This week features plays about the Middle East (both contemporary and Biblical), meet-ups for fans of comics, roller derby and pugs, and events benefitting social housing and Amnesty international.
Wednesday, May 10
No one work of art is ever going to create peace in the Middle East, but co-playwright-performers Natasha Greenblatt and Rimah Jabr’s Two Birds One Stone, being presented in a short run as part of the RISER project, gamely tries to put a human face on the conflict, with intergenerational characters relating their experiences dating back to the 1940s. Greenblatt and Jabr play semi-fictionalized versions of themselves. Greenblatt, eager to leave Canada to avoid dealing with a death in the family, finds herself both enamoured with and confused by the clash of cultures on her Birthright trip. Jabr’s parallel story has her leaving her roots in Palestine for a burgeoning career as an actor in Belgium, but realizing her traumatic childhood experiences in the West Bank follow her. Both play relatives and supporting characters on each other’s travels, and both become obsessed with a particular house that they have trouble finding a way to visit. Any more will spoil the trip, which we found both engrossing and informative.
To May 13, The Theatre Centre (115 Queen Street West), Monday-Saturday, 7 OR 9:30 p.m., $15 ($20 for both shows).
A death in the family is also the catalyst in Liars at a Funeral, or at least, that’s what most of the characters think. Turns out, Grandma Mavis (Terry Tweed)’s passing is a ploy to get the family, whose female twins have historically had fallings out, back together to mend fences. But the causes of the animosity may be more than can be tackled with in one surprise get-together on a stormy Christmas Eve. This is playwright Sophia Fabiilli’s follow-up to her hit play The Philanderess, and like that Shaw adaptation, she’s put a feminist spin on the traditional farce, which haven’t often passed the Bechdel test. All the cast, save for Tweed, play dual characters, with Ruby Joy’s feuding sisters and Danny Pagett as the oddball mortician Quint and the boisterous corporate coach Cam being particularly memorable. Director Ali Joy Richardson manages the numerous entrances and exits around the centre stage coffin with dexterity, and Fabiilli has some surprisingly moving plot twists up her sleeve. (There’s a PWYC performance tonight, for those on the ball.)
To May 14, St. Vladamir Institute (620 Spadina Avenue), Wednesday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 2 p.m., $25 (Wednesday PWYC).
Thursday, May 11
Spacing‘s sophomore publication is The Toronto Etiquette Guide, written by senior editor Dylan Reid, a helpful how-to book for navigating the TTC and Toronto’s public spaces, and interacting with its neighbourhoods and citizens. Tonight, Spacing will host a launch party, where everyone will no doubt be on their best behaviour.
Arts and Letters Club (14 Elm Street), 7 p.m., FREE.
If you already feel like you have savvy Toronto etiquette, and want to find out the city’s best places to practice your urban manners, The Brunch Club has put together a slate of (now) locals to tell you about them, in The Stand-Up Guide To Toronto. Comics like Mark Little, Aisha Brown, and Chris Robinson will tell you their favourite spots—or, at least, their most memorable.
Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $10.50 in advance, $15 at the door.
Friday, May 12
Renowned writer and entertainer Tomson Highway, who most recently presented the operatic cabaret The (Post) Mistress in Toronto, returns for a one night only cabaret with a bit more variety, of his own work. An Evening with Tomson Highway will feature guests like (Post) Mistress star Patricia Cano and saxophonist Marcus Ali accompanying Highway, who’ll run through selections from his considerable catalog of work, especially from his newest creation, Songs In The Key of Cree.
Koerner Hall (273 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $40-$100.
It was one of our favourite comedy shows in 2015 when it debuted, and this year, The Dan Galea Awards has come up with a whole new way to give out even more frivolous awards for a good cause. Galea’s Facebook Live show on Wednesday, May 10 will be soliciting comments (and donations to the award’s charity, The Riverdale Housing Action Group) from prospective award winners; those winners will join the hundreds already prepped for the live awards show, which will (somehow) announce all of them during its running time. On hand on Friday night to assist Galea will be comics like Gavin Crawford, Pat Thornton, Sandra Battaglini, and dozens more.
Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 11 p.m., $10.
Saturday, May 13
There are all sorts of readings and special events around town this week that are associated with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, but the main event is the weekend exhibition, free to all, with over 400 comic artists scheduled to attend, including Jeff Lemire (The Secret Path, with Gord Downie), Eisner winner Jillian Tamaki (SuperMutant Magic Academy, Boundless), and Emmy winner Gary Panter (designer of Pee Wee’s Playhouse). Some special programming will centre on landmark anniversaries being celebrated this weekend, including the 10-year anniversary of Toronto’s own Koyama Press, and the 25-year anniversary of Image Comics.
Toronto Reference Library (790 Yonge Street), Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., FREE.
Every breed of dogs has die-hard fans, but breed “pupularity” can wax and wane. Right now, the “mini-mastiff,” best known as the pug, is on the hot list in Toronto. Dozens, if not hundreds, of pug owners will converge today at Trinity Bellwoods Park for the monthly Toronto Pug Grumble, where the short muzzled canines will frolic, to the delight of avid photographers. (Remember to ask for an owner’s permission before petting or holding their pug!)
Trinity Bellwoods Dog Bowl (790 Queen Street West), 2 p.m., FREE.
For those who haven’t been keeping track, the Stanley Cup playoffs will shortly head into the semifinals, with the Ottawa Senators facing the winner of Game 7 between Washington and Pittsburgh, and the Nashville Predators facing the winner of Game 7 between Anaheim and Edmonton. But hockey isn’t the only sport currently in their semifinals. This weekend, the Toronto Roller Derby will feature the Death Track Dolls and the Smoke City Bandits battling for the final spot against the Chicks Ahoy in June’s Battle For The Boot (the TRD version of Lord Stanley’s cup). An undercard match will feature rookie team Toronto Vipers against Durham Region’s DRRD’Y Farmers.
The Hangar (40 Carl Hall), doors at 4 p.m., $12-$18 (kids 9 and under free w/ adult).
Sunday, May 14
Tightrope Books has for years organized an annual poetry event featuring writers on human rights issues, most notably freedom of expression and freedom of the press. This year, they’re collaborating with a new partner venue. Meet Me At The Aga Khan will feature Tightrope’s Jim Nason and Farzana Doctor as co-hosts of the event, with participating writer-readers like Vivek Shraya, Maureen Hynes, and Moez Surani; admission to the auditorium will be free. Amnesty International will be at the event with information about human rights issues.
The Aga Khan Museum (77 Wynford Drive), 1 p.m., FREE.
Liz Peterson, William Ellis, and Ishan Davé in a scene from Other Jesus. Photo by Yuula Benivolski.
Other Jesus is not what it may initially appear to be. It’s a church pageant, yes, with costume changes taking place in the open just off stage—but also one featuring actors who’ve recently appeared in starring roles at Soulpepper, Canadian Stage, and Tarragon Theatre. And while it opens on Mary (Liz Peterson), Simon (Evan Webber, who wrote the text), and Jesus (Ishan Davé) trying to preach in a market, this is a Jesus few are familiar with. Director Frank Cox O’Donnell peppers in some contemporary references and objects to also turn the presentation a bit askew, and the proceedings in the historic and stately church are also enhanced by the music of Thom Gill. The tagline for the show is “What’s the difference between a person and a story about a person?” and it tackles themes of belief and Biblical accuracy in a clever and respectful way.
To May 14, St. Matthew’s United Church (729 St. Clair West), Tuesday-Sunday, 8 p.m., $20-$25.
Monday, May 15
As show promotion goes, it’ll be no doubt memorable; Mirvish will be shutting down Yonge Street from Dundas to Shuter for a free outdoor concert by Meatloaf to promote the upcoming musical Bat Out Of Hell. The mayor will be meeting with the cast of the musical, which begins previews in October, and Meatloaf will take to the stage for his mini-concert accompanied by a parade of Harley Davidsons, because of course.
Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas Street East), 7 p.m., FREE.
Fans of the Rocky Horror Picture Show will recall Meatloaf whaling away on a saxapohone as Eddie, but what he (pretends to) play doesn’t hold a candle to the otherworldly use of the instrument by Montreal’s Colin Stetson, who’s mined techniques from jazz and other music forms to create a technique that plays the horn as he both inhales and exhales. Advance tickets were sold out as of press time, but there may be some at the door of the Great Hall; you’ll want to line up early.
The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West), doors at 8 p.m., $19.50.
Usually a monthly Wednesday, Monday’s special edition of Confabulation(TO) features performers talking about their experiences on the road. The bill includes Kaitlin Morrow (Sex T-Rex), Vanessa Smythe (In Case We Disappear), and Morgan Phillips (The Emergency Monologues).
The Burdock (1184 Bloor Street West), doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m., $10.
Tuesday, May 16
This month’s edition of Indie88’s Band And A Movie features The Beaches, who’re presenting cult classic comedy The Big Lebowski, considered by many to be the Coen brothers’ best film. The quartet grl band will play a short set before the film screens; last month’s screening of Brazil by the Rural Alberta Advantage hit capacity very early in the evening, so plan accordingly.
Royal Cinema (608 College Street), tickets handed out at 5:30 p.m., doors at 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m., FREE.
Comics are writers, of course, whether that be their own routine for stand-up, or punching up (or out) scripts for television. Many eventually publish their writing, and at Literally Funny, authors will read what they consider the funniest writing they’ve had published, including Colin Mochrie (Not Quite The Classics), Melody Johnson (Miss Caledonia), and Gary Pearson—the show will serve as launch event for his latest book Marooned In Space!
The Social Capital Theatre (154 Danforth Avenue), 8 p.m., $5.
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