Only about two hours away from Toronto, madness is infiltrating the town of Stratford, Ontario—but fortunately, it’s the kind that produces delightful results. Stratford Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino has designed this year’s season around the theme “Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge,” and explores it through everything from jukebox musicals to Shakespearean tragedies. And with the festival’s increasingly popular twice-daily bus service to and from downtown (in its second year), it’s easy to get a taste of what the mania is all about. Here’s Torontoist‘s take on a sampling of this year’s festival offerings—Ira Glass and his opinions notwithstanding, a whole lot of people would welcome a chance to spend some time with the Bard and some of Canada’s most esteemed artists.
Cirque du Soleil is magical. Across from T&T Supermarket on Cherry Street, the pop-up striped tent transforms Polson Pier into a scene of fantastical fun—it’s a better location than any Las Vegas hotel or Orlando strip mall. And when you walk into the Grand Chapiteau venue, you’re welcomed into a bizarro steampunk contortionist dream.
Kicking off its North American tour in Toronto, Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities is Cirque du Soleil’s latest show. The official plot explanation is abstract and boring: there’s a Seeker in his own imaginary world called Curiosistan finding inventions with robots that smell like leather. It’s confusing to even layer a narrative over the spinning, jumping, flying and balancing. No one had no idea what was going on–but everyone loved the show. Details.
The Theatre Centre’s latest production,
Monday Nights, has all the hallmarks of a classic sports tale: a team of underdogs, personal and athletic growth, a dramatic final shot, and most importantly, a lot of heart. The only difference is that this isn’t Hollywood, it’s real. So real that the audience is invited to play along with the show’s ragtag team of five Toronto actors (provided they’ve got the appropriate footwear).
Monday Nights, created by 6th Man Collective, has been in the works for more than five years. It’s inspired by a tradition of Byron Abalos, Colin Doyle, Darrel Gamotin, Richard Lee, and Jeff Yung, who would play basketball at the court on the corner of Queens Quay and Bathurst Street until the lights went off. In the theatrical adaptation of their weekly ritual, each member of the audience chooses one of four teams, and each team is captained by one of the creators (the fifth plays the part of referee on a rotating basis). Through a series of drills, each team is awarded points based on how well their captains and “volunteammates” compete. The loser does that night’s laundry (and as you can imagine, two hours of basketball under theatrical lighting creates one sweaty cast).
These days, vacationers flock to Australia for the outback, the Great Barrier Reef, and, of course, kangaroos. But back in 1788, the only people travelling Down Under were the thieves, murderers, and prostitutes exiled from Britain. Our Country’s Good tells the story of some eager convicts who decide to make the best of their situation by putting on a play, unintentionally humanizing themselves in the eyes of their captors.
Theatre company One Little Goat wades into Toronto politics with Ubu Mayor: A Harmful Bit of Fun, an adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s absurdist play Ubu Roi. One Little Goat’s version is inspired by “Toronto’s TwinFord mayors” (as labeled by Margaret Atwood), and features actors Astrid Van Wieren, Michael Dufays, and Richard Harte; a live jazz band; and bacon, which will apparently be cooked onstage. The “anti-musical” has also just been released in book form by local publisher BookThug.
To the delight of those who fell victim to ticketing website crashes last year, The Book of Mormon is back! The brainchild of South Park‘s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez, this expectedly crude musical follows two 19-year-old Mormons as they travel to Uganda in hopes of converting the inhabitants of a small village. As one might imagine, hilarity ensues (with the help of some pretty catchy songs).