‘Works: a Summer Roundup, part 1

Okay, so that was a bit of downtime I took there.  Apologies, I was a little busy finding out that I’m the worst person in the God-damned world.  Suck it, Cheney.

So now that the maelstrom of life-shit I dropped myself in is, if not behind me,at least past its destructive apex (fingers crossed), where do I go from here?  Yeah, sure, to the theatre…why not?  I do vaguely recall enjoying it…and I had some Summery things to write about.   Summer’s fun, right?  I could use some fun.   Let’s do this.

A ‘blast’ is too much for me to hope for right now…I’ll settle for a summer lovin’ tickle at this point.

So, SUMMERWORKS.  I made my first ever theatrical road trip this past month down to Toronto, and not just for the shopping (not that I didn’t load up on dvd’s…STEAMBOAT BILL JR., anyone?).  No, I partook in my first Summerworks theatre festival…a little less frenzied than a Fringe, but with plenty of ace theatre to go around, in some pretty snazzy venues.  I think the Factory Theatre Studio was my fav’rit  And all in all, I thought it was a pretty nicely run festival.  Okay, they need to do something about the massive downtimes between shows…up to two hours in some cases, between ANY available performances.  For a tourist like me, that could get pretty dull and/or expensive.   Although, again, shopping.

But I still had a swell time (constant illness notwithstanding), and without more yakking here is my personal TOP 5 SHOWS of Summerworks 2010:

No.5:  The HAUNTED HILLBILLY.  From Sidemart Theatrical Grocery, a twisted, hilarious and fantastic musical tale based on the novel by Derek McCormack.  Faust reimagined as a country-western epic, with rising star Hyram Woodside being seduced by the supernatural couturier known only as Nudie.  Massive amounts of fun.

No.4: The SAD and CAUTIONARY TALE of SMACK-HEADED PETER.  A big ensemble (like Hillbilly above), this time the bizarre and mystical tale of drugged-out prophet Peter’s rise and fall, Mother Cheapside’s telly-fuelled visions, and the terrible truth about the Dream King and the Princess of Pain.  Street level poetry and magick at its finest.

No.3: ME HAPPY.   A giddy riot of a love story from Pyretic Productions, as the rather unique Biddy of Muff, Ireland, starts a correspondence with imprisoned diver Logan Hasselhoff to try and exorcize her persistent ghost.    A much-needed dose of killer laughter resulted, and I loved every occasionally foulmouthed moment.

No.2: MISS CALEDONIA.  I secretly hope this show hits the Fringe circuit next year, because I’d really love to make people around me go see it.  Melody Johnson and Alison Porter made me all melty and happy inside with the true-based story of rural beauty queen Peggy Ann Douglas, and if Ginger’s story doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, someone needs to put a stake through your shrivelled heart NOW.

No.1: RIDE the CYCLONE.  I wasn’t alone in hearting the living shit out of Atomic Vaudeville’s musical extravaganza about a squad of dead chorists from Uranium, Saskatchewan singing their lives out one last time…it won the Summerworks award for Production and the Now Magazine audience choice, not to mention packing the house more often than not.  The Vaudeville gang are insanely talented each and every one (they impressed equally at their Performance Bar appearance), and the show is about as crowd-pleasery as it gets.  Delirious joy for all.  So there.

Some very honourable mentioning to a few others…like Dbi Young’s amazing WORD! SOUND! POWAH!, the beautiful, brutal AFTER SHOCK, Johnnie Walker’s grand REDHEADED STEPCHILD, the Celine-centric mindfuck of BLISS, and of course my hometown heroes Emily Pearlman and Nick DiGaetano and COUNTRIES SHAPED LIKE STARS.  It would have made the list but, having seen it twice before in two different venues, I can’t really think of it as a ‘Summerworks show’.  You know how that goes.  And also, a huge apology to all the shows I didn’t make it out to see…great sounding joints like HOMEGROWN (even after the Toronto Sun launched such an effective media campaign for it..!), MODICUM OF FREEDOM, FOSTER CHILD PLAY, POST EDEN, THEORY…sigh.  Too much theatre, too little time.  Oh, and of course, a huge thank you to BIOGRAPHIES OF THE DEAD AND DYING…not just for being a wicked cool show, but for legitimizing me by including one of my reviews on your sandwich board:

Pictured: maybe as famous as I’ll ever get.

I wish I’d been able to stay in T-Dot longer, see everything, but that’s the life of a working shmoe, I s’pose.  I did make it to Sneaky Dee’s AND the Beguiling, not to mention Honest Ed’s, so I fulfilled my personal obligations at least.  Thanks to Clarence Castle, my homey hostel for the duration (and where I did all my show-blogging for free by hogging their computer).  And I’ll be back tomorrow, in the spirit of keeping myself busily distracted from my own awfulness, with part 2 of my summer roundup, this time Flings instead of Works.   Including a uselessly late show review!  See you there,

The Visitor

PS. Anyone in Ottawa seeing JAMAICA FAREWELL at the Gladstone this sunday evening?  If so, I’ll see you there!

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