Singin' the blues
Kazumi Tsuruoka has cerebral palsy and something to say - and sing - about it. CP Salon , directed by co-creator Fides Krucker of Good Hair Day Productions , gave Tsuruoka an intimate venue for a rhythm-and-blues evening as dramatically striking as it was emotionally powerful. Performing in a living room for an audience of 25 a night, Tsuruoka sang standards by Hank Williams, Smokey Robinson and Bob Dylan, atmospherically accompanied by pianist Sageev Oore , and provided spoken and musical insights into his life and feelings. Krucker contributed musical and physical backup on one song, helping to support Tsuruoka as they stood back to back, and harmonizing with him. The most gorgeous moment? Tsuruoka and Oore jamming together on the piano, their warmth, chemistry and joy lighting up the room.
The new Asian-Canadian company fu- GEN gave the audience a feast at the Playwright's Kitchen . The self-termed potluck festival, part of Factory's CrossCurrents series, featured readings of six playwrights' works. Developed and dramaturged with the help of artistic director Nina Aquino , the shows were as welcome for the acting as for the writing; most of the 20 or so performers have had little exposure on the professional stage. Among the script highlights were Ins Choi 's Rainshadow , which looked at a trio of very different men at a wedding reception, and Richard Lee 's Crush On You , about a man who meets a dizzying array of women through a computer dating service. Both writers, who are also actors (though not in these pieces), managed to be really funny yet also touch a genuine emotional note. It's impressive that Lee brings the same freshness to his writing that we've found in his acting.
Performers who left a strong impression? Norman Yeung , as a slow-speaking guy out of sync with others in Rainshadow, and later a troubled sibling in Kent Lam 's Returning Home ; Dale Yim as a needy teen in Jo Chim 's Seoul-Searching and the needy dater in Crush On You; and Christina Florencio in three tonally different roles, most delightfully as an Asian woman who's transformed herself into a hiphop devotee in Crush On You.
The discovery at this year's Paprika Festival is Michael Albert , whose Four Sons is a candid and at times caustically comic play about a quartet of siblings at an uncomfortable Passover seder. Albert, who also played the narrator, was inspired by the works of playwright Adam Pettle ; he must have been delighted that both Pettle and his brother Jordan were at a Sunday matinee.
The play, whose characters parallel the four brothers mentioned in the Passover Haggadah prayer book, looks at what separates and joins a family during that holiday. With a fine sense of dialogue and narrative, Albert knows what to tell and what to suggest in the 30-minute play, and director Rachael McManus worked well with the engaging cast.
Another highlight? The performances of Naomi Skwarna and Svertlana Vaisman In Daniel Karasik 's often taut In Europe The Ceilings Are Very High , playing two Canadians whose chance encounter in France has surprising consequences.