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Kira Guloien performs on the harp during a performance of Ghost Quartet. The show is available to livestream again from Oct. 29 to 31.Courtesy of Dahlia Katz

My workload as a theatre critic is light this week as two shows I have already reviewed and deemed Critic’s Picks in earlier incarnations are returning to stages and screens.

I saw (and loved) Talk is Free Theatre’s Into the Woods: In Concert in the actual woods of Springwater Provincial Park near Barrie, Ont., back in August.

Now director Michael Torontow is moving his semi-staged production of this Stephen Sondheim fairy-tale musical indoors to Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre, the beautiful heritage Edwardian theatre on Yonge Street that is decorated to make you feel as if you’re in the outdoors, for a short run from Oct. 28 to 30. The cast remains the same from the summer, except that Germaine Konji is now playing Little Red Riding Hood.

While Ontario has lifted capacity restrictions, Talk is Free Theatre is keeping maximum seating capacity at 245 for each performance, so audience members who are still easing themselves back into going to the theatre feel comfortable. It’s also part of Torontow’s vision for this version to have a smaller audience, as patrons are being asked to bring stuffed animals to populate empty seats between distanced parties of ticket buyers.

The other musical getting a remount in Toronto this week is Crow’s Theatre’s production of Ghost Quartet. And by “remount” I mean “rebroadcast,” and by “in Toronto” I mean “online.”

Director Marie Farsi’s theatrical film based on her own stage production of this spooky Dave Malloy song cycle remains one of the most impressively executed pandemic pivots by a Canadian theatre company. It’s available to livestream again for Halloween weekend, from Oct. 29 to 31. Perhaps it will become an annual tradition.

Thanks to the magic of theatre’s migration to the Internet, the in-demand actor/musician Beau Dixon technically is opening two shows this week.

Not only can you see him on screen in Ghost Quartet, you can watch him on stage, live and in person, in a new production of True by Rosa Laborde in Toronto.

Laborde’s family drama, first seen in 2014, has been revised for this run in a new auditorium at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5 as part of Workman Arts’ Rendezvous with Madness festival. Also in the cast are Maev Beaty, Layne Coleman, Ingrid Doucet and Shannon Taylor.

And if you’re fixin’ for even more Dixon, the Stratford Festival has you covered.

Filmed selections from Freedom, the cabaret that he curated, directed, starred in and played a wicked harmonica in for the Ontario repertory theatre company, are streaming as of last week on Stratfest@Home. This walk through the spirit and legacy of Black music was my favourite of Stratford’s musical shows programmed last summer as part of its season under canopies.

Is comedy art? Yes, says Toronto’s Theatre Centre, which is hosting a festival called, well, Comedy Is Art from Oct. 26 to 30.

This is the West Queen West live arts hub’s first return to in-person audiences since March 2020 – and every show is already sold out. However, every show is also streaming for free online starting with tonight’s The Ethnic Rainbow, which features CBC Radio regular Martha Chaves on the bill.

Two more shows on my radar opening this week:

  • Calgary’s veteran envelope-pushing ensemble One Yellow Rabbit is reopening its Big Secret Theatre with a presentation of Verb Theatre’s bliss (the birthday party play) from Oct. 28 to Nov. 7. This interactive performance/birthday party (complete with cake) written and starring Jamie Dunsdon was a hit at OYR’s High Performance Rodeo in 2020.
  • Theatre Kingston is staging a show called The Sylvia Effect, inspired by the poems of Sylvia Plath, from Oct. 27 to Nov. 14. The appeal for me is less Plath (whose life and work was already the inspiration for the great OYR show Sylvia Plath Must Not Die) than the involvement of Peter Hinton-Davis, former artistic director of the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre and one of the country’s most fascinating directors.

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