SummerWorks Play Review: White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, August 6

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Toronto – It is rare that an audience leaves a theatre with concern for an actor’s safety. I think most people who left Theatre Centre Saturday night with that feeling also left feeling dazed and stunned by what they’d just seen. I certainly did.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is a play written by Iranian Nassim Soleimanpour. It’s a sort of monologue from the writer to the audience, and a way for Soleimanpour, according to his writing, can feel free, as his writing travels the world in a way that he can’t, as he’s unable to get a passport. Soleimanpour also addresses a fair bit of his monologue to the actor reading it; in this production, the actor performs the play cold, actually receiving it on stage in a sealed envelope, and is different each night. For this performance we had the pleasure of having Eric Peterson on stage, an accomplished stage actor who’s probably best known for playing Brent Butt’s dad Oscar on Corner Gas.

Whether or not the play would be as good performed by someone else, I couldn’t say. Peterson has the kind of pacing and timing you can only gain with experience, and is remarkably steady even when the script calls for a vial of what may or may not be poison to be poured into one of two cups of water, with the intention that later in the show he will drink one of them. He shows off his talent for comedy often, at one point playing his interpretation of a “cheetah impersonating an ostrich” to great audience delight and delivering some of the funniest lines in the play in a perfect deadpan.

As for the play itself, well, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. Soleimanpour’s metaphor for oppression, his uncle’s “rabbit training” where the rabbit who is the first to figure out how to climb a ladder to get to a carrot is painted red and eventually ends up getting torn apart by the other white rabbits for standing out, is chilling.

Soleimanpour shows a sense of humour, while at the same time making a point about how, even writing as he is from Iran a couple of years ago, he can still manipulate a room full of people when they’re willing to let him. The audience participation roles are quite apropos and not too embarassing (I got picked to be in one of them, too), and one audience member practically jumped onto the stage to read the last few pages of the script, as Soleimanpour’s direction demanded. Later on, when I lined up with a group to shake Peterson’s hand and make sure he was ok, that audience member was telling Peterson that he’s Iranian himself. Apropos indeed.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is some of the most powerful, captivating theatre I’ve seen in years.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit runs through Sunday August 14th as part of SummerWorks. Check the website for schedule and tickets.

SummerWorks Play Review: ONE, August 5

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Toronto – ONE, a show from Alberta-based RedtoBlue Performance, has a few things going for it, but above all is this: It’s got to be one of the most visually interesting theatre festival shows I’ve seen in a long time. SummerWorks is a bit more forgiving than, say, Fringe in that there’s an hour and a half of teardown and setup time between shows, rather than the Fringe’s standard hour or less, but still, to get this much design detail not only in limited setup time, but also with a show that’s travelled across the country, is impressive.

According to the program notes, “every element…had to be considered a storytelling component,” according to the show creator, Jason Carnew, and that sort of ambition definitely shows. The detail, the sleight-of-hand with some of the props, the costuming, the excellent sound design…it’s all very impressive, even though the house lights came up unexpectedly and for no reason several times during the performance I saw.

The storyline, well, that’s not quite as impressive. ONE is purportedly a re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, only with the woman, Philistine (Amber Borotsik) in the Orpheus role, in search of her lost love George (Cole Humeny). Along the way she comes across Charon (Keith Wyatt), who manages a storeroom of all the memories of humankind, kept in the form of vinyl records, which is quite a cool idea and makes for the best scenes in the show as he tries to ignore her, then toys with her before finally spinning the recording of Philistine and George’s love. Charon tells her George has drowned at sea, and to find him she must travel to hell, which is pretty much where the close resemblance to Orpheus and Eurydice begins and ends. I hate to say the story is complicated because it’s really not; it’s a fairly straightforward “descent to the underworld” tale. But large parts of it are told through allegory and contemporary dance, particularly Philistine and George’s love and her trip to hell, and many of these bits tend to go on a little too long for my tastes.

Still, it’s a cool production, even if it’s a little too poetic and metaphorical for it’s own good at times. Well worth seeing.

ONE runs through Sunday August 14th as part of SummerWorks. Check the website for schedule and tickets.

A Mid Summerworks Dream – The Preview

Posted on by Ricky in Summerworks | 1 Comment

Toronto – The beginning of August is synonymous with many things in Toronto – heat, Caribana, cottage weekends, the Blue Jays official elimination from playoff contention, etc. Lately, there has been one more entry to this exclusive list of summertime words – The Summerworks Theatre Festival. One of Canada’s largest theater festivals, the festival return this year is extra sweet this year since it’s funding got stripped by the man earlier this year. Thanks to a host of generous people, the festival was able to get funded privately and as a result, the festival is still on. Suck on that, Heritage Canada.

Not only a theatre festival, Summerworks has expanded to include a music lineup and this year’s music lineup is quite stellar. So without further delay, here is a quick preview.

Hooded Fang!

Wow, do I ever like Hooded Fang‘s new album Tosta Mista. Normally, I don’t usually give too much thought to local bands when local bloggers rave about them but this band’s new release is just wonderful. With classic rock odes the the diner/milkshake era from the 50s, this record has captured my attention this summer like few others have and I would totally be at their showcase Friday night if I wasn’t laying on a beach somewhere.

Bruce Peninsula!

Everyone’s favorite band named after an Ontario summer weekend destination. Bruce Peninsula was one of the hottest tickets at NXNE and even won over our writer Stacey with their lively show at the Rivoli in June. If you missed what all the fuss was about, then make sure you head over to the Lower Ossington Theatre next Thursday to check out this band in all it’s shoe tapping, head bobbing glory.

Miracle Fortress!

Here are the acts that I have seen twice this year

– Miracle Fortress
– Sheezer
– Men Without Hats
– Ellie Goulding
– Foster the People
– The Vaccines
– Sheezer

Pretty odd list, but it’s small, which means it’s exclusive. So does that make Miracle Fortress special? I don’t know. What I do know is that Graham Van Pelt aka Miracle Fortress’s new album Was I The Wave? took the artist in a new and unexpected direction and the results has been rather positive. The new electronic world that the Montreal artist now lives in contains swirls of synthesizers and beams of lasers, some of which I hope will be projected into the tiny Ossington theatre.


Nobody in the history of life has ever said the words “I’m going to the theatre” and felt bad about it. You know why? It’s the theatre, it’s a play, something that has gone on since the beginning of time. Go hit up the festival and check out some plays by talented actors and actresses.

Here’s a few that look interesting

You Should Have Stayed Home – a play about one man’s detainment after the G20 fiasco from last year.

Zugzwang – a play about chess and it’s players

Lizardboy – A One Man Show – a one man tale about growing up, it’s interesting because one man shows can usually go either way.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit – A different actor at every show will try to convey the story the experiences of the playwright from Iran.

There are many many things going on during Summerworks festival, so go check it out.

For more previews (probably with less vague terms) head over to my friend Joe’s site Mechanical Forest Sound, he knows what he’s talking about.

Also, read this blog.

Summerworks: Wilderness of Manitoba, Mountain and the Trees, Entire Cities, The Weather Station, August 12, Upper Ossington Theatre

Posted on by Ricky in Summerworks | 1 Comment

Toronto – The lineup for Summerwork’s music portion on Thursday night reads like titles from Farley Mowat novels – Wilderness of Manitoba, Mountain and the Trees, Entire Cities and The Weather Station. All four bands seem to draw inspiration from Canada’s large and vast space and the gentle and quietness that comes with it. It was basically acoustic-folk power hour at the Upper Ossington Theatre. Knowing that I myself was heading to a cottage on the weekend, I thought these bands would be a nice primer for my foray into nature.

First of all, I would like to thank the staff of Summerworks for putting on a well organized festival. There were no problems anywhere and one of the volunteers at the Festival was nice enough to retrieve one of my flip flops from underneath the seats after that flip flop decided to go rogue and escape from the clutches of my right foot.

Canadian duo The Weather Station started off the night. Tamara Lindeman, took on vocal duties while her partner Jack Donovan used the banjo for most of the set. They played nice set of songs that was a bit on the gentle side. Tamara told us she used to suffer from stage fright, and then played a nice little song that had some really complicated banjo action. After a few short enjoyable tunes, the band was joined by their tour mates, a 7 piece band from Toronto called Entire Cities. They had a more upbeat feel then the Weather Station and lead singer Simon Borer had a mustache that would rival any 70s era hockey player. They retained a similar wild country-folk sound of the Weather Station, but infused some layers onto their music – there was a flutist (is that a word?) and a few guitars as well. The band laid down some funkier songs that managed to get some people off the seats. They too played a few short but enjoyable songs.

Following a short intermission, Jon Janes took the stage with an acoustic guitar. Also known as The Mountain and the Trees, the man was dressed in plaid and instantly captivated the crowd with his blend of honest humor and impressive melodies. I had anticipated a good show after Patricia raved about the man in her CMW review. I think of all the acts I saw on Thursday, this dude definitely impressed me the most. Hailing from Newfoundland, Jon introduced each song with funny anecdotes that added a nice personal feel to the show. I was also impressed with the way he would loop his own guitar and then replayed it later in the song to make it seem like more then one person was on stage. Either he’s really ingenious or anti social, I am not sure. Either way, Mountain and the Trees was definitely impressive.

Considering one year ago, I had never heard of the band the Wilderness of Manitoba, I found it rather shocking that Thursdays night show was the fourth time I had seen the band. They are now tied with The Antlers, British Sea Power, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, The Rapture and Voxtrot as the bands I have seen the most. Having first seen them play in a garage in their very own backyard, one of the things that first caught my eye about their set on Thursday was how much they had grown as performers in merely a years time. If I had improved my coding skills in one year as much as these guys have improved their live stage skills, I would have created skynet years ago.

Their set this time around sounded sharper then I have ever heard them before and the band was properly spaced out, allowing their vocal harmonies to really fill out the room. The band has also upgraded their wardrobe considerably, looking quite dapper in suits and vests. I say they are taking the professional road now. The band sang a nice blend of bands between their debut release – Hymns of Love and Spirits and their new record, When You Left the Fire. It was nice to hear the recorded sounds of actual birds when they played the song Bluebirds. The next step would be for them to actually have birds in the audience during the set. I think that would be so great.

Overall, it was a nice pleasant evening. Those who know me would not classify me as an acoustic folk music kind of guy but I did enjoy myself at this showcase. If you are looking for something nice, quiet and melodic, then you should check out any of the four bands on the list.