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Orphans for the Czar didn't make the cut for this year's Dora Awards.Dahlia Katz/Crow's Theatre

The announcement of the 2022 Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations on Monday was a well-earned feel-good moment for the Toronto performing arts community after a period of great professional pain.

Special Doras should be given to all the jury members who took the calculated risk of attending in-person productions over the last 15 months and put together such a comprehensive list of nominees.

That said: What’s the point of awards if not to generate discussion and debate? If we don’t talk about the Dora snubs, then we’re letting the coronavirus win! So, without further ado, here are four.

Orphans for the Czar: This cracking new George F. Walker play inspired by a Maxim Gorky novel and produced by Crow’s Theatre is up for outstanding production in the general theatre division – but one wonders what exactly the Dora jurors found so outstanding about it, given it isn’t nominated for anything else. I thought Walker’s script, Tanja Jacobs’ stylish direction and Paolo Santalucia’s lead performance were all outstanding and deserved nods, too.

Carlos Gonzalez-Vio: This strapping stage actor gave a pair of fine performances this season, both overlooked by the Doras – one as the Canadian poet Milton Acorn in David Yee’s Among Men at Factory Theatre (which I had thought would get a best new play nomination) and another as a magazine fact-checker in ARC’s production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins shocking satire Gloria (which somehow isn’t up for outstanding indie production).

Ted Dykstra: Doubly snubbed. His performance in his resurrected hit 2 Pianos, 4 Hands at Mirvish Productions was as virtuosic as it has ever been, while his direction of The Antipodes at the Coal Mine was superb and made the play seem like one of Annie Baker’s best rather than a B-side.

Kim Senklip Harvey: Soulpepper and Native Earth’s production of Harvey’s Governor General’s Award-winning play Kamloopa did get a couple of Dora nods – but the playwright’s own avant-garde and anarchic direction of her play struck me as something that you’d see on the international festival circuit. I thought I’d see her up for a direction award.

Unlike, say, the box office-boosting Tony Awards in New York, Toronto’s Dora Awards almost always honour theatre productions that have already closed – and are unlikely to return to the stage. Three of the shows up for outstanding production in the general division this year, however, can be seen now or in the near future.

Is God Is (10 nominations) will be remounted at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in February; Cliff Cardinal’s As You Like It or, The Land Acknowledgement (three nominations) will be returning to Toronto as part of the off-Mirvish season in March; and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, of course, is still playing to sellout crowds at the CAA Ed Mirvish, where it just announced an extension until March 19, 2023.

Opening this week

Ontario’s Blyth Festival is back in business after having to cancel its August production because of COVID-19 complications. John Ware Reimagined, Cheryl Foggo’s 2014 drama about the legendary Black Albertan cowboy, opens in a new production there this weekend – and runs to Sept. 24. (Brush up on the subject matter with this 2017 Globe and Mail feature on Ware.)

Toronto’s Soulpepper theatre is producing a pair of plays in repertory for the first time since the pandemic started. Queen Goneril, a new Shakespeare-inspired play by Erin Shields (who I recently interviewed), opens on Wednesday; and King Lear, by Shakespeare himself, opens on Friday. The same cast plays the same characters in both – which I’ll be seeing in a doubleheader on Saturday. Look for my review next week.

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