Beginning in a café and ending at an airport, Sasha Singer-Wilson's This Is It tracks the main beats in the lives of Eve (Sarah Jurgens) and Kostas (Aris Athanasopoulos), a young couple whose initial mutual attraction soon turns problematic.
Presented by the blood projects, the play is the second by Singer-Wilson, whose hit show little tongues was a NOW pick in the 2012 Fringe. Again she explores the highs and lows of close relationships, though this second play is more a series of thumbnail sketches than a full picture.
Eve works in the café, and Kostas, a genetics grad student, shyly asks her out on a date. The next time we see them, some weeks have passed and they've gotten close. The rest of the brief scenes, played out over an expanse of time, give glimpses of their relationship, their secrets, their jealousies and desires. The push-pull between them is constant.
Under Mark Wilson's direction, Athanasopoulos and Jurgens have believable chemistry from the start. Kostas talks a lot, and Eve is less inclined to put her feelings into words, and when she does it usually involves "fuck." But not all the episodes depend on words; several make their point physically and take place in bed.
The hour-long play could further flesh out the pair's backgrounds. Singer-Wilson mostly nails the state of their relationship at any one moment, but a richer overall arc would help.
Crossword puzzles are one of the playwright's motifs, a subtle way of tying the action together. In terms of character, though, it would be useful if she'd filled in more of the puzzle before the final curtain.
Next Stage soars
The Next Stage Festival, the winter offering by the Toronto Fringe, closed on Sunday, January 19, and posted a box office of $90,000 - the biggest ever.
Just over two-thirds of that amount goes directly to the artists involved. Equally importantly, Fringe artists at this juried festival took their work to the next level, either by fine-turning previously presented productions and introducing them to a new audience or by working on new scripts.
The 10 shows at the fest, which included A Misfortune, Rifles, Scheherazade and Jack Your Body, clearly did great business. On the last day, five of the productions were sellouts.
Can't wait for the 26th annual Fringe, which begins in July.
Opera seasons set
Toronto's two largest opera troupes have announced their productions for the 2014-15 season.
The Canadian Opera Company stages three new productions next year, beginning in September with Verdi's last opera, Falstaff, directed by Robert Carsen and starring Gerard Finley. It's followed by a perennial favourite, Brian Macdonald's version of Puccini's Madama Butterfly.
The winter shows include a remount of director Atom Egoyan's Die Walküre, the second work in Wagner's Ring Cycle, and Don Giovanni, featuring Russell Braun. In the spring, look for The Barber Of Seville and a revival of Robert Lepage's staging of Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle and Schoenberg's Erwartung.
Opera Atelier's season includes two works new for the company. The first, in October, is Handel's Alcina, featuring Canadian soprano Meghan Lindsay in the title role. She returns in Berlioz's adaptation of Gluck's Orpheus And Eurydice, in the part of Amour; Mireille Lebel and Peggy Kriha Dye play the lovers in the April production.
There's opera of a different sort at York University this week.
John Gay's 1728 The Beggar's Opera was a satire on contemporary London opera, including the works of Handel. It included melodies from the opera stage as well as popular period tunes in a tale of thieves, pickpockets and prostitutes, not the usual sort of high-culture characters of the time.
As part of the Theatre @ York season, director Gwen Dobie (Opera Erotique, Bugzzz ~ A Cautionary Tale) adapts the original as a play-within-a-play set in a prison, the inmates presenting it under the eye of the warden. As in the original, the production looks at corruption and social inequality, asking if there's any more dishonesty in the lower ranks of society than in the upper.
Climate defines the art of Carbon 14: Climate Is Culture Exhibition + Festival, a look at the issue of climate change through different creative media.
Presented by the Theatre Centre (soon to move into its new home on Queen West) and the Cape Farewell Foundation, the fest kicks off Sunday (January 26) with a musical performance by Inuit artist Tanya Tagaq and collaborator Michael Red. Experimental glam pop duo Post-Normal open the evening, which explores music's ability to express socio-environmental change.
Next up is This Clement World, running January 29 to February 2, a blend of theatre, avant-folk rock and documentary film written and performed by Cynthia Hopkins. Directed by DJ Mendel and designed by Jeff Sugg, it looks at our environmental crisis through a personal lens. An award-winning artist, Hopkins uses our disturbing global situation to examine the world with humour and hope.
Both shows are at the Great Hall Black Box, former home of the Theatre Centre.