First, you have three more chances to see Flop! before it closes Sunday evening May 28th. If you haven’t yet been to a show at Rapid Fire Theatre’s permanent home, Rapid Fire Exchange on 83rd Avenue, this is a great reason to check out the venue. Ron Pederson and Ashley Botting bring an inspired variation on the musical-theatre-improv genre which uses the framing of two performers unexpectedly being stuck without script, lyrics, set, or costumes, just a musician (Erik Mortimer), so they call for audience suggestions and build a musical on the fly. Like skilled stage magicians, they increase the entertainment value of what they’re doing by making it look hard, sometimes stepping out of character between scenes to work out what to do next. I’m accustomed to improv troupes who appear to do impossible things easily – Rapid Fire’s own Off Book: The Musical, Gordon’s Big Bald Head – and I loved the extra layer of entertainment in seeing Pederson and Botting acting being terrible at something they are actually brilliant at. I hadn’t seen Ashley Botting on stage before – except in her recent guest appearance in Die-Nasty’s current improv drama Doctors – and she is delightful. Tickets for Flop! and future Rapid Fire shows are available here.
Boy Trouble, the new two-performer version of Mac Brock’s script, has two more performances in the Studio space at the Fringe Arts Barns, this afternoon at 2 pm, and this evening (which is showing as sold out on line.) I haven’t been able to see this one yet but I loved the solo version of it which inspired this retelling, at NextFest 2019 and then again at Fringe 2019.
Prison Dancer at the Citadel closes tomorrow afternoon. The performance this afternoon (Saturday May 27 at 1:30 pm) is the last audience-masks-required performance of the Citadel season. Tickets are available here.
Several years ago I attended a staged reading at the APN Script Salon of a new play called Anahita’s Republic, about women’s lives in contemporary Iran. Even in a music-stands reading in a plain meeting room, the script grabbed my attention and shook up some of my assumptions, so I was excited to see it fully staged. The company AuTash Productions, and playwriting team Hengameh E. Rice, have had two full productions – a recent one at Toronto’s Factory Theatre directed by Brenley Charkow, and this one directed by Brian Dooley, with a completely different cast and creative team. Roya Yazdanmehr is compelling as the eponymous Anahita, a woman who runs the family business and weathy household according to her own rules. From the first scene, when she strides in after a swim, applying lotion to bare legs, and then responds to her brother/business-partner (Yassine El Fassi El Fihri as Cyrus) who is pleading for money for his children’s activities, she did not fit my assumptions about how women live in that particular regime. But their history, and its effect on them, unfolds more slowly, making it more shocking to imagine this woman as a militant 16yo beside her late mother in a crowd of protesters. The next character who enters is a woman in a chador, Omid (Jennie George), but once again, my first assumptions about her life were wrong. Michael Peng plays Omid’s father, business associate of Cyrus and Anahita. Late in the play, when they are all in a situation with no good solutions, Anahita talks about different kinds of freedom and about how nobody is really free. Their situation has a resolution, but it’s not ideal. The play made me want to see more complex stories like this, coming out of a context I don’t know well but not limited by it. Program notes and vocabulary are provided through a QR code, and a large display timeline about event’s relevant to women in Iran on the lobby wall – including both mandatory “unveiling”, with enforcement, and mandatory “veiling”, also with brutal enforcement.
Tickets to Anahita’s Republic, playing until June 4th at the Fringe Backstage, are available here.
In a complete change of mood, last night I attended the opening performance of Elyne Quan’s Listen, Listen! as part of the Teatro Live! season. I giggled so much that another audience member commented to me and my companion about it at intermission.
Farron Timoteo plays a mall bookstore worker passionate about selecting background music, Nadien Chu plays a customer who objects to the music, and Nikki Hulowski and Alex Ariate play a hilarious collection of ensemble characters in the bookstore workplace. The play is set in 1986, which means that the sound designers (director Belinda Cornish and stage manager Frances Bundy) got to use all the catchy tunes of that era, costume designer Leona Brausen, fresh from designing for 10 Funerals, with half its scenes in that era, got to evoke memories of women’s soft-tie business blouses, asymmetrical hairstyles for young people, and leather ties, and the playwright got to stick in lots of dramatic-irony jokes about how people in 1986 expected the future to go.
Like many of Stuart Lemoine’s works performed by Teatro, this play was an affectionate portrayal of quirky characters, plot-driven but with lots of scope for entertaining character business. It was a lot of fun. Tickets are here.
Other theatre events coming up – I may not make it to all of them, but I’m noting them here for you –
Helen, the Euripedes comedy about Helen of Troy directed by Amy de Felice outdoors at the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium, runs to June 4th.
CHUMP, by Sue Goberdhan, is “about growing, grieving, and being Guyanese”. It is being workshopped and will have one public performance at the Fringe Studio June 11.
Nextfest, the annual festival of and for emerging artists, runs June 1-11.
The Sterling Awards nominations will be announced at 5 pm on June 5th at the Arts Barns, and winners will be celebrated at a more affordable event than the pre-pandemic Mayfield galas, also at the Arts Barns on Monday June 26th.
Walterdale Theatre’s 2023-2024 season launch event will also be held June 5th – doors at 7 pm, event at 8 pm.
And … in August it will be Fringe! Fringe 42: The Answer. (Do you know where your towel is?)