University Player’s “To Moscow”

To Moscow was certainly a play for people who love theatre, this reviewer included, and I had an amazing time watching the lives of two of the most revolutionary theatre practitioners unfold in front of me. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to get out and see it ASAP!

Liza Balkan made an amazing decision to have the cast get ready for the show out on stage. For a play that looks at actors and acting, to have the cast talk to the audience, get ready and basically let us in on what would be going on backstage onstage was fascinating, educational and just perfect in my opinion. The seamless transition from “backstage” to the world of the play was fantastic, and it really gave an organic feel to the rest of the play.

The plot of the play itself is rather incredible considering how famous and how much work Stanislavski and Chekhov did in such a short period of time. These two men essentially created our modern notion of theatre, without them we would be still using the declamatory style of melodrama rather than Stanislavski’s more natural theatre. To watch how these two theatre giants met, developed careers, how their personal lives intertwined and developed, it made for a wonderful piece of theatre.

The actors portrayed their characters wonderfully. I was so impressed. Mauro Meo and Andrew Iles who played Stanislavski and Chekhov respectively were the centerpiece of a phenomenal cast. Gwendolyn Tofano’s performance as Masha Chekhov was powerful, and Rebecca Young as the actress Olga Knipper was enchanting. Breanna Maloney and Tamlynn Bryson embodied their characters so well, and Maloney especially made us have such empathy for her character and her situation. Robin Ross and David Hudyma rounded out this small but definitely mighty cast.

The costumes and set were amazing. It was a lot of fun getting to watch the actors get dressed. There are so many layers and the costumes are so intricate, that it makes you appreciate them even more. There was such beauty in the simplicity of the set, and the multimedia aspect of the play was awesome. To get to think about all of the amazing quotes from both the writings and plays of these two men were amazing, and set the tone for the scene very well.

When I see a play like this, which talks about the real lives of these amazing theatre artists, I wonder what they’d think of it. Would they like how we remember them? Did the events and conversations really go this way, or are we missing some unknown element to the story? To me, plays like this one are so important because they preserve in some way the amazing lives of men whose story cannot be forgotten.

Honestly, this is an amazing play. There are only two performances left, tonight at 8 and tomorrow at 2. Get there if you can! It’s definitely worth the trip and has nice romantic tones for Valentine’s Day weekend!

The Grand Theatre “Shrek the Musical”

My friend Joseph and I decided to take a last minute theatre journey up to London on January 2nd to go and see a few of our friends in Shrek the Musical just before it closed. It was quite the experience and the show was adorably wonderful.

So amazingly enough, we got to sit in the front row despite having only gotten rush seats, and that was definitely a great choice. This was a play that was just too much fun to not be in the middle of!

The sets were wonderfully fanciful, and I especially loved the story book that the characters could walk right through. The costumes were likewise whimsical and very much akin to what was seen in the movie that the musical is based on. I liked that they added in some new characters and/or gave more recognition to characters that were only minor parts in the movie, like the Wicked Witch or the Sugar Plum Fairy. However the Dragon’s costume was hands down the most impressive. The dragon itself was a giant puppet divided into 6 pieces that weren’t actually attached. Therefore it forced the actors to keep very close together and be very in sync to give the illusion of a whole dragon. The voice of the Dragon (in our case Ayrin Mackie) was then dressed in a fabulous sparkly/scaly dress whose colour was the same as the dragon. It was amazing to watch and the children in the audience responded well to it.

The story itself stayed very true to the movie, including some dialogue direct from the movie, while also adding in several new musical numbers for the play. I was particularly happy that they left in a good deal of the dialogue, it made the play recognizable for the children (and the young at heart) but it didn’t make you feel like you were just seeing the same thing either.

The acting was superb, and a great job was done by all. It would take me forever to mention all of the people involved in this show, but who I do want to point out are the young ladies who played the two young version of Fiona. They had very difficult roles in terms of playing not only Fiona but then other of the forest creatures. They performed well both vocally and dramatically, and Joseph and I were very impressed. I can say rather confidently that if either of those girls wants a career in acting, they will have no problem at all making that happen.

Overall, it was a wonderful family show. I heard just as much laughter from the adults in the room as the children. I was very happy that Joseph had asked me to go as it wound up being a wonderful adventure.

Tarragon Theatre’s “Sextet”

I know that this post is a long time coming. I actually saw this show at the beginning of December and unfortunately it’s no longer on. However, I still wanted to share my thoughts about the show, because it was just that good. Enjoy!

For me, there is nothing better than being able to see a brand new play. There’s something exhilarating about knowing that there are just a handful of people who have seen this play before you have, and that hopefully you’ll be able to follow the success of such a marvellous play in years to come. That’s how I felt after seeing Sextet by Morris Panych at the Tarragon Theatre this past weekend. This was our first time at Tarragon, and I must say I was rather impressed with the whole experience.

Immediately upon arrival in the theatre, the set captivates you. These six tiny rooms, with their tiny beds (and all matching to boot!) must have been quite the feat for the set designer. Because of the many doors and rooms, the play was able to have this wonderfully farcical feel which kept the pace high in and amongst the stories of the lives of these musicians. However, one of the most amusing details about the set is that none of the times on the clocks matched! It was funny, and as most travellers know, very true. Once the characters come and invade this space, you see how much their personalities stand out against the bland backdrop. Because of the sameness of the rooms, and yet the inability to tell where they are or what time it is paired with their inability to leave the motel, it made the play almost absurd in nature. I really liked that element, because it gave us more of a chance to focus on the people and their current situations, which makes you so much more connected to them.

That was one of the easiest and best things about Sextet: the characters and coming to love them. We realize through many soliloquies and scenes of quick dialogue how all of these unique individuals can come together and play, and yet why they don’t always get along. The discussion of sexuality and how it was dealt with I found refreshing and endearing. We feel for the main character, Harry, as he takes us on this journey of self-discovery. It also makes for some very funny and awkward moments in the play, and the dialogue is so witty that it made a subject that can be taboo to something that was natural and amusing.

Honestly, it was such a pleasure getting to see this play. It was full of familiar faces who I adore who took me on a fantastic personal journey. I related so much to the one character, and it was amazing to see how things would up for her. I just can’t even seem to put to words all the amazing things that I felt about this play, and I wish it was still on so everyone could enjoy it!