Matchstick Theatre ventures deep into the forest with The Woodcutter, a play written by Don Hannah and helmed by its resident director Jake Planinc. An ambitious one-hander, the show rests on the performance of its only actor, Sébastien Labelle. Labelle surrenders himself entirely to the role of Ted, a man navigating the dark forest that is the extensively transformed Bus Stop Theatre.
Terra Novella Theatre’s newest adventure, Obstacle Fest, is built on the simple, unspoken fact that some of the best theatrical moments happen when something goes horribly wrong. A single, unexpected mishap has the make-or-break ability to change the course of a play.
Obstacle Fest is a mixed-bag in terms of its comedic highs and lows. Written, directed, and acted by both newcomers and veterans of the stage, the event features many delightful actors who carried their scenes despite their particular limitations. In other moments, actors went overboard with hammed-up performances and mugging to the audience, which ended up proving that some obstacles can end up working against a play as a whole.
Truth be told, I’ve never really been one for meditation or deep introspection. I am, in many ways, quite guarded emotionally-speaking. I can be frustratingly socially-awkward and self-conscious, and so self-reflective, open-ended, and abstract lines of thinking are often quite difficult for me to embrace.
Halifax’s XOTHEATRE seems to thrive on secrecy. I had little idea of what to expect, and what preconceptions I initially had proved quickly to be incorrect. The location is a secret, and only two people can attend, (for lack of a better word), a “performance,” at a time. You get hooked up with an iPod Shuffle, headphones, and a phone number on your cell belonging to a stranger in Victoria, British Columbia, who is simultaneously doing the exact same thing as you. So start walking and prepare for further instructions.
For Torontonian Jason (Sean Hauk), life is turned upside down when a stranger named Harry (Jeff Schwager) comes knocking at his door with the news that he is Jason’s half-brother. Their father, who abandoned Jason and his mother 30 years ago, is dying of kidney failure. The news of this man’s failing health fails to have any gravitas for Jason, as does Harry’s insistence that he possesses the rare ability to be a life-saving organ donor.
With Neptune Theatre’s newest venture, In A World Created By A Drunken God, Ojibwe playwright Drew Hayden Taylor’s subtly poses questions concerning morality and familial obligation. To what do we owe relationships that were never nurtured? Is it acceptable to keep what happened in the past unaddressed and unresolved?
It’s in the early hours of April 3rd, 1968 and Martin Luther King Jr is in his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. In a matter of hours he will be relegated to the pages of history, branded as an idyllic crusader for human rights and justice. If you think you have an idea as to what this play will be like, there is a likely chance you are mistaken. As described by director Ahdri Zhina Mandiela, “The Mountaintop is not only a raid on the deification of an unwilling martyr, but a poetic muse on the fragility of the human condition.”
It’s seconds into Matchstick Theatre’s newest production and lights come up on the titular Peter Fechter, dying slowly from a gunshot wound. The year is 1962 and Berlin is partitioned by its controversial Berlin Wall. Having failed like many others to make the escape from the eastern side of the city, the eighteen year-old finds himself bleeding out in the infamous no-man’s land section, (ominously referred to as the death strip). As his condition worsens, Peter becomes more all knowing about the prior events leading up to his present moment.Written by Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill, Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes is based on real world events and packs a lot of story in its race against the clock.
Mirroring the play’s large social setting, Peter (played by Peter Sarty) finds his home life equally tenuous and fragile. Residing with his strict, insular father (Andrew Chandler) the pair find themselves living in uneasy silence following the abrupt departure of Peter’s mother (Rena Kossatz). Whereas it’s abundantly clear that his father feels no need to explain the reasons for her leaving, Peter remains steadfastly loyal to the ghost of her memory.
With the mystery of his mother’s absence haunting the hidden depths of his mind, the promise of a life filled with unrestricted freedom (and American porno) presents itself in the not-so distant and nearly-tangible mirage-esque entity of West Berlin. At the heart of the play’s push is Peter’s friend Helmut (Henricus Gielis). Confident to the near point of impulsiveness, Helmut is the catalyst prodding Peter into helping him orchestrate a major life-changing escape for them.
Director Alison Crosby has crafted a solid rendition of Tannahill’s original work. Finely acted, the supporting cast of Chandler, Kossatz, and Gielis revolve around Sarty’s fantastic performance. With Sarty’s sincere likability and an endearing sense of allegiance, you feel Peter’s hope as he reaches out into the dark hoping someone’s there to reach back. Equally taut as it is touching, 59 Minutes succeeds in pulling off a series of reveals while somehow finding humanity and something worth fighting for in an otherwise bleak and unfair time.