Reviews

SummerWorks Review: Montparnasse [Sheep No Wool Theatre Company]

Posted on by Brian in Everything, Summerworks, Theatre | Leave a comment

Montparnasse Program Picture

An opinion on nudity in theatre/film/whatever: I don’t especially mind it. I usually find a lot of nudity gratuitous, and lately I seem to be seeing it largely for either shock value or emphasis on emotional turmoil, that kind of thing, which gets a little old after a while. But for the most part I don’t take offense to it, nor do I find a lot of novelty in nudity for nudity’s sake.

Montparnasse, running right now as part of the SummerWorks Festival here in Toronto, does manage something I haven’t seen for a while: nudity that’s not really about the nudity. It’s not that Maev Beaty and Erin Shields, the playwrights and cast of Montparnasse, take their clothes off in a cavalier way. It’s more that one or the other of them is naked for almost the entire running time of Montparnasse, but it’s not especially important. That takes a whole lot of acting chops and a lot of self-confidence, and I sure as hell couldn’t do it, but Beaty and Shields both pull it off with relative ease. It’s impressive; to spend time on stage performing a play set in 1920’s Paris, dealing with subjects like friendship, identity, and the nature of art and inspiration is one thing, but doing it while naked half the time is something else.

But while Beaty and Shields’s performances in Montparnasse are great, the material they’ve written for it is merely good. The plot is pretty straightforward, though the setting is pretty interesting: Amelia and Margaret are expats beginning their lives anew in Paris in the 1920’s, during the inter-war period when the city was teeming with all kinds of artists, sculptors, and painters and was crazy with culture and nightlife, especially in Montparnasse. Of course, if you don’t know much art history, names like Man Ray, Henry Miller and Juan Miro that are sprinkled throughout the script won’t mean a whole lot to you, but even if you know just a little bit it’s enjoyable. Margaret is working as a nude model and muse for painters; Amelia wants to be a painter but soon ends up in the modelling racket to make some money. They plot a course through the hedonistic cultural scene in the city, Amelia trying to find her artistic muse and growing more comfortable in her skin and in the city, Margaret getting wilder and wilder in her indulgences but coming close to her breaking point. In the end it comes to a slightly predictable end, with the two women’s respective jealousy and ego rearing their ugly heads, and a couple of the narrative devices didn’t work too well for me, particularly when one actress would tell a story, and the other would play out various roles within it.

It’s a good piece of work, though, and with a little development has the potential be a great one.

3[1]

Montparnasse has three more shows at SummerWorks: August 12th at 8:30, August 14th at 6:30, and August 16th at 2:30, all at Theatre Passe Muraille.

SummerWorks Festival Preview

Posted on by Brian in Everything, Summerworks, Theatre | Leave a comment

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Toronto – This week sees the beginning of the SummerWorks Festival in Toronto, a growing theatre/music/multimedia performance expo from August 6th (hey, that’s today!) until the 16th. Centred mostly around the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst), Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave, near Bathurst & Queen), and The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West), with performance gallery events at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West) and a handful of events going on at a few other venues, SummerWorks is celebrating their 19th year by giving us a media pass. It’s also their second year under Artistic Director Michael Rubenfeld, he of the excellent production The Book of Judith. Did my favourable review of that show help facilitate our media pass? Eh, probably not, but I’m in a conspiracy-seeing kind of mood today…

Anyway, Panic Manual will have reviews of shows all festival long. Currently on my schedule is something like 18 theatre shows and a couple of music shows, this alongside a trip to Niagara Falls this weekend, starting tonight with a show called Montparnasse at Theatre Passe Muraille (if you’re going to it and you see a guy there by himself looking tired and daunted by just what he’s gotten himself into, come over and say hey).

Since these are all new shows, I’m not sure how many recommendations I can make. However, since this is primarily a music blog, you might be interested in The Nick Drake Project, a play with music and inspired by 60’s folkie Nick Drake. You may also be particularly interested in the music portion of the festival, which features, in order of performance: Miracle Fortress with Karkwa (tonight), Think About Life and DD/MM/YYYY (tomorrow), The Got to Get Got with Oh No Forest Fires (Saturday), Still Life Still and Kids on TV (Sunday), Boys Who Say No and Foxjaw (August 11th), Matthew Barber with Claire Jenkins (12th), The D’Urbervilles and Forest City Lovers (13th), Panic Manual favourites Sunparlour Players with Josh Reichmann Oracle Band (14th), and Germans and Great Bloomers (15th). All music shows take place at the Theatre Centre.

New this year is SummerWalks, a series of three Queen West walking tours leaving from the Factory Theatre courtyard both weekends of the festival. For only $5 you can get a guided tour of the area based on a different theme. Also, spend a day checking out the Performance Gallery at the Gladstone, a series of performance art events that are 5-8 minutes long, cycle throughout the night, and is pay-what-you-can.

As I said, a lot of these plays are new so I can’t really recommend many without seeing them, but some of the stuff I thought sounded most interesting from their descriptions on the SummerWorks website are Apricots, Toronto Noir, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Piano Tuner, The Middle Place, and I’ll Be There to Kill You, all of which are among the shows I’ll be seeing, so if you want some guy’s recommendations for things to see, keep checking in here for my show reviews.

Oh, one show you should see is Impromptu Splendor, put on by The National Theatre of the World. An improvised play put on by three cast members, the guy to watch for is Ron Pederson. A cast member of MadTV for a couple of seasons, I used to see Ron do improv every week when I lived in Edmonton with the city’s legendary live improvised soap opera Die Nasty. He’s a funny, funny guy.

Check out the SummerWorks website at www.summerworks.ca and keep watching this space for play and show reviews.

Hot Docs Review – Broke [Rosie Dransfeld, 2009]

Posted on by Wade in Everything, Hot Docs, Movies | Leave a comment


A few things about being broke that I have noticed over the past few months

1. You will eat a three-year-old box of Kraft Dinner and you will enjoy it.
2. You will always find money for alcohol.
3. Being home beats the shit out of getting up and going to work.

This movie, BROKE, was really good. It is a Canadian doc about an Edmonton pawnshop owner and the daily running of his business. They filmed it basically by putting a camera and sound guy in the pawnshop and filming what went down.

I found myself laughing out loud several times. The arrogant, rude, yet innocent things that come out of the pawnshop owners’ mouth are priceless. It was enjoyable for several reasons. First, you are interested in the clientele that come into pawnshop. Their stories, their haggling, their various states of intoxication. Priceless. Second, I was interested in the relationship between the Jewish pawnshop owner and his helper friend. Third, there was a narrative arc that brought us full circle. Yes, this movie was pretty spectacular. Great editing and a killer concept will leave you thinking ‘why didn’t I think of this?’

I am giving it a 4.5 out of 5. Why not a 5? Well, because the music was horrible. Imagine a bible thumping after school special from the 1980’s, then imagine music worse than that. Although the music was used sparingly, when it did come on, all I could think was “Who the crap chose this?”

You have one more chance to see Broke. It scored a repeat screening this Sunday night. I suggest you get your ass out and see it.

9:45 Sunday, May 10th – Innis Town Hall *plays with The Man Behind The Log

Hot Docs Review – Short Docs

Posted on by Wade in Everything, Hot Docs | Leave a comment

Man Behind The Log – John Lehmann, 6min

This shortie is about a man in Vancouver who lives behind a log on the beach and is able to sell his artwork for thousands of dollars at a local gallery. The story is told through still photos and video. The photos and video were very crisp and sharp, obviously done in HD. The medium that a story is told in is a very important piece of the puzzle. Here is a story about a broken down homeless man and it looks perfect. It is obvious that John Lehmann is a talented photo journalist, but for this story, I couldn’t get past how perfect the imagery was. Had he shot this film using a Polaroid 600 or on Super 8, I think it would have been much more effective.
3/5

Screenings
1:30, Thursday, May 7 @ Cumberland 2 with Broke
9:45, Sunday, May 10 @ Innis Town Hall with Broke

Pockets – James Lee, 3 min

This movie is three minutes of pure bliss. People carry odd things in their pockets, often very personal things. Hearing the stories behind all these personal objects is really fun. Simple, personal and beautifully shot.
5/5

No more screenings

Carmen – Larry Young, 6 min

A story about a woman who takes care of her sick husband 24/7. It plays out as a story about commitment and true love. It left me with a lot to think about. Here is a woman whos’ life revolves around taking care of her husband. When the movie ended I was left thinking about how much her husband is dependent on her, but also that she is possibly just as dependent on him as he is of her. Hmmmm.
4/5

No more screenings

Steel Homes – Eva Weber, 10 min

After doing some research on Eva Weber I was pretty jacked about seeing Steel Homes. Her pervious work includes The Intimacy Of Strangers, a doc constructed by overheard cell phone conversations. Steel Homes never really got off the ground for me. There were some cool, sterile shots of storage units and all that, but my interest in the subjects and their personal stories never developed.
2.5/5

Screenings
2:00, Wednesday, May 6 @ Cumberland 2 with Diary of a Times Square Theif
7:30, Sunday, May 10 @ Innis Town Hall with Diary of a Times Square Theif

Ma Bar – Finlay Pretsell, Adrian McDowall, 11 min

An older man and his goal to bench press a crap load of pounds, I mean kilos. Powerlifting is a petty popular sport. It was very interesting watching the powerlifter get ready for his lift. The routine, preparations and then finally the lift. Again, another beautifully shot piece where I didn’t connect with the subject or understand why I am supposed to care.
2.5/5
No more screenings