National Post columnist Ben Kaplan is proof that regular guys can become competitive marathon runners. Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now: The Rogue’s Guide to Running the Marathon—a product of his experience—straddles the line between memoir, guidebook, and inspirational self-help bible. Containing weekly training schedules, and pro tips on nutrition, shoes, and running form, this book aims to transform the greenest amateurs into advanced runners in just one year. Staying true to his music journalist background, Kaplan also includes a list of great running tracks recommended by artists like the Black Keys and Dolly Parton. Join him for an evening of music, celebrity appearances, and sneaker giveaways at the launch party.
You can surmise a couple of things from the title of Stewart Lemoine’s play, receiving its Toronto debut 18 years after its Edmonton premiere. Like The Exquisite Hour, which producing company the Theatre Department launched with in 2012, Pith! is not much more than a hour—brevity being the soul of wit, after all. Pithy does in part mean concise, but “pith”? Well, it can mean “the essence,” and this play is concerned with getting to the essence of play, and by extension, a play.
Jack Vail (Ron Pederson) is a sailor and adventurer who, on a whim, decides to see what sort of adventures can be had in Providence, Rhode Island, in the summer of 1931. He’s just disembarked from a long sea voyage, and craves more genteel company, which he decides he’ll find at a Sunday church service and social. His attention is quickly drawn to a woman in mourning cloth and to her slightly less subdued companion, whom he finds sobbing over a plate of pie outside after the service. She introduces herself as Ms. Nancy Kimble (Amy Matysio), and shares the sad tale of her employer Mrs. Virginia Tillford (Daniela Vlaskalic), who has held out hope for a decade that her husband will return from a trip to South America, where he vanished.
If we know Torontonians, we’re sure that everyone is dying—er—undying for an opportunity to see a zombie host a late-night television program. Which is why we want to tell you about Mullet’s Night Show, a variety showcase for comedians, musicians, and other performance artists. Hosted by Mullet the Zombie Clown, this debut event at the Rivoli will see appearances by sketch and improv group 2-Man No-Show, musician Alissa Vox Raw, spoken word artist Bruce Hunter, and Marvel comic book artist Leonard Kirk, and stand-up by Sandra Battaglini and Mullet’s co-host Robin Archer.
While the Toronto International Film Festival may have shifted into a more relaxed mode, it’s still offering plenty of opportunities to gawk at movie stars—they’re just a little more spread out. Midweek, fans could catch the premieres of Good Kill (Ethan Hawke as a drone pilot), Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg’s new bit of oddness), The Imitation Game (Benedict Cumberbatch as World War II cryptographer Alan Turing), Jauja (Viggo Mortensen, and we don’t know much else really), Laggies (Sam Rockwell and Keira Knightley in a comedy about people taking their sweet time to grow up), October Gale (Patricia Clarkson and Scott Speedman in a thriller/drama set in a remote cabin), Pawn Sacrifice (about the chess duels between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer), The Cobbler (Adam Sandler’s latest) and Escobar (Benicio Del Toro is the famous drug kingpin).
Virginia Woolf once remarked that “on or about December 1910, human character changed.” Whether it actually did is debatable, but the curators of “The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection 1910–1918” use that year to start their exhibition of works from a tumultuous decade of innovation in European fine art.
The Next Stage Theatre Festival is back with a diverse and compelling slate of ten plays, all by artists who’ve previously contributed to the Fringe Festival. While a few of these shows have been produced at the Fringe, a number of them are brand new, and you have until January 19 to check out as many as you can.
Ali Eisner is already known for being a puppeteer, composer, and performer. Now she adds another line to her resumé with her debut photography exhibit, “Favourite Things.” As one might expect, each photo in the show depicts a cherished moment, person, or item in her life—you’ll find shots of everything from travelling and architecture, to puppets and musicians such as Kathleen Edwards, Ron Sexsmith, and Serena Ryder.
Every revolution needs a leader. And though the movement to bring the classic 1980s musical Les Misérables back to Toronto is markedly different than the quest for political accountability and social equality, it has its hero just the same. After the official opening performance at the Princess of Wales Theatre, the audience likely would have followed London-based, Richmond Hill-raised performer Ramin Karimloo (as the story’s golden-hearted protagonist, Jean Valjean) anywhere he would lead.
Playwright Erin Fleck has spent the past month in residence at Videofag, (super-heroic runners-up in our Heroes of 2013 poll), and the result is a short workshop run of Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales, a shadow puppet performance of adult fairy tales. The show’s not for children, but adults attending may feel they’ve regressed a bit: the storefront venue’s being turned into a “blanket fort” for the performances, with mostly floor seating (be prepared to get cozy with other audience members).
German theatre has gone over really well in Toronto in recent years. Playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’s contribution to Volcano Theatre’s Africa project was widely praised, and twinwerks//zwillingswerk’s production of Felicia Zeller’s Kaspar and the Sea of Houses earned the company an outstanding production award at the 2011 SummerWorks (and a trip back to 2012′s festival). Now, Theatre Smash returns with Marius von Mayenburg’s The Ugly One, a clever slice of absurdism that works well on several levels. There’s light humour when the titular character discovers that everyone finds his face repugnant, and darker tones when his new, beautiful face becomes coveted obsessively by those around him.
It seems like the 1980s are an odd, distant time here in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century. It also feels like it’s been almost as long since Adam Sandler was making good comedies, instead of recent dreck like the Grown-Ups films or Jack & Jill. Films like The Wedding Singer and Happy Gilmour were sweet (and only slightly profane) comedies where the screw-up always gets the girl.
Hart House Theatre’s production of The Wedding Singer is set a year shy of 30 years ago in Ridgefield, New Jersey, and trades on the nostalgia for a film that was already trading on nostalgia with neon lighting (plenty of purple wash), retro fashion, and familiar songs—the ones created for the film, anyway. (Classics like “You Spin Me Right Round” and “Love Stinks” would have made the licensing astronomical.) The 2006 musical adaptation came up with some similar (and period) sounding numbers that, in some cases, actually improve on the original. It also streamlined some of the characters: for instance, the most memorable supporting characters in the film, sleazeball Sammy (Matt Pilipiak) and keyboardist George (Scott Farley), are now both Robbie’s best friends and bandmates.
The musical also does a better job of balancing out Robbie (Isaac Bell) and Julia’s (Ashley Gibson) scenes, as she gets some songs to sing too, instead of being just a love interest. Julia’s scenes with her cousin Holly (Romina Cortina) and her mother won’t pass film’s Bechdel test, but then the boys only talk about women as well—save for a few throwaway lines about their band and an act-two number where Julia’s jerk fiancé Glen (Howard Davis) tries to sell Robbie on the world of finance.
The ensemble is spirited and, despite some persistent sound tech issues relating to the body mics, the show sounds all right too. Of course, a show likes this succeeds on the charisma of its leads and character roles: Bell, Gibson, and especially Farley are all likeable and on-point with their comedic timing. The book dutifully checks off all the memorable moments (and lines) that people are likely to recall from the film, which is, we suppose, sort of the point. You’re more likely to leave the theatre humming one of the songs from the pre-show or intermission music than from the score, but you probably will leave humming rather than grumbling.