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.
Melissa-Jane Shaw, Jonathon Young Photo credit: Karim Romero
If Pat Benatar lost the synthesizer and got approximately 7000x more gritty, STOCKHOLM is a play she would have written in her hey-day.
Fortunately for us Bryony Lavery is that gritty. She's also astute, creative, dark and not afraid to go balls-to-the-wall.
Lavery's play STOCKHOLM got its North American premiere last night in a co-pro between Seventh Stage Theatre Productions and Nightwood Theatre, and it sure packed a wallop.
Set in the interior design-perfected home of the stylish and trendy couple, Todd (Jonathon Young) and Kali (Melissa-Jane Shaw), STOCKHOLM provides a glimpse into the intensity of love and vulnerability, and all of the baggage that goes along with it.
And then some.
Here's how it goes:
Todd loves Kali and Kali loves Todd. They live together, laugh together, have loads of hot sex together and take vacations together (like their upcoming one to Stockholm). All is well.
All SEEMS well until Kali's jealousy of any affection Todd has for a female (this includes his own Mother) rears it's ugly head, and when her attempts to control his behaviour (calling his seemingly pleasant Mom the c-word, scouring his phone for illicit texts and phone calls, not letting him leave the house), aren't enough to reassure her of his devotion, she flies into a rage and tries to beat the living sh*t out of him. Todd, in his efforts to protect himself, and finally in his own anger, becomes physically violent himself, and even though he's "too intelligent" to behave like this, he returns to the battlefield after Kali's heartfelt apology reels him back in. He can't stop himself even though he knows better.
The story is told through intense physical movement and dance, and both Young and Shaw do a stand-up job in maintaining difficult emotions through rigorous dance that ultimately ends in the delivery of dialogue. They never seemed winded, they were always in control, and, both actors delivered great performances where I utterly believed them, thus loving and hating their characters simultaneously.
Kudos to Fight Director, Casey Hudecki and Choreographer, Susie Burpee for creating effective physical sequences that the actors could master, and obviously Director Kelly Straughan lives up to her reputation with this slick show.
The set-design (by Lindsay C. Walker) is fab - it's pretty to look at and allows for an otherwise ordinary kitchen to be transformed from a cooking venue, to a love den, to war's ground zero.
Since this blog is about informing the public of theatre and encouraging them to go, I highly enoucourage to you to see STOCKHOLM. It's exciting and is ideal for both theatre junkies and theatre newbies - the production is tight and it will give you heaps to chat about afterwards. But most importantly, its a play that uses the convetions of theatre to tell the story. The smaller confines of the Tarragon Extra Space enhance the building tension, and the choreography is so tightly woven with the text, that its impossible to imagine one without the other. A clever idea when discussing relationship's co-dependence.
I leave you with words that could be from either Todd or Kali, but they're instead from the wise and semi-gritty Ms. Benatar:
"I'm trapped by your love, and I'm chained to your side...Love is a battlefield." - Pat Benatar
STOCKHOLM is on now 'til June 3 at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman Ave).
For tix, call: 416-531-1827 or click here.
This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
Pamela Barker, co-founder of Production Company Accidental Crossroads, and director of their Fringe hit Grounded in Fantasy, talks about how the Fringe really is one big family, why it's unique, and how depression can be funny.
Q: Tell me about the show. How did you get involved? What's special about it?
A: Grounded in Fantasy is a sexy, brand new, one-act ensemble piece. A woman, debilitated by depression, finds herself interacting with fantasy characters from her mind. Confused by this strange and new situation, she battles with these aspects of herself in an effort to find out why she can’t quite overcome her mental illness. Does she need a good job, a good man, or a good f–k.
I wanted to be in the Toronto Fringe for years, and decided back in September that this was finally my year to be a part of this amazing artistic community. I approached Leonardo in early November and he decided to come on board as producer, even though his background was in film and TV. After a couple of months, we realized we needed to do more with our partnership and we started our production company, Accidental Crossroads.
The play is special for so many reasons. For starters, it's a comedy about depression. Everyone can relate to this because in some form or another (directly or indirectly) we have all seen what depression can do to loved ones. P.J. Elwood wrote short stories almost two years ago and then created a narrative around those stories as a response for our need for a play. The stories were then given to local musician Ryan Watson, with the instructions to write music he felt worked with Elwoods' words. Watson didn't have much more direction than that. And now, we have a talented cast performing a funny, yet poignant script, to beautiful, live music. What's more to say? Come to the show and see for yourself.
Q: Why this show for the Fringe? How is it suited for a Fringe festival environment?
A: Grounded in Fantasy keeps things simple. It's not about an elaborate set (we didn't have much of a budget) and it's not about flashy costumes. The play is about the story. To me, that is what Fringe plays should be - there's no time between shows to use elaborate and detailed set pieces. Grounded in Fantasy is bare bones theatre, that cuts to the subject matter. This play will make you smile. This play will make you think. This play allows you, the audience, to create a fantasy world of your own.
Q: What is special/unique about having a show in the Toronto Fringe?
A: Toronto Fringe helps over 150 companies through the daunting challenges of producing a play. For Leonardo and myself, Grounded in Fantasy is our first theatre production. We are learning and growing throughout this process, and we've had Fringe staff support us along the way. Whether we had a small question about technical aspects (such as "what is a gobo" - we learned this at one of the several workshops with Jason Golinsky - or bigger questions about the structure of the festival. Kathryn Westoll has been ever patient with our persistence in knowing everything and anything).
Basically, being a part of Fringe is like being an instant member of a creative family. The support, the encouragement, and the guidance, have been invaluable. Also, Toronto is such a beautiful and vibrant, artistic city. To be involved in something so integral to summer time in Toronto is absolutely an honour.
Q: Why do you continue to do live theatre? What's important about it?
A: Live theatre means every show is unique because the audience has the power to affect the feeling of the performance. Our actors sense the energy of the space and those who fill it and they respond on stage as the show is happening. There is no replay button for live theatre - even if you record it; the truth of the moment lives only within the life of the play and the recollection of those moments afterward.
Live theatre is important because it empowers and stimulates the imagination of each audience member. Theatre is not dead; people crave live entertainment and it is an essential ingredient to the way we connect as humans. The relationships on-stage have a tangible quality that allow for a strong and personal connection of performer to audience that can not be attained in a recorded medium.
Q: If you could offer words of advice/encouragement to a newbie audience member to the Fringe scene, what would it be?
A: For those who want to watch several fringe shows, our advice is simple:
- Get a Fringe program and try to read the synopsis of each play. If something intrigues you, circle it. - Involve your friends and make Fringe Days reasonably packed with a schedule and game plan. - - - Look at the master schedule and give different venues a chance. There are a lot of wonderful productions at some end-stages in the city. Though smaller, you'll get a more intimate experience.
- Go to the Fringe Tent behind Honest Ed's and meet performers from various shows. Be social with us. We would love to learn about what you are looking for and besides that -there's an abundance of fun stuff going on there. Also, go to see Grounded in Fantasy at the Tarragon Main Space. We'll make your Fringe Fantasies come true! www.accidentalcrossroads.com
Grounded in Fantasy is now playing at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman St.),
Sat. July 9 @3:30pm, Sun, July 10 @8:15pm, Mon, July 11 @6:15pm, Tues, July 12 @8:45pm, Fri, July 15 @11pm, Sat, July 16 @2:15pm
Connect with them directly on Twitter (Handle: GRDedinFantasy), Facebook and url (see answer to the last question!)
See you at the show!