One of the new elements of this year's SummerWorks was the Canadian Pavilion at Harbourfront Centre , which offered a quartet of productions from across the country. Good -- and important -- to have it, but next year, please let the shows have a longer run than four days at the end of the festival. And give them a higher profile.
We expected the four productions to be finished, polished shows, but that wasn't the case with Jeanie Keogh 's Baby Making , in which a couple (he's a doctor, she's an actor) talk about bringing a baby into a polluted, crowded world. Committed performances by Sara Gilchrist and Cyrus Lane drove the show, presented by Montreal's Thought Bubble Theatre , because, though the writing had some good episodes, the story felt half-told.
Maybe the problem was that 20 minutes were cut from the play. Why bring a previously produced show to the festival knowing you're going to have to snip out a quarter of it? And the time-shifting device may have been clever, but it added little to the characterizations or the narrative.
There was also a smallish feel, a sense that there was more to write, in Ryan Mckinley 's The Crossroads Of Fifth And Madison , presented by Edmonton's Hair On Fire . In it, the manager of a low-end hotel introduces us to his guests, who make him walk a tightrope to keep them all safe and together.
Mckinley's absurdist script has some quirkily entertaining moments but is also sometimes heavy-handed, especially when he attacks the forces in power that ignore society's have-nots. Most impressive was a great perspective set by Ami Farrow .
The best two shows at the pavilion were Atomic Vaudeville 's Legoland , visiting from Victoria, and 2b theatre 's Invisible Atom , from Halifax.
The former, written with charming yet caustic wit by Jacob Richmond , centres on teen sibs Penny and Ezra Lamb, who deal drugs and travel across North America. Penny becomes obsessed with a boy band and tries to bring one of its members back to artistic life. This dark, dark comedy, part puppet show, part Grand Guignol, part song-and-dance, was totally entertaining. One of our faves in the SummerWorks lineup, it was manic fun, wickedly performed by Celine Stubel and Amitai Marmorstein , directed by Richmond and Britt Small .
Just as impressive was Anthony Black 's Invisible Atom , whose central figure is not Adam as in apple, he tells us, but Atom as in bomb. His explosive story has the adopted Atom, a stockbroker and bastard in a literal sense, trying to live a moral life and to find his parents.
Always involving, it was splendidly performed by Black, with sharp direction by Ann-Marie Kerr and exceptional lighting by Leigh Ann Vardy . You won't find many other shows as engaging in their combination of thoughtfulness and theatrics.