Reside theatre came back again blazing to Toronto and the GTA in 2022.
After the extended hiatus of COVID-19 lockdowns and continued irritation as the Omicron surge slowed things down yet again, numerous theatres started presenting in-person shows in March. And by summer, the scene was at significant velocity with whole seasons at the Stratford and Shaw festivals and a Toronto Fringe Pageant that, whilst nevertheless relatively limited in dimension, was notable for the good quality, variety and vibrancy of its demonstrates.
You could sense it in the do the job: the creative imagination and electrical power of theatre artists and artisans that experienced been pent up in excess of the pandemic exploded onto phases. New function, classics, variations, musicals, storefronts, significant industrial venues: #theaTO was back, little one, and so was the Star theatre crew, grateful to have serious live exhibits to produce about yet again.
When we fulfilled up to hammer out this Leading 10 we found that we could have stuffed the listing virtually 3 situations more than with our person picks, a reflection of the power of this theatre calendar year as very well as our different tastes and views. In recognition of this we have integrated a bonus a few exhibits: personal picks we every felt deserved honourable point out.
Cockroach (Tarragon Theatre)
Clean, unsettling, exhilarating. A few exceptional actors performed Ho Ka Kei’s dense and poetic textual content in a kinetic creation helmed by Tarragon’s new inventive director, Mike Payette, and choreographed by Hanna Kiel. As the actors crawled and slid about Christine Ting-Huan Urquhart’s article-industrial set delivering Ho’s blistering monologues, a story emerged about a Boy (Anton Ling) whose id is fractured in between his immigrant earlier (represented by the title character who was, in truth, a cockroach and performed by Steven Hao), colonial legacies represented by the Bard (Karl Ang) and a traumatic personal working experience. The outstanding generation introduced Payette’s Tarragon programming with a bang, and even further cements Ho’s name as a single of the most thrilling voices in Canadian playwriting.
A Great Bowl of Pho (Toronto Fringe)
Each little bit dwelling up to its title, “A Best Bowl of Pho” was cooked up to soup-slurping perfection this summer season at the Toronto Fringe Competition. Comprehensive of coronary heart but never ever cloying, with a sprint of clever humour on the facet, the musical by Nam Nguyen and Wilfred Moeschter was a adore letter to Vietnamese culture, stringing jointly a series of vignettes — some solemn, others joyfully exuberant — that chart the history of the titular dish. The musical’s younger ensemble, beneath Steven Hao’s sharp way, deftly portrayed multiple characters whose tales someway, in some cases relatively cheekily, include a heat bowl of pho. Here’s hoping there’s far more everyday living for this exuberant new work simply because any individual who tasted this delectable concoction is aware that a person bowl is only not sufficient.
The Antipodes (Coal Mine Theatre)
Annie Baker’s audacious play about the dangers of storytelling took my breath away as a single of Toronto’s to start with in-human being theatrical productions of 2022. Coal Mine Theatre’s vibrant, personal, seductive creation of “The Antipodes” took Baker’s text and ran with it, injecting it with new daily life and a great ensemble of actors. Ted Dykstra’s course established a distorted sense of fact on the small Coal Mine phase, but the clearly show under no circumstances felt untethered from the right here and the now of telling a tale and producing a globe. Coal Mine’s acquire on one particular of the most outstanding new plays of the previous 10 yrs was a marvel. I’ll be clamouring for a remount for several years to arrive.
Death and the King’s Horseman (Stratford Festival)
Commonly acclaimed as a masterpiece of modern-day theatre, Nobel winner Wole Soyinka’s 1975 participate in is seldom staged in the West for the reason that it is epic in scale and rooted in the specificity of Yoruban culture. Stratford dedicated important means to get this creation appropriate, with a major-drawer forged of acting expertise, cultural and language consultants ensuring representational precision and sensitivity, and a lavish actual physical creation directed by Tawiah M’Carthy that seemed beautiful on the extended thrust of the Tom Patterson stage. Established in colonial Nigeria, the tale of the tragic effects of British intervention in a neighborhood demise ritual nonetheless felt stingingly contemporary. May possibly its accomplishment pave the way for extra Canadian productions of excellent performs from the world-wide South.
Human Evaluate (Cassils/Canadian Stage)
“Human Measure,” the potent motion-dependent piece developed by multimedia artist Cassils and choreographed by Jasmine Albuquerque, felt like an act of resistance. Probably, even defiance. Offered at a time when some seek to erase the extremely existence of LGBTQ people today, the work’s aching meditation on the idea of visibility — specially that of non-binary and transgender folks — moved in its stillness and spoke volumes in its a lot of moments of silence. There was a languid natural beauty in how the 6 trans and non-binary performers, all nearly totally naked, produced in authentic time a jaw-dropping cyanotype print. Equally striking was Albuquerque’s kinetic choreography, blinding with its intensity in selected moments and softly beguiling in others. Completely, the work leaves an imprint, both equally visually and emotionally, which is difficult to erase.
Boy Falls From the Sky (Mirvish/Previous Long term Productions)
Jake Epstein’s solo show about a life lived onstage was riotously humorous and shockingly sweet, the unusual generation to which I acquired a next ticket straight away next the media evening. In “Boy Falls From the Sky,” Epstein enable Mirvish audiences in on a magic formula: showbiz? Not that straightforward. Epstein survived the Broadway operate of “Spider-Man: Transform Off the Dark” — but not without the need of harmful his joints. He’s way too tall to be forged in things, he told us, bending his knees with excellent comedian timing. Indeed, he attended Drake’s bar mitzvah. And, yes, after decades of uncertainty, he received the lady. “Boy Falls from the Sky” was that pearl of a solo clearly show devoid of a trace of self-indulgence and, as with “The Antipodes,” I’m dreaming of a remount.
Kamloopa (Soulpepper/Native Earth Executing Arts)
Written and directed by Kim Senklip Harvey, “Kamloopa” is an irreverent street trip comedy that transforms into something stirring and profound. Harvey, a member of the Syilx and Tsilhqot’in nations with ancestral ties to the Dakelh, Secwepemc and Ktunaxa communities, is a legal scholar as perfectly as an award-successful playwright (“Kamloopa” won the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language drama), and understands her resourceful function to be the two inventive ceremony and an assertion of the lawful legal rights of her persons. She also can take very seriously the imperative to entertain, and her output delivered on this through 3 brilliantly calibrated performances from Yolanda Bonnell, Samantha Brown and Kaitlyn Yott.
Uncle Vanya (Crow’s Theatre)
This was an “Uncle Vanya” that managed to preserve the stakes and esthetic of Czarist Russia but with none of the dustiness. Liisa Repo-Martel wrote a gorgeous adaptation that felt suitable at property in the mouths of Chris Abraham’s actors, and Julie Fox’s and Josh Quinlan’s set was merely out of this entire world, transforming the theatre at the Streetcar Crowsnest into an antique-on the lookout drawing room. Tom Rooney and Bahia Watson, too, were being magnetic to check out onstage. This creation confirmed the do the job of Chekhov at its best, with nuanced people and moody environment to boot. A winner.
’da Kink in My Hair (TO Dwell/Soulpepper)
Number of Canadian performs are as iconic as “’da Kink in My Hair,” the 2001 Toronto Fringe Pageant hit that was picked up by Mirvish Productions and subsequently turned into a primary-time tv sitcom. Joyous, wildly hilarious and profoundly shifting, Trey Anthony’s engage in exalts the lives, troubles and triumphs of a team of Black females who simply call Toronto’s Little Jamaica household. This 20th-anniversary manufacturing, brilliantly directed by Weyni Mengesha (who helmed the primary Fringe generation), highlighted a leading-notch ensemble of actors, most of whom are alumni of several other productions of the participate in, and bring with them a deep reverence for and knowledge of the product. Beautiful, way too, had been Joanna Yu’s established and the musical compositions by Corey Butler, which evoked the sights and sounds of the vibrant Eglinton West community.
Wildfire (Manufacturing facility Theatre)
This deceptively basic romp by means of familial legacy swept the Dora Awards this yr and it’s not really hard to see why. Soheil Parsa’s way of David Paquet’s textual content was thoughts-bogglingly sharp, acquiring substantially with very little. “Wildfire” didn’t have to have fancy sets or elaborate choreography involving Paquet’s hauntingly spare textual content and Parsa’s ultraprecise course, the perform felt meticulously realized and deliciously intricate, asking huge issues about what we owe our people and what they may possibly owe us. “Wildfire” was a learn class in dramaturgy, a testomony to the magic that transpires when a perform text meets its match in a director. This manufacturing challenged Toronto theatre to do far more with a lot less. It’s my hope the community continues to heed that simply call.
Two Minutes to Midnight and The Huns (Assembly Theatre/A person 4 A single Collective)
I’m cheating a tiny here these two plays are not genuinely a set. But with a mutual playwright, venue and some cast users, executed back to back within the space of a couple months, Michael Ross Albert’s plays felt like a diptych of millennial malaise, a peek driving the curtain of younger particular person nihilism and corporate burnout. Albert is a person of Toronto’s most interesting playwrights, with a agency handle on comedy but a sturdy being familiar with of human conversation, and both “The Huns” and “Two Minutes to Midnight” showed immense guarantee. Assembly Theatre is a tiny house operate by a very small imaginative group, but what they and the folks at One 4 Just one completed in 2022 was no little feat. I’m desperately hunting forward to what Albert writes next.
The Doctor’s Problem (Shaw Pageant)
In her very first crack at helming a engage in by George Bernard Shaw on the flagship phase of the festival that bears his name, actor-turned-director Diana Donnelly introduced herself as a self-confident innovative force. She established the engage in in the existing, altered a central male character to female, and elicited attractive operate from a best-notch firm of actors and designers. The manufacturing leaned into the topicality of the subject issue — medical ethics — and provided any number of daring staging moves, together with breaking the fourth wall and slyly commenting on the windbagginess of 1 of the figures. Some Shaw purists weren’t amused. I can not wait for what Donnelly does upcoming.
The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff (Harbourfront Centre)
The true tale of a doing work-course hero from a extended forgotten war was retold to gorgeous effect in “The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff,” the deceptively simple new musical that turned out to be the major surprise of the drop theatre period. This co-generation among England’s Northern Phase and Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre was often likely to be a gamble. On this side of the pond, several most likely have been common with the Young’uns, the English folk trio who wrote and composed the musical. Even less experienced likely read of Johnny Longstaff, the male whose journey sorts the foundation of the present. But immediately after viewing the creation, you are specific to want to master a lot more about equally the person and the band. The production’s achievement mostly hinges on its toe-tapping numbers, Lorne Campbell’s spare path and the ingenious way Longstaff’s possess voice — from interviews he executed in the 1980s — has been integrated into the spoken word sections of the narrative. It’s some haunting, soul-stirring things.
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