Ain’T Too proud – The life And Times of ñ
The TempTATions. by Dominique Morisseau (Mirvish). See review, page 27. To Nov 17, Tue-Sat 8 pm, mat Wed 1:30 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm. $59-$185. Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King W. 416-872-1212, mirvish.com. nnnn (Glenn Sumi)
bAT ouT of hell: The musiCAl by Jim ñ
Steinman (Mirvish). A young rebel falls in love with the daughter of a powerful man in a post-apocalyptic world in this rock ‘n’ roll musical. To Nov 4, Tue-Sat 8 pm, mat Wed 1:30 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm. $29-$225. Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria. mirvish.com.
Beat the Devil arounD the Stump by Jamie Rose (Deadbeat Productions). Three of the best outlaws in the Wild West try to outwit a sharpshooting sheriff. To Oct 28, Tue-Sun 8 pm, mat Sat 2 pm. $18-$25. St. Matthias Church, 45 Bellwoods. bpt.me/3612931.
Come From away by Irene Sankoff and ñ
David Hein (Mirvish). With astonishing warmth, Newfoundlanders welcome traumatized passengers on planes rerouted to Gander on 9/11 in this home-grown Tony-nominated musical. The music is rollicking, the lyrics are clever and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show with more heart. The cast, doubling up on roles as Ganderites and travellers, is uniformly excellent, especially Eliza-Jane Scott as a pilot and Kevin Vidal as a Black Brooklynite who can’t believe his hosts’ openness. The show just barrels along – even with some dark content – and you never get a chance to catch your breath. But so what? Go with the flow and enjoy. To Jan 20, Tue-Sat 8 pm, mat Wed 1:30 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm. $39-$169. Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King W. 416-8721212, mirvish.com. nnnn (Susan G Cole) DanCing at lughnaSa by Brian Friel (Toronto Irish Players). In 1930s Donegal a man recalls memories of his family. To Nov 3, Thu-Sat 8 pm. $25-$30. Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley. 416-440-2888, torontoirishplayers.com.
eugene onegin by PI Tchaikovsky (Canadian ñ Opera Company). Director Robert Carsen and designer Michael Levine’s stunning production of Tchaikovsky’s tragic opera has an elegiac, autumnal feel that’s perfectly suited to the material. Conductor Johannes Debus and the COC orchestra wring lots of emotion from the score, and the cast, headed by the graceful Joyce El-Khoury and star-inthe-making Gordon Bintner, heat up the stage with their impassioned voices and persuasive performances. To Nov 3, see website for times. $35-$350. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen W. 416-3638231, coc.ca. nnnn (Glenn Sumi) the ghoSt light anthology (Aberrant Theatre). Five distinct tales of terror in an immersive live horror experience. Runs to Oct 31, Thu-Sat (and Oct 31) at 8 pm. $15-$50. The Box Toronto, 89 Niagara. 647-980-0335, facebook.com/AberrantTheatre. haDrian by Rufus Wainwright and Daniel MacIvor (Canadian Opera Company). See review, page 30. To Oct 27, see website for times. $35-$350. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen W. 416-3638231, coc.ca. nnn (Glenn Sumi)
harlem Duet by Djanet Sears (Tarragon). ñ Sears’s award-winning 1997 play is at once a prequel to Shakespeare’s Othello, a commentary on the legacy of slavery and an engrossing breakup story about a contemporary academic couple (Virgilia Griffith, Beau Dixon). That’s a lot to pack in, but helped by an intriguing design, strong performances and a two person jazz combo, this remount – directed by Sears – is potent and powerful, although between-scenes audio clips of speeches by Black leaders feel repetitive and distracting. To Oct 28, Tue-Sat 8 pm, mat Sun 2:30 pm. $22-$60.Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman. 416-531-1827, tarragontheatre.com. nnnn (Glenn Sumi) into the armS oF Crazy by by Deborah Ann Frankel (Puncher Productions). In an Anteroom between life and death, Edith gets counsel from a not-so-distant relative. To Oct 28, Thu-Sun 8 pm. $20. Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen E. redsandcastletheatre.com. JapaneSe proBlem (Soulpepper/Universal Limited). Story of the internment of Japanese Canadians in 1942. To Oct 28, see website for times. Adv tickets sold out, limited rush pwyc available. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House. soulpepper.ca. la SeConDe SurpriSe De l’amour (the SeConD SurpriSe oF love) by Pierre de Marivaux (Théâtre français de Toronto). Romantic comedy made up of ruses, blunders, jealousies and denials. To Oct 28, Wed-Sat 8 pm, mat Sat 3:30 pm, Sun 2:30 pm. $20-$49, Wed-Thu pwyc. Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley. 416-862-2222, theatrefrancais.com. the men in white by Anosh Irani (Factory). See review, page 28. To Nov 4, Tue-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm. $20-$50. Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst. 416-504-9971, factorytheatre.ca. nnn (Lisa McKeown)
the nether by Jennifer Haley (Coal Mine ñ
Theatre/studio180theatre). Haley’s powerful and deeply disturbing look at ethics and freedom in a near-futuristic society gets a mesmerizing production. Director Peter Pasyk and his sharp design team make both the dystopian real-life setting and the hyper-real virtual fantasy realm vivid and visceral. And the actors, among them David Storch, Robert Persichini and Hannah Levinson, make their char- acters, even when morally ambiguous, highly sympathetic. To Nov 4, Tue-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm. $42.50. Coal Mine Theatre, 1454 Danforth. coalminetheatre.com. nnnn (Glenn Sumi)
now you See her (Nightwood Theatre/ ñ
Quote Unquote Collective/Why Not Theatre). See review, page 27. To Nov 4, TueSat 8 pm, mat Sat-Sun 2:30 pm. $10-$75. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander. nightwoodtheatre.net. nnnn (José Teodoro)
pearle harBour’S Chautauqua by Justin ñ Miller (Pearle Harbour Productions/ TPM). Drag performer Miller’s alter ego Pearle Harbour is part ringleader, part spiritual torchbearer. With sidekick Brother Gantry (Steven Conway) on guitar, Pearle uses songs and stories to urge people to seek their truth. Miller always stays intensely in the moment, and i’s riveting to watch Pearle interact closely with the audience. Byron Laviolette directs with precise pacing, and both Joseph Pagnan’s production design and Jareth Li’s lighting are integral to the show. Be ready to participate and possibly take part in a puppet play with detailed hand puppets made by Jesse Byiers. To Oct 27, Thu-Sat 7:30 pm. $20-$30. Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson. passemuraille.ca. nnnn (Debbie Fein-Goldbach) rope by Patrick Hamilton (Mortar & Pestle Productions). Two young men murder a classmate just for the thrill in this 1929 play based on true events. To Oct 27, Thu-Sat 8 pm. $20 suggested donation. Gerrard Art Space, 1475 Gerrard E. mortarandpestleproductions.com. the royale by Marco Ramirez (Soulpepper). Play based on the true story of heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. (See review at nowtoronto.com/stage.) To Nov 11, see website for times. $36-$97. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House. 416-8668666, soulpepper.ca. nnn (Glenn Sumi) theory by Norman Yeung (Tarragon Theatre). A young professor’s free-speech experiment turns into a threatening and abusive cat-andmouse game. To Nov 25, Tue-Sat 8 pm, mat Sun (and some Sat) 2:30 pm. $22-$60. ExtraSpace. Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman. 416531-1827, tarragontheatre.com. toronto ColD reaDS Readings of new writing for film, theatre & radio hit the stage for the first time, plus a musical guest. To Dec 16, Sundays 8 pm. Pwyc. The Social Capital Theatre, 154 Danforth. 416-903-5388, socap.ca.
the wolveS by Sarah DeLappe (Howland ñ
Company/Crow’s Theatre). DeLappe’s riveting 2016 play about a high school girls’ soccer team can be enjoyed as a refreshingly realistic depiction of millennial young women as individuals. Yet she also uses the team as a microcosm of society to examine the tensions between rules and personal freedom. Under Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster’s precise, incisive direction, the nine actors playing the team work as a uniformly superb ensemble in this gripping production of a brilliantly conceived, urgently relevant play. To Oct 27, Thu-Sat 8 pm, mat Sat 2 pm. $22-$50. Streetcar Crowsnest, 345 Carlaw. crowstheatre.com. nnnn (Christopher Hoile) 3
haDriaN by Rufus Wainwright and Daniel MacIvor (Canadian Opera Company). Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West). Runs to October 27. $35-$350. 416-363-8231. See Continuing, page 29. Rating: NNN
Greek and Roman figures are commonplace in the operatic canon, but rarely do we see two guys tearing off their robes, cavorting in bed and making out, while groups of semi-nude men pose seductively on the periphery.
Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian, much more ambitious and uneven than his debut, Prima Donna, seems determined to add an overtly queer story to the art form.
That’s a noble goal, and it’s refreshing to see a same-sex narrative play out – and sing out – on the stage of the Four Seasons, but it’s a shame the work isn’t better structured.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian (Thomas Hampson) is ill and grieving the death of his lover Antinous (Isaiah Bell) when he’s visited by two deities, Plotina (Karita Mattila) and Trajan (Roger Honeywell), who grant him reenactments of two nights with Antinous if he signs some documents that will destroy the Jews, and hence cut off the rise of monotheism.
The next two acts chronicle those nights – one ecstatic, one tragic – before Hadrian dies, soon to be followed by the Roman Empire itself (cuz we know how that turns out).
That grand story sounds fine on paper, but Wainwright and librettist Daniel MacIvor fail to inform us of Hadrian’s importance – oh yeah, there’s something called Hadrian’s Wall, isn’t there? – until the man’s final moments.
In most operas, a chorus or secondary character fills in the hero’s backstory early on and teases out the complications to come.
But in this weirdly paced work directed by Peter Hinton, the nominal male leads – Hadrian and his boy toy, who has saved him from being gored by a boar – are passive and underdeveloped, while the women around them, particularly Plotina and Hadrian’s understandably frustrated wife, Sabina (Ambur Braid), upstage them and give voice to their emotions in dramatically vivid music.
Dramatically vivid, but a little incongruous. Plotina, sung by the silvery-toned Mattila, has music that makes her seem like the goddess of the American South.
With that imbalance, and no scene to convince us of the men’s love, the tragedy at the centre of the opera feels hollow.
In fact, the opera could almost be called Sabina, since Braid is given the most exciting music and has the biggest character arc in the show. (There are shades of Verdi’s Amneris to her.)
Braid vaults through the score like an Olympian, her high notes accurate and thrilling, her emotion palpable. (She also looks fabulous in Gillian Gallow’s sumptuous costumes.)
Elsewhere, David Leigh’s Turbo, Hadrian’s friend and military leader, communicates authority and passion with his booming, persuasive bass.
The score is also uneven. Bell gets a lovely solo in the second act, with an intriguing cascade of sounds rumbling beneath his pure vocal line. An entr’acte is rhythmically exciting. But the piece lacks a consistent mood or tone.
There’s a decent opera buried beneath the kitsch in the present version. Wainwright and MacIvor need to excavate it and find the heart of the story.
Isaiah Bell makes a splash in Hadrian.