Just as the ruby-red stalks of rhubarb always promise a flavourful treat, Buddies ' 28th annual Rhubarb! festival provided audiences some bloody good theatre during the three weeks that ended Sunday (February 19).
Sure, not everything worked, but among the 18 mainstage shows there was lots to tease, move, entertain and make viewers think. In Immobile , creator/performer Clea Minaker grabbed us with her 8-foot-high skirt made from grocery store products. Playing a disheartened check-out clerk, Minaker pulled plastic bags from her costume's nipples and belly button with aplomb. At times, the satire on consumerism worked better visually than textually.
Small Wooden Shoe 's Do You Have Any Idea How Fast You Were Going? was a sly, fun postmodern look at the Industrial Revolution, with "scientific" demonstrations that proved the impossibility of reversing the forward flow of progress.
For The Girl In The Picture Tries To Hang Up The Phone , writer/performer Hume Baugh turned to his mother for inspiration and wondered how much to reveal about a woman dealing with alcoholism and depression.
The moving autobiographical piece rang true, as did the emotionally distanced Suck And Blow , a collective creation in which quadriplegic Judith Snow was dressed by caregiver Caleb Yong . A difficult and at times sensual piece that asked viewers to face what they usually turn away from, it lives in a different universe from your everyday theatre.
Tara Beagan 's Here, Boy! brought the writer's trademark humour and seriousness to the tale of a native man whose trapping expeditions upset his city neighbours, while Hannah Moscovitch 's The Russian Play was a finely honed, bittersweet love story involving an initially innocent shop girl and a gravedigger.
Though Rhubarb! is about new works, there are always standout performances. This year those included the work of Greg Campbell as half of a troubled gay couple ( The Erie Disappearance ); Becky Johnson as a wide-eyed travel agent ( Cancun ); Maev Beaty as one corner of a romantic triangle ( Garden ); and the extraordinary Chapelle Jaffe as a Cecil Beaton impersonator with razor-sharp attitude ( Lifelike Lüv) . Now that Jaffe's back on the Toronto scene, why aren't companies hiring her?
Moodie's new moves
Want to be part of playwright Andrew Moodie 's upcoming play? As part of Black History Month , Factory Theatre - presenting Moodie's latest script, The Real McCoy - has been holding pre-show events each Thursday.
Tonight (Thursday, February 23), in addition to checking out the fine production, you can give Moodie some input for his next show, Toronto The Good , which explores the touchy issue of racial profiling. See One-Nighters.
A launch and an anniversary are the occasions for a pair of theatre funders this week. Theatre Smash , aiming to stage its first production next fall, holds an evening of entertainment on Sunday (February 26) at the Drake . Passe Muraille 's Layne Coleman reads from his latest work, Hospital Of Hope .
The next night (Monday, February 27), at the Elgin , the Paprika Festival celebrates its fifth anniversary with a look at the young artists -- it focuses on those under 21 -- who have contributed to past productions and are part of the upcoming March fest. There's also a silent auction and special guests. See One-Nighters.