Friday, July 29, 2011

"2010: Our Hideous Future: The Musical" Not a Totally Hideous Dystopia

by Brian Balduzzi

On my latest adventure into the Boston fringe theatre scene, I discovered what may be the longest, most eccentric title yet; the production bursts with the same energy. 2010: Our Hideous Future: The Musical!, a Near-Futuristic Dystopian Cyperpunk Musical Comedy, flashes and pulses with a punk rock score and “hip” cyber jokes. I will admit that I was/am a cyber geek and I suppose the show could be renamed “a musical comedy for cybergeeks”. The audience was split between patrons who dropped into Club Oberon after a long day in the office (really, what did they expect? Carousel?) and the cult crowd that 2010: Our Hideous Future has been generating since its debut at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre in August 2010. This show speaks to a generation of young theatregoers who tweet on the T, Facebook a break-up (yes, I used it as a verb), and use Foursquare to update Mom and Dad about when they’ll be home.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Unfortunate Unfortunate

by Brian Balduzzi

Vagabond Theatre Group was very ambitious in their staging of The Unfortunate Cutthroats, an original play written by Zach Winston and directed by James Peter Sotis. The Unfortunate Cutthroats portrays life at sea for what else but cutthroat pirates. The production bobs like a boat out at sea and staggers under the weight of an unfortunately long script, but shines with some able actors and a strong director.

The show opened with perhaps its most compelling scene: Marcus, a young pirate played by Peter Murphy, examines a tied-up Claude Amos, played with particular skill by an unmoving David Max Gibbons. Unfortunately, the production went off-course from there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sugar Cereal Productions is "snap, crackle, and pop"-ping Fresh

by Brian Balduzzi

The Boston theatre scene is small and, with each new production reviewed, I notice more and more overlap among companies; there are directors who perform as actors, costume designers dressing as patrons, and actors who mask as critics. Recently, I was delighted to be invited to a galas for the opening of a new company by one of my favourite multi-hyphenates, Mark Sickler.

Next to Normal at the Opera House

Next to Normal is one of those pieces that, no matter what you do with it, ultimately comes down to the actors. You can place it on a cool, versatile and modern set, you can dress it up with colour-coded costumes and loud rock music, you can place it in the biggest venue available. Ultimately it's a small story in the hands of 6 people.

In the touring production currently playing at the Four Seasons Centre, those 6 people achieve varied amounts of success for the uneven but entertaining Dancap production.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mmm, Mmm, Good: A Bold Production of "MilkMilkLemonade"

by Brian Balduzzi

Heart and Dagger Productions presents a challenge with verve; its newest production of MilkMilkLemonade is not for the faint-hearted.

Set in a fictitious town, young Emory (played by "Bad Boy of Theatre" Joey C. Pelletier) dreams of a life outside his Nanna (played excellently in drag by Mikey DiLoreto)’s farm. He is just a regular eleven-year-old boy who choreographs dances to “Anything Goes” with his human-sized chicken friend, Linda (played with subtle and finely-tailored movements by Erin Rae Zalaski) and dreams of performing on Star Search. Everything is perfectly choreographed in young Emory’s life until he meets Elliot, the boy down the road (played in convincing drag by Melanie Garber). Elliot is exactly what you would expect from an eleven-year-old boy- an angry pyromaniac with a twin growing out of his leg.

If this short description has not sold you on the premise, maybe the production’s wide range of themes and topics from homosexuality to corporations to vegetarianism to friendship will convince you that MilkMilkLemonade is one cool drink to swallow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade

Soup Can Theatre's production of Marat/Sade is packed full of great ideas, but they're not always perfectly realized. Sarah Thorpe's eloquent director's note reveals the brilliant intellectual backbones of her interpretation- how she's modernized the text to explore the themes in ways that are both nationally historic and hauntingly current. But her setting of 1957 Montreal gets lost in the play's multi-layered frame. One chilling moment that would drive home the atrocities of the psychological experiments going on at McGill at that time is the only clear reference to the chosen time period, the rest of the frame understandably getting confused with the original setting of the world of the Marquis de Sade- a reality I'm not sure the text allows for the escape from.

Luckily, the terrifying 19th century world of the original setting does allow for vague modernization to explore Thorpe's chosen themes, even if the specifics of her Canadian history expose don't survive the translation. Those shiny white-tiled walls painted with opaque, un-washable blood stains could be anywhere, anytime when the mistreatment of the mentally ill taints history. With the limitations of the frame, Thorpe succeeds in stripping Marat/Sade from its time period but doesn't quite succeed in adding her own.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

At the Fringe: Part One

We were working hard this Toronto Fringe, taking in a total of 16 plays ranging from dance to drag to one-man displays or neurosis. There were companies of one, companies of ten, staged readings, fully-mounted musicals, lots of laughs, a couple of tears and grades ranging from A to D. Read on for the skinny on our least favourite productions of the jam-packed week.

My Theatre Recommends: Sweeney Todd

Our favourite youth company is back for their 7th season this year with the incredibly ambitious Sweeney Todd. The teenagers and instructors at No Strings Theatre have been working since July 4th with masterclasses in drama, voice and dance to prepare for next weekend's production at the Al Green Theatre (750 Spadina Ave). Tickets are on sale now to see this remarkable group of young performers attack Sondheim's darkest creation. Visit for more information.

Show times:
Wednesday July 27th - 7:30pm - Cast A
Thursday July 28th - 7:30pm - Cast B
Friday July 29th - 1:30pm - Cast B
Friday July 29th - 7:30pm - Cast A
Saturday July 30th - 1:30pm - Cast A
Saturday July 30th - 7:30pm - Cast B

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fun with Shakespeare

Even if you're not a bard lover, this video by impressionist Jim Meskimen, featuring Clarence's speech from Richard III, is a load of laughs and crazy impressive. Check it out.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Fond Farewell to IDS

by Brian Balduzzi

The Independent Drama Society (IDS) closes its final season in good health with Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor at the Factory Theater. Director Christine Toohey guides the production alongside a surprisingly large and diverse fleet of assistant directors, setting the tone for the collaborative piece. The Good Doctor is a collaboration in every sense- not only are multiple directors working with an ensemble of varied actors, but the piece is a showcase for not one but two famed writers, Neil Simon and Anton Chekhov. Simon weaves an evening of Chekhov’s hilarious and poignant stories of Russian life, which Toohey directs with sensitivity and an eye for detail. While the vignettes are met with varying degrees of success, the cast, crew and design team meet the challenge of each story with vibrant energy and passion worthy of IDS’s final production.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Theatre@First Intimately Stages “Equus” in Somerville

by Brian Balduzzi

Peter Shaffer's Equus has seen many notable productions since it was written in 1973, including a 1976 Broadway production featuring Anthony Hopkins and Peter Firth playing Dr. Martin Dysart and Alan Strang, respectively. Most recently, I saw the 2009 Broadway revival with Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe tackling the same roles. While appreciating the production and loving the script, I was not impressed with the theatricality and storytelling of the play until I saw Theatre@First’s innovative production.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Toronto Welcomes "The Railway Children" with Awe and Ennui

The stage adaptation of E. Nesbit's story The Railway Children (onstage now with Mirvish Productions) is all bells and train whistles with very little to sustain it. The relatively small story feels like it takes hours to tell as the cramped audience waits patiently for the inevitable conclusion, or at the very least for the storied real working train to make its appearance.