift of subtlety. It is musical theatre at its best and worst; it is boisterous and …

Between Breaths

A Whale of a Tale, Rooted in History and Emotion

Historical drama often runs the risk of being superficial – focused exclusively on dates, events, and actions. Where Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland excels is in its ability to add depth to its productions, effectively bringing history to life. And in Between Breaths, the cast and crew’s ability to explore the depths of passion, love, and even arrogance brings the story of Jon Lien to life in a way that’s heartfelt and engaging.

Between Breaths recounts the life story of Jon Lien, an American-born researcher who came to Newfoundland and fell in love with the province and its whales. Initially there to study birds, Lien …

Honour Beat

Honour Beat Takes a While to Find its Rhythm, but Provides a Rewarding Journey

Honour Beat has the foundation of a compelling story of family and the impact of blood memory. And while it takes a fair bit of time to reach its potential, the journey is ultimately rewarding.

The first third of the play was a little clunky — dialogue felt stilted, some of the jokes were pedestrian at best. And the unnecessary inclusion of technology in a story about people actually served to disengage the audience from the message –– as a “video call” that was projected on a mesh screen not only obscured the image but also was not in sync with the action on the stage. At that …

Every Brilliant Thing

Rebecca Northan Shines Brightest in Delightful Every Brilliant Thing

There are a million reasons to go see the Grand Theatre’s production of Every Brilliant Thing, but there is one reason that stands above all else. It is the “thing” that shines brightest and exudes brilliance, and that is its star Rebecca Northan.

One-person productions are challenging enough. One-person productions, in a “round”-style set up where audiences have the intimacy and connection to the actor, are even more demanding. But to successfully mount a production that combines that level of intimacy with an element of danger through audience interaction and improvisation, is nigh impossible.

But when you have someone as talented, funny, and warm as Northan then the impossible is possible.

Northan won over audiences hearts in 2018 …

Fully Committed

Crawford Fully Committed to a Menagerie of Fully Formed Characters

One man, a handful of phones, and over 40 strong personalities — The Grand Theatre’s Fully Committed features Gavin Crawford in a masterful performance where he presents and embraces a menagerie of fully-formed characters.

The play is only an hour and a half, with no intermission, in duration. But it is at once both a sprint and a marathon, as Crawford navigates through over 40 different characters, ranging from persistent socialite Carolann Rosenstein-Fishburn to Gwyneth Paltrow’s assistant Bryce to restaurant hostess Steph. But at the heart of the play is struggling actor Sam, who pays his bills as a reservations receptionist at a high-end New York restaurant.

The play has an emotional undercurrent that is designed to be a tether to …

Mary Poppins

It’s appropriate that, through both its advertising and its song, The Grand Theatre has leaned heavily into the concept of “practically perfect” for this production of Mary Poppins, as it’s a fitting description of this show. While the show itself is not perfect, it retains and exudes enough of the wholesome, family-friendly enjoyment and wonder that makes it a worthwhile addition to the Christmas season and a worthwhile production on its own merits.

There’s a significant challenge reviewing classics of the ilk of Mary Poppins. One person’s timeless production is another person’s stuck in time. How you perceive it depends, largely, on how you approach it. If you loved Mary Poppins back in the day, you’ll revel in …

The Missing Millionaire

“Ambrose Small has been trapped in the infinite possibility of life and death for a century,” writes Katie Daubs in the concluding chapter of her book about the one-time owner of London’s Grand Theatre. It’s an intriguing and entertaining recounting of Small’s life and disappearance, those who knew (and loved?) him, and the city where he thrived (often), failed (several times), and ultimately… well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Like many in the London theatre community, I was familiar with Ambrose J. Small primarily as the purported spectre who occasionally haunts the Grand Theatre (né The Grand Opera House). It’s rumoured—that word comes up a lot when discussing the impresario—that his body was burned in the furnace of the theatre; that’s the story …

The Runner

The Runner: A Story that Moves

The Runner is a production that takes the audience on an emotional journey, despite literally running in place for its entire duration. And while it ultimately gets to a satisfying finish, its main gimmick — the entire production is presented on a tread mill — does serve to slightly trip it up along the way.

The Runner tells the story of Jacob, a volunteer with ZAKA, an organization founded to support first responders in providing aid during emergencies, and ensuring all human remains are collected in order to ensure Jewish burial laws are able to be respected.

Gord Rand plays Jacob in this one-man production. His performance is engaging and engrossing, taking the audience on a journey with him on a journey of exploration …

This London Life

This London Life: An Idea Searching Desperately for a Story

Anyone who has lived in the Forest City of London, Ontario has noticed that there’s a certain geographical nomenclature that this city has embraced. From the river that runs through it, to key roads, buildings, and landmarks, we’ve likely made a note of it, passed it off as an amusing observation, and moved on with our lives.

This London Life is what happens when you try to stretch that amusing observation over two hours. It relies on a superficial “joke” and repeats it ad nauseam. And even though that particular horse was well dead, buried, and cremated by the end of the first act, it’s given a few more floggings …

Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia! Ending The Grand’s Season in a Raucous, Fun-Filled Way

Great theatre comes in many forms. Sometimes, it’s a one-person character study with minimal sets and just the power of an actor’s performance to propel it; other times it’s the gripping interplay of multiple characters, playing off each other and working towards a climax.

And sometimes it’s just two hours of rip-roaring fun, frivolity, and entertainment. Mamma Mia! is definitely the latter and it’s a production that will leave only the most curmudgeonly amongst us without a smile on their faces and a toe untapped.

Mamma Mia! is celebrating its 20th year this season. It has …


Fences: No Home Run, but a Solid Double off the Wall

The story of Fences may be set in the 1950s, but the story that propels Fences is one that is timeless and resonates to this day.

First off, let’s start with what Fences isn’t. It is not a play about baseball. The Grand Theatre has done a masterful job with its artwork over the past two seasons, providing compelling imagery to sell its plays. Fences suffers from a misalignment. Yes, Nigel Shawn Williams’ Troy is a former Negro League player. But that fact serves only to provide a small amount of motivation. And there are a few analogies and metaphors that persist throughout the play that feel more forced to …


Outstanding Performances Fuel the Flames that Lead Vigilante to Heat Up the Spriet Stage

The old adage states that there are three sides to every story — yours, mine, and the truth, which lies somewhere in between. Vigilante presents the story of the Donnellys — long vilified and infamous in this part of the county — from their perspective. Instead of being maligned, this version of the Donnelly family is largely misunderstood. And their story is presented in a near-perfect rock-opera style production that is perfectly paced, tight, and filled with superlative performances.

In Vigilante, the Donnellys don’t profess to be innocent. But it wasn’t the devil that made them do “it” — it was merely …

Bakersfield Mist

Having seen a number of documentaries and film dramas about art forgeries and hoaxes in general and Jackson Pollock in particular, I uncharacteristically went into Bakersfield Mist with a number of expectations and preconceived notions of what I was about to see. It turns out that was exactly the right state of mind to be in.

“Undiscovered” paintings by well-known artists are the holy grail and the bane of art experts. In Bakersfield Mist, noted “fake-buster” Lionel Percy knows in an instant—before he even arrives at Maude Gutman’s trailer, in fact—that her junk-shop find isn’t worth the canvas it’s painted on. But Maude has a few tricks up her leopard-print sleeve, not to mention the ones hiding in plain sight.

Bakersfield Mist is the polar opposite …

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

In her creative director’s note for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Alexandra Kane calls it “the hardest show I’ve ever even thought of doing”. And there are many things to like in AK Arts Academy’s ambitious production; the stellar performances by Diegra Kambamba and Colton Abel (winner of a Brickenden Award just a few days ago for playing another classic “deformed” character) are reason enough by themselves to see the show. One hopes, however, that sound issues in Thursday’s preview are resolved for opening and the rest of the run.

As Disney musicals go, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a bit of an odd bird. Quasimodo, the titular hunchback, is …

The Penelopiad

A Matter of Perspective

History is all about perspective. Winston Churchill famously stated that “history is written by the victors,” and that has been true for generations. It is only relatively recently, in this era of mass communications and reconciliation, that we are exposed to other points of view, other experiences, and a less uniform – or, in a Western case, less colonial – recounting of history.

The Penelopiad offers a new perspective on a well-documented history – and one that cleverly layers multiple perspectives showing that even those who feel themselves the most oppressed can, in turn, become oppressors in their own right.

The majority of The Penelopiad takes place during Odysseus’ time away from Ithaca, famously recounted in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. But while that story is …

A Christmas Carol

A “Bewitching” Presentation of a Holiday Classic

Those of a certain vintage — or those of us who watched them as repeats — may remember the TV show Bewitched. Due to illness, the role of “Darrin” played by Dick York, was filled by Dick Sargent for its final three seasons. Fundamentally, the show had changed, but in reality it pretty much felt the same.

Sure, some people will have their favourite Dicks, but the change in Samantha’s husband didn’t dramatically alter the show. And that’s why the current iteration of A Christmas Carol, on The Grand Theatre’s Spriet Stage, is a successfully “bewitching” presentation of the Charles Dickens holiday classic.

In this version, the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is played by …

Barber Shop Chronicles

Barber Shop Chronicles is a Cut Above

The Grand Theatre is home to Barber Shop Chronicles’ only Canadian stop on its tour and I cannot express how lucky we are. Simply put, Barber Shop Chronicles is brilliant—and the best production that has appeared on The Grand’s stages in years.

It is as close to perfection as you’re going to see. Running at an hour and 45 minutes without an intermission, it is perfectly paced, exquisitely edited, and compelling throughout. At first glance, the stage setting threatens to overwhelm the production, but very quickly you realize how seamlessly it is integrated and how integral it is to convey the various settings. And the choreography is immaculate, but I’ll …

The Wars

War is Hell; The Wars, However, is Wonderful

With Remembrance Day fast approaching, The Grand Theatre’s production of The Wars offers a gripping representation of a Canadian literary classic that allows us to explore the horrors of battle and how battles aren’t just fought on the front lines.

Many of us who went through the Canadian high school system are familiar with Timothy Findley’s The Wars. Dennis Garnhum’s adaptation takes some liberties with the story – and excludes some pivotal moments – but effectively encapsulates Findley’s story.

For the most part, The Wars is an extremely well-balanced production. It is well-paced, well-acted, and extremely well directed. Garnhum’s recent productions on The Grand’s stage have tended to be …

Don Giovanni

It’s hard not to draw parallels between Don Giovanni and real life on a day when an(other) alleged serial sex offender is named to the United States Supreme Court. Then again, it would have been hard not to draw parallels at any time in the last several years since #MeToo became part of the vernacular, or at any time in the last three-hundred-odd years since the opera was first performed.

To that end, Little London Community Opera has updated the setting to a modern-day legal firm, with Giovanni a sloppy, pill-popping stain of a human …

Prom Queen

Students Show the Pros How It’s Done with a Near-Flawless Prom Queen

Prom Queen: The Musical, presented by The Grand Theatre’s High School Project, is a near-impossible production to review. Due to last year’s controversy, where the local public and Catholic school boards pulled funding, then [the former –ed.] acquiesced to public outcry—outcry accompanied by a significant crowd-funding effort—Prom Queen became more than a production.

It became a movement.

How do you review a movement? And, I’ll be honest, my concern since Prom Queen was announced as a go was how do the students ever live up to the expectations set by a show that became so much more?

Fortunately, talent reigned supreme at …

Within the Glass

As Within the Glass opens, Darah and Michael have a problem. Linda and Scott do too, although one of them doesn’t know it yet. A simple mistake has made all of their lives… interesting, as the (apocryphally Chinese) curse goes.

[Disclaimer: The reviewer was involved with Troubadour Theatre’s first two productions; this is their third.]

Anna Chatterton’s play presents two very opposite yet very similar couples. Darah (Niki Landau) and Michael (Jeff Culbert) are quite well off financially—she’s a project manager at a Digital Extremes/Big Blue Bubble/Tiny Titan-style game developer, he’s a banker—but childless. Linda (Francesca Ranalli) and Scott (Tyler Lionel Parr) are both successful artists with a child of their own, but there’s some …



Youthful Talent, Exuberance Save a Play That is Showing its Age

There’s a lot to like about Dogfight – not the least of which are its two dynamic leads, a well-performed soundtrack complemented by a live stage band, and some clever and subtle interplay between secondary characters. And these positives more than make up for some fundamental challenges with a play that’s showing signs of age, especially thematically.

We’ll get the fraying elephant out of the room. Dogfight is a story that’s more than had its day, especially in a modern environment that embraces sexual and gender equality. Women are objects and possessions in Dogfight. The nature of the titular “game” is based on …

Point of Honour

While Point is Not Razor Sharp, it is Certainly Not Dull

Point of Honour holds itself to lofty ideals, reuniting two long-time fencing rivals to face off again—this time, not on the world’s greatest athletic stage, but rather a living room in a Slovenian apartment—in a struggle over honour, or at least its perception and definition. And while it doesn’t reach the razor-sharp levels of dialogue to which it aspires, it creates a piece of art that is akin to a silver-medal performance—slightly off the mark, but still entertaining to watch.

This production strives to explore the relationship that man has to a world without a defined set of rules. It’s a world where concepts of honour and the structures of religion are fluid and, for …

Penguin Blues

Bad Habits, Superlative Performances

Sometimes an aborted “Stella!!!!” can result in something stellar. That’s the case with Penguin Blues, a production that lets its two-person cast shine in a moving presentation of addiction, denial, hope, and despair—all packed tightly into a 40-minute play.

Phil Cal, who plays Gordon, and Sherine Thomas-Holder, in the role of Sister Angelita, previously worked on a production of A Streetcar Named Desire with Speagle and Rivet. (That production was never mounted.) However, Speagle felt that the quality of the actors and their natural chemistry deserved to see the light of day.

And that’s where this production of Penguin Blues was born.

Cal and Thomas-Holder play off each other extremely well and you can see there’s a genuine affection …

Chariots of Fire

A Gold-Medal Effort on an Olympic-Sized Production that Ends in a Podium Finish

Chariots of Fire is production at an Olympian level. It may be a play about gold medals, but it’s one that feels like it’s reaching for a brass ring. And while it may not be a record-setting performance, it is one that crosses the finish line with its arms upraised in victory.

In many ways, this season at The Grand Theatre feels like it has been building up to this production. This year has been about bigger, bolder, and louder. Each show has seen efforts to increase interactivity and present content in a new way.

And Chariots of Fire brings …

The Glass Menagerie

A Menagerie of Performances Combining to an Ultimately Satisfying Whole

The term menagerie has two meanings. For the purposes of Tennessee Williams’ play, the conventional interpretation of a collection of captive animals is the intent of the term. However, there’s an alternative meaning where menagerie can be used to describe a strange or diverse collection of people or things. And that’s the definition that best sums up the Grand Theatre’s production of The Glass Menagerie—a collection of divergent performances and experiences, which manage to coalesce, thanks to an outstanding second act, into an ultimately satisfying performance.

From two pairings of actors interacting in two vastly different styles, to one actor having two styles of delivery based on his role (with one being …

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Largely Splendid Performance with the Intensity of a Thousand Suns

It’s fitting that a story focusing on the resiliency of women in the face of what is, for us Westerners, unfathomable and inhumane living conditions, is carried by its two female leads. And though some of its other representations don’t measure up to the standard set by Mirian Katrib and Deena Aziz, A Thousand Splendid Suns is an often-intense production that does the topic justice.

The play largely takes place in Kabul, Afghanistan, during a particularly tumultuous time in that country’s history. It opens during the post-Soviet invasion in-fighting by the Mujahideen and continues through the advent of …

Black Water

As the black water filled her lungs…

The events that occurred on July 18, 1969, on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, may no longer be common knowledge to those of a couple of recent generations. Even for those slightly older, the details may be murky—appropriately, perhaps, as many thought them questionable at the time. For some, the fictional story of Kelly Kelleher’s drowning death after a Fourth of July party may bring to mind another celebrity-involved death that’s returned to recent news, Natalie Wood’s death off of Santa Catalina Island in November, 1981. For most, it will generate a faint echo of incidents that have happened to friends, relatives, or in their own lives, particularly in and around the Great Lakes.

The …

Next to Normal

Next to Normal is the fourth production from London’s year-and-a-bit-old Calithumpian Theatre Company. It’s a rock musical that focuses on a person with a mental illness, as well as (per Wikipedia) “address[ing] the issues of grief, suicide, drug abuse, ethics in modern psychiatry and the underbelly of suburban life.”

I qualify the additional aspects because for the most part, while they’re included, they’re hardly addressed. Which is fine—a play should be about what it’s about—but they’re little more than colour.1 The piece is about Diana and her “invisible girl” Natalie, who may or may not be following her distant mother’s inadvertent and unwitting example. (Some parallels to Carrie Fisher’s later life …

Blind Date

By Rebecca Northan
A Spontaneous Theatre Production
Starring Rebecca Northan, Kristian Reimer, and David Benjamin Tomlinson, and a new “co-star” each show
Spriet Stage, The Grand Theatre
February 13–March 3, 2018

Spontaneous Theatre that is Structured to Allow Magic to Happen

I’ll admit it. My experience with improvisational theatre and comedy has not been a good one over the years. Companies doing short scenes that may elicit a chuckle, at best, or seem forced, at worst—that has been my frame of reference. But to watch Rebecca Northan on stage in the Grand Theatre’s current production of Blind Date is to watch a master of the craft who shows you that while improv can be bad, when it’s good—and performed by supremely talented artists—it can be magical.

The overall concept of Blind Date is Northan as Mimi, a French woman from …

What A Young Wife Ought to Know

A Challenging Production that You Ought to See

What a Young Wife Ought to Know is based, in part, on letters sent to 1920s-era British birth control advocate Dr. Marie Stopes. But to call it a play about birth control is almost trivial. In truth, it’s a play about the unimaginable decisions and the resultant soul-crushing burdens that some women had to bear all in the name of persevering—and, in some cases, preventing the expansion of—the family unit.

The play may be set in Ottawa during the Roaring Twenties, but for the characters that roar is not one of prosperity, but rather the cacophony of internal strife and conflict between what a family is expected to be and what the reality of poverty …

Silence: Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell

The Sound of a Good, but Not Great, Story of an Overshadowed Mabel Bell

The sound of Silence, written by Trina Davies, is that of an underrepresented woman from history finally having her story heard. It’s an ambitious story whose reach often exceeds its grasp in terms of use of storytelling elements, pacing, and melodrama, but is ultimately entertains as it informs.

Silence tells the tale of Mabel Gardiner Bell (née Hubbard), who first encounters Alexander Graham Bell as a 17-year-old girl, when her parents bring her to Bell to assist her with her speech patterns. Mabel is deaf thanks to a bout of scarlet fever, and Bell is continuing his father’s work in visible speech pathology.
At its heart, Silence is a love story, examining the …

My Name Is Spaceman

Oh, my stars: My Name Is Spaceman explores the depths of a family in crisis

Most of us have been touched, in one way or another, by cancer.

It’s one of the universe’s cruellest ironies that, despite this fact, the experience of it is a very solitary pain. Intellectually we know we’re not alone, yet we feel as if no one could ever know what we’re going through. Like we’re the only soul in the universe to come face-to-face against such suffering.

That deep, abiding fear is very much like being lost in space—vast nothingness and endless black that makes us feel insignificant.

Playwright and director Erin J. Walker has harnessed that parallel in a most creative way in the new Tinkerspace Theatre production of My Name

A Christmas Carol

A Gifted Retelling of a Holiday Classic

Originally published in 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has become a holiday classic, shared and enjoyed by generations of readers, theatregoers, radio listeners, and movie attendees. It’s a story that is so familiar that the greatest responsibility of one mounting the story is to not screw it up.

With The Grand’s production of the Dickens classic, artistic director Dennis Garnhum, in his inaugural production on the Spriet Stage, not only doesn’t “screw it up,” but he adds enough elements of creativity to make this a fresh interpretation of the story — and one that will be thoroughly enjoyed by a modern audience.

A Christmas Carol is not a story that lends itself to subtlety or explorations …


A few years ago I talked to John Gerry about a play I was planning to produce, and he asked me two pertinent questions: “Why this play, and why now?” In his director’s note for Red, he answers the former with a personal story of a trip to New York City with his artist father, who introduced the then-seven-year-old to Mark Rothko.

Which leaves the question of “Why now?” From a purely pragmatic point of view, it’s obvious: John Logan’s play was only written in 2009, and Calithumpian Theatre has only been around for about a year. (It’s interesting to note that Gerry’s previous company, Fountainhead Theatreworks, produced Yasmina Reza’s Art, which focused on a single colour field painting, just after Red opened—and closed—on Broadway.) It’s also enough time …

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

For their anniversary production, Passionfool artistic directors Eva Blahut and Justin Quesnelle have revisited A Midsummer Night’s Dream, their debut show a decade ago, and rebuilt it in a form that pulls from their ten-year catalogue of unique presentations. It’s not entirely successful, but it’s still more than worthy of the Passionfool banner. [Note: this review is based on Thursday’s preview performance.]

Dream is among the most-produced plays in history; this site currently has a record of at least ten productions since 2007 in London alone, including two in the same month (April 2012)—and that doesn’t include adaptations, modernizations, and spinoffs under different titles. Three years ago the Stratford Festival produced two versions in the same season, a traditional presentation at the Festival Theatre (one of the funniest I’ve seen) and an outré “chamber” adaptation …

The Daisy Theatre

A Marionette Show that Overflows with Heart and Humour

You can get away with saying pretty much when it comes out of the mouth of a puppet. Puppetry is freeing because it allows you to suspend disbelief and animate your stories in a way that separates them from humanity. And that’s where many puppeteers stop.

What sets Ronnie Burkett apart is that, while he fully takes advantage of the freedom that his marionettes provide, he imbues them with a humanity and depth of character that exceeds the range of many flesh-and-blood actors.

The Daisy Theatre is largely a one-man production — with the odd assist from the crowd and his stage manager. But that one man is able to populate an entire variety show with multiple characters, …


How Many Times Should You See Once? Twice — Three Times (is) a Maybe

You’ve heard them. You know them. There are people out there who will say, “I don’t like musicals.” And while that blanket statement may be unfair, it’s also often well earned. Many musicals are like fondue — large chunks slathered in cheese that leave you with the feeling that you’ve had an experience — but one that just doesn’t sit right in the pit of your stomach.

In many ways, Once is a musical for people who don’t like musicals. There’s a …