Live theatre arrived again blazing to Toronto and the GTA in 2022.
After the very long hiatus of COVID-19 lockdowns and continued irritation as the Omicron surge slowed things down yet again, a lot of theatres began presenting in-human being reveals in March. And by summertime, the scene was at significant velocity with full seasons at the Stratford and Shaw festivals and a Toronto Fringe Festival that, whilst continue to considerably minimal in size, was noteworthy for the good quality, assortment and vibrancy of its displays.
You could experience it in the do the job: the creativity and power of theatre artists and artisans that experienced been pent up over the pandemic exploded on to levels. New operate, classics, diversifications, musicals, storefronts, significant industrial venues: #theaTO was back, newborn, and so was the Star theatre group, grateful to have real stay reveals to compose about all over again.
When we met up to hammer out this Top 10 we uncovered that we could have loaded the checklist just about a few situations over with our individual picks, a reflection of the toughness of this theatre year as nicely as our varied preferences and perspectives. In recognition of this we have included a reward three shows: unique picks we just about every felt deserved honourable point out.
Cockroach (Tarragon Theatre)
New, unsettling, exhilarating. A few fantastic actors executed Ho Ka Kei’s dense and poetic textual content in a kinetic production helmed by Tarragon’s new artistic director, Mike Payette, and choreographed by Hanna Kiel. As the actors crawled and slid close to Christine Ting-Huan Urquhart’s publish-industrial set providing Ho’s blistering monologues, a story emerged about a Boy (Anton Ling) whose identity is fractured amongst his immigrant previous (represented by the title character who was, certainly, a cockroach and played by Steven Hao), colonial legacies represented by the Bard (Karl Ang) and a traumatic personal working experience. The superb generation released Payette’s Tarragon programming with a bang, and additional cements Ho’s standing as one particular of the most exciting voices in Canadian playwriting.
A Best Bowl of Pho (Toronto Fringe)
Each individual bit dwelling up to its title, “A Ideal Bowl of Pho” was cooked up to soup-slurping perfection this summer months at the Toronto Fringe Pageant. Comprehensive of coronary heart but under no circumstances cloying, with a sprint of clever humour on the aspect, the musical by Nam Nguyen and Wilfred Moeschter was a adore letter to Vietnamese society, stringing alongside one another a series of vignettes — some solemn, others joyfully exuberant — that chart the history of the titular dish. The musical’s younger ensemble, below Steven Hao’s sharp path, deftly portrayed several figures whose tales in some way, in some cases relatively cheekily, contain a warm bowl of pho. Here’s hoping there is additional lifestyle for this exuberant new work because any person who tasted this delectable concoction understands that a single bowl is just not ample.
The Antipodes (Coal Mine Theatre)
Annie Baker’s audacious participate in about the potential risks of storytelling took my breath absent as a single of Toronto’s initial in-man or woman theatrical productions of 2022. Coal Mine Theatre’s vibrant, personal, seductive production of “The Antipodes” took Baker’s text and ran with it, injecting it with new everyday living and a excellent ensemble of actors. Ted Dykstra’s direction developed a distorted feeling of reality on the small Coal Mine phase, but the clearly show never felt untethered from the below and the now of telling a story and making a entire world. Coal Mine’s take on one particular of the most amazing new performs of the previous 10 decades was a marvel. I’ll be clamouring for a remount for several years to occur.
Death and the King’s Horseman (Stratford Festival)
Greatly acclaimed as a masterpiece of modern day theatre, Nobel winner Wole Soyinka’s 1975 engage in is seldom staged in the West since it is epic in scale and rooted in the specificity of Yoruban culture. Stratford dedicated substantial methods to get this creation proper, with a major-drawer cast of performing expertise, cultural and language consultants making certain representational precision and sensitivity, and a lavish actual physical output directed by Tawiah M’Carthy that appeared magnificent on the extended thrust of the Tom Patterson stage. Set in colonial Nigeria, the tale of the tragic penalties of British intervention in a nearby dying ritual continue to felt stingingly fresh new. Might its good results pave the way for much more Canadian productions of wonderful plays from the international South.
Human Measure (Cassils/Canadian Phase)
“Human Measure,” the effective movement-centered piece developed by multimedia artist Cassils and choreographed by Jasmine Albuquerque, felt like an act of resistance. Maybe, even defiance. Introduced at a time when some seek out to erase the really existence of LGBTQ people, the work’s aching meditation on the notion of visibility — particularly that of non-binary and transgender folks — moved in its stillness and spoke volumes in its many moments of silence. There was a languid natural beauty in how the 6 trans and non-binary performers, all practically completely bare, produced in authentic time a jaw-dropping cyanotype print. Equally placing was Albuquerque’s kinetic choreography, blinding with its depth in particular times and softly beguiling in other people. Entirely, the do the job leaves an imprint, both visually and emotionally, that’s tricky to erase.
Boy Falls From the Sky (Mirvish/Earlier Future Productions)
Jake Epstein’s solo demonstrate about a everyday living lived onstage was riotously funny and remarkably sweet, the uncommon production to which I obtained a next ticket promptly following the media night time. In “Boy Falls From the Sky,” Epstein permit Mirvish audiences in on a magic formula: showbiz? Not that simple. Epstein survived the Broadway operate of “Spider-Guy: Turn Off the Dark” — but not without the need of detrimental his joints. He’s much too tall to be solid in items, he advised us, bending his knees with wonderful comic timing. Indeed, he attended Drake’s bar mitzvah. And, yes, after several years of uncertainty, he received the lady. “Boy Falls from the Sky” was that pearl of a solo demonstrate without the need of a hint of self-indulgence and, as with “The Antipodes,” I’m dreaming of a remount.
Kamloopa (Soulpepper/Indigenous Earth Carrying out Arts)
Created and directed by Kim Senklip Harvey, “Kamloopa” is an irreverent highway trip comedy that transforms into one thing stirring and profound. Harvey, a member of the Syilx and Tsilhqot’in nations with ancestral ties to the Dakelh, Secwepemc and Ktunaxa communities, is a authorized scholar as nicely as an award-profitable playwright (“Kamloopa” won the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language drama), and understands her imaginative work to be each inventive ceremony and an assertion of the lawful legal rights of her people. She also will take critically the imperative to entertain, and her manufacturing shipped on this as a result of 3 brilliantly calibrated performances from Yolanda Bonnell, Samantha Brown and Kaitlyn Yott.
Uncle Vanya (Crow’s Theatre)
This was an “Uncle Vanya” that managed to protect the stakes and esthetic of Czarist Russia but with none of the dustiness. Liisa Repo-Martel wrote a gorgeous adaptation that felt proper at property in the mouths of Chris Abraham’s actors, and Julie Fox’s and Josh Quinlan’s set was simply just out of this planet, transforming the theatre at the Streetcar Crowsnest into an antique-seeking drawing room. Tom Rooney and Bahia Watson, far too, were being magnetic to observe onstage. This manufacturing showed the get the job done of Chekhov at its most effective, with nuanced people and moody ambiance to boot. A winner.
’da Kink in My Hair (TO Stay/Soulpepper)
Couple Canadian performs are as iconic as “’da Kink in My Hair,” the 2001 Toronto Fringe Festival hit that was picked up by Mirvish Productions and subsequently turned into a primary-time tv sitcom. Joyous, wildly hilarious and profoundly moving, Trey Anthony’s engage in exalts the life, troubles and triumphs of a team of Black females who contact Toronto’s Tiny Jamaica residence. This 20th-anniversary output, brilliantly directed by Weyni Mengesha (who helmed the initial Fringe manufacturing), featured a best-notch ensemble of actors, most of whom are alumni of numerous other productions of the play, and provide with them a deep reverence for and comprehending of the material. Beautiful, far too, ended up Joanna Yu’s set and the musical compositions by Corey Butler, which evoked the sights and sounds of the lively Eglinton West community.
Wildfire (Manufacturing unit Theatre)
This deceptively easy romp as a result of familial legacy swept the Dora Awards this year and it’s not really hard to see why. Soheil Parsa’s way of David Paquet’s textual content was head-bogglingly sharp, reaching a great deal with very little. “Wildfire” didn’t want fancy sets or elaborate choreography amongst Paquet’s hauntingly spare textual content and Parsa’s ultraprecise direction, the engage in felt meticulously understood and deliciously intricate, inquiring huge questions about what we owe our family members and what they may possibly owe us. “Wildfire” was a master course in dramaturgy, a testomony to the magic that comes about when a perform text satisfies its match in a director. This manufacturing challenged Toronto theatre to do extra with less. It’s my hope the group proceeds to heed that simply call.
Two Minutes to Midnight and The Huns (Assembly Theatre/One particular Four One particular Collective)
I’m cheating a little in this article these two plays aren’t truly a set. But with a mutual playwright, location and some solid users, carried out again to back in just the space of a several weeks, Michael Ross Albert’s performs felt like a diptych of millennial malaise, a peek behind the curtain of younger man or woman nihilism and company burnout. Albert is one particular of Toronto’s most thrilling playwrights, with a organization take care of on comedy but a sturdy being familiar with of human conversation, and both of those “The Huns” and “Two Minutes to Midnight” showed enormous promise. Assembly Theatre is a tiny room operate by a very small creative team, but what they and the folks at 1 4 A single achieved in 2022 was no tiny feat. I’m desperately looking forward to what Albert writes up coming.
The Doctor’s Problem (Shaw Festival)
In her initial crack at helming a perform by George Bernard Shaw on the flagship phase of the festival that bears his title, actor-turned-director Diana Donnelly announced herself as a confident creative force. She set the engage in in the existing, transformed a central male character to feminine, and elicited beautiful work from a best-notch organization of actors and designers. The creation leaned into the topicality of the subject matter — clinical ethics — and included any selection of bold staging moves, together with breaking the fourth wall and slyly commenting on the windbagginess of one of the figures. Some Shaw purists weren’t amused. I simply cannot hold out for what Donnelly does following.
The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff (Harbourfront Centre)
The real tale of a performing-course hero from a very long neglected war was retold to beautiful influence in “The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff,” the deceptively straightforward new musical that turned out to be the most significant shock of the drop theatre time. This co-production among England’s Northern Stage and Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre was constantly likely to be a gamble. On this aspect of the pond, few most likely had been familiar with the Young’uns, the English folks trio who wrote and composed the musical. Even less experienced very likely read of Johnny Longstaff, the male whose journey sorts the foundation of the display. But immediately after viewing the production, you’re specified to want to study more about both the gentleman and the band. The production’s good results mostly hinges on its toe-tapping quantities, Lorne Campbell’s spare course and the ingenious way Longstaff’s own voice — from interviews he executed in the 1980s — has been built-in into the spoken phrase sections of the narrative. It is some haunting, soul-stirring stuff.
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