Wednesday, November 28, 2012


The current re-mount Of Asha and Ravi Jain's heartwarming collaborative performance A Brimful of Asha is a wonderful testament to the ways in which cross-cultural anxiety and complex family structures can become great drama. This mother and son team are blessed by a powerful rapport that moves seamlessly from a kind of loving, comic antagonism into truly intense, dramatic moments of great distress created by a strong and well argued battle of wills. 
As Artistic Director of Why Not Productions, and director of the current Tarragon production, Ravi Jain has found a spectacular, one of a kind co-creator who graces the stage with  tremendous composure, sweetness, and generosity of spirit. Seated for the entire performance, Asha Jain represents a frequently serene oppositional force in the face of her son's lively and relentless desire to make his own choices. At times Ravi seems to almost parody his mother's logic as she articulates her very detailed beliefs regarding marriage and family. When the son wryly declares, "who can argue with logic like that," in the face of his mother's circuitous narrative route, it is obvious that the two family members have belief systems based in profoundly different structures regarding religion as it relates to 'God' and family. The word 'God' is used at least twice in the script and resonates with a powerful sense of how logic and spirituality works for many people.

A very poignant moment occurs when Asha re-tells the story of a life dream that took a rather unexpected route and landed her in a very "foreign" snowy environment - Canada. This is an immigrant story that has been placed within a kind of hybrid performance site developed through improvisational structures and then tightly scripted into 90 minutes of sheer entertainment and moving testimony - and the fourth wall is deliciously shattered at the outset as warm samosas are shared with spectators before and after the show.
Typical of great theatre - and theatricality - an awkward form of very thought provoking laughter emerges from time to time when the parody from Ravi's physically manic side of the coin tends to make it difficult to know whether his mothers views are being laughed with or laughed at. But as Asha tells her son, "We are two sides of the same coin." This concise cliche works beautifully as audiences take an up close and personal journey with two very talented storytellers who may seem at loggerheads when in fact they are simply trying to fit their world views into their immense love for each other. 


for further information on Why NOT THEATRE and A Brimful of Asha go to

A Brimful of Asha
published by Playwrights Canada Press

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


website: Each being is both at the centre of the world and orbiting around others. Interdependence is obvious and struggles are inevitable. In a space out of time, RBDG’s raw movement expresses all the weight of this adversarial relationship. The five dancers – a family, a nomadic tribe or an entire people – interweave, fight, crave and hustle in an astonishing fluidity of action. All of this, only to survive.
With Gravity of Center, Victor Quijada succeeds to contain the ferocity of hip hop in a perfectly reined choreographic language. Between dynamic rhythms and physical prowess, the company’s unique vocabulary is the epicenter of this eighth creation.
Quijada collaborates on this production with creators dear to RUBBERBANDance Group. Yan Lee Chan sculpts the space with its lighting as Jasper Gahunia, DJ Lil Jaz, creates an atmosphere with music that is the true link to RUBBERBANDance Group’s visual aesthetic.

RUBBERBANDance Group’s Gravity of Centre was a complex and exciting piece of extended choreography that reached powerful momentum by the end of a program that ranged form intimate, beautifully lit moments of ensemble work to solo virtuosic flips and contortions that meshed seamlessly with a background of integrated bodies and movement. The narrative force of the overall work, focusing upon the implications of “a family, a nomadic tribe or an entire people” shed a diverse light upon interactive movement that ranged from abrupt hostile explosions to lighter, nuanced moments of gorgeous woven movement.
The sheer length of the evening, never faltering through a relentless commitment to a kind of carefully conceived collective creativity, gradually traces the evolution of adversarial relationships as individuals struggle to survive, compete, cooperate, and thrive within physical and visual aesthetics that test the endurance and vitality of people fighting for secure prominence through both harmony and discord. As powerful groups and mighty individuals searching for a central position within the often destabilizing gravity of being alive on a shaky planet, the artists involved in Gravity of Centre must be applauded for the power of their skill, artistry, and utterly engaging endurance.

Choreographer: Victor Quijada Performers: Victor Quijada, Anne Plamondon, Emmanuelle Lê Phan, Elon Höglund and Daniel MayoLighting Design: Yan Lee Chan Composer: Jasper Gahunia Costume Designer: Julie Charland

A DanceWorks presentation at Harbourfront Centre's Fleck Dance 
Theatre, Nov. 16-17, 2012 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Little Years

The current production of John Mighton's The Little Years is a beautiful production of a very tender play about aging, fame, and the seemingly tenuous connections we humans seem to frequently have with one another. A stellar cast led by Chick Reid and Irene Poole inject heightened emotional clarity into Mighton's poetic text with the aid of Chirs Abraham's spare, perfectly pitched direction. Actors are carefully arranged within stark white playing areas defined by a glistening white set by Julie Fox, complemented by her gorgeous sharply defined costumes, evocative lighting by Kimberly Purtell, and effective, emotionally jarring composition and sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne.

Reid makes the transition from lively nineteen fifties matriarch to ailing, embittered elderly mother with a kind of serene gracefulness marked by bittersweet moments of comically nasty insensitivity. Ari Cohen and Pamel Sinha match Reid's seamless movement from relative youth into later stages of life as their characters are rendered with a fine sense of nuance and layered dignity. When Cohen's character refers to himself as the Barry Manilow of the art world a comically chilling moment of clarity occurs for any of us whose antique LP collection included a few of Barry's emotionally charged pop tunes from our timeworn pasts.

There are moments when a couple of the wigs seem to cry out for a little more naturalism within an intimate theatre space, but this is a minor glitch in an otherwise beautifully realized play dependent upon the passage of time within the minds and bodies of a very distinct cast of characters.

Mighton's script plays with elements of mathematics and art as it deftly attests to the acclaimed playwright/mathematician's proficiency with both words and numbers as he skillfully sculpts a smouldeirng treatise on the fleeting nature of time, notoriety, and mere human existence. Clear measured delivery and sharp characterization from the entire cast creates a powerful metaphoric connection between science, emotional instability, and aesthetic beauty.

Standout performances by Bethany Jillard and Irene Poole create a climactic intensity that gives Mighton's final scenes a very moving and satisfying ending that journeys into the realm of hopeful 
redemption and elegiac grace.

On opening night Artistic Director Richard Rose announced the recent passing of David Freeman, whose  critically acclaimed play Creeps opened the inaugural Tarragon season forty two years ago. A toast was made in the lobby, and an enduring sense of Canadian theatre artists, as individuals to be celebrated for their tenacity and skill, connected well to Mighton's timeless message regarding the essence of life as a very delicate and puzzling experience to behold.


Thursday, November 1, 2012


 Eric Peterson and Maria Vacratsis as Nagg and Nell 
Joseph Ziegler and Diego Matamoros as Hamm and Clov

In Soulpepper's remarkably beautiful production of Samuel Beckett's classic  'absurdist' dramedy, ENDGAME, director Daniel Brooks has revisited a piece of theatre that won him a Dora award for best productIon of the year over a decade ago. Brooks felt that "there was still so much to explore." And exploration is precisely the impulse that makes this a first rate production of a gorgeous poetic text. As the curtain rises the audience is immediately aware of the play as an articulate interrogation of all the sights and sounds that come with a piece of writing that continues to inspire spectators and artists alike with its timeless mixture of great melancholy and profound mirth. 

Eric Peterson and Maria Vacratsis, as Nagg and Nell, deliver their lines as though they were symphonically in sync with the text and each others individual take on it. Silent moments of strained corporeal connection shed a sharp light on their incredible talent for comic physicalization and facial expression that incorporates pathos in a brilliant and poignant manner.

Diego Matamoros reprises the role he played in 1999 and gives the character of Clov an intense, stylized gait and explosively refined way of speaking that renders him the perfect straight man for Joseph Ziegler's superb version of the domineering Hamm. Ziegler is able to subtly deliver his overbearing directives in a way that highlights the poetic nature of a script that alludes to the work of T.S. Eliot, Santayana, Shakespeare, and Dante.

Set design by Julie Fox and costumes by Victoria Wallace create a deceptively light monotone  environment that creates a dense confining space for the captive cast to inhabit. Richard Ferren's moments of  technically superb sound design punctuate the opening and final curtain with the elegant, timeless quality Brooks has saturated the overall production with. 

There is a tendency to view Beckett as a gloomy, meandering poetic voice in search of no real message at all. The current Soupepper production neither meanders nor falls into pointless despair. It entertains from beginning to end and refuses to answer all of the questions that have not been asked. A panoply of citation, poetic intertextuality, bewildered dialectic confusion, weathered romance, and existential play, this is a superb production of a classic text that flies in the face of naturalist interpretation - becoming a melancholy and delightful playground for sight, sound, and the frequently goofy, utterly bewildering experience of being alive.

running at the Young Centre (Distillery district)  through November