Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Citron’s High Ten Theatre Productions of 2023, 5 Honourable Mentions & A Backside Feeder

The Seagull (Photo courtesy of Soulpepper Theatre Company)
The Seagull (Picture courtesy of Soulpepper Theatre Firm)

LvT theatre critic Paula Citron runs down the checklist of Toronto’s high ten theatre productions of 2023, together with 5 honourable mentions, and a backside feeder that makes the checklist too. It was an fascinating yr in Toronto’s theatre scene, and there’s a lot to debate.

The lists are introduced in alphabetical order.

The High Ten

Acceptable (Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Ted Dykstra) Coal Mine Theatre

Acceptable (which means appropriate). Acceptable (which means to take over). These two totally different meanings of the identical phrase have been the flashpoint that triggered Branden Jacobs-Jenkins to jot down his 2014 very disturbing eponymous play. Right here we meet the Arkansas Lafayette household, who’ve come to their decaying mansion to type by means of their late father’s belongings for an property sale, the place they uncover a darkish secret about stated father. A singular truth is that Acceptable was written by a Black playwright who explores features of racism utilizing all-White characters. Director Dykstra stored the pacing boiling and roiling utilizing foul-mouth sister Toni (the sensible Raquel Duffy) because the fulcrum, in a forged that was uniformly robust. A go to with the Lafayette household was harrowing, to say the least. As a play, Acceptable was absorbing, compelling, and at instances surprising, as a result of playwright Jacobs-Jenkins was relentless with the curve balls he threw on the viewers.

Dangerous Roads (Written by Natal’ya Vorozhbit, translated by Sasha Dugdale, directed by Andrew Kushnir) Crow’s Theatre

Dangerous Roads by Ukrainian playwright Natal’ya Vorozhbit could be probably the most disturbing evenings I’ve ever spent within the theatre. The six episodes, carried out by seven very good actors, are set throughout the Donbass conflict that started in 2014 when separatists loyal to Russia declared independence from Ukraine. Vorozhbit put collectively her scenes utilizing recorded firsthand accounts akin to verbatim theatre, private recollections from pals and kinfolk, monologues written by teenage women that she mentored, plus her personal journey to the Donbass. Dangerous Roads, nevertheless, was not chilly, dry docudrama. Moderately, the fabric was masterfully woven into searing fiction that was primarily based on truth. The lifelike horrors of conflict that Vorozhbit introduced have been very troublesome to take a seat by means of. Director Kushnir coated himself in glory with this tight manufacturing. All the pieces labored, which is why Dangerous Roads was such a powerhouse of a theatre expertise.

Behind the Moon (Written by Anosh Irani, directed by Richard Rose) Tarragon Theatre

Anosh Irani’s world premiere Behind the Moon was a really highly effective manufacturing. At one climactic level, my internal voice was shouting, “Please don’t kill him, please don’t kill him!” as one of many characters attacked one other. That’s how a lot this play and its characters have been attending to me. Qadir Bhai (Vik Sahay) is the proprietor of the quick meals Mughlai Moon restaurant, and one thing is clearly not proper in the best way Ayub his prepare dinner (Ali Kazmi) cowers earlier than his boss. Then there’s the mysterious buyer Jalal (Husein Madhavji) who impacts Ayub’s life in profound methods. On the core, this harrowing play offers with human trafficking, the place immigrants, authorized or not, are exploited by their very own form. Behind the Moon grabbed maintain of you from the very starting and didn’t let go till the startling ending, whereas Rose’s taut path ensured a really uncomfortable experience for the viewers.

Fifteen Canine (Tailored and directed by Marie Farsi, primarily based on the novel by André Alexis) Crow’s Theatre

Farsi managed the not possible in bringing this Canadian literary masterpiece to the stage. The much-honoured 2015 novel by André Alexis is an apologue, which means, an ethical fable in regards to the human situation that includes animals as characters. The canine in query are victims of a merciless wager between two Greek gods, and in astonishing trend, Farsi introduced the animals to life. The physicality, the vocalise, the supply by the actors was brilliantly executed as they moved between being canine, people and narrators, and the truth that the forged had solely six actors is actually mind-boggling. Farsi’s manufacturing by no means allow us to overlook that it is a fable about humankind, displaying us the struggling and the cruelty, offset by the kindness and the loyalty. The entire philosophical sweep of affection, demise and life was there on this adaptation for the stage. This manufacturing was merely a powerful directorial accomplishment.

Kelly v. Kelly (By Britta Johnson (composer & lyricist) and Sara Farb (e-book), choreographed and directed by Tracey Flye) Musical Stage Firm and Canadian Stage

This authentic Canadian musical was merely sensational. It might play on Broadway proper now. The story, which was primarily based on true occasions that occurred in New York in 1915, defied perception. The aristocratic Helen Kelly (Jessica Sherman) charged her rebellious daughter Eugenia (Eva Foote) with incorrigibility due to her affair with a charismatic tango dancer (Jeremy Walmsley), tango being the nice devil of the age. On the trial, Eugenia represented herself in flippant trend, whereas Helen was represented by a smarmy lawyer (Joel Cumber). Utilizing a parade of witnesses and a sequence of flashbacks, the intelligent songs took us by means of this sordid story, interpolated by beautiful dances. The forged was spectacular, as was Tracey Flye’s path and choreography. Alex Amini’s 1915 costumes have been additionally beautiful. The story of a mom having her daughter arrested for what was tantamount to being impartial, proved to be completely riveting.

The Lehmann Trilogy (Photo: Dahlia Katz)
The Lehmann Trilogy (Picture: Dahlia Katz)

The Lehman Trilogy (Written by Stefano Cassini, tailored by Ben Energy, directed by Philip Akin) Canadian Stage

On this mind-boggling epic, the three German-Jewish Lehman brothers, Henry, Emmanuel, and Mayer, performed by Ben Carlson, Graeme Somerville and Jordon Pettle, respectively, arrived in the USA in 1844, seeking the American dream. By the machine of narration, interpolated by transient scenes, the play traces the brothers from the common-or-garden beginnings of their dry items retailer in Montgomery, Alabama, to ending up proudly owning one the world’s largest funding banks. After all, Lehman Brothers is infamously identified as we speak for its spectacular 2008 collapse, which triggered one of many worst monetary crises for the reason that Nice Melancholy. What is totally astonishing is that the above talked about three actors performed all of the components magnificently which included the brothers, wives, sons, grandsons, and everybody else. The Lehman Trilogy was sensible, provocative theatre, and kudos to director Akin and his very good forged for pulling off this monumental endeavor.

Natasha, Pierre & The Nice Comet of 1812 (Ebook, music, lyrics and orchestrations by Dave Malloy, tailored from Leo Tolstoy’s Conflict and Peace, directed by Chris Abraham) Musical Stage Firm and Crow’s Theatre

The splendid manufacturing of this sung-through electropop opera was a triumph in each respect. Creator Malloy selected a 70-page tract from Half 8 of Ebook Two, of Tolstoy’s mammoth epic, which describes two arcs — Natasha Rostova (Hailey Gillis), and her infatuation with the scoundrel Anatole Kuragin (George Krissa), and melancholy Pierre Bezukhov (Evan Buliung) and his seek for path in his meaningless life. The opposite characters are largely entwined between the 2. From the second you entered the theatre, you have been conscious of the magnificent set by Julie Fox and Joshua Quinlan, gilded by Ming Wong’s beautiful Napoleonic period costumes. Malloy’s music is enchanting due to its very range. Which brings us to the 13 uber-talented singing actors who carried out from the guts. Director Abraham by no means let the pacing flag for one minute, on this manufacturing that was a humiliation of riches.

Sizwe Banzi Is Lifeless (By Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, directed by Mumbi Tendyebwa Otu) Soulpepper Theatre Firm

This 1972 South African play nonetheless packs a punch as Otu’s manufacturing proved in sensible trend. Whereas set within the Apartheid period, this searing play can nonetheless converse to racial injustices which might be ongoing across the globe. Within the play, we meet three Black males, the photographer Types (Amana Umeh), Sizwe Banzi (Tawiah M’Carthy) and Sizwe’s new discovered good friend Buntu (additionally Umeh). In a fancy sequence of monologues and flashbacks, we uncover how Types and Sizwe are related. Director Otu was relentless in pushing out character, whereas preserving tight management on the pacing. The performances have been excellent. Umeh was Hamlet final season at Stratford, so taking part in males will not be unusual to her. The actor has charisma on steroids, and whereas she was in your face, M’Carthy’s extra subdued efficiency was a vibrant if poignant distinction. All the pieces about this manufacturing labored — performing, set, lighting — not a false transfer anyplace.

The Grasp Plan (Written by Michael Healey, primarily based on a e-book by Josh O’Kane, directed by Chris Abraham) Crow’s Theatre

The play is predicated on Josh O’Kane’s bestseller, Sideways: The Metropolis Google Couldn’t Purchase. In a divine second of inspiration, Crow’s Theatre’s inventive director, Chris Abraham commissioned Michael Healey to transform the e-book right into a play, Healey being one among Canada’s nice political satirists. The result’s a play that was a wild theatrical experience crammed with vibrant characters, boardroom intrigues, and all method of company shenanigans. Within the remaining evaluation, it was American Huge Tech versus Canadian metropolis authorities, Goliath versus David, so to talk. Director Abraham set a livid tempo as details and figures actually assaulted the viewers a mile a minute on this mad sprint of a narrative, however Abraham additionally ensured that totally developed characters have been on the stage. His forged, led by Mike Shara’s over-confidant Ugly American, was merely very good, whereas Joshua Quinlan’s techno set was completely masterful.

The Master Plan (Photo: Dahlia Katz)
The Grasp Plan (Picture: Dahlia Katz)

The Seagull (By Anton Chekhov, tailored by Simon Stephens, directed by Daniel Brooks) Soulpepper Theatre Firm

This riveting manufacturing of a Chekhovian masterpiece was the late Daniel Brooks’ swan tune, however what an finish sport he gave us. British playwright Stephens set the play in modern instances, however all of the tortured relationships of the unique are intact, solely in a intelligent fashionable context. As a director, Brooks might all the time deliver out character, and each one among his all-star forged, led by Michele Monteith as Irina, Paolo Santalucia as Konstantin, and Hailey Gillis as Nina, was merely very good. We knew these folks. We felt the ennui of the town folks, and the discomfort of the nation folks. We laughed with them, we cried with them, and we undoubtedly bought aggravated with them. And naturally, like all Brooksian productions, there have been intelligent and stunning directorial touches. What a superb goodbye from the very proficient Daniel Brooks. He might be tremendously missed.

5 Honourable Mentions

  • Fairview (By Jackie Sibblies Drury, directed by Tawiah M’Carthy) Canadian Stage and Obsidian Theatre
  • Prodigal (Written and directed by Paolo Santalucia) The Howland Firm, in affiliation with Crow’s Theatre
  • The Chinese language Woman (By Lloyd Suh, directed by Marjorie Chan) Studio 180 Theatre, fu-Gen Asian Canadian Theatre Firm, in affiliation with Crow’s Theatre
  • The Sound Inside (Written by Adam Rapp, directed by Leora Morris) Coal Mine Theatre
  • Yerma (Written by Simon Stone after Federico Garcia Lorca, directed by Diana Bentley) Coal Mine Theatre

The Backside Feeder

God of Carnage (By Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, directed by Mark Datuin) The Toronto Stage Firm

If ever there was an arrogance mission, that is it, and judging from his director’s notes in this system, I lay the blame on the ft of Mark Datuin. Apparently, seeing this sensible 2009 Tony/Olivier Award-winning play was his first foray to a Broadway theatre, which led to his eager to mount it down the road. Datuin’s background is in movie, and that’s maybe the place he ought to have stayed, as a result of what ended up on stage was newbie degree stuff. This intelligent play options two {couples} who come collectively as a result of their kids have been in a schoolyard battle, and find yourself coming to blows themselves. Whereas the 2 male actors (Luke Marty and Jarrod W. Clegg) have been comparatively competent, the 2 ladies (Angelica Alejandro and Amy Slattery) have been completely hopeless. It’s a mark of the excellence of Reza’s play that this dreadful manufacturing couldn’t completely erase its dramatic energy.

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Paula Citron
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