Medina Hahn meets the man of her dreams in thrilling Any Night.
SummerWorks at Factory Theatre Mainspace and Studio (125 Bathurst), Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace and Backspace (16 Ryerson), Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West), Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West), Cameron House (408 Queen West). To Aug 17. $10-$12, passes $25-$60. Advance tickets available to 5 pm day before show; half the house may be sold in advance. 1-888-222-6608, summerworks.ca or nowtoronto.com/summerworks.
Don't let a bit of rain keep you away from the fest of indie theatre that's taking over Queen West through this weekend. Here, arranged by venue, are NOW's reviews of every production.
By Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn. Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson). August 14 at 4:30 pm, August 15 at 8:30 pm, August 16 at 10:30 pm.
A woman dealing with sleepwalking moves into a new apartment, gets involved with the man living upstairs and begins experiencing frightening dreams. Part thriller, part psychological study, part hallucination and totally engaging, this play by writer/performers Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn grabs us from the start and never lets go. That's thanks not only to the script but also the great chemistry between the actors, evocative design by Peter Pokorny (set), Erin Macklem (costumes), David Fraser (lights) and Gord Heal (sound) and magical direction by Ron Jenkins, who conjures up nightmarish imagery with cinematic swiftness as he swirls the action around the stage.
You'll never hear the Eurythmics's Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) the same way again.
- JON KAPLAN
Daniel Brière finds his Foto finish in Andrew Kushnir's intense play.
By Andrew Kushnir. Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). August 15 at 6 pm, August 17 at 2 pm.
Following his grandfather's death, a young photographer (Daniel Brière) returns to the Ukrainian Montreal community that spurned his family after a tragic event, to confront Hania (Astrid Van Wieren) and Vera (Dawn Greenhalgh), the people who forced him to leave.
Greenhalgh is totally convincing as the aging immigrant Vera, but Van Wieren and Brière make the strongest impact, especially once they unleash their rage against each other. Director Adam Pettle connects the monologues and dialogues with firm control, creating dramatic tension but avoiding hysterics.
Writer and designer Andrew Kushnir's script builds in intensity (too slowly at first), finally revealing the painful truth and ending with a nicely lit montage.
- DEBBIE FEIN-GOLDBACH
Tara Rosling (left), Philippa Domville, David Fox and Geoffrey Pounsett soar in If We Were Birds.
IF WE WERE BIRDS
By Erin Shields. Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson). August 15 at 4:30 pm, August 17 at 8:30 pm.
Erin Shields's retelling of the myth of Philomela's rape by her brother-in-law Tereus and the revenge taken by Philomela and her sister Procne has all the power of Greek tragedy and the currency of today's headlines.
Though the story is centuries old, the often avian chorus, harbingers of woe, are black-garbed women, the abused spoils of 20th-century conflicts. Not surprisingly, this is a society where the daughters of a king receive little more respect.
The male characters, both war-loving dominators for whom rape is a right, wear clothes that suggest they come from our world. Led by Tara Rosling, Philippa Domville and Geoffrey Pounsett, the superb cast and inventive director Alan Dilworth create the best kind of theatre - poetic, gutsy and powerful.
The visual imagery that relies on elemental black, white and red (set and costumes by Jung-Hye Kim, lighting by Kimberly Purtell) and the soundscape (by Thomas Ryder Payne) are as magical and shocking as the script.
If We Were Birds is a high-flying production, one not to be missed.
- JON KAPLAN
Erin Brandenburg adds power to Pelee.
By Lauren Taylor and Erin Brandenburg. Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). August 16 at 5 pm, August 17 at 1 pm.
Like a dusty small-town museum brought to life, this ensemble piece - which also features a three-piece folk band - resurrects the rich but nearly forgotten history of Pelee, an island nestled in the heart of Lake Erie.
Taking on multiple roles, Erin Brandenburg vividly recounts/recreates emotional events like the 1838 Battle of Pelee and various local legends. Supported by an ornate set of objects and mechanical devices - many of which also double as old-fashioned musical instruments for the band - Brandenburg and co-writer/director Lauren Taylor balance backwoods -humour with solid history to create an entertaining and almost magical window on Canada's past.
- JORDAN BIMM