Although it does charm, "charming" isn't the proper adjective to describe Nightwood Theatre's revamp of their 2011 hit THE PENELOPIAD. 'Charming' is much too cutesy of a word to describe the theatrical wallop that the show delivers. It's funny (Megan Follows delivers a great Atwood one-liner), it's harrowing, it's intelligent, it's thought provoking and it's beautiful. It is theatre that wraps you in its spell without you realizing it and before you know it intermission is upon you and then, to your chagrin, it's over.
It's no secret that any play that showcases the talents of women would be held high in my esteem, and Nightwood, as the only feminist theatre company in the city, admittedly holds a special place in my heart - not only because it's run by hardworking and talented women, but also because they take risks and produce solid work. But despite my feminist bias, THE PENELOPIAD is a great piece of theatre and should be recognized as such without the mention of the all female cast and crew. It is tightly directed, uniformly phenomenally acted, has effective and unique special effects and an excellent story that is well told. Special shout-out again to Monica Dotter's Dora-nominated choreography which enhances every aspect of the narrative.
I'm gushing. I know. But when I see a fabulous piece of theatre, I get a rush of exhileration in my chest that carries up to my throat - it's totally nerdy, and I love it. I got that feeling more than once each time I"ve seen this show and it makes me very excited.
I'm telling everyone I met to see this show and that includes you.
It really shouldn't be missed.
THE PENELOPIAD is on at Buddies and Bad Times (12 Alexander St.) until February 10. For tickets, call 416-975-8555 or click here.
Without realizing it, I had already decided that a lot of the theatre I was seeing was predictable. This doesn't mean that I was disapointed in what I was watching, just that I was conditioned to expect the expected. I had subconsiously created a status-quo that I didn't know was there and I was, admittedly, happy with.
But back the truck up. Mirvish's THE BLUE DRAGON and Nightwood Theatre's THE PENELOPIAD shook things up this week with their dynamo, non-predictable productions, and provided innovative, exciting works not commonly seen in the Toronto landscape.
THE PENELOPIAD by Margaret Atwood is a response to Homer's The Odyssey and tells the story of Penelope (Megan Follows) through the 20 year absence of her husband Odysses who is fighting the Trojan War. Left to raise their son and fend off hundrends of suitors, Penelope enlists the help of 12 maids in a scheme to protect her. Upon his return, Odysses ruthlessly hangs the maids and Penelope is an acessory to murder.
If this synopsis of a reimagined, ancient Greek tale with a feminist twist, doesn't peak your curiousity, I get it. But take that story and tell it with the hilariously dry wit of Margaret Atwood, add in a slew of REALLY fantastic female actors, led by the incomporable Megan Follows, include some inspired choreography by the talented Monica Dottor, and some off-the-hook directing by Nightwood's Artistic Director, Kelly Thornton, and you've got yourself a visual spectacle that even Aristotle would be proud of. The show redefined both creativity and what a theatrical production is capable of.
No, that is not an exaggeration.
The multi-faceted set, costumes, props and actors were maniuplated in so many ways that it was hard to envision what else they could do , yet it was never a surprise when they were reimagined again and again.
Part of my enjoyment of the show was that I was constantly surprised by it's ingenuity so I don't want to give much away. Just go. The likes of this won't be seen again with such a perfect storm of talent.
Nightwood has, yet again, commanded attention to the female voice through theatre in a bold, beautiful, loud and distinctly female way. And I love it.
Mirvish also opened THE BLUE DRAGON this week. The sequel to Robert LePage's THE DRAGONS' TRILOGY, originally written in the 80's. This play takes place 50 years after the original play, with the protagonist, Pierre, living in Shanghai, having a mid-life crisis and dating a new, trendy visual artist half his age. When his old friend Claire comes to visit en route to adopt a baby, their interactions and confrontations open unexpected doors to the future for all of them.
Again, if this story doesn't get you excited, it's to be expected. It didn't do much for me either.
But in typical Lepage fashion, he took this plot and created a visual extravaganza on stage akin only to other Lepage shows.
I always feel like Robert Lepage knows what a stage is capable of better than anyone else. I feel like he's got secrets about what can be done that others don't, and he pulls out his bag of tricks in ways that seem so natural that I can't believe no one had ever done it before. But no one has.
His use of projections, his all-encompassing set-designs and his use of props are so seamlessly woven into the drama of the story, it's hard to imagine the play without them and it's impossible to imagine the play done any other way. And who would want to; it's all so perfect already that anything less would be tantamount to sacrilege.
It may seem like I'm laying it on a bit thick., but I"m not. Even those who have dismissed theatre as irrelevent still get excited about a show by Robert Lepage, and THE BLUE DRAGON is a perfect example as to why. It proves, once again, that there's nothing quite like a Lepage anywhere else.
Do yourself a favour; spend the money and see these 2 shows. If you don't see anything else in 2012
I can almost excuse that. These are a great start to the year and excellent additions to your theatrical repertoire of memories. You will not see shows like this again for a very, very long time. Maybe ever.
THE PENELOPIAD is now on stage at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander St.), until Jan. 29. For tix, call 416-975-8555 or click here.
THE BLUE DRAGON is now on stage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King St. W.), until Feb. 9
For tix, call 416-872-1212 or click here.