John Patrick Shanley 's plays offer an acerbic look at male/female relationships. His recent Where's My Money? deals with the intertwined lives of a trio of couples, among them unfaithful lechers, unhappy spouses and disgruntled ghosts.
While it has some effective one-liners, the script fails to hold together. There's not enough feeling beneath the dark laughs in director Jonah Allison's production for Column 13 Actors Company. Still, there's real electricity in the scene between a caustic divorce lawyer ( Christopher Lindsay ) and his sharp-tongued wife ( Christine Horne ), as well as a nicely focused, rounded performance by Jim Gilbert as the divorce lawyer's protege, himself in a troubled marriage. Two brief curtain-raisers, also about the difficulty of connecting, add little to the evening.
What kind of life can we have after a cataclysmic event touches us? That question is at the base of In The Garden, Two Suns , a play by Hisashi Inoue , translated by Roger Pulvers. It's the latest of the contemporary Japanese play readings staged by Crow's Theatre and presented by the Japan Foundation. Godzilla , an earlier reading, went on to a full staging by Crow's.
The current play, adapted by Damien Atkins and Marjorie Chan , looks at the attempt by a young librarian who's survived the Hiroshima atomic blast to move on with her life. She shares her apartment, magically, with the ghost of her father. Chan and Martin Julien perform under Leah Cherniak 's direction. Free.
Ryan Belleville 's feature sets are always worth watching. He's a manic, free-associating comic like Robin Williams, and at times his energy doesn't mesh with the crowd's. He can be a tad undisciplined - his bit about having attention deficit disorder almost seems true - and if his best material doesn't play out, he can usually make us laugh with his clown-like movements and sheer silliness.
Not that he's a pushover. A couple of years ago I saw him turn aggressively on a blasé crowd, and the anger was electric. His late-night Saturday set on January 8 at the Laugh Resort showed him at his best.
He delivered some new material inspired by right-wing TV commercials in the U.S. (He's based in L.A. now.) But strongest were his signature jokes, like the analysis of the Canadian beaver's design flaws, his re-enactment of a standoff between pirates and Ninjas, and his closer about a couple being run over by a tractor while having sex.
He's becoming a master of pacing, telling stories within stories within stories, punctuating things to tell us he looks like Clay Aiken or deconstructing beer-drinking etiquette.
The well-attended show, hosted by the high-energy Debra DiGiovanni and including solid sets by Adam Growe and Levi MacDougall , got 2005 off to a terrific start. Belleville's new Fox TV sitcom, Life On A Stick , premieres March 23.
Caught the Best Of 2004 show by the Sketchersons , the 12-person sketch troupe who perform new sketches in their weekly Sunday Night Live show at the Poor Alex.
The program, culled from the best of over 600 sketches, was long and uneven. (It didn't help that the show began an hour late.) I'm not sure the ensemble needs to be so large. The women are distinctive (physically and in their character work), but the guys are pretty interchangeable. Hefty dudes Tal Zimerman and Dan Galea exude the same vibe, while Grant Cumming comes across as a funnier wiry guy than the uncomfortable Bob Kerr .
The troupe also have problems ending their sketches. A bit is only as funny as its final moments; there has to be some arc and shape to the thing.
The best sketches are reminiscent of David Cross and Bob Odenkirk's now-defunct cult TV show, Mr. Show - low-budget, surreal yet grounded in good visual details if not the best writing.
Highlights include Herpes, about an actress ( Inessa Frantowski ) who's afraid of doing an intimate scene with a leading man ( Gary Rideout Jr. ) because he's got a huge herpes blister on his mouth; Toby's Birthday, about a monster ( Holly Prazoff ) who threatens to eat her invited birthday party guests if she doesn't like their gifts; and Samurai Vagina, about a dinner party that takes a wild turn when the hostess ( Shannon Beckner ) begins making drinks and slicing cheese with her genitals.
A few more are just as clever. Six strong bits in a year isn't bad for a sketch troupe. Let's hope the average is higher this year - and the troupe cut down. They present a special show Sunday (January 16) featuring about 10 of last year's best guest hosts, including Paul Bellini , Scott Thompson , Laurie Elliott , Seán Cullen , Alan Park and Jo-Anna Downey .
Sean McMahon and Kevin Rees-Cummings of emergency.exit are always pushing the theatrical envelope in multimedia shows that have played Buddies and elsewhere in town. Now they get to travel with their work nationally and internationally.
The pair head off later this month to Tehran's Fadjr International Theatre Festival to perform where you are now , which premiered at Rhubarb! in 2003. They're performing, says Rees-Cummings, in "the cafeteria of the main city theatre of Tehran," which he hopes will resemble Tallulah's Cabaret, where they first staged the show.
Two days after they close, they hop on a Montreal-bound plane to perform telescope , a film with live musical accompaniment that's part of the Moving Pictures Festival of Dance on Film.
All that flying's appropriate - planes and airborne travel are regular themes in emergency.exit's work.
Founded 15 years ago, Scriptlab has been in the business of developing new Canadian plays for theatre, film, radio and other media. Now the group is taking a more specific course with the appointment of Jim Betts as artistic director.
Betts has made his reputation creating new musicals ( Colours In the Storm , The Shooting Of Dan McGrew ) and fostering the writing of others. Not surprisingly, developing Canadian musicals will be the focus of Scriptlab for the next three years. It's not a totally new direction, since works like The House Of Martin Guerre and The Last Resort were cultivated in earlier Scriptlab workshops. Watch for public presentations later this year.