Thursday, May 10, 2018

LULU V.7 - BUDDIES IN BAD TIMESTHEATRE

LULU V.7 // ASPECTS OF A FEMME FATALE
MAY 1 - 20
photo of Susanna Fournier + ted witzel by Tanja-Tiziana  _ design by Lucinda Wallace

Seeing Sky Gilbert in a Santa suit is seasonally unseasonable treat, peppered with distressing, fragmented narratives of the recent horrors of tragic events in the queer community. Gilbert’s character role appearance is a deftly played exercise in his ability to employ. an offhand, causal style that utilizes gestural nuance and fine timing in order to make the father character both appealing and off-putting.  

Other equally as complex images and issues arise throughout the current production of Lulu V.7 at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre. As a collaborative work that has utilized the talents of many artists, the seriousness of the issues at hand are assembled with great care and an attention to the details of performance and theatre that fragment and dissect iconic narratives - giving them new contemporary perspectives, and moving them into a kind of epic theatre that gestures toward the past and the present. 

Jack the ripper, playwright Frederick Wedekind, santa claus, and an actor in a squid costume (among others) wander through a timeless, non-linear plot line that shows spectators how sex and desire can criss cross in and out of both tragedy and a kind of absurd seriocomic environment. The squid, in particular, is given a standout performance art treatment in an engaging monologue/standup segment by Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah. 

Valerie Buhagiar brings a charismatic presence to her multiplicity of roles adding a layered mystery and elegance to each of her appearances - from the glamorous party goer, the bald almost clown-like figure, and the angel-like emissary atop a ladder draped in white where she addresses the audience with absorbing tones and ideas that add to the many punctuating moments of the overall experience.

A long first act diffuses the difficulty of time spent in the theatre with a frequently split focus the involves an array of provocative sights and sounds - from video projections to a combination of read and memorized text, as well as evocative soundscapes throughout. A much shorter second act brings it all together with both grave and lighthearted connecting issues, utilizing elements of feminist and queer theory as a  near conversational tool that critiques and analyzes all that has come before - in the play, in the world, and in Toronto.

Lulu V.7 is a fine example of queer theatre as it resists dominant narratives and attempts to give spectators a variety of queer readings on how a quartet of timeless human dilemmas - sex, death, love & grief - can be interpreted and interrogated. Truly a spectacle of radically experimental proportions, with fine performances that might have been a bit more smouldering during last Sunday's matinee performance. It is all about sex after all. Perhaps the evening shows bring out some of the sensual layers that are deeply needed in order to make this engaging drama succeed on every level. Nevertheless, ensemble nudity, stylized narrative choices, and a focus that never depended on a single, simple explanation/resolution, made for a powerful and relevant experience given the times were are currently struggling through.

RUNNING AT BUDDIES IN BAD TIME THEATE UNTIL MAY 20

“Lulu bites into, then tears apart, a classic play about sex and death”
— Globe and Mail

BUDDIES IN BAD TIMES + THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT
A young femme fatale fucks her way across Europe and through a series of lovers who all wind up dead, until she meets her end at the hands of Jack the Ripper. This is LULU. Based on German playwright Frank Wedekind’s 1894 play, this blood-soaked adaptation tears apart a classic text to create a viscerally sexy and energetic treatise on art, sex, and death in the 21st century.

LULU was developed in Buddies Residency Program, sponsored by BMO Financial Group.

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“A HIGHLY STYLIZED AND EUROPEAN ESTHETIC… ENHANCED BY HEIGHTENED, SELF-AWARE PERFORMANCES FROM THIS IMPRESSIVE CAST”
-Toronto Star (read article)

“IT’S A PROVOCATIVE, IN THE POSITIVE SENSE, CALL AND RESPONSE WITH AN OLD, DEAD, WHITE GUY THAT SHOWS HOW AN OLD PLAY CAN STILL BE THE BASIS FOR A USEFUL AND ARTFUL NIGHT AT A CONTEMPORARY THEATRE, WHICH ALL THEATRES ULTIMATELY ARE.”
-Globe and Mail (read article)
NNNN
“EPIC, EXPERIMENTAL AND CHALLENGING… (AN) AMBITIOUS TOUR DE FORCE”
-Now Magazine (read article)
“SURREAL SCENOGRAPHY, SUBLIME MOVEMENT CHOREOGRAPHY AND IMAGINATIVE COSTUMING COMBINE TO CREATE A WORLD THAT WAS AS VIBRANT AS IT WAS DARK AND FOREBODING.”

-The Reading Salon (read article)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

ESMERALDA ENRIQUE SPANISH DANCE COMPANY - de la RAZ / from the root


CAFE DE SILVERIO - ACT ONE

The three performance run of Esmeralda Enrique's Spanish Dance Company is a spectacular and lush example of the company's diverse history-based approach to the roots of Spanish dance, and the ways in which it has evolved into an exciting and complex contemporary form.

Divided into two acts, the program begins with a simple setting whereby dancers sit casually among singers and musicians in a cafe setting, and begin to evoke the  mid nineteenth century intimacy of cafes/cantantes where the origins of flamenco began.

This setting became a "catalyst toward the merging of Spanish folk music and the musical ritual of the Spanish gypsy...for the first time, gypsy and non-gypsy appeared together onstage forging a new and powerful art that transcended mere folk music and came to be called flamenco" - opening the form up to a wider audience and forging flamenco into the art form that we know today. (program note)

FROM THE ROOT - ACT TWO

The casual yet complex intimacy of the first act is a wonderful contrast to the sparser setting that the second act  takes place within. "By the mid 1920's the cafes cantantes began closing their doors. And this began a new era in the history of flamenco: flamenco in the theatre of the world." Enrique's tenure at the Fleck Dance Theatre has embraced, over the years, this spectacular art forms movement into world theatre stages  - enriching diversity of form within the dance community in a complex and ever evolving way.


ESMERALDA ENRIQUE

The all female frocked aspect of the company represented EESDC's incredible knack for impeccable ensemble work that also allows the indivudual women to implement specific, divergent qualities within the same choreography. Arms and legs fly and finesse in identical precision and patterns - yet focusing upon a single dancer shows inidivudal creativity and interpretation in incredibly contrasting ways. Juan Ogalla's dancing presence, and his choreography, added to the program his signature, tightly focused virtuosity in solo features, as well as dynamic, almost conversational duets with Enrique herself. 

JUAN OGALLA
At one point the featured ensemble of women entered in tailored trousers and enhanced the gender diversity in a way that might be further explored at some point with designs that give a male dancer the opportunity to master the intricate folds of fabric that the women expertly manoeuvre throughout - creating a spellbinding array of form and fabric.

The use of a single leg to skilfully send a lush gathering of wide, thickly stepped layers of extended hemline is always an amazing aspect of the iconic flamenco gown. Although the structure tends to obstruct the underlying lines of the body, this deceiving obstruction skilfully intimates the unseen workings of that same body as  gorgeous, colourful costumes create points of powerful focus and blindingly blurred & beautiful colour throughout. 
The integration and powerful dynamic of the onstage musicians and singers, as they perform without dancers at particular moments, and then begin skilful interactions, gives a sense of the intimacy of the cafe cantante period - and then moves into a more proscenium based grandeur that creates distance between dancers and musicians, yet never loses the intimacy established early on - intimating a kind of historical accuracy that has never been lost within the interpretation of the Enrique company's devotion to both tradition and evolving contemporary nuance.

A female guitarist placed close to Juan Ogalla during one of his solos, punctuated the overall program with a dynamic and supportively flirtatious interactive moment of pure, traditionally-gendered power turned on its head - and back again - playing itself out in amazing bodily and musically instrumental interplay.

During the opening night encore one of the male singers created an unexpected and delightful rapport with dancer Juan Ogalla, and revealed engaging differences within male flamenco style as his body loosely inhabited movements that Ogalla beautifully articulates in a much tighter, more contracted manner that frequently explodes into paradoxical gestures that are simultaneously tight and fluid as arms jettison outward above a body that keeps a kind of masculine expression within the skilful confines of a hard  hitting lower body precision and conformity. The looser effect employed by the singer/dancer gave a strong lightness to the dance - creating a bridge between the play of masculine and feminine that often surfaces in so many forms of traditional and contemporary dance.

This moment with the male singer, becoming the male dancer, represented, perhaps indirectly, the kind of gender diversity the company frequently flirts with. The earlier example in the program of women in black trousers was a subtle reminder of the ways in which gendered bodies behave onstage and off given the varied forms of clothing/costuming assigned traditionally to their craft.

The ensemble, again, with outstanding precision and tightly conceived abandon, enthralled the audience, throughout,  making way for the cheers and the interactive bits of dialogue and eager enthusiastic camaraderie that always exists between spectators, musicians, singers, and dancers during an EESDC event.

A female guitarist placed close to Juan Ogalla during one of his solos, punctuated the overall program with a dynamic interactive moment of pure traditionally gendered power turned on its head - and back again - playing itself out in amazing bodily and musically instrumental interplay.



online source:
EMERALD ENRIQUE SPANISH DANCE COMPANY is valued for its important pioneering contribution to the development of flamenco in Canada. It peerlessly stands on the pillars of traditional flamenco singing, dance and music while beautifully balancing classicism with a contemporary aesthetic. EESDC has been presenting an annual Toronto Season since 1990 and has developed an ever-expanding repertoire that has earned both critical and popular acclaim. The company is recognized for the exceptional level of its productions, receiving three Dora Mavor Moore Awards in addition to 21 nominations over the years. Esmeralda Enrique and her exemplary company of dancers and musicians enthral audiences with the contagious excitement and full depth of feeling that the passionate art of flamenco delivers. NOW Magazine readers voted EESDC Toronto's Best Dance Company for 2015. http://www.flamencos.net

EESDC's last three Harbourfront Centre shows were the dazzling An Iconic Journey: A Celebration of 35 Years (2017 - Ensemble nominated for a Dora Award for Outstanding Sound Design/Composition, excerpt: https://vimeo.com/261214774), ¬ Épocas (2016 - Dora Award nomination for Outstanding Performance, excerpt: https://vimeo.com/209936971) and Letters to Spain (2015 - Esmeralda Enrique and Juan Ogalla co-nominated for a Dora Award for Outstanding Choreography, Ensemble nominated for Outstanding Performance and two Outstanding Sound Design/Composition nods, excerpt:https://vimeo.com/156910349). And here is an excerpt from 2013's Portales and 2012's Aguas/Waters, both featuring Juan Ogalla: https://vimeo.com/261208559 ,http://flamencos.net/media/media-video.html .

Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company  De La Raíz - From the Root
Friday, May 4 - Sunday, May 6, 2018
Friday & Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm
at Harbourfront Centre's Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West, 3rd Floor, Toronto, ON  Tickets: $32-$48 (Discounts for Seniors, Students, Arts Workers and Groups 10+)
Call the Harbourfront Centre Box Office: 416-973-4000
OR
purchase online at

Thursday, May 3, 2018


40 Days and 40 Nights

💔💗

Even after all this time  The Sun never says to the earth, "You owe me." Look what happens  With a love like that,  It lights the whole sky.
Hafez, (poet - Shiraz, Iran - 1315-1390)

Why does the sun go on shining
why does the sea rush to shore
don't they know it's the end of the world
Cause you don't love me anymore
country pop, recorded by Skeeter Davis (1963) 
written by Sylvia Dee & Arthur Kent

My theatre companion seemed to be running late. I made the mistake of reading a review on my cell phone while I waited. A few minutes before curtain I wandered out of the theatre, eager to leave, perhaps just invite my friend for tea or a cocktail. After reading the review a triple martini seemed to be in order. I rarely trust a review but martinis are never wrong...

It was a warm spring evening. Love might have been in the air. I hadn't noticed. But I have heard that springtime is a suitable season for that sort of thing. I was secretly hoping my friend would be too late and that we would not be let into the theatre. That annoying theatre habit nowadays of not letting people enter during the show. I don't recall this sort of thing happening as much when I was a young theatregoer. Perhaps I've forgotten. But I do seem to remember something from theatre history about ancient Greek audiences being a welcome part of the spectacle as they responded accordingly during an event. But my theatre history knowledge is vague at best - articulate at its worst.

The review I read was not at all positive, except for a brief passage about the eloquence and skill of the two performers as they enacted a scene beside and inside of a makeshift bathing device - a tin tub of sorts. The reviewer was spot on. What they missed - the reviewer - was the idea that this is not really a show that invites critique. It is a meditation, a happening of sorts, and it may not be to everyones taste. Surprisingly enough, I loved it. Due in part to my companion's enthusiasm in the first few minutes when the 'play' took on an unassuming ritualistic effect and the import of the evening began to sink it.

I was ready to hate it after reading the review. But I failed. And failure, in this age of queer failure theory, can be a means of celebration.* And this is precisely what Kim Collier and Daniel Brooks appeared to be doing in 40 Days and 40 Nights - celebrating, enacting, inviting, inquiring, and interacting with the idea of love as it invades our hearts and souls from time to time over the course of a single lifetime.

* https://www.shmoop.com/queer-theory/judith-jack-halberstam-quotes.html

To raise the spectre of queer failure theory again, I'm an old queer, and happily embrace my devout love of a form of constructive bitterness, when it comes to love - and theatre. The questions that Kim Collier and Daniel Brooks posed, for the audience to consider, and respond to with tiny lights or single chalk drawn words on the dark floor, were answered in a variety of ways - from ambivalent to enthusiastic to maudlin and resigned. I invariably chose the latter. 

None of the questions seemed leading in any manipulative way. In fact, I for one felt comfortable in the quiet solicitude of a brand of interactive theatre that never felt intrusive or annoying - to me. My maudlin resigned feelings on love were my own, never critiqued, just left alone to be reinstated in my heart and mind. It was a reverse catharsis. I did not rid myself of it. I was able to love it - to embrace, to hug the life out of and into it - as this meditation confirmed my lifelong hesitation and contentment with the choices I've made and the ones that have been made for me. 40 Days and 40 Nights aided me, myself, and I in this endeavour for 90 serene minutes of contemplation and enactment.

Brooks and Collier have had careers that range from the epically traditional (Collier; Angels In America, National Arts Centre, director) to the esoteric (Brooks; The Noam Chomsky Lectures, co-author with Guillermo Verdecchia). Their range has consisted of an impressive array of both form and thematic risk. 40 Days and 40 Nights expands this aesthetic latitude and delivers an intimate, at times delightfully indulgent kind of theatre gathering that opens itself up to particular forms of critique. And it's not that this critique is entirely unwarranted. You just have to be on the mood for it - like love...

Inspired in part by the poetry of  Hafez (a Persian writer of the 1300's) and the ideas of French philosopher Alain Badiou, this is ninety minutes of pure self-interrogation in the area of love and living within the framework of cultural assumptions that project romantic discourse upon an unruly emotion. Now there's a mouthful. 

This in fact could be the only critique I have to offer. Although the piece offers intimacy, communal interaction, and solitude all at once, it never really makes an effort to rigorously critique or investigate the potential social constructions that  love and romance entail when they come head to head - when they collide. There is the odd nod to communism (etc) which pricked up my ears due to my first chalk drawn response when the question was posed - what do you think of when you think of love? I drew a dollar sign on the floor. 

But at times it all seems a touch too lovey dovey, without enough cultural critique, with the exception of that beautiful bathtub scene that wins over even the harshest of critics. Just call me a  gender queer cock-drawn (aka known as cockeyed) pessimist, but I need a bit more healthy negativity to get me through the night. And yet, thanks to the optimism of my theatre companion that warm spring evening, I was able to buy into what appeared to be a genuine - if not a just a tad insular - meditation that Collier and Brooks invited spectators to take part in, to embrace, to love - or not... That's the question...
.

40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS RUNS AT THE THEATRE CENTRE UNTIL MAY 6TH

For Immediate Release:
April 27
, 2018 • Please add to your listings/announcements
40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS
Co
-
produced by Necessary Angel Theatre Company,
Electric Company Theatre and
The Theatre Centre
Created and Performed by
Daniel Brooks and Kim Collier
April 25
May 6, 2018 @ The Theatre Centre
Necessary Angel Theatre Company, Electric Company Theatre, and The Theatre Centre are very
pleased to be co
-
producing
40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS
, a new work created and performed by
Daniel Brooks
and
Kim Collier
with consulting director
Jennifer Tarver
for Necessary Angel.
40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS
was initially developed through The Theatre Centre's
Tracy Wright
Global Archive
, and further workshopped by
Necessary Angel Theatre Company
and
Electric
Company Theatre.
Created to honour the inimitable theatre artist Tracy Wright, The Theatre
Centre’s
Tracy Wright Global Archive
challenges artists to explore a burning question and
contemplate a new direction in their work by engaging deeply w
ith communities and locations across
the globe.
40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS
is being co
-
produced in part to mark the 40
th
anniversary season of the
innovative and experimental theatre company Necessary Angel.
Armed with
the magical poetry of Persian poet Hafe
z, the musings of French philosopher Alain
Badiou, and impossible questions, two lovers on a spiritual quest challenge themselves
to live for 40
days and 40 nights making all choices based in Love. Mysterious, symbolic, and intimate, the couple
is transfor
med through ceremony, tenderness, wisdom, and the sheer force of love itself.
A sensorial, ritualistic, celebration for the performers and the audience,
40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS
is
an investigation of the nature of love;
how to contemplate love, how to talk
about love, and how to be
open to the possibility of love.
A show
-
in
-
motion,
each performance of
40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS
invites the audience into the
conversation, offering them agency in the story, and embedding them in the feeling of love.
“What do you
think about when you think about Love?”
40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS
Co
-
produced by Necessary Angel Theatre Company,
Electric Company Theatre and
The Theatre Centre
Created and Performed by:
Daniel Brooks
and
Kim Collier
Consulting Director and Dramaturg:
Jennifer Tarver
Composition and Sound Design:
Andrew Creeggan
Additional Composition and Sound:
Debashis Sinha
Scenographer:
Ken Mackenzie
Assistant Set & Costume Designer:
Lindsay Dagger Junkin
Associate Lighting Designer:
Jennifer Lennon
a nationally recognized live arts incubator that s
erves as a research and
development hub for the cultural sector. We are a public space, open and accessible to the people of our
community, where citizens can imagine, debate, celebrate, protest, unite and be responsible for inventing
the future. The Theat
re Centre’s mission is to nurture artists, invest in ideas and champion new work and
new ways of working. The company fosters a culture of innovation by embracing risk and questioning
traditional notions of failure and success.
The Tracy Wright Global Archive
is a project that inspires artists
to explore a burning question and contemplate a new direction in their work by engaging deeply with
communities and locations across the globe, seeking answers to their
questions and inspiring new
directions in their practice.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Prairie Nurse- Factory Theatre










Prairie Nurse is classic Canadiana immigrant awareness dramaturgy, replete with cringeworthy jokes addressing one man's difficulty with identifying colours and Filipina women in a single stroke, revealing glimpses of a kind of comedy that lays bare the workings of racial and ethnic identity as it clashes romantically with a tall white lab technician more interested romance, hockey, and Beatles songs than taking care of his patients.
Under the direction of Sue Miner, there are fine moments of physical and scripted comedy throughout that frequently fall into such broad comic strokes that it can become a little awkward. Like the old joke about minimalism, it's fine if it's not overdone - broad comedy is great, but there are times when it needs to be  a touch understated. These moments mostly occur when the script allows for too much silliness in the place of the issues at hand. Coming in at well over two hours, with one intermission, the play could use some tightening up script-wise, eliminating some of the first act physicality that does not always work.

Janelle Hanna's endearing candy striper (Patsy) has a fine control over much of the physical and emotional comedy at hand, and yet has too many moments of jittery wandering that loses some of its comic appeal through the sheer repetition of somewhat bewildering manic motion.  Catherine Fitch, as the head nurse, is superb, and never lapses into any form of excess as she moves her character, form start to finish, through a finely tuned stock role as the almost Carol Burnett like frantic and frustrated matriarch in charge of a stable of hapless creatures.
Layne Coleman stands out in a supporting role as a kindly caretaker of the women he finds being shuffled through mistaken identity plot lines, and handles the somewhat over the top gun-toting moments with great simplicity and finesse. Mark Crawford as Dr. Miles MacGregor has a powerful presence onstage due to his intense stature, and finds wonderful moments of comedy here and there, yet has difficulty with some of the more awkward dialogic moments that give his character the wrong kind of haplessness and render him a somewhat gangly, lost character in search of a play he seems to have strayed from.

Matt Shaw's Wilf, the lovelorn technician, has similar problems, and yet shares the fine comic moments that MacGregor discovers though his own impressive height as he skillfully moves around the stage in a sweet engaging manner, and delivers his romantic and hockey affiliations with a great comic enthusiasm that gives his character warmth and a kind of gleeful appeal.
The mistaken identity plot line gives the ensemble plenty of opportunity to utilize their skill for effective grimace and commentary that causes uproarious laughter throughout. The actual device, however, inspired by actual events in the playwright's life, seems a little implausible as time passes. If the play were 30 minutes shorter one might find it easier to accept the comic strategy. The racialized element that causes the confusion, however, and the two women playing the immigrant nurses (who do not look alike) create awkwardness and implausibility that could use some subtle re-writing in order to make the script operate with slightly less bewildering moments. Not to suggest that this kinds of identity confusion does not occur, and the playwright successfully utilizes resistant narrative device to show that the two immigrant nurses can also play into the kind of "they all look alike" trope when they regard specific 'Canadian' physicality and speech patterns. But some fine tuning could illustrate  this in a more layered way. Marie Beath Badian has a fine sense of detailed comic device that could be honed further in order to add a bit more substance to the drama and the comedy at hand.

Belinda Corpuz as Purificacion "Puring" Saberon and Isabel Kanaan as Indepencia "Penny" Uy provide a wonderful form of class clash as they appear, from beginning to end, to represent two women from very different social backgrounds - one socially and emotionally primed for success and romance in an urban environment, and one hell bent upon honouring and remaining loyal to the small town Saskatchewan hospital she has been assigned to. Penny's physicality begins as a slightly awkward pose and gradually becomes a less frozen and more strategically measured gait, while Puring's casual and endearing gratitude, and her more comfortable manner of walking to and fro in big rubber reinforced winter boots give her a less domineering quality.

Anna Treusch (costumes) and Jung-Hye Kim (set design) give the stage environment  a crisp, nostalgic, sitcom-like atmosphere that could work well within a television framework that developed the plot further and began to investigate comically the many issues involved. All in all, the evening is vastly entertaining and at times thought provoking as comedy meets a form of Canadian immigrant experience that has marked our national narrative for a very long time.

PRAIRIE NURSE RUNS AT FACTORY THEATRE UNTIL MAY 13TH