STAGE

Sure, there was lots of be­hind-the-scenes drama this year at Soulpep­per, Bud­dies and Lu­mi­nato. But none of that up­staged the pow­er­ful work hap­pen­ing on lo­cal stages. And hope­fully the changes and dis­cus­sions will make the scene even more ex­cit­ing in years

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS - by glenn sumi For the best and worst stage sto­ries of 2018, in­clud­ing the Soulpep­per steam­roller, the new face of artis­tic di­rec­tor­ship and the Sky Gil­bert vs. Bud­dies in Bad Times con­tro­versy, go to now­toronto.com/stage. [email protected]­toronto.com | @glennsu

1 eV­eRY BRIL­LIANT THING Cana­dian Stage, novem­ber 27 to de­Cem­ber 16

Dun­can Macmil­lan’s in­ter­ac­tive play about de­pres­sion, sui­cide and try­ing to iden­tify the things that make life worth liv­ing was it­self – es­pe­cially in Bren­dan Healy’s im­mer­sive pro­duc­tion and Kris­ten Thom­son’s warm, gen­er­ous per­for­mance – an af­fir­ma­tion of the power and im­me­di­acy of live theatre.

2 CORIOLANUS Strat­ford feS­ti­val, June 9 to novem­ber 3

Robert Lepage used bril­liant film and stage tech­niques to bring clar­ity and a brisk ur­gency to Shake­speare’s late Ro­man tragedy. The daz­zling pro­duc­tion pro­vided a mar­vel­lous back­drop for ful­lyre­al­ized per­for­mances by An­dré Sills, Gra­ham Abbey, Lucy Pea­cock and oth­ers who, guided by Lepage, made us feel like we were watch­ing an es­sen­tial play in the Bard’s canon.

3 FUN HOMe mu­Si­Cal Stage Co./mirviSh, april 13 to may 20

A mid­dle-aged car­toon­ist (Laura Condlln) tries to un­der­stand why her fa­ther (Evan

Buli­ung) killed him­self and so re­vis­its her past, in­clud­ing her younger selves (Sara Farb, Han­nah Levin­son), shed­ding light on years of se­crets. This stun­ning adap­ta­tion of Ali­son Bechdel’s graphic novel mem­oir proved that mu­si­cals can be as rich and com­plex as the most pro­found dra­mas.

4 THe WOLVeS

the how­land Com­pany/ Crow’S theatre, oC­to­ber 9 to 27

In Sarah DeLappe’s Pulitzer Prize-nom­i­nated play, a high school girls’ soccer team ef­fort­lessly be­comes a mi­cro­cosm for so­ci­ety. Court­ney Ch’ng Lan­cas­ter’s riv­et­ing pro­duc­tion was ex­cit­ing sim­ply to watch – Drills! Stretches! Real-look­ing grass! – but the script and fo­cused per­for­mances drew us into the girls’ uni­ver­sal hopes and fears.

5 BeARS

al­berta abo­rig­i­nal per­form­ing artS/punC­tu­ate! theatre/na­tive earth/theatre Cen­tre, Jan­uary 18 to 27

Po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism meets magic re­al­ism in Matthew MacKen­zie’s dark com­edy about an Indige­nous tar sands worker (a

vi­tal Shel­don El­ter) sus­pected in a work­place in­ci­dent who flees from the scene and in­ter­acts with var­i­ous crea­tures – in­clud­ing one in­ti­mate en­counter with a Mama Bear. Earthy, fast-paced and beau­ti­fully sug­ges­tive theatre. Note: Bears re­turns to the Fac­tory Theatre, Fe­bru­ary 28 to March 17.

6 MA RAINeY’S BLACK BOT­TOM Soulpep­per, may 4 to June 2

A 1920s Chicago stu­dio record­ing ses­sion fea­tur­ing leg­endary blues singer Ma Rainey (Alana Bridge­wa­ter) and her mu­si­cians be­comes, in Au­gust Wil­son’s hands, a med­i­ta­tion on race, class and op­por­tu­nity – some­thing, let’s face it, we’re still deal­ing with. Di­rec­tor Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu’s beau­ti­fully cast pro­duc­tion crack­led with an in­ten­sity too rarely seen on our stages.

7 PUNK ROCK the how­land Com­pany, marCh 29 to april 14

Go­ing in, I’m glad I didn’t know much about Si­mon Stephens’s ex­plo­sive drama set in a Bri­tish high school (or read the spoil­ery head­lines on many of my col­leagues’ re­views). This Bri­tish Break­fast

Club tran­scended its top­i­cal is­sues with rich, sub­tle writ­ing about power dy­nam­ics and iden­tity, with di­rec­tor Gre­gory Prest get­ting nu­anced work from his con­vinc­ing en­sem­ble.

8 THe HU­MANS Cana­dian Stage/Ci­tadel, fe­bru­ary 6 to 25

In to­day’s po­lit­i­cally and so­cially di­vided world, can a fam­ily sim­ply break bread over Thanks­giv­ing without com­ing apart? So asks Stephen Karam’s de­cep­tively sim­ple script, which, in di­rec­tor Jackie Maxwell’s taut pro­duc­tion, be­came a funny, mov­ing and cathar­tic look at life in post-9/11 Amer­ica.

9 KRAPP’S LAST TAPe Singing Swan, with Sup­port from theatre paSSe mu­raille and wylie pig, Jan­uary 17 to fe­bru­ary 11 and oC­to­ber 4 to 21

Sa­muel Beck­ett’s mono­logue about mem­ory, ag­ing and thwarted am­bi­tions be­came, in Mac Fyfe’s bur­nished pro­duc­tion, a fit­ting trib­ute both to Theatre Passe Mu­raille, cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary, and ac­tor Bob Na­smith, one of the com­pany’s orig­i­nal artists. Na­smith nailed his char­ac­ter’s slap­stick mo­ments, but it was the image of him star­ing into space and lis­ten­ing to his younger self that will haunt me for years.

10 MOrrO anD JasP: save tHe Date u.n.i.t. pro­duC­tionS/fringe, July 6 to 15

When Jasp (Amy Lee) pre­pares for her wed­ding, Morro (Heather Marie An­nis) feels left out in this lat­est in­stall­ment of the on­go­ing saga of the clown sib­lings’ lives. While the show took hi­lar­i­ous shots at ev­ery­thing bri­dal – from TV shows to bach­e­lorette par­ties to a cer­tain Royal wed­ding – the pair and di­rec­tor By­ron Lavi­o­lette un­der­stood that the height­ened emo­tional stakes deep­ened the laughs.

DRA­MATIC DISAPPOINTMeNTS

40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS It felt that long watch­ing this smarmy show about lovers shar­ing their pro­found love with us af­ter a con­scious­ness-rais­ing trip to In­dia. ACHA BACHA This script set in GTA’s South Asian com­mu­nity about a queer cou­ple deal­ing with fam­ily is­sues and for­mer trauma needed a few more drafts. SCHOOL OF ROCK needed to learn that we were there to see the kids, not misog­y­nist man-boys. CHAR­LIE AND THE CHO­CO­LATE FAC­TORY cranked out scenes of hor­rific vi­o­lence in­stead of pure imag­i­na­tion. AN­NIE Some­times, kids, the sun never comes out on tired re­vivals.

Ev­ery Bril­liant Thing, star­ring Kris­ten Thom­son and the au­di­ence, was the show of the year.

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