August 25, 2010 Toronto, ON
With every visit to Toronto we beeline to one of our favourite areas in the city: the distillery district.
Is it still a beeline when we get stuck in rush hour?
This is better than last time. Last time most of the traffic lights downtown went on the fritz. However, we were thoroughly impressed with the locals who took it upon themselves to direct heavy traffic at every light-less intersection.
Back to the main attraction, as far as we're concerned: Soulpepper Theatre. We caught "What the Butler Saw", a zany farce by Joe Orton, and "Doc", an award winning drama by Sharon Pollock about a relationship between a daughter and father. The latter had a unique set. The designer divied up the stage into four "rooms" using sheets of clear plexiglas set perpendicular to the stagefront and with body shapes cut out that served as entrances and exits for each character. There was also a gauzy backfrop. Unusual overall. Moody and dense with shadow and refracted light.
We like a pre-play dinner at Mill Street Brewery by the huge copper vats (or whatever you call them when it's beer), but not under the skylight if it's pouring out, unless we are in need of a little misting. Then we take time to peruse the distillery district and wander through the cobblestone lanes by the forty-seven Victorian industrial buildings that have been revamped and repurposed.
Creative types and business types coexist, as do old and new: old material, new green technology. The village created and its galleries, boutiques, eateries, theatres, cafes are meant to be sauntered and savoured.
A massive metal sculpture outside the market and adjacent to the A Taste of Quebec cheese shop that we pretend doesn't exist, for the benefit of our wallets and waistlines:
More mega scultpure outside of Balzac Coffee. Balzac's is great coffee, but the espresso at the fine food market is perfect.
Great place to chill.
July 4-7, 2010, Toronto, ON - Fringe Festival
More Theatre: 1. "How Coyote Was Swallowed by the Sandia Mountains" a thought provoking look at the suicide death of a sibling. Minimal set and good acting.
2. "Short Story Long" outstanding performance by two women actors that twisted and turned through their lives following the death of novelist husband and lover.
3. "Jitters" Soulpepper Theatre performance of David French's comedic behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a play.
4. "Raven for a Lark" by Elise Newman was a provocative study in the transformative nature of influence. Two actors get sucked into the twisted world of Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy.
5. "Afternoon Tea with Jane Austen" by Tali Brady was disappointing. Rather than a play it was more like a museum docent presentation on the life of Austen. There were some interesting facts about her life.
6. "Jersey Boys" at the end of its two year run in Toronto (longest ever for the Theatre) this outstanding evening is a music filled tour through the joys and heartaches of four boys from NJ. A great performance with many talented players. Glad we saw this.
7. "Lucky 9" by Fringe favorite TJ Dawe. This monologue was an autobiographical journey through his discovery of Enneagrams and their impact on his family and friends. He is talented and enjoyable. This was time well spent.
8. "Brothers and Arms" by Steven Jackson. The potential here was unrealized. The acting was weak, the directing must have been uncritical, and the script was on the nose and needs several rewrites. The theme is important and the storyline was innovated, just poorly executed.
9. "A Month In The Country" by Ivan Turgenev adapted by Susan Coyne. This was good but the adaptation was lacking continuity, seemed more like little vignettes. The physical acting with hammock, water hose, tire swing, were all innovative but distracted from the text which seemed limp and without energy. I read another of her adaptations and it too seemed to lack a vital energy necessary to sustain interest.
Our expectations were low and we were pleasantly pleased with the quality of the Fringe performances. We have always enjoyed Soul Pepper and Jersey Boys was just a treat. -L
June 27-July 4, 2010 - Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON - Shaw Festival
Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of our favorite small towns. It influenced our decision to move to Nova Scotia. If you have not heard that story ask me sometime, I will be happy to tell you the tale. The town includes three wonderful theatres, a great bookstore, and many fine restaurants. We stayed a few mile out of town at the Shalamar Lake Campground, recommended only for its convenient location, being only a few kilometers from town.
We saw the following plays: John Bull's Other Island - GB Shaw Cherry Orchard - Chekov Ideal Husband - Oscar Wilde Women - Claire Boothe Luce Half an Hour - JM Barrie Harvey - Mary Chase Touch of Venus - musical Doctor's Dilemma - GB Shaw
This was a great season and we look forward to returning next year. -L
Saturday, June 26, 2010 - Stratford, ON
Last day in Stratford. We saw Winter's Tale earlier in the week to finish out our theatre time in Stratford. Today we enjoyed Stratford Blues Festival. They raffled a Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty and though we bought a large number of tickets we unfortunately did not win, but still had a great day of music.
Saturday, 19 June 2010, Stratford, ON We decided to spend the entire month of June in the Stratford area to enjoy the Shakespeare Festival. Several years ago we stayed in Niagara-On-The-Lake for the Shaw Festival. We have heard such wonderful things about the theatre here we thought we would try to see as my of the plays and musicals as possible before heading to Nova Scotia.
Last night we saw Evita starring Chilina Kennedy as Eva Peron and Josh Young as Che. Both had extraordinary voices and enjoyed them earlier in other productions.
Brent Carver starred in As You Like It and Jacque Brell Is Alive And Well In Paris. Brent became one of our favorite Canadian actors, after seeing his performance in Elizabeth Rex the Timothy Findley play that is now available on DVD.
We also saw Kiss Me Kate earlier in the week. The three theatres offer wonderful venues for these amazing players to perform. We still have further nights to come in the following weeks: A Winters Tale, Peter Pan, and more. If you have the opportunity and you are in Western Ontario please avail yourself of the these Canadian treasures. -L