This Must Be The Place takes the audience on an uneven ride.
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE: THE CN TOWER SHOW by the company (Architect Theatre Collective/Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson). Runs to October 27. $15-$35. 416-504-7529. See listing. Rating: NNN
Last season, the Architect Theatre Collective did a fine job evoking the spirit of people in and around Fort McMurray in Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show. They try to do the same for Hogtown in This Must Be The Place, but they're less successful.
Part of the problem is that subtitle, The CN Tower Show. A cute physical bit about the familiar landmark's revolving restaurant opens the show, and various people involved in the tower - workers, architects, politicians - weigh in later with stories compiled from interviews.
But the CN Tower isn't a rich enough metaphor for the city as a whole, and unlike the company's previous outing, there's no firm narrative structure to support the thing.
What we get is a series of sketches, anecdotes and songs interspersed with autobiographical reflections from the four performers, all of whom are relatively new to the city.
Some of the scenes are amusing, such as a Chilean emigré's observation that Torontonians take the "sandwich" approach to conflict-resolution. (You have to hear it.) And there's a strong political subtext, whether it's an unnamed former mayor (obviously David Miller) talking about where the city is going or an absurd recreation of a city council meeting about plastic bags.
But while director Jonathan Seinen stages each scene carefully (nice use of some subway chairs) and Lindsay Anne Black's evocative set takes over much of Passe Muraille's Mainspace, the piece feels long and lacks momentum.
Most exciting are the audience-participation sections, where we're asked how long we've lived in the city, whether we feel like we belong and (in one of the sharpest bits) how much we'd have to earn to add two hours to our commuting time.
Among the cast, Greg Gale - who was also in Highway 63 - stands out for his brilliant work as, among other things, a chatty streetcar operator, a dignified imam at a mosque and a gleefully passive-aggressive dance instructor who's injured his knee.
Let's hope Gale continues to find lots of work in Toronto.