Drama Club: All We Are Saying...
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Drama Club: All We Are Saying…

Each week, Drama Club looks at Toronto’s theatre scene and tells you which shows are worth checking out.

Photo courtesy of draft89 Theatre Collective.

May 26 marked the fortieth anniversary of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous Montreal Bed-In, the site of the recording of “Give Peace a Chance.” Over in the M-Dot, the Musée des beaux arts has been holding a popular exhibit about what may have been the world’s most famous sleepover. Closer to home, draft89 Theatre Collective has been mounting The John/Yoko Bed Piece at the Theatre Centre, which dramatizes the event.
After the fold, we review The John/Yoko Bed Piece, take a look at this year’s Dora nominees, plus more theatre news.

Yoko? Oh, No!

Photo courtesy of draft89 Theatre Collective.

What works best about John/Yoko Bed Piece is the company. We counted seventeen talented young performers (that’s a lot!) on stage, not to mention ones that appeared via video, all working their butt off to recreate the Montreal Bed-In as best they can. For their sake, we want to give peace a chance. Sadly, they are limited by a vague and messy script, and a production that never quite gets off the ground.
The show is a series of scenes from the Bed-In. John and Yoko are interviewed by journalists, visited by other celebrities, and even try to find the time to write a song and have some sex. The scenes get broken up with several video clips featuring actors portraying other countercultural figures of the day that don’t really belong in the show; they are neither well-produced, nor particularly relevant. Much better are Musical Director Graham Porter’s musical sequences, which are expertly performed, and seriously raise the tone of the show.
As the titular couple, Tom Smart and Sharon Marquez are quite acceptable, but they don’t really get enough to do. Most of the people who talk to them just tell them how wonderful they are, which is dull, and if they challenge any of their ideas, all they are allowed to do is spout the same pacifist platitudes ad nauseum. By far, the most dramatically interesting moment in the show comes early on when conservative L’il Abner cartoonist Al Capp (brilliantly performed by Devin Upham) engages Lennon in a heated debate, but all the dramatic tension deflates the second he leaves the stage, and there’s a lot of play left after that.
It’s frustrating to think of all the other places this idea—which is a good one!—could have gone. Why not stage the whole thing in an actual hotel room and have the action happen all around the audience, maybe in a Gladstone Variations kind of way? Why not use the many non-historical, random hippy characters to tell a fictional story that might make the whole work more relatable? There are a lot of cool places this show could have gone, but it’s ended up somewhere between HAIR and a Canadian Heritage Minute about how wonderful the CBC is.
John/Yoko Bed Piece runs until June 7.

Dora! Dora! Dora!

This year’s list of Dora nominees was announced earlier today, and it’s full of both shows that Torontoist has praised, and ones that we’ve slammed. The recent remount of Eternal Hydra scored an impressive ten nominations in the Independent Theatre category, while last fall’s two-spirited romp Agokwe has been given an unreal eight nominations under the General Theatre category. We just hope I, Claudia, The Black Rider, Festen, and The Gladstone Variations get the trophies they deserve. For a complete list of nominees, check out the TAPA website. The awards ceremony takes place on June 29, and will be hosted by Jian Ghomeshi.

On Stage This Week

Body & Soul is a new show commissioned by Dove (does that make it a “soap opera”?), and created by acclaimed Canadian playwright Judith Thompson through collaboration with an all-female collective, opens Saturday night at Tarragon’s Extra Space. The play is performed by a cast of twelve 49–75 year-old non-actors who share their real-life stories with the audience. It runs until June 21.
Jonathan Garfinkle’s House of Many Tongues continues at Tarragon. A magical-realist take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it closes tonight.
L’Oréal and its Luminato fest are about to take over the city once again, and while there are scads of arts events to partake in, for theatre aficionados, the hot ticket is definitely Robert Lepage’s Lipsynch, opening Saturday. Lepage is theatre god in many people’s eyes, and his new show sounds epic. Literally. It’s nine hours long! You can either see it over three nights, or in one marathon sesh. It runs until June 14.