By Melissa Farmer
So let’s get a few things straight. This will be a very personal and biased response to Spent. There will be no money puns, none at all, to be found in the next150 words. If I don’t know you, if you know nothing about “that Lehman guy”, if you hate everything all the time, I still think you should go and see this show. Here’s why:
Spent is relatable and smart. Set within the framework of a BBC news broadcast, we meet not only a pair of Bay street traders who have lost their jobs, but also the media who are reporting on the catalytic economic collapse. As the two downtrodden buffoons leap from a building in an effort to make it all go away, we are right there with them (and, we have been here before) pre-fall, mid-plummet, post-collapse. We giggle at a twitching Richard Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers who has managed to keep his pockets full; we giddily abhor the greedy devils and their maniacal gluttonous Hell and we recognize that guy we’ve all seen on the news who just wants to know how he’s going to afford his next burger. In its swift seventy minutes, we meet a bunch of absurd characters (all skilfully played by Ravi Jain and Adam Paolozza) who offer different ways in to the bigger question: to a collective who can put a price on everything, how much is an individual worth? It’s inventive, energetic, clever, fun theatre.
My cheeks hurt from smiling for seventy minutes straight. From Jain’s entrance with a “Hire Me” sign and a shaky, hopeful smile, I was sold. As Bay street traders, these two out-of-luck sad sacks are just trying to make tomorrow better than today. As the sundry other characters they play, Ravi and Adam emerge as masters of their craft. Their rapid-fire precision is incredible. On this stage, they are having fun and they are working really really hard. They are sweaty and spitty and you will still want to shake their hand, pat them on the back and give them a spitty, sweaty hug. It’s such a gift to be able to watch someone do something that he’s really really good at doing. It’s something I want to do more often.
Go see Spent. It has a short run, so hurry. Theatre like this is a rare commodity.
SPENT is on now until at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane). For tickets call:
416-866-8666 or click here.
Photo Credit: Josie Di Luzio,
As you enter into the auditorium of the Royal Alexandra Theatre and make your way up to the stage to take your seat for TERMINUS, the feeling of anticipation rises; you know you're in for something special.
Maybe it's bypassing the regular theatre seating and climbing to the usually verboten stage, or the S&M-esque set that creates a feeling of velocity even while completely still, or maybe its Maev Beaty who is on stage as we enter and continues to be in character as we wait, and who is literally the only actor I've seen not make this theatrical convention awkward (actor in character on stage while the audience enters = awkward for everyone involved). Or maybe it was the host of killer reviews I read before I saw the show - but, let me tell you - I was more excited for this show than I had been for any show in a looooooooong time.
And then it starts. Prose recited with the melodic lilt unique to the Irish, telling stories about good people doing bad things, that grab your attention and doesn't let it go for one tiny moment, but keeps it honed in on movements that are confined to a closet-size space, but still create the illusion of action-packed drama and atmosphere. An atmosphere that sometimes gets so intense and graphic, I had to physically look away. And, wait, it gets better because. It. Rhymes.
The cleverness of the script, the intelligence of the story, the mastery of the characters, all enhanced through verse that is not only music to the ears but invokes the frequent thoughts "He rhymed another 4 syllable word?!" and "Holy shit this is good." But these thoughts are only fleeting because it's so much more important to be in the moment experiencing the total thrill of exciting, gritty, nail-you-to-your-seat theatre and you don't want to miss a thing.
TERMINUS is on now until Dec. 16 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King St. W.) Only 200 seats per show and rush tickets are available. For tickets call: 416-872-1212 or click here.
Don't miss it.
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.
Paul Gross & Kim Cattrell in Private Lives. Photo credit by Cylla von Tiedemann
When I go to the theatre I always have a few barometers to know if I"m really enjoying the show, most usually involve some kind of consistant conversation in my head about aspects of the show., the set, the acting, the direction, etc.
But with PRIVATE LIVES, I didn't think about anything. When intermission came, I couldn't recall one thought I had had during the first half of the show. Surprised I quickly analyzed why and realized it was because I was completely engaged with the action on stage.
Totally. Completely. EnPaulgrossed.
I was so present with the action unfolding on stage and with Noel Coward's excellent quips (Ex. "It doesn't suit a woman to be promiscuous!" "No, it doesn't suit men for women to be promiscuous!"), that I scarcely thought about a thing.
The old woman living inside of me loves a good farce; they're hysterical and they always make me remember why I love the theatre (farces on film never work out, "Clue" being maybe the only exception). Across the board, the acting was fantastic - the right amount of seriousness and absurdity, the sets were gorgeous, creative and functional, the costumes made me want to immediately check out vintage shops in my neighbourhood, and the direction was spot-on. What more could you want?
Oft quoted Noel Coward, once said "Work is much more fun than fun". In this instance, I have to disagree. I sat in the audience, did absolutely zero work, including thinking any thoughts, and had one of the most fun nights at the theata' I've had in ages. Thank you PRIVATE LIVES for reminding me that live theatre is fun, accessible and gorgeous.
PRIVATE LIVES is playing now until October 30 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre ( 260 King St. W.) For tickets, visit www.mirvish.com/ticketking/shows/privatelives