No punches pulled
There's no commercial market these days for the plays of Spanish writer Ramón Maria del Valle Inclán - was there ever? - so only a group like the U of T's Graduate Centre for Study of Drama would mount Valle Inclán's absurdist script The Grotesque Farce Of Mr. Punch The Cuckold , a satire of rigid codes of honour, theatre and Spanish culture. Director Natalie Alvarez 's energetic, stylized, po-mo production plays up the clown and cartoon qualities in a tale about an army man who feels forced to take revenge on his philandering wife. Yep, there are puppets, too. Standouts in the large cast include the always watchable Paul Babiak as the increasingly mad yet sympathetic title figure, whose physical movements suggest a jerkily swaying marionette; Wendy Welch as his fickle wife; the slyly comic Dejan Zahirovic as the third side of the romantic triangle; Aida Jordao as a bitchy neighbourhood gossip; and Aktina Stathaki comically outrageous in the drag role of a military man who lost an eye because of a mosquito bite. See Continuing listings for details.
Those westerners sure know how to party. Just witness Sunday night's The Calgary Show , where a dozen Calgary-raised comics and musicians entertained a standing-room-only crowd at the Rivoli . Between the hilarious banter of mustachioed hosts Cal ( Pat Kelly ) and Gary ( Peter Oldring ), the yin and yang of the improv scene, standout acts included Andy Boorman 's letter to Jared from the Subway ads, Jason Belleville 's comedy for the "generic white man" and Kurt Firla 's short film about how to survive a bear attack in a city elevator.
Before the night closed with an all-onstage sentimental ditty about their beloved city, Ryan Belleville proved to the Calgary-heavy crowd that he's one of the most fearless stand-ups around. He downed four free "prairie fires" (Jack Daniel's and tabasco sauce) during his set and never lost his balance. Amateurs, don't try this at home.
Caught a pair of school shows that prove there's a new generation of skilled performers waiting to step onto Toronto's mainstages. Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte , presented by the U of T's opera division, faculty of music, impressed us with the performances of the women, notably the gorgeously full-voiced Joni Henson as Fiordiligi and Allison Bent as her playful but practical maid Despina. Their work and Agnes Grossmann 's conducting were the opening evening's highlights. Over at Ryerson, Eda Holmes demonstrated again why she's one of Toronto's best directors with her production of Charles Mee 's Big Love , an update of the Aeschylus play about 50 women forced to marry their 50 cousins. Here the women seek haven in Italy and are pursued by their fiancés, who've moved to America and bring a rah-rah Bush attitude to their search-and-rescue campaign.
Holmes gave the script, a dizzying look at sexual politics and relationships of all sorts, an exuberantly kinetic spin. In the performance we saw - the show was double cast - the standouts were Kathy Quayle and Lenny Silvini as doomed-to-squabble mates, she a staunch feminist and he an abrasive, violent macho man. They were ably supported by Laura Lawson and Daniel Chapman-Smith as another pair, lovers with completely different temperaments.
The biggest compliment the show could get? A group from York's theatre department, which put on the play earlier in the month, showed up and gave the Ryerson production big cheers.
Can theatre be a revolutionary force? Bruce Beaton explores the possibilities in 37 , a work set in Toronto during the Rebellion of 1837. A play-within-a-play, it deals with an heiress who's written a script she hopes will reflect the period's gritty social conditions. Rehearsing the piece are her maid, an army officer and a disguised apprentice from William Lyon Mackenzie's print shop, who's on a spy mission for the rebels. The work-in-progress gets a reading, with proceeds going to the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty . Jeannette Lambermont directs a strong cast: Soo Garay , Patrick Conner , Kimwun Perehinec and Todd Dulmage . See One-Nighter listings for details. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org