Reviews: Dances for a Small Stage, Three Tall Women, The Four Horsemen Project, Hunter Gatherers

Dances for a Small Stage 31

October 25, Ukranian Centre

Collaborating with Music on Main, Dances for a Small Stage presented an evening that celebrated interdisciplinary work and the intersection of dance and music. Toronto’s Cecilia String Quartet opened the evening and remained onstage throughout, as maestro Billy Marchenski performed his emcee role, inspecting the musicians and moving around the stage with interest as they played.

The first half of the show featured the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky along with four dance pieces. Marchenski’s maestro was first, followed by Makaila Wallace performing Karissa Barry’s choreography. Almost as a fifth member of the quartet, Wallace’s movements had a direct connection to their music. Stewart Iguidez performed a piece inspired by street dance that was very popular with the crowd, and Vanessa Goodman’s piece was a unique interpretation of the music that emphasized its every note.

The second half of the show featured the music of John Oswald and performances by Holly Small, Jessica Runge, Vanessa Goodman, Sean Liang, and Stewart Iguidez. There was also great video footage playing on the backdrop of the stage, including a segment about Glenn Gould, and a video titled “paused on the threshold” that featured clips from many films and TV shows of people about to cross a threshold.

As part of Music on Main’s Modulus Festival, this show was a testament to the importance and benefit of interdisciplinary work, and it took place in the casual welcoming atmosphere of the Ukranian Centre, complete with perogies and a bar.

For more information: movent.ca.

Three Tall Women 1 - CopyThree Tall Women

October 23 to November 9, PAL Studio Theatre

Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story impressed me so much during this year’s Fringe Festival that when I found out Three Tall Women was also written by him, I had to go see it.

I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Zoo Story, but I could see the similarities in Albee’s style. This play also featured only one setting, and it wasn’t so much a story as an interesting conversation.

The first act was relatively banal with three women (simply referred to as A, B, and C in the program and never referred to by name in the show) in A’s bedroom as B, a lawyer, tries to ask questions about her finances, and C, her nurse, helps her answer the questions. We learn a lot about her history and what led her to this moment, but it isn’t until the second act that things get really interesting.

The second half was much more engaging, as the three women all became A at three different stages of her life. They talked to each other describing what was to come or what they would never become. Representing three stages of a woman’s life and reflecting with each other, many insights about aging, time, and the effect of our decisions on our later life were brought up.

For more information: westerngoldtheatre.org.

Four Horsemen ProjectThe Four Horsemen Project

October 28 to November 2, The Cultch

Inspired by The Four Horsemen, an avant-garde poetry group that was active in Toronto from 1978 to 1988, this show is a tribute to their work and an extension of it. It’s about the power of poetry, its visceral quality, and the way it sounds and feels in your body.

As the group recited poems and said words so many times that they became abstract sounds, it became apparent that the sounds we make have no inherent meaning, but can still make us feel something. For example, Naoko Murakoshi began the show by saying “A drum and a wheel” in many different tones, speeds, and pitches, and then rearranged the letters to rotate through the whole phrase saying “d ruma nda w heela, r uman daw h eelad,” and so on as the words swirled around her on the stage and behind her on the screen.     

There were solo recitations of poetry that seemed to have an orgasmic effect on the performer, and group recitations that turned spoken word into music. The way this group brought poetry to life is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. 

Paying tribute to the original Horsemen, we were treated to video clips of their performances, as well as interviews. There were also very funny clips of a cheesy educational television segment about different forms of poetry. This show manages to combine elements of dance, music, literature, and film and make it come together in a way that increases your respect for and broadens your perspective of poetry. Like they said, “What is a poem is inside of your heart, inside of your body, inside your toes.” 

For more information: thecultch.com.

HG Prod Shot Pippa Mackie Jay Clift Box SmallerHunter Gatherers

October 30 to November 15, Havana Theatre

Any play that reminds me of Yasmina Reza’s Carnage is doing something right. Peter Sinn Nachtreib’s Hunter Gatherers begins similarly, with a calm household gathering that slowly descends into chaos. Pam and Richard invite Wendy and Tom over every year for an anniversary dinner to celebrate the day both couples got married. Their calm, upstanding dinner party gradually descends into an animalistic disaster as secrets and true personalities are revealed.

I first heard about the play when interviewing Pippa Mackie about another of her projects, and she said she had been thrilled to be part of a play with such a good script. I couldn’t agree more that this is an extremely well-written play. Almost every line is punchy and unexpected, and hilarity runs through the entire play as things become increasingly strange.

Pam (Mackie) comes home from buying ingredients for the dinner to find Richard holding a knife and kneeling over a cardboard box containing a lamb. It has to be fresh, he explains. This bloody act sets the tone for what is to follow, and as tensions rise between the four friends, the dining room becomes a war zone.   

Director Ryan Gladstone said before the show that, when describing the play to people, he would tell them “it goes there,” not wanting to give too much away, and I think that this is a good way to put it. This play is not afraid to take things to the extreme to get its point across. It’s bold, bloody, and brilliant.

For more information: staircasetheatre.com.