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Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Montreal moves to the Queen City for the fiesta
by Byron Toben

The annual August Summerworks in Toronto, the largest juried Independent theatre festival in Canada has blossomed into a major event, especially under the four year artistic direction of MICHAEL RUBENFELD, a graduate of Montreal's National Theatre School. His NTS colleague, HANNA MOSCOVITCH was plastered on the front page of Toronto weekly magazine NOW (a Mirror like tabloid) for her show Little One featuring Montreal ex-pat the always inventive JOE COBDEN.

In HOOKED, ex-Montrealer NICKY GUADAGNI has mastered four 15 minute impersonations of famous artsy women...

Montreal music composer NICK CARPENTER developed the fascinating score for I (surely the shortest play title ever). In this absurdist play, a young woman wannabee writer  flies to Paris to rent the apartment of her deceased playwrighting idol, “I” to seek his aura to write herself the best play ever. Despite the forebodings of the gloomy landlady (the best deadpan since Buster Keaton), she does attract the spirit of her idol, who agrees to mentor her, but all does not go well as, after an amusing  “I/me/you” parlance reminiscent of “Who's on first”, 40 ghosts of other past wannabe playwrights flood the stage. Will she join their earthly exit?

In HOOKED, ex-Montrealer NICKY GUADAGNI, an ex student of popular director Gabielle Soskin, has mastered four 15 minute impersonations of famous artsy women  of the early 20th century...all of whom were  addicts of one sort or another. She morphs effortlessly from the Ontario cadences of Elizabeth Smart to the clipped British of Unity Mitford to the NooYawk lingo of Jane Bowles and the Southern drawls of  Carson McCullers. Nicky also incorporates another three manifestations which she performs at three hour gourmet catered soirées at private homes.

Jeremy James and Phillip McKee in a stunning one hour performance...

BROTHERS was inspired by Dostoevsky's classic The Brothers Karamazov and featured Jeremy James and Phillip McKee in a stunning one hour performance covering the collision of freedom and faith. The famed Grand Inquisitor scene of how a Christ returned to earth would be condemned again by a world not yet ready for his message…similar to the epilogue in G. Bernard Shaw's St. Joan, where Joan, even after being canonized, would be abandoned should she actually return. Mr James was a member
of Ariane Mnouchkine's famed Le Theatre du Soleil for seven years. That theatre ensemble promoted the doctrine of “physical theatre” so we were not surprised to see Montreal (and Moscow) expat Fringe star ELISON ZASKO (the Sputniks, Poison The Well) in the crowd. She had recently returned from months of study at a California troupe specializing in that discipline.

The Particulars and in General was written by MATTHEW MACKENZIE, a prize winning playwright grad of the National Theatre School. This a darkly comedic look at big and small crises...the plight of Pygmies in Africa (where Matt has been invited to start the  NTS of Liberia) and  a self absorbed man agonizing over scratching sounds in his wall. Spotted in the crowd was yet another ex-Montreal actor/playwright FREYA  RAVENSBERGEN (Forking Mona Lisa), who, besides acting in T.O., triples as a personal trainer and has started a trendy cafe, The Primal Grind, soon to open in its new location. This promises to become a watering hole for Montrealers on theatre visits to The Big Smoke.

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