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Michelle Monteith plays in the Soulpepper production of Angels In America.
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Aaron Willis (left), Mitchell Cushman and Alan Dilworth direct segments of Passion Play.
Three of the city's most exciting directors - Convergence Theatre's Aaron Willis, Outside the March's Mitchell Cushman and Sheep No Wool's Alan Dilworth - and a cast of 11 collaborate on the three stories that make up Passion Play. Sarah Ruhl's monumental work is focused on the performance of the events in the New Testament leading up to Christ's death and resurrection. Set in Elizabethan England, Nazi Germany and Reagan's America, they blend faith, politics, community and theatre in an environmental production that begins in Withrow Park (south of Danforth, east of Logan) and concludes at Eastminster United Church (310 Danforth). Performances, presented by Crow's Theatre, begin June 6 and run to June 30. outsidethemarch.ca.
Richard III is one of Shakespeare's most fascinating characters, in large part because of the glee he takes in confounding those around him. A subtle assassin who eliminates anyone who stands in his path to the English throne, Richard has the audacity and humour to win over audiences as he confides his plans to us. Shakespeare in the Ruff stages the play outdoors, with Alex McCooeye as Richard, surrounded by a cast that includes Simon Bracken, Jacklyn Francis, Charlie Gould, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett and, both directing and playing Richard's perturbed mother, the talented Diane D'Aquila. From August 13 to September 1 at Withrow Park, south of Danforth, east of Logan. shakespeareintheruff.com.
Hard to believe that a small festival that began in the Bloor and Bathurst area in 1989 is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The Toronto Fringe has grown a lot since then, this year numbering nearly 150 productions in 35 venues. Returning is the visual Fringe, street performers, alley plays, intriguing site-specific works and - sometimes most excitingly - that new artist you've never heard of who's premiering a gem of a show. You also can't go wrong with works by Chris Earle, Bruce Horak, puppeteers Shakey Shake and Friends, Ginette Mohr, Indrit Kasapi, Jem Rolls, Steven Gallagher, Jessica Moss, Leah-Simone Bowen, Kat Sandler and Morro and Jasp. July 3 to 14 at various venues around town. 416-966-1062, fringetoronto.com.
Bard x two
Not content to stage just one Shakespeare play, Canadian Stage's Shakespeare In High Park goes for a double header this summer, a nicely paired comedy and tragedy presented in collaboration with York University's theatre department. Ted Witzel directs a contemporary version of The Taming Of The Shrew with an MTV feel, while Ker Wells plans an austere, nature-focused take on Macbeth that convinces the audience to empathize with the title character's choices. The directors share an ensemble of actors, including Philippa Domville, Ryan Hollyman, Sophie Goulet, Mina James, Greg Gale, Hume Baugh and Thomas Olajide. The productions run in rep to September 1, with Macbeth opening June 26 and Shrew starting July 6 at the High Park Amphitheatre. 416-368-3110, canadianstage.com.
Heading into its 23rd year, the curated festival of cutting-edge works offers 38 local, national and, for the first time, international works. Highlights include a trio of scripts by powerhouse black women writers (Andrea Scott's Eating Pomegranates Naked, d'bi. young's nanny: warrior queen of the maroons and Donna Michelle St. Bernard's Salome's Clothes) and pieces by native writers (Jani Lauzon's A Side Of Dreams and SummerWorks fave Cliff Cardinal's Maria Gets A New Life). Other hot tickets include productions by Jordan Tannahill, Sky Gilbert, the collective Birdtown and Swanville and an intriguing collaboration between Adam Lazarus and Guillermo Verdecchia. August 8 to 18 at various venues. summerworks.ca.
One of the most important plays of the past 50 years, Tony Kushner's Angels In America, subtitled A Gay Fantasia On National Themes, is a two-part epic set in the 1980s. Its characters, queer and straight, mortal and immortal, closeted conservative and out-there homo, are all troubled figures seeking what they consider the right path. One is a gay man dying of AIDS who is proclaimed by an angel to be the next prophet of humankind. Soulpepper's Albert Schultz tackles the demanding seven-hour show with a skilled cast that includes Diego Matamoros, Michelle Monteith, Damien Atkins and Nancy Palk. Rep performances begin July 19 and 20 and run through September 14. Young Centre. 416-866-8666, soulpepper.ca.