Fab Lab Cab

We threw ourselves into the deep end of Lab Cab last weekend (September 3 and 4).There wasn't much choice, since.


We threw ourselves into the deep end of Lab Cab last weekend (September 3 and 4).

There wasn’t much choice, since the sixth edition of the annual arts festival – music, dance, theatre, poetry, comedy, film, art, stories and more – offered 50 things to see and do in a six-hour period. Some presentations were as short as three minutes, while the longest, Allison Cummings’s Burden, ran 75 minutes and allowed viewers to come and go.

Sometimes we sampled, sometimes we grazed, sometimes we had the whole meal.

Highlights included visual arts presentations that showed different sides of artists we know. Actor Allegra Fulton presented her photography, including some powerful flower images as well as views of everyday America. Her talented son Rhys Fulton-Doyle, 11, has already jumped into the arts as actor, director and writer. For Lab Cab, he exhibited The Beebles, a series of computer-generated pictures of round-headed stick figures, one of which had a red-for-sold dot on it early in the day.

Eric Goulem, another actor, builds models in his spare time. He offered a few of his interpretive images based on the TV show Six Feet Under, depicting the deaths at the start of several episodes. Goulem’s dubbed his collection of miniatures Six Inches Under our favourite was from the series’ first episode, a model of the father’s hearse being totalled by a city bus.

As in previous years, artistic director Aviva Armour-Ostroff and artistic producer André du Toit used over a dozen locations at Factory Theatre, both inside and outside the building. Jeanie Calleja did five-minutes of stand-up in a woman’s washroom for an audience of eight the set we caught dealt with a few unusual sexual acts she imagined as a mother. She freely admitted it was bathroom humour.

Writer Gordon Bolan, director Jenny Young and solo actor Greg Ellwand took over the office of Ken Gass, Factory artistic director, to stage The Stover Recordings, in which an aging, forgetful politician relives episodes in his life as he organizes his memoirs.

The carpentry shop was home to Dan Daley’s House Of Bread, a political script about the importance of taking a stand in one’s community. The cast was strong, and director Lisa Li made creative use of the cramped space.

Up in the rehearsal hall, playwright/performer Diana Bentley joined Brooke Morgan in Deuce, an entertainingly bitchy two-hander volley, directed by Rae Ellen Bodie and set at a tennis tournament in which a pair of women contestants discover each other’s idiosyncrasies and the things they have in common.

In another pairing, Morro and Jasp (Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee), one of the best clown duos around, offered Go Bake Yourself, a cooking show with audience participation directed by Byron Laviolette flying eggs were only one of the on-set dangers. Casting Moro as sous chef, Jasp declared herself head honcho and began cooking a strange soufflé, one sure – she promised – to make a guy fall in love on first bite. Maybe, but we don’t think cayenne, pickle juice and marshmallows are part of any edible recipe.

Shadowland Theatre offered a pared-down version of its August show on the Toronto Islands, Hansel & Gretel. Here, in a 15-minute slot, we saw The Fast Food Version, appropriately named since at the centre of this actor-and-puppet show the traditional gingerbread house becomes a takeout snack bar packed with trans-fat treats.

Even the long staircase to the main theatre became a performing area. Singer Aviva Chernick used it in part for its acoustics, while Sara Farb placed her character Rebecca there, making the staircase into a school’s time-out steps for the developmentally challenged young woman.

Bound to Create Theatre’s Phaedra’s Lust made more erotic use of the steps under Jack Grinhaus’s direction. Drawing on several sources (Seneca, Racine and Sarah Kane) to retell the classical Greek story of forbidden love, the excerpt featured Lauren Brotman as Phaedra and a trio of men (Kaleb Alexander, Andrew Loder and Jamie Maczko) as variations on Hippolytus, the stepson she desires. The action moved up and down the staircase, and it was exciting to have all that passion, in both text and movement form, spilling over the central railing to the audience sitting opposite.

The surprise discovery for us was Rong Fu’s poetic Hummingbird Courts Turtle, a well-crafted and -performed piece with the feel of a classical fable. We first saw the playwright’s work at the Paprika Festival several years ago she’s now finishing up a degree in performance at York.

Under director Jenna Rodgers, Jasmine Chen as the tiny bird and Adriano Sobretodo Jr. as the meditative turtle offered nicely contrasted energy: she constantly flittering here and there physically and vocally, he lumbering along and speaking with deliberation. The show, narrated by the writer, is a love story with a tragic and potent ending, its words and physicality of equal importance.

Hope to see more from Rong Fu soon.

Dual debuts

Two young theatre companies open productions this week, jumping in at the start of the theatre season.

WORKhouse Theatre presented a Fringe show a few years ago, but the troupe’s first mainstage production is Ferdinand Bruckner’s Pains Of Youth, adapted by Martin Crimp. Set in 1923 Vienna, the play deals with a disaffected postwar generation who see their malaise as “youth” and try their damndest to eradicate it.

The characters, med students living together in a boarding house, are intertwined sexually, emotionally and intellectually, with some pretty drastic results. Richie Wilcox directs.

In the past few years, Toronto audiences have seen several of British playwright Crimp’s sharp-edged scripts, including The City, Attempts On Her Life and a version of The Misanthrope. Buddies performs his adaptation of The Maids later this month, and Canadian Stage offers Cruel And Tender in January.

See listings.

Glasswater Theatre, in association with the UC Drama Program at the U of T’s Alumni Performance Project, premieres with The Queens, Normand Chaurette’s play that looks at England in the time of Richard III. Its six characters, all women and most recognizable from Shakespeare’s version of the history, manipulate and finagle for power. Mairin Smit directs.

The production opens tonight (Thursday, September 8). See listings.

stage@nowtoronto.com

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