Monday, October 25, 2021


Sky Gilbert's current theatre/cabaret offering, at the fabulous Chez BonBon on Queen East, is a rollicking interrogation of our current dilemma regarding the many modes of human behaviour we are treated to, and perhaps mistreated by, during pandemic times. The series of loosely connected scenes, performed by a cast of three gifted performers, tackles not only our current covid pandemic predicament but also the much earlier – and ongoing – social/sexual tragedy of AIDS. Indirectly related issues including addiction and gender identity surface throughout and make for a form of thought-provoking, comical satire that at times evokes degrees of poignant reflection in the hands of a talented ensemble.


Keith Cole opens the show with an energy packed, highly nuanced rhyming monologue very indirectly based on a much traveled 'camp' song that was revised, sung by Clifton Webb, and used in the 1929 musical sketch revue that inspired Gilbert's version of The Little Show. Gilbert adds a decidedly – yet subtly - more political edge to his take. Originally, the song that inspires the opening monologue, was titled I Love to Lie Awake in Bed (1920's), with music by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Lorenz Hart (a camp song they wrote together as young men when they worked as musical and drama  directors in a camp at Brant Lake in the Adirondacks). The original brief ditty has made the rounds, in various versions, through Fred Astaire movie musicals to the Broadway show The Band Wagon, as well as a song sung by Marsha Mason and Kristy McNichol in the film Only When I Laugh in 1982 (originally a play, The Gingerbread Lady, by Neil Simon). In Gilbert's hands, and performed by Keith Cole, the song becomes a lengthy rhythmic, spoken monologue that warns yet revels in the complexities of love and its varied implications, irritations, and delights – both carnal and carnivalesque. In alluring black sequin, spandexy-like tights and a pink glittering jacket Cole enchants with a booming voice and the necessary softer tones that move him through with an essential breakneck pace. He brilliantly sets the stage for indirectly related performance sketches about love lust and some of the profound social issues that become entangled within the over-arching vessels of romance,  relationships, and outright riveting disclosures regarding gloriously unbridled sexual appetites.


As a near relation to vaudeville sketches – just over an hour – the overall piece could benefit from more distinct separations between scenes in order to cue the audience on the somewhat disconnected nature/narrative  of each sketch – perhaps a decorative vaudeville sketch poster or a silent film text projection. And yet, Stewart Borden's live piano accompaniment provides a powerful cinematic-cum-Broadway-esque pastiche that both weaves and separates the proceedings in a highly effective, lively, and engaging way.


At one point Keith Cole joins his cast mates in a memorable intervention into a conversation about varied gender and sexual identity, inserting a brief speech that chronicles the characters movement from gay, to rainbow identified, to princess warrior. This is perhaps the strongest and most scathing moment of identity satire in The Little Show. Superbly handled by Cole, with his signature highs and lows, his skill for combining campiness and realistic dialogue-delivery, the piece becomes both comical and moving as he enters in tears and deftly frolics both fearlessly and fearsomely through a speech that could have lapsed into pointless mockery had the performer not been able to skilfully tap into the simultaneously delicate and powerful gradations individuals experience when they examine and navigate their own personal movement through various forms of being, changing, and evolving in a complicated world – a floundering planet.


l-r - Veronica Hurnik, Sky Gilbert, Shaun McComb, Keith Cole

Shaun McComb and Veronica Hurnik match Cole's seemingly effortless and engaging presence. McComb embodies a varied and charming persona in characters that move from a subtly fey vocal and physical aura to a more socially neutral, yet harrowingly seductive journey in a speech about an especially conflicted parental relationship that ends with a dark satiric punch.


Hurnik is endlessly engaging to watch as she navigates addiction addled characters who never fail to see how liberal attitudes can cloud the movement from friendship to judgmental response, to women frustrated by the proclivities of lively bi-curious connections that corner her and take up more couch time than the character might have imagined or desired. And her final song, lyrics by Gilbert with original music by Borden, is a lovely and effectively punctuating finale - a subtle nod to the original inspiration where Libby Holman sang the iconic torch song, Moanin' Low near the end of Act One in the original version of The Little Show by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz.


Adding to his large catalogue of theatrical offerings, Sky Gilbert has given us yet another vastly entertaining, beautifully performed, and immensely thought-provoking little show to be entertained, engaged, and politically aroused by.


and as an added bonus; 

Sky Gilberts latest novel, available at Dundrun Press


THE NOVEL: Denton Moulton, a shy, effeminate male professor, lives inside his head, where he is really a long-dead movie star: the glamorous Gloria Grahame, from the golden age of Hollywood. Professor Moulton is desperate to reveal Gloria’s shocking secret before he dies. Does he have the right to tell this woman’s story? Who, in fact, has the right to tell anyone’s story at all? I Gloria Grahame is a scandalous, humorous novel of taboo desires and repression. Published under the imprint Rare Machines by Dundurn Press.

“Brilliant. An important addition to Two-Spirited literature.” - Tomson Highway

“A sharp satire of these tremulous times that actually makes one laugh. It’s brave, it’s shocking, it's compelling and best of all, it’s not too long. It’s 'De Profundiis' for the beach.” - Scott Thompson

Om Sunday October 24th at 5pm Sky Gilbert shared a reading from his new novel. Following the reading attendees were able to buy the book for $22.99. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021




It is not the fashion to see the lady as the epilogue;

but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord`

the prologue... As You Like It (epilogue excerpt)

When Rosalind delivers her gender commingling epilogue to As You Like It, written by a lesser known playwright (William Shakespeare), she deftly dances through iambic pentameter in an attempt to shed light upon the fluidity of gender, red wine, and men dressed as women kissing bearded meni – among other things. When Cliff Cardinal delivers his gender specific 'epilogue' in his radical retelling of As You Like It, amongst an ensemble cast of singular multiplicity and complex diversity, he frames the unofficial finale/epilogue of his 90 minute tour de force with stories about strong, proactive indigenous women, and how they participate and take action within their communities. These stories act as powerful - at times comical - frequently moving reminders that community action can become a defining force within daily struggles to stay afloat in the midst of profoundly troubling social issues.

Like Shakespearean comedy and drama, Cardinal's closing stories about women are being told by a man. But in Shakespeare, of course, the woman played by a man is dressed as a woman. Cardinal wears casual, contemporary Elizabethan-esque-ish attire giving his stage presence a subtle sense of neutral gendered fluidity as far as costume is not concerned.


If I were a woman, I

would kiss as many of you as had beards that

pleased me                                                                -  Rosalind, epilogue

Rosalind and Cardinal, in their respective retellings of life lived within unacknowledged sites of bodily, geographic, and national disavowal, give their audiences a double sided look into the nature of urban and rural identities.

Within Cardinal's venture into national/global geographic tragedies that might be considered 'Shakespearean' in their intensity and profound social injustices, there are many moments in this incredibly engaging performance that can be aligned with the city and the forest and all that lies between these inevitably land-based sites. In Shakespeare the city is the royal court and the forest is the forest of Arden. In Cardinal's version the city and the forest is Canada, with familial sojourns into specific locales in the U.S.

Not being able to see the larger picture -  the forest for the trees – is a primary problem in Canada when one attempts to discuss the breadth and intricacies of ongoing crimes made against indigenous sites (Canada as a singular/multiple vast indigenous site). We could start with clean water and take it from there. But let's not. Let's stop for a moment and ask, what on earth is this reviewer talking about? He is trying to talk about the history of a country as long as Cliff Cardinal is "good looking." Cardinal says as much about his own physical presence within his take on one of Shakespeare's most popular/attractive comedies.

Like Rosalind, Cardinal is a dual entity – both compassionate and wryly critical - self aware, self assured, quick to make complex, simultaneously comical and thought-provoking over-arching claims, and then skilfully able to unpack them and deconstruct the intricate and complicated histories behind them. His onstage persona is filled with charm, physical prowess, and agility as he navigates tightly conceived, subtle blocking and emotional expression that takes him from centre stage and back again throughout the show.

After all - the world is a stage, as Jacques so aptly puts it in his famous As You Like It soliloquy, and the men and women merely players. Cardinal - and his deceptive ensemble - is a truly gifted player as he entertains, enlightens, and effectively 'tricks' his audience into believing in the power of theatre as a vehicle for social change, when in fact, as he mentions slyly at the beginning of the show, social change in so many theatre productions is made possible through the support of large oil bearing entities and/or banking institutions – among other funding bodies. Bodies that are not always the friendliest of allies when it comes to claiming and saving the land that is nature's greatest alliance with all of us.

Like Duke Senior in Shakespeare's Act Two, Cardinal finds tongues on trees, books in the running brooks / Sermons in stones / and good in everything” - and yet, within those very same places he finds the corruption and crime that underlies so much of our national history.

Cardinal's radical retelling of As You Like It topples statues, ideologies, apologies, and recent theatre 'prologues' - ultimately exclaiming something along the lines of - 'well, now at least we know how easy they are to tear down.' At one point he describes himself as "not a particularly compassionate person” - and yet he does this in the context of a performance - a radical retelling - that is filled with complicated double-sided forms of compassion that boldly ask us to listen carefully and be aware that everything we hear may not be quite enough - like an epilogue, a prologue, or perhaps even a land ackn`owledgment. We need to stop hearing and seeing in over-simplified ways - as we like it – to consider and to become more attuned to the very complex nature of language, land, and ownership - and to acknowledge our parts within those vast and increasingly compromised stages.