Classic productions should get better on second viewing, and we're betting that's going to be the case for A Whistle In The Dark , Irish playwright Tom Murphy 's play with which the Company Theatre premiered in 2005.
The Company remounts the exciting, visceral presentation with most of the original cast intact, including Sarah Dodd as the sole female character in the testosterone-filled play. She's Betty, the wife of Michael, first-born in a pugnacious Irish family of sons. Michael's left home for England and married Betty, hoping to escape the cycle of violence his family's always caught up in, but his sibs and eventually his father follow him across the Irish Sea.
"Michael and Betty have a good marriage until his brothers show up," says Dodd, a Stratford vet. "But even then she hangs in because she loves her husband and supports his wanting to be a better, peaceful person."
That doesn't stop the brothers from insulting her throughout the play, which causes viewers to commiserate with Dodd after a performance.
"People told me they just wanted me to get out of the house and hoped I wouldn't show up in the second act because I'd gotten smart," she laughs.
But Betty's important in the second act, and she follows a different tragic arc than viewers expect.
"It's a violence-filled work, one whose tone is set in the play's first few seconds when someone angrily shatters a teacup," notes Dodd. "It takes a lot of energy to keep that tension up, and what's surprising is that the biggest piece of violence happens offstage."
The show's just come back from a run in St. John's, Newfoundland, where it played to enthusiastic crowds.
"What's really remarkable about the play," says the actor, "is that it's simple storytelling and yet I've never had to work on anything with such focus. Director Jason Byrne 's central note to us was just to tell the story, be there, don't add anything and listen to what the other person is saying.
"That's a basic acting instruction, but actors and directors fall away from it sometimes."
The Company's current season continues in May with Daniel MacIvor 's Marion Bridge , directed by the writer.
Something amazing is happening in the local comedy scene. It's changing colour. Hallelujah.
The same week that we get the news that stand-up Russell Peters sold out his upcoming cross-country Homecoming Tour (including a June 18 show at the 13,000-seat ACC), we caught three acts in different clubs that were anything but WASPish.
At SketchCOMedy Lounge at the Rivoli on Tuesday, March 20, the sketch troupe Asiansploitation delivered a couple of competent if unremarkable sketches. As much as we adore the concept of an all-Asian troupe, we still feel there are too many members (and not all of them were even present). And the sketches often lack a point.
We preferred their longer set at last fall's Sketch Comedy Festival, especially their closing musical number. At the Rivoli, they had trouble finding a rhythm, and their extended futuristic cellphone bit felt off-key.
The next night, we caught the troupe Fade to Brown , who put on a monthly sketch show at the Brunswick House . In Brown Side Story , FTB delivered a high-energy South Asian take on the Romeo And Juliet spinoff in which the Browns feud with the Whites. Too bad their reworked lyrics to familiar songs from West Side Story and Hair, as well as Browntown, a clever rejigging of the Petula Clark staple, were frequently hard to make out.
Still, some of their sketches were right on target. One joke about an overly possessive Indian mom (complete with Bollywood musical riff) paid off, and a series of spoofs of Canadian Heritage moments got solid laughs.
They also weren't afraid to push cultural buttons about xenophobia over terrorists. A bit more tweaking and they could become a first-rate act. We're curious now to see their regular sketch shows. And kudos for attracting such a big crowd on a weeknight.
Dana Alexander didn't quite fill Yuk Yuk's Downtown for Friday's early show March 23, but she still delivered one of the strongest sets we've seen there. Alexander, who's been in Toronto for about a year and a half, made NOW's list of top "discoveries" in 2006. She's the first African-Canadian female comic we've seen in a headlining spot at Yuk's, and it won't be her last there.
Tall and totally confident, Alexander has a dry manner and a bemused, mock-naive way of delivering punchlines that takes the jokes up a notch.
Her observations about homophobia and small-town racism and her forthright attitude toward women and sex are more than refreshing. They're almost revolutionary.
Sam Shepard 's plays turn the world of convention upside down. Now a company of artists gives one of them, Action , another flip.
Set in an isolated room after an apocalyptic crisis, it looks at four characters preparing a holiday meal. The future's uncertain, food's at a premium, and the four are increasingly unsure how to relate to each other.
The Sham Collective (actors Aviva Armour-Ostroff , Maev Beaty , Anna Chatterton , Brendan Gall and Greg Thomas , director Brendan Healy and co-director Andrea Donaldson ) gives Shepard's work a new styling while exploring what "good" acting means.
In fact, the actors set aside naturalistic performance to create their own style of playing, one that Healy says will not portray "reality" but, rather, convey truth.
The workshop production is part of Equity Showcase Theatre 's Artists' Showcase .
There's a simplicity and disingenuousness about Hume Baugh's The Girl In The Picture Tries To Hang Up The Phone, Optic Heart Theatre's workshop that concluded this year's Hatch series.
A monologue about the relationship between Baugh and his mother, it starts in fact but wisely never reveals where it strays into fiction – or maybe a better term would be "fictionalized truth." The writer/performer alerts us early on to one of his key themes: how much is this show a betrayal of his mother, an alcoholic who was utterly innocent in a girlhood photo yet later in life in such a haze that she had trouble hanging up the telephone?Baugh pieces together a verbal portrait of his mother as an intimidating, intelligent, aloof, witty feminist who steps out of an unhappy marriage. A strain of melancholy runs through the family, one that the speaker admits he shares; we feel the tension when he wonders whether he can or should confront his mother about her drinking.
We first saw a shorter version of the piece in last year's Rhubarb!; it's now twice the length, and while some additions are worthwhile, the hour-long version has too much material. There's some fine theatricality in the work, directed by Mark Cassidy, and Baugh glows with increasing energy as it evolves, telling tales with disarming honesty.
Though his descriptions of his intertwined feelings of love and anger are often powerful, dotted with moments of poetry and humour, the points of the argument are sometimes unnecessarily stretched out.