Bigger Than Jesus is a sexy, engaging and charismatic portrait of a white guy who thinks he’s Jesus, or at least someone who has a lot of fascinating information that tends to dispel the myth of the son of God and locate him somewhere within a chaotic contemporary landscape replete with pop-culture puppet shows starring Homer Simpson and assorted characters from Star Wars. Rick Miller’s collaboration with Daniel Brooks, currently running at The Factory Theatre, is a one man tour de force that shines with both technical brilliance and intellectual intrigue. Miller, in the title role as a larger than life solo artist intent upon shedding light on religious fervor, is one of those performers whose vocal diversity and physical presence makes it difficult to miss a beat of his virtuoso perofrmance as he takes over the stage with the zeal of a lithe thespian demi-god.
Perhaps the most memorable moments occur when Miller simultaneously sings a parodic version of a song from Jesus Christ Superstar as he manipulates a variety of tiny plastic figurines being projected behind him on a large screen. The incredible technical effects make this show into a fine example of mutli-media performance art. This is a re-mount of an award-winning must-see with a slightly disappointing religious message at the end that punctuates the demystifying discourse in a rather Christianized hegemonic way. But the ride all the way to the temple is well worth the slight anti-climax.
running at Factory Theatre until October 9th
Soulpeppers’ re-mount of The Odd Couple is a strangely funny study in heterosexual coupling. Neil Simon’s 1965 Broadway hit ages relatively well as one-liners abound and strained conjugal relations take centre stage with the husbands in full regalia and the wives decidedly absent. Albert Schultz as Oscar and Diego Matamoros as Felix match each other with pitch perfect comic difference as this unlikely ‘queer’ couple reveal, in their mismatched bickering, that all relationships, same sex or opposite, can be privy to emotions and contradictions that simultaneously make the individuals involved both the perfect and the imperfect duo. Playing at the same time as Noel Coward’s Private Lives , Soulpepper and Mirvish Productions gives Toronto audiences the chance to compare notes on the writing of two vastly different playwrights who have used comedy in order to show the gaps, the differences, and the commonalities within personalities that are thrown together, and how these personalities frequently test the limits of camaraderie, love, and friendship despite the fact that they simply cannot live without each other.
running at The Young Centre (Distillery District) through October
see review of Private Lives online at In Toronto magazine
In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play is a hilarious and poetic dramedy that explores the emotional and physical separations that occur between individuals who, given half a chance, may find the intestinal fortitude to actually crawl out from under sexual taboos and ultimately enjoy the fleshy nooks and crannies of each others bodies, rather than resorting to detached, mechanical eroticism that stands in for what they seem to truly desire. But on their way toward actual human coupling of the hot and heavy kind they find an ample substitute within the historical origins of the ever popular vibrator.
David Storch and Trish Lindstrom provide impeccable physical and vocal contrasts to each other as the repressed husband and the sexually ambitious wife. Marci T. House is a wonderful study in mannered, dignified servitude in the role of the nanny who becomes the somewhat hesitant surrogate mother-figure and the objectified muse of an attractive and intrusive artist. Melody A. Johnson’s Sabrina Daldry takes the stage in the form of a prim yet highly eroticized and empowered character, while Jonathan Watton’s marginalized artist character Leo quirkily and frantically reveals the sexual stereotypes and the sexual confines constructed between genders and alternative lifestyles.
Elizabeth Saunders as Annie has truly poignant moments as she allows her character to move seamlessly from the ever faithful medical assistant to the unsuspecting and misled paramour in a wonderfully comic and tender same sex stage moment. Ross MacMillan as Mr. Daldry has a beautifully awkward scene as the irritated husband who boldly misreads the sexual presence of a friend attempting to find her own sexuality within a deceptively sexless environment. Richard Rose's nuanced and physically complex direction brings all of these strained mortal collisions into perfect physical and emotional focus.
And the vibrator scenes are hilarious as sets, costumes, and props by David Boechler provide a truly beautiful, faintly bawdy, and utterly quirky period setting for Sarah Ruhl’s provocative and thought provoking play to blossom, to penetrate, and to climax within.
running at Tarragon until October 23rd