For the birds
Want a mini-?vacation that combines culture and coolness? Head out to the Toronto Islands for an evening of theatre and a getaway from the downtown heat.
The debuting Long Eared Plays teams with Phyzikal Theatre to present Morris Panych's Vigil, a darkly comic piece about a talkative, self-?centred man who returns home to care for an aged aunt. Things are not what they seem.
Directed by Philip Shepherd, the production features Dora, Genie and Gemini nominee Matthew Ferguson and Judy Sinclair as the long-?estranged relatives.
Don't look for donkeys in the debuting company's logo, despite its title; it's named for the long-?eared owls that frequent the islands.
Take a 7 pm ferry from the mainland - or, if the strike is still on, you can board the alternate City Ferry, which leaves York and Queens Quay at 6, 6:30 and 7:15 pm (the producers will hold the curtain for anyone on the 7:15, we're told) - for the 7:30 pm show, presented in the historic Ward's Island Association Playhouse.
No prison break
Talk about giving an audience a play's flavour: lemonTree theatre creations, an all-?queer group, set its production of Jean Genet's prison drama Deathwatch in the claustrophobic basement of an Ossington art gallery.
And it worked. With its old brick-?and-?stone walls and low ceiling, the space added a stifling atmosphere to Genet's examination of power-?tripping and role-?playing among four characters, three of them cellmates.
Director Jonathan Seinen caught much of the play's homoerotic quality - queer artist, thief and prostitute Genet was writing from experience here, on a number of levels - and nicely highlighted the work's various moments of tension, especially in the men's shifting allegiances and the prison system's pecking order.
Indrit Kasapi's Maurice, the preening pretty-?boy in the cell, skilfully flirted to impress convicted murderer Green Eyes (John Bryans, who wasn't as focused as the other performers). Cole J. Alvis, as the more subtly manipulative, sometimes insecure George, gave nuance to a character whose imminent return to the streets might not be what he wants.
Add Ryan Symington's guard, with his own level of control, and you get an explosive situation in which fantasy offers a temporary freedom; ultimately, violence brings a kind of release to the stress in the cell.
If you missed this Pride-?sponsored play last week, presented in association with Ten Foot Pole Productions, you might check out Whirligig Productions' staging of Genet's The Maids, a look at a trio of women involved in their own role-?playing games.
All fired up
The sixth annual Cooking Fire Theatre Festival had its problems with rain last week, but the downpour couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of artists or audiences.
A fest that combines food prepared on site in Dufferin Grove Park and brief shows, many of them family-?oriented, Cooking Fire has drawn more and more viewers each year.
Highlights included Solo Chicken and BoucharDanse's Feather And Bill, in which Bill (Lisa Anne Ross) wooed Feather (Sylvie Bouchard), a shy bird who didn't know if she wanted to be friends. Puppeteer Noah Kenneally's matchmaking pigeon helped them pair off.
Théâtre Biscornu (Jean Pierre Cloutier, Sébastien Dorval and Karine P. Bouliane) presented Le Rire Muet, a black-?and-?white mime piece, inspired by silent film comedies, that brought the audience into the action. Zuppa Theatre was the one troupe that didn't emphasize laughs; its suggestive Very Secret Ceremony was about how to deal with the end of the world.
Our fave? Mouving, a clown show by Satellite Theatre and Compagnie Houppz! in which a trio of people wait for a bus that doesn't come. Inventive, genuinely funny and presented by performers (Marc-?André Charron, Mathieu Chouinard and Isabelle Roy) whose chemistry was a joy to watch, the piece was marred only by having too much material. It would work better as an evening on its own, so that the comedy could be expanded even further.