THE NEXT STAGE a festival of new works and remounts. Presented by the Fringe of Toronto at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to January 18. $12-$15, same-evening double bill $25, passes $48 and $88. 416-966-1062, fringetoronto.com.
NOW's Next Stage reviews.
Times: Jan 10 at 7 pm, Jan 11 at 3:15 pm, Jan 12 at 7 pm, Jan 15 at 9:30 pm, Jan 16 at 7:30 pm, Jan 17 at 9:15 pm, Jan 18 at 5:30 pm.
A history of the northern Ontario town of Reesor, settled by immigrants in the 1920s and 30s, is filled with memories, music and practical matters - how to make zwiebach, for instance. As the central performer, Erin Brandenburg (who wrote the show with director Lauren Taylor) provides the piece with heart and humour, but there's equally strong work from musical director Andrew Penner and his fellow players. Using the simplest of storytelling methods, Reesor is grassroots theatre at its best. -JK
Julie Tepperman and Aaron Willis make Yichud hilariously good.
Times: Jan 10 at 9 pm, Jan 11 at 5:15 pm, Jan 12 at 9 pm, Jan 13 at 8:30 pm, Jan 14 at 8:30 pm, Jan 15 at 7:30 pm, Jan 17 at 7:15 pm, Jan 18 at 3:30 pm.
This collection of scenes from an arranged Orthodox Jewish wedding expands in the mind and heart. Writer Julie Tepperman and director (and real-life husband) Aaron Willis play new couple Rachel and Chaim, who charm in the work's final part, set in the titular seclusion room following their wedding. The earlier scenes add texture and context, the first a look at Rachel's parents' marriage, the second a raunchy but telling exchange between Chaim's brothers and cousin. It's all full of laughs, tears and - from the moment you enter the theatre lobby - catchy klezmer music. L'chayim! -GS
Times: Jan 10 at 9:15 pm, Jan 11 at 3:15 pm, Jan 12 at 8:45 pm, Jan 13 at 7 pm, Jan 14 at 6:15 pm, Jan 15 at 7:15 pm, Jan 17 at 9 pm, Jan 18 at 5 pm.
In Kate Hewlett's sharp, witty play, the outwardly in-control but inwardly insecure Ellen (Michelle Giroux) is anonymously wooed by Jenny (Mayko Nguyen) with the help of Ellen's friend and employee Peter (Philip Graeme). This comedy of character avoids one-liners - though there are lots of laughs in director Andrew Hachey's fast-paced, well-acted production, many from Hewlett as Peter's loopy, cat-loving sib - and instead explores people's fears as well as their dreams, in the process breaking the fourth wall in a strikingly dramatic fashion. - JK
TAKE IT BACK
Times: Jan 9 at 9:45, Jan 10 at 7:30 pm, Jan 11 at 7:30 pm, Jan 13 at 9 pm, Jan 15 at 9:15 pm, Jan 16 at 5:15 pm, Jan 17 at 5 pm, Jan 18 at 3:15 pm.
Think of Montreal troupe Solid State Breakdance's show Take It Back as gender politics on the dance floor. Shifting back and forth between the partnered 40s Lindy Hop and the solo self-expression of breakdance, the energetic piece looks at two women (choreographer/dancers Helen Simard and JoDee Allen) who want to lead, not follow, and the various competitions between them and their male counterparts (Christian Garmatter and Milan Panet-Gigon). Funny, fast and fun. -JK
Cathy Murphy (left), David Christo and Viv Moore Rake it in.
THE RAKE'S PROGRESS: DO YOU KNOW WHERE TOM RAKEWELL IS?
Times: Jan 8 at 5 pm, Jan 9 at 7:45 pm, Jan 10 at 5:30 pm, Jan 11 at 9:15 pm, Jan 15 at 5:15 pm, Jan 16 at 9:15 pm, Jan 17 at 3 pm, Jan 18 at 7 pm.
Drawing on both the famous opera and the series of paintings that inspired it, adapters Autumn Smith (who also directs) and Cathy Murphy (who also performs) have created a thrillingly theatrical look at the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell (David Christo) in 18th century London. The stylized performances feel right for the material, and the design - especially a literal framing device - is especially imaginative. Don't miss this show. -GS
Times: Jan 8 at 5:15 pm, Jan 9 at 9:15 pm, Jan 10 at 3:15 pm, Jan 11 at 9:15 pm, Jan 14 at 6:45 pm, Jan 16 at 9:30 pm, Jan 17 at 5:30 pm, Jan 18 at 7:30 pm.
Jewish first cousins Daniel (Daniel Sadavoy) and Ariella (Rebecca Applebaum) find themselves attracted to each other in this charming and playful look at ostracism. Some scenes are more polished than others, but the actors, who also wrote the script, add energy and skill to their gallery of comic characters. More backstory, though, would make us care a bit more about the central pair. - GS
L'ANGE AVEC LES FLEURS
Times: Jan 9 at 5:30 pm, Jan 10 at 3:15 pm, Jan 11 at 5:15 pm, Jan 12 at 6:30 pm, Jan 14 at 6:15 pm, Jan 16 at 7 pm, Jan 17 at 6:45 pm, Jan 18 at 9 pm.
A clown leaves the circus, wanders the world and discovers essential truths in this self-dubbed junk melodrama devised and directed by Rocky Hobson. The philosophy presented is sometimes trite, sometimes vague, but the musical and energetic company, led by the dynamic Christopher Lee Gibson as the Pierrot-like Baptiste, always engages us in this play-within-a-play set in Nazi-occupied France. - JK
FIRST HAND WOMAN
Times: Jan 9 at 7:15 pm, Jan 10 at 5 pm, Jan 11 at 7:15 pm, Jan 13 at 6:30 pm, Jan 15 at 5:30 pm, Jan 16 at 5:30 pm, Jan 17 at 3:30 pm, Jan 18 at 9:15 pm.
A broken relationship fragments a woman's psyche into warring characters called Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance, who cope with their loss in various ways. Though Sarah Michelle Brown's script sometimes has the feel of an Oprah episode or a self-help book, director Esther Jun's vibrant production and a strong ensemble of performers evoke laughter and lots of approving, understanding nods from the audience. - JK