Friday, November 14, 2014


I had a two show Sunday last weekend:  it was almost like a Fringe festival Sunday.

My day started at Queen and Spadina where I went to see CIRCLE JERK, a collection of four short plays punctuated by musical interludes.

Rather than the usual recorded interval music, Soup Can Theatre, safeword and Aim for the Tangent commissioned composers to write interstitial music inspired by the lines that begin and end each of the four, short plays that form the circle.

Those lines were elicited from from over 300 audience submissions.  The companies settled on "Subtlety is not your specialty", "What's Bulgarian for slut?", " I think it's time we talked about your filthy rituals" and "I fucking hate potatoes".

DUST PEDDLING feature Scott Dermondy ( who also wrote this script) and Lisa Hamalainen having a mildly kinky sexy time.  She requires poetry of her lover, and his choices are not always to her liking. I enjoyed the actors' enthusiastic performances, which were well directed by Joanne Williams, but I was less keen on the amorphous text.

SEX and THIS feature Tiffany Deobald and Carys Lewis, as two friends preparing for a costume party being hosted by a frenemy. Things change when they receive a disturbing electronic message.Wesley J. Colford's study of the influence of of social media on the rituals of grieving  among the young is sensitive and well-observed. It was deftly staged by Jakob Ehman.  The text could have done with a bit of pruning, but it was affecting and well-done.

We then had an interval, and returned to MAYPOLE ROSE, my favourite of the shorts.  The script is about a young gay married couple having a night in. One fella is a suit and the other a former twink, turned house-husband.  Alexander Plouffe and G. Kyle Shields made an adorable couple, teetering on one of those turning points in a marriage. Brandon Crone did a fine job both writing and directing.  Fair warning:  you may never look at a banana the same way again.

The final piece, THE SESSION is a high-stakes micro drama set in a nuclear plant.  It's a smart script, if a bit too wordy, though very well performed by Allan Michael Brunet and Matt Pilipiak, as a bottle rocket of a safety engineer and an uptight, newbie HR appointed therapist, respectively. The ending packs a wallop.

It's a tiny space. The writers are young and often loquacious.  The intimacy of the space makes the pieces even more in-your-face, but that's part of the charm of the work.  I enjoyed CIRCLE JERK.  It was committed work from a bunch of energetic young theatre practitioners, self-producing with their own money.  Go with an open mind.  It's not polished perfection, but it is entertaining, challenging, spirited and fun.

Polished perfection takes place over at COALMINE THEATRE, a 65 seat space at Pape and Danforth. Layne Coleman rigorously directs a stellar cast in a gritty, blackly hilarious, and deeply humane production of Stephen Adly Guiguris' Tony-nominated, THE MOTHER F**KER WITH THE HAT.

Jackie (Sergio Di Zio) and Veronica (a terrific Melissa D'Agostino) are childhood sweethearts.  He's fresh out of the joint, and trying to hang onto his sobriety. Veronica is still drinking hard, and using, but she's a workhorse, who has held down their place, and waited for him to get out and clean up.

When Jackie comes home with news of  a job, they decide to celebrate but then, the appearance of a hat on their breakfast table causes all hell to break loose.  What's been going on while he's been away?  Is there another man?

Wounded, scared and furious, Jackie sets off to find the MOFO who left his hat. He heads over to his sponsor's place, Ralph D (a note-perfect Ted Dykstra playing a guy you alternate between pitying and wanting to punch) who is living with his chronically pissed off wife, the sullen and sorry Victoria (a cast against type, and very good Nicole Stamp). He also enlists his put-upon gay cousin, Julio (Juan Chorian in a show-stealing turn) to help him exact revenge.

I don't want to tell you what happens, because I want you to go see this show.  It is a great examination of guilt, betrayal, loyalty and lies in long relationships and old friendships.

Di Zio is the engine of this piece, and he sensibly runs at a low, tight throttle for most of it.  He reminded me of a pissed-off cat about pounce. It is a finely nuanced performance, and he takes us where we need to go. I defy you to leave the theatre with a dry eye.

This is great script, well-directed, in an intimate space, with a uniformly wonderful cast.  Get a ticket:  this will sell out.

CIRCLE JERK is at lemonTree studio, 196 SPADINA  (lower level) just north of Queen, Friday to Sunday until November 23rd. for tickets

THE MOTHER F**KER WITH THE HAT is at the Coalmine Theatre , 798 Danforth Street. Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 pm.  No show Mondays.  Tickets:

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