See queer-oriented comedy and theatre, and observe World AIDS Day; marvel at Come From Away, and laugh at Uncalled For; party with Flo & Joan, MSTRKRFT, and Chris Tsujiuchi.
Urban Planner is your weekly curated guide to what’s on in Toronto—things that are local, affordable, and exceptional.
Monday, November 28
It kicked off last week, but the One of a Kind Show runs a full week more, for those of you looking for a unique present for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other upcoming occasion. There’s a number of deals to get in and peruse the vendor’s wares, including a 50 per cent discount on November 30 for TTC Metropass holders, a late night session on December 1, and free admission for those 12 and under. To December 4, Enercare Centre (100 Princes’ Boulevard), 10 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, FREE–$15.
They’ve already entertained crowds in Hamilton and Kitchener, and now The Queer and Present Danger Tour, featuring a half dozen Toronto-based queer stand-ups, comes home for a two-night stand before moving on to four other cities. Headliners DeAnne Smith and Chantel Marostica, feature acts Jess Beaulieu and Ashley Moffatt, and openers Meg MacKay and Heather MacDonald will be joined by Colleen Sibeon and Kyah Green tonight at Pegasus. On Tuesday night, they’ll be joined by Robert Watson at the Rivoli (334 Queen Street West), and that night’s show will be followed by a dance party. Pegasus (489B Church Street), 8 p.m., $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
Tuesday, November 29
The opening night brought the capacity crowd to its feet swifter than we’ve ever seen in a Toronto theatre; Mirvish has publicly proclaimed that the show did $1.7 million in sales in its first week, a new record for them; and the city’s reviewers have written raves. Come From Away, a musical about Gander, Newfoundland’s response when 38 flights were routed and grounded there after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., was conceived and written in Toronto, and it’s already won awards in trial runs in Seattle and Los Angeles. Next up for the show is a run on Broadway, where tickets will be even harder to get than they are here. The show goes to New York in February, so there’s only a limited window for extensions in Toronto—don’t delay. To January 8, Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King Street West), Tuesday–Saturday 8 p.m., Wednesday/Saturday/Sunday 2 p.m., $35–$150.
Much smaller and intimate in scope, Saga Collective’s Black Boys goes deep into its exploration of Black and queer male identity. Rooted in the life experiences of its three performer-creators—Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Tawiah Ben-Eben M’Carthy, and Thomas Olajide—it appears nothing was off limits that pertained to their creative exploration, including body hang-ups (the show includes full nudity), personal upbringings, and rifts between the performers over their own interpretations of the Black experience, compounded by their queer identities. In addition to staged scenes and monologues, there’s some exceptional dance choreography (by Virgilia Griffith) and spoken word (by Jackman-Tarkoff), all adroitly assembled by director Jonathan Seinen. Over the run of the show, there’s special events before and after nearly every performance, including talk-backs, lectures, and ASL performances. To December 11, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street), Tuesday–Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2:30 p.m., $25–$39 (Sundays PWYC).
Wednesday, November 30
World AIDS Day is December 1, but the commemorations and events begin tonight with several vigil and choral events, including speaker Adrian Betts and the Guys Like Us choir at St. Simon’s. (On Wednesday, events include a benefit concert for Casey House, the Singing Out choir at St. Anne’s, and both early and late night events at The 519 Community Centre.) St. Simon the Apostle Church (525 Bloor Street East), refreshments at 5:30 p.m., vigil at 6 p.m., FREE.
The latest event in the Red Bull Sound Select series is a headlining set by Braids, with openers Most People and Nyssa, and DJ Bad Plastics spinning between sets. As with all the Sound Selects series, it’ll cost you the same as TTC fare if you RSVP in advance. At the door, tickets will jump up to a still very reasonable $10. The Garrison (1197 Dundas Street West), doors at 8 p.m., $3 with RSVP, $10 without.
The weekly Joke Party comedy series has a special presentation this week: they call it Buddy Battles, teaming comics with close connections up to see if they can get each other to “corpse” or break out laughing during the show. The “undercard” comics include Joel Buxton facing Daryn McIntyre, and Rhiannon Archer facing a mystery opponent. The title bout is between Sandra Battaglini and Phil Luzi, who’ve been doing comedy together for over a decade. (On Thursday, Battaglini also tapes an album in the first SheDid Showcase.) Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 9:30 p.m., $5.
Thursday, December 1
Improv troupe Your Kids Do The Holidays tonight, coming up with a new holiday classic, aided by royal comedy couple Colin Mochrie and Deb McGrath. Opening up the night are comedic musical duet sister act Flo & Joan, whose NSFW “The 2016 Song” is the most filthy and funny thing you’re likely to hear this year. Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $10–$15.
It’s been a long while since more than a couple of members of Uncalled For have been assembled, as the original Montreal-based improv and sketch troupe has scattered across the country. (That’s a shame, as their Hypnogogic Logic remains the funniest sketch show we’ve ever seen.) After a successful crowdfunding campaign, and some production assistance from the Toronto sketch Comedy Festival, they’ve been able to temporarily re-unite here in Toronto to stage Uncalled For Presents Playday Mayday, a theatrical comedy revolving around the concepts of childhood games and adults who still indulge in them. It’s manic, absurd, and surprisingly all-ages friendly, ranging all over the Passe Muraille space in a manner akin to the recent Brave New World staging there. To December 4, Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue), Wednesday–Saturday 7:30 p.m., Saturday–Sunday 2 p.m., $30.
Jason Collett and Damien Roger’s Basement Revue is back for a 10th surprising season. Surprising, because no one knows who’ll appear each Thursday in December, though it’s a safe bet that at least some of the musical guests will be Broken Social Scene alumni, like Collett is. This year, in addition to the usual rammed Dakota Tavern shows, there will also be a show at the Great Hall, just before the Christmas break. December 1/8/15/29, Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Avenue), December 22, The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West), 8:30 p.m., $30.
Friday, December 2
Also back this year, like the Basement Revue, are past Torontoist heroes and all-ages event champions Long Winter. They list their participants, though what exactly those artists, musicians, and other talents will be doing is often a surprise. Long Winter is also spreading the love around Toronto this year, hopping from venue to venue: first up is the Polish Combatants’ Hall, and participating acts include Blonde Elvis, Zoo Owl, and, as always, Vish Khanna’s Long Night talk show. Polish Combatants’ Hall (206 Beverley Street), 7 p.m., All Ages, $10 in advance, PWYC at the door.
Also returning to a Toronto stage, but in a entirely new show, are George F. Walker’s characters Bobby and Tina, the subjects of his 1992 play Tough! as a pregnant teen couple, his 2013 play Moss Park as 20-somethings, and now, as middle-aged divorcees still trying to sort their lives out. In The Damage Done, Tina has reached out to Bobby with an unusual request, given that she’s the one with a career, a home in the suburbs, and two kids and a husband to match, while Bobby still has little life development to speak of and is now writing a play, despite not having seen one since high school. Walker uses his characters, now closer in age to himself (but still considerably lacking self-awareness), as prisms though which to view mental illness, moral compromise, and cycles of abuse and addiction. Some of this is rooted deeply with the characters, played by Wes Berger and Sarah Murphy-Dyson, both veterans at working in Walker’s oeuvre; some of it is scattershot, with the pair (and the play) getting sidetracked. There’s obvious limits to what the real-time two-hander can explore (we can’t help but reflect on how vital director Ken Gass’s recent large cast revival of Tough! was in comparison), but it’s an interesting conversation, especially if the viewer is familiar with Tina and Bobby’s previous character development. To December 11, The Citadel (304 Parliament Street), Tuesday–Saturday 8:30 p.m., Sunday 2:30 p.m., $21–$32, Sunday PWYC.
Weekend December 3–4
Musical renaissance man and cabaret performer Chris Tsujiuchi has sold out his popular holiday show A Very Chris-terical Cabaret for four years running, and there’s no reason to suspect he won’t extend the streak to five years in 2016. His two-night stand this year includes guest turns from Kevin Wong, Leah Canali, La-Nai Gabriel, and many more. Saturday–Sunday, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street), 7:30 p.m., $25.
Another holiday show back due to popular demand is Evany Rosen’s The Pageant, Bad Dog Theatre Company’s spin on creating a new holiday tradition each show, usually with a little wicked twist. There’s late night shows that probably aren’t suitable for kids, but also a family friendly matinee on December 10, featuring some of Bad Dog’s top improvisers. To December 17, Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 9:30 p.m., $10–$15.
Written by Rosamund Small and set in a near-future where technology has impacted how humans love and live beyond our current Tinder and Grinder apps, TomorrowLove, presented by site-specific mavericks Outside the March, takes audiences on a different-each-time adventure through an old funeral home, converted specifically for the show. Also differing are the actors for each scene, which means each of the eight cast members needed to learn every role for the show. The concept is intriguing—the roles must be gender neutral by necessity—but while some of the exceptional cast find sparks in the material, the lack of specificity means some scenes are weakly anchored in character detail. Still, audiences have been receptive to the experience—enough that the show has just been extended by two weeks. To December 18, The Aorta (733 Mount Pleasant Road), Tuesday–Sunday at 8 p.m., Saturday–Sunday at 2 p.m., $30–$40.
Veteran local electronic act MSTRKFT, a.k.a. as Jesse F. Keeler and Alex Puodziukas, play a late night set, with openers Bulkhead. (Tickets were previously sold out, but a new batch has been released.) Saturday, The Hoxton (69 Bathurst Street), doors at 10 p.m., $20.
Both Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster (a regular in Soulpepper productions) and Brittany Kay (Juliet in this past summer’s Fringe hit Romeo and Juliet Chainsaw Massacre) have appeared in numerous musicals, but the two decided to do something a little different when producer Derrick Chua paired them together for a cabaret. Their The Cringe-Festival Cabaret promises “inappropriate” song selections they’ve actually pulled out in auditions, as well as embarrassing interstitial stories—the two have already engaged in self-shaming childhood photo posts in promoting the show online. Sunday, 120 Diner (120 Church Street), 8:30 p.m., $20.
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