Once again this year the SummerWorks Performance Festival features a mix of daring, provocative, challenging, thought-provoking and controversial theatre and once again the Mooney on Theatre team has reviewed all 45 theatre shows* in the festival.
If you’re looking for a place to start, check out our SummerWorks primer and then see the following list of recommendations for SummerWorks shows that our staff think you should take your grandma to see this weekend.
Mooney on Theatre Staff Picks – 2012 SummerWorks Performance Festival
Mike Anderson has enjoyed almost everything he’s seen at SummerWorks this year although Breathe For Me has really stuck with him. The performances are spectacular, the writing is clever, the directing is meticulous and thoughtful, and the overall effect is profoundly compelling. You will talk about it later. You will think about it later. And it will make you re-examine your own life. Not to be missed!
Wayne Leung was really impressed by Iceland. The show is stunning in its simplicity. It really is the essence of great theatre: we’re basically watching three actors delivering monologues while seated and tightly lit center stage but the performances are superb and the hour-long show is completely compelling. With its clever script, tight direction and brilliant performances, Iceland is not to be missed
Winston Soon was incredibly moved by HUFF. And since the audience instantly leapt to its feet, Winston must be in good company! It is a funny and heartbreaking piece that uses storytelling both modern and ancient to tell the tale of three sweet and broken brothers on a Northern Ontario First Nations reserve. Both the stage, the audience involvement, and the talents of Cliff Cardinal are articulated seamlessly.
George Perry really likes One/Un and would like to see it for the second time. He recommends you see it at least once. One/Un entertains and educates, vividly sharing several cultures. Mani Soleymanlou serves up a delicious meal that is part autobiography, part travelogue. One/Un is inviting and delicious. It will have you coming back for seconds. To answer Mani’s question, “Yeah, you can play! It’s great to have you on our team!”
Samantha Wu was blown away by Violent be Violet, a remarkably heartfelt, pure and cathartic performance about the difficulties of mental illness. Tanisha Taitt’s performance of Violet is something that needs to be seen, she bears her heart and soul on that stage, leaving herself bare. You feel for each character as her mental fall affects everyone around her. In the end, you’re left feeling raw and in a way, inspired. This is a production that needs to be seen.
S Bear Bergman still isn’t over how good Medicine Boy was. So good, and so important.
Joslyn Kilborn recommends Terminus to anyone who enjoys a great script executed seamlessly by a talented cast, anyone who loves a good story, anyone who is turned on by intercourse with a body made out of worms, anyone who struggles with dualistic notions of good vs. bad, and anyone who embraces the grey area between.
Ryan Kerr adored Big Plans. Maybe it’s his appetite for the macabre; perhaps his appreciation for unlikely (hopefully!) situations made real. Without digging too deep, he loved how artfully the production laboured to flesh out a human story from what could have easily been a slanderous representation. And the combination of venue, acting and brilliant writing hit all the right notes. There’s nothing lazy about these Big Plans.
Tavish McGregor recommends France, or the Niqab (or both…?). A timely topic handled with an unusual mix of sensitivity and merciless wit, this play is a must-see for anyone intimidated by traditional Islamic garb or frustrated with the views expressed by the SUN TV cavemen. It also happens to be a well-crafted, hilarious bit of theatre. Worry less about whether the play touches on every aspect of the issue perfectly, and instead enjoy taking a step in the right direction with playwright Shawn Dixon and a spot-on cast.
Check out our full list of SummerWorks Theatre reviews.
*Mooney on Theatre reviewed every show in the festival’s theatre series (Local, National, Off-site and Musical Works in Concert).
-Photo by Donald Weber/Getty Images