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Eight brave souls, inexperienced in theatre, will wind up on stage for this month’s Shakespeare Challenge to raise funds in support of literacy and the arts in less-fortunate communities. Join them as they courageously take on an abridged version of Twelfth Night. They might be surprisingly awesome, or it could be a trainwreck. Either way, it’s bound to be entertaining!
If we’ve learned anything from slasher flicks, it’s that having sex leads to death. Returning to the stage to mark its 25th anniversary, Brad Fraser’s Love and Human Remains pursues this dark train of thought. Set in Edmonton, the play tells the story of a bunch of sexually frustrated and dysfunctional twenty- and thirty-somethings grappling with life and love, while a killer lurks in their midst.
If The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors has a mascot, it’s Emperor Yongzheng. The image of the 18th-century Chinese ruler dominates the promotional material of the exhibition, which is one of the centrepieces of the Royal Ontario Museum’s centennial year. His portrait certainly has visual appeal, but Yongzheng is also a figure associated with surprising elements of life within the former imperial palace.
“The greatest art always returns you to the vulnerabilities of the human situation.” – Francis Bacon
“In the human figure one can express more completely one’s feelings about the world than in any other way.” – Henry Moore
These quotations, which welcome visitors to “Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty,” immediately establish the exhibition’s tone and focus. Each artist’s distortions of the human figure, shaped by their wartime experiences, capture the vulnerability of our mortal forms.
Outside the March seems to be Toronto’s favourite indie theatre company. Director Mitchell Cushman built up quite a buzz after consecutive hits Mr. Marmalade and Terminus, both of which were praised for their unconventional use of space (the former was set in a kindergarten classroom, the latter placed both the actors and the audience on the stage of the Royal Alexandra Theatre), so his next project had been highly anticipated. Vitals, written by Rosamund Small, was the first script for Outside the March developed specifically for a site-specific space, and its original run had to be extended even before opening night. Then, only a few days into the run, it was extended again to June 1. And though Vitals isn’t the best show in Outside the March’s history, there’s a reason that tickets have been flying.
As the world premiere of a stage adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s famous novel, Soulpepper Theatre’s production of Of Human Bondage is the jewel of the company’s 2014 season. Not that it’s a perfect play—but it does flex the strength of Soulpepper’s acting ensemble, design team, and, well, budget. The arresting opening scene sees the play’s main character, Philip Carey, well-played by Gregory Prest, enter by rising through a trapdoor centre stage while other members of the cast appear to dissect a cadaver (they’re actually crossing bows across a double bass, which is lying horizontally on an operating table). A spotlight casts Philip’s shadow against a red-brick wall, so that the bows appear to saw through his stiff, upright body. Setting the tone for the rest of the production, the scene is striking, but not incredibly subtle.
If you’re in the mood for a murder mystery with a religious twist, you’ll want to check out The Last Confession. David Suchet (Poirot) and Richard O’Callaghan star in this play about the mysterious death of Pope John Paul I in 1978. After only 33 days in office, and having warned three cardinals that they would be replaced, he is found dead. Though the Vatican refuses to open an official investigation, Cardinal Benelli goes out in search of the truth.
We’re nearing the end of Tarragon Theatre‘s 2013/2014 season, and it appears we’ve also arrived at the final stage of its theme: love, loss, wine, and the gods. But that doesn’t mean the Tarragon, which has seen some major hits this year in Lungs, The Double, and The Ugly One, is phoning it in. Sean Dixon’s ambitious new script, A God in Need of Help, has produced not only one of the longer plays in the Tarragon season, but also easily the most dense and layered, mixing as it does historical fact and fiction with timeless issues of art, religion, and politics. Fortunately, that makes it the strongest mainstage show of the season thus far (we’ll see how Tarragon’s final show, The God That Comes, co-created by and featuring Hawksley Workman, performs in June).