Friday, November 26, 2010

Passion can be destroyed. It can't be created - Equus Review

You may be most familiar with the play Equus from all the press the London production received in 2007 when it cast Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame as the troubled Alan Strang. The press, of course, highlighted the controversy around then seventeen year old Radcliffe appearing fully naked on stage. This is, ultimately, the only thing we really knew about the play going into Hart House Theatre last night for Toronto’s production.

As it turns out, the full frontal nudity is the least of the controversial subject matter. After hearing of a bizarre crime involving a seventeen year old that blinded six horses in a small town near London in 1973, Peter Shaffer tried to come to terms with the volatile story by writing a fictional account of what might have caused the incident. Equus is something of a detective story revolving around a child psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart (Peter Higginson), and his attempt to understand the pathological religious/sexual fascination Alan Strang (Jesse Nerenberg) has with horses and what might have led him to commit the horrible acts that occurred.

Strang’s confusion surrounding sexuality transforms into a theology that depicts horses as the supreme godhead "Equus", who is forever watching him and his actions. Through a series of therapy sessions with Dr. Dysart, it is revealed that Strang is erotically fixated on one particular horse and often takes him out of the stable for midnight rides. The sessions eventually allow Strang to confess to his sexual encounter with a female stable worker and how it eventually led to him blinding the horses in an attempt to rid himself from the judgmental gaze of Equus.

The religious and sexual tones are incredibly strong, bordering on eroticism that at times is extremely intense. With such controversial subject matter, it’s imperative to have a cast who can properly portray the characters with the same intensity.

Nerenberg is incredible as Strang, an exhausting role that fluctuates between different states of passion, energy, anger and vulnerability. Whether he’s transforming back to his wide eyed six year old self or struggling with the perplexity of a disturbed seventeen year old boy, Nerenberg gives it his all right until the very end. And we will, as a rule, praise anyone who can comfortably take the stage in front of a room full of people, strip down to their bare bones and still maintain their impeccable focus and posture while at their most vulnerable. The same can be said for Sonia Lindner, the female stable worker Jill Mason, who also bares it all in the climactic stable scene near the end of the play.

Higginson’s Dr. Dysart is the constant through the play, acting as narrator and detective. His struggle between helping and admiring the boy was heartfelt; he fervently fought himself on his actions, wondering whether it really was beneficial to the boy to strip him of his sexual and religious commitment to the horses. Higginson’s portrayal of the doctor carries the same deep despair as the character, leaving you to struggle with the same questions.

Our only concern with this production was the set design – an avant garde display of chain linked swings in which the actors would sit and sometimes even swing on. There were a few pivotal scenes in which this set up worked flawlessly (any scene that involved the horses, in particular), but for the most part, we found the swings themselves to be rather distracting.

The steel-tubed horses heads, which seemed to be mounted on a hockey or baseball mask, were, however, quite well done and the shirtless men donning them moved with such convincing grace that you could very easily believe that they were the beautiful creatures they were portraying.

While we cannot speak to the original production or the text in which it was based on, the adaptation seemed true to it’s organic form, from the way the supporting actors were constantly on stage gazing at the scene before them to how the five horses were constantly looming in the background watching, to the strange humming noises that could be heard in the background (which personally, we don’t understand, but from reading about other productions, this seems to be a constant and important part).

is a tragic and disturbing story and a very strange play. But it’s a masterpiece in its own right and one of those productions that you have to see to fully understand all the hype and controversy.

This is the last weekend for Equus, so get your tickets before it’s too late. Adults $25.00, Seniors $15.00, Students $15.00, call 416.978.8849 or visit

Images from Hart House Website

Friday, November 19, 2010

What to do About the Town November 19 – 21

With the Christmas holidays just around the corner, the city is in gear and ready to celebrate. There are plenty of events for those who have already embraced the holiday spirit and even some for those who are just not ready to.
Get out there and enjoy the sunshine while you still can!


Gourmet Food & Wine Expo

This annual event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is sure to please! This weekend long event boasts wine tasting, expert pairings with food and celebrity chefs! It’s a great opportunity to try wines from all over. Price $16

Everything to do with Sex Show

This event is self explanatory. If you’re curious, head over to the Direct Energy Centre this weekend. Price $25


Girls Night In

Veronica is having another girly get together with a few of her girl friends. There will be booze, food, music and drunken rockband. Price $Wine. Invite only.

Winter Magic Illuminite

Yonge-Dundas Square will be lit up this Saturday! The evening will include a pyrotechnics show and culminates with the lighting of the tree. Price $Free

The Santa Experience at Sherway Gardens

Enjoy the magic of the holiday season at the award-winning Santa Experience, an exciting, interactive visit with Santa that features singalongs, dancing and story reading at Sherway Gardens weekdays and Saturdays until Friday, December 24. Registration is accepted in person only at the Holiday Booth near the entrance to Sherway Square. 100% of the $5 per child ticket price goes to Sleeping Children Around the World. Sessions are nearly full, so be sure to book quickly!

Santa’s Arrival Brunch at Erin Mills Town Centre
Santa needs your help to give back this holiday season at Santa’s Festival of Giving at Erin Mills Town Centre. The whole family is invited to a special breakfast to welcome Santa, his missus and their singing, dancing elves. Kids will decorate elf hats and jingle bell bracelets and learn to be an Elf-In-Training. Tickets are $15 each or $50 per family with proceeds donated to the Credit Valley Hospital. Tickets are available at Guest Services while quantities last.


Santa Claus Parade

The event that all kids wait for - the arrival of Santa! This annual parade makes its way through the streets of Toronto with various floats and bands. Make sure you get there early to get the perfect viewing spot. Price $Free

images from official websites

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Witches and Singing and Laughter, Oh My! - A Wicked Review

Well, Wicked! was most definitely, wicked. There, got that lame joke out of the way. Not to say the statement isn’t true, it’s very true. Wicked! was wicked. Wicked good, wicked awesome. Just wicked. Okay, we’re done.

Like most children of all different generations, we grew up bewitched by the Wizard of Oz. We sat in awe at the wonderful world of Oz, gasped in terror at the flying monkeys and the witch’s evil cackling laugh, felt the joy of a happy ending. The movie was an important childhood staple, so why it took until its third Toronto run for us to finally see Wicked! on stage at the Canon Theatre, we have no idea. But better late than never.

The story, of course, is a prequel of sorts, detailing the complicated friendship that grew between Glinda the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of The West when they were forced to share a room in University long before the adventures along the Yellow Brick Road.

Galinda (Chandra Lee Schwartz) - that’s Galinda with a Ga - was your typical perky blond who basked in her popularity and was used to getting everything she wanted, including the most desirable boy at school, Fiyero (Richard H. Blake).

Initially, we had a bit of uncertainty with whether Lee Schwartz would be able to pull off such a role; the opening number did little to draw us to the character. But as things began to progress, Lee Schwartz came into her own and shined brightly as the bubbly Galinda, leaving us in stitches with her comedic, spoiled rich girl persona.

Galinda’s counterpart, Elphaba (Jackie Burns), doesn’t possess any of the standard characteristics of the other students at the school. Elphaba is strange, withdrawn and doesn’t care about fitting in. Not to mention her skin is green and she has this uncontrollable power that demands attention and makes bizarre things happen when she loses her temper.

Burns herself demands attention from the very beginning. Her defiant confidence as the green outcast is a force to be reckoned with, not to mention her powerful voice to match.

The unlikely friendship between the two formed through a series of pranks and guilty acts of kindness and was secured the moment Galinda decided she would do everyone a favour and give Elphaba a makeover so she can also be popular (but not as popular as her, of course).

Cue the love triangle with Fiyero (who is drawn to both Galinda’s beauty and Elphaba’s passion for the cause), Galinda’s failed attempt to impress him by denouncing the Ga from her name (leaving her as plain ol’ Glinda, the Ga is now silent) and a disastrous trip to see the Wizard that crushes Elphaba’s dreams and leaves her feeling betrayed.

It’s at this point you witness the climactic Defying Gravity number, which is easily the best scene in the play (and not just because it’s the only tune we were really familiar with – thanks Glee). Elphaba seals her fate, realizing everything she is capable of and makes the defining decision to flee the Emerald city, begging Glinda to come with her. But Glinda cannot resist the call of popularity that rebuilding the morale among the citizens of Oz will give her, an act that will appoint her Glinda the Good. Elphaba goes into hiding, leaving her name to be plagued by the label of the Wicked Witch of the West - for every hero must have a villain.

Unfortunately, there is little that can be said for the supporting cast. While the performances aren’t bad, they seem to fall a little flat. While the confident yet conflicted Fiyero is the man both Glinda and Elphaba desire, we felt he lacked that spark that usually has us swooning over any male lead. And even though the Wizard (Gene Weygandt) was supposed to be a weak and slimy character, the performance seemed a little two dimensional, although the booming robot acting as the Wizard’s front was rather striking. Thankfully, neither Lee Schwartz or Burns needed much support in carrying this show, their chemistry was blazing right from the beginning.

The story is heavy with political undertones and issues, providing substance among the passionate songs. And we certainly love how the past and the present are thrust together as Wicked! overlaps with the Wizard of Oz and elaborates on the history of some of the pivotal characters from the movie.

What was most impressive, however, is the way that a simple back story and a spin on your previous assumptions can change your perception and leave you sympathetic to a Wicked Witch that you grew up hating.

Wicked! is most likely sold out at this point, its brief run ending at the end of the month. But with its growing success, it will be back.

Images from google images and official websites.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Public Service Announcement:

We are writing here this morning to express our dire disappointment with Sushi Island. Last night, a Tuesday night, for no reason in particular, we went on our monthly sushi date to catch up on lost time, share some wine and poke fun at each other to see who would turn red the quickest. All of this was completed in a couple hours time in the comfort of Sushi Island, a place we've frequented at least once before. Yet, for some reason, this time our presence was met with hesitance and raised eyebrows.

It's hard to believe the staff at Sushi Island has ever served alcohol before, or more specifically, wine. Not only did our waiter painfully struggle with opening our bottle (to the point where Veronica had to take the bottle from him and open it herself), but they were quick to deny us anything more than that bottle.

"Wow, you want a half litre of wine? Didn't you just finish a bottle?" we were asked by our waiter in broken English. Yes, we did finish a bottle... which is why we are asking for more wine, please.

"How are you girls getting home?" test question number one. Subway. We pass. "Are you sure you don't want anymore food?" test question number two. No, just the wine, thank you, we are stuffed.

Now, we understand the need to be responsible in such an atmosphere and I am sure they have regulations they need to follow, but there was no need to question our sobriety or meet our request with an empty and confusing stare.

Other than our laughter at the situation itself, we were just sitting there, eating, discussing. Sure, there was one loud outburst from Veronica after checking the Leaf score only to find they were down by two goals at the end of the first, but otherwise, nothing at all to provoke such a questioning response.

Apparently it's uncommon for two girls to drink a bottle and a half of wine on a rainy Tuesday night for no other reason than mourning the cancellation of Medium. Who knew.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What To Do About The Town – Nov 12-14

We don’t like it anymore than you do, but the holidays are quickly approaching and that means everywhere you look there is one winter festival or another. Make the most of your November weekend by checking out some of these exciting events happening around the city before it gets too cold to leave the warmth of your own home.


Soundplay Festival

New Adventures in Sound Art festival of new media and sound art with multimedia performances, installations, workshops, videomusic screenings and more. $10-$15, performance pass $20-$25, installations pwyc, some events free. Wychwood Barns (601 Christie), Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen W),

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Livestock barns, horse shows, vegetable competitions, celebrity chef competitions, concerts and more. Nov 5 to 14. $20, stu/srs $16, children free. Ricoh Coliseum, Exhibition Place, 416-872-7777,

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

This contemporary cinema showcase features more than 50 films and videos from over 10 countries by local and international Asian filmmakers. $5-$20, passes $25-$80. Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex), Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts (10268 Yonge) and other venues,

Festival celebrating art, creativity and fun in video games with speakers, demos, arcades and more. $30. Toronto Underground Cinema (186 Spadina), George Brown College (230 Richmond E),


Harry Potter Appreciation Hour
In support of the much-anticipated latest installment of the popular movie series, Harry Potter fans are welcome and encouraged to dress as their favourite Harry Potter character and enjoy Wizarding World treats and the chance to win awesome Harry Potter prizing at the first ever Harry Potter fan appreciation hour. Free. Yonge & Dundas Square in Toronto. 4pm.

Kiss-In Toronto

Peaceful protest against homophobia. 10 pm. Free. Yonge-Dundas Square,

Voice Of Women For Peace

Conference featuring presentations on de-legitimizing war, a gala dinner, music, theatre and more. To Nov 14. $10 and up, some events free. Hart House, 7 Hart House Circle,


Holiday Dinner Cruise

Harbour cruise with DJ dancing and a buffet. Saturdays 7 pm. $73. 207 Queens Quay W, 416-203-0178,

Ice, Wine & Dine
Performers, ice carvers, live music, wine tastings and more. 4-10 pm. Free. Elm and Yonge,


Naked Girls Reading Rock N' Roll
Skin Tight Outta Sight burlesque reading. 7-10 pm. $15, cpl $25. Painted Lady, 218 Ossington,

For more exciting events, visit Now Toronto.

images from corresponding websites

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hockey, Hockey, the greatest game in the land! - Score! A Hockey Musical Review

While we missed seeing this very Canadian film when it opened TIFF this year, last night we had the pleasure witnessing the magic that is Score! A Hockey Musical at the Scotiabank theatre.

As is always the case with our outings, things didn’t go quite as planned from the get go and we were fear stricken that the arrival of Taylor Swift at Much Music yesterday afternoon would unleash a mob of teenybopper fandom onto the streets of Downtown Toronto. Alternative plans were discussed to see if we could avoid the scene altogether, but it was decided that we weren’t going to let some tween princess interfere with our desire for sushi and singing hockey players.

We pushed past the madness on Queen St. (which by that point was mostly contained within guardrails, give or take a few collective fan paparazzi on the corners), fought through the drawing temptation to hover and wait for Taylor to make her swift appearance and headed towards Sushi Time for dinner.

Dinner was, as it usually is, a delightful mix of sushi and wine, but the service as Sushi Time has started to wear on us. The servers often seem more fixated on gathering to gossip at the front of the restaurant than interacting with the paying customers at the back. The wait time surpassed ridiculous and Veronica was seconds away from calling the restaurant to request some service in the back. But eventually, we were given their attention, dinner was ordered and we were on our way.

While we may be in the minority of those who liked the flick, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fantastic film. Score! A Hockey Musical follows seventeen year old Farley (Noah Reid) as he breaks through the barriers of his sheltered life and into the world of organized sports, a world that he’s never once set foot in despite his talent on the ice. Naturally, he shoots to superstardom, struggles with losing himself in the game, tries desperately to maintain his pacifistic morality and, of course, realizes his growing affections for his best friend Eve.

With a relatively non-existent resume outside of minor roles on Canadian television or made for tv movies, Noah Reid brings a rare sense of confidence to the role of wide-eyed Farley. Not only is he capable of skating, singing, dancing and manning a stick, he often pulls off all four simultaneously without breaking a sweat. His natural transition from being wrapped safely in a blanket of innocence to lighting off blue angels in the men’s locker room is believable, not to mention pretty amusing and a nod back to similar team bonding antics that I’m sure anyone can relate to growing up on a sports team.

While Reid and his on screen soulmate Allie MacDonald may be relatively new to the scene, the film does feature a number of familiar faces including John Pyper-Ferguson as the Coach, Stephen McHattie as the Team Owner who discovers Farley, and Olivia Newton-John as Farley’s folk-singing, peace-loving mother. And as all good Canadian films do, there are also a number of guest appearances including a couple of Canadian song birds, a dark and brooding (not to mention, incredibly attractive, although relatively short) on tv/radio personality and some awe-inspiring hockey icons.

The twist of the film, of course, is that Score! A Hockey Musical is just that, a musical. Laced with original songs throughout, many of the emphatic moments during the film are sung, creating that thin line between those who will love the film and those who will hate it. Apparently, burly men in hockey equipment singing and performing choreographed dances aren’t very manly and the mere act betrays the passionate soul of the sport. Who knew?

Ironically, a major theme in the film is the battle to convince Farley to drop his gloves and fight on the ice, defending his honour and not turtling like a little pacifist (or as the film subtly hinted towards, another p-word that could easily act as a substitute). But both sides were easily mashed together in one epic song in the locker room, featuring Farley’s team of tall, strapping hockey players transforming into a boy band (complete with synchronized hand movements) to sing a song aptly entitled Pacifism Defense, where the team’s muscle The Moose (Dru Viergever) admits that he wasn’t hired for “fancy passes, but to right wrongs by kicking asses”.

Or of course, there is also inevitable love story confrontation, where Farley and Eve express their hurt and anger in a musical lover’s quarrel that makes us wonder whether or not conflicts in a relationship would be better off if instead of yelling and arguing, you stood in the middle of the street singing passionately to each other. But don’t fret, a little later in the film you see the quarrel’s counterpart, the musical reunion between the two where the true confessions of love are revealed and the number ends with the welcomed kiss everyone was waiting for.

Okay, so the song and dance numbers may be a little cheesy -- rhyming baloney with zamboni, sticking in the phrase “as cold as venus” just to allude to the freezing of one of Farley’s favored appendages (a line that isn’t fully followed through on, either), the choreographed on ice fight scene with the descriptive Tap, Tap, Poke, Poke, Kidney Punch giving the play by play and a slew of other references that may seem a little silly, but any veteran of stage or film musicals know that that is half the fun. It’s those little quips that create the entertainment and the giggles. Or at least cause our giggles. There is a slight possibility that we were the only two laughing in that small theatre, despite there being maybe five other people in attendance (hey, it’s more than we were expecting!). But that isn’t the point.

By the end, everything was nicely wrapped up in a neat little package in time for the show closing on ice dance number to what is pretty much the theme song of the movie - Hockey, the Greatest Game in the Land. The scene does nothing more than provide a moment of ridiculous entertainment that is supposed to have the audience whistling or tapping their feet as they wait to exit the theatre. And it works, the song is a damn catchy celebratory tune that ties together fans of all ages, morals and positions in life to bond over the one defining thing that us Canadians live for; hockey.

Suffice it to say, the debate on whether the movie was a piece of brilliance or blasphemy will be forever ongoing, but if a cutthroat hockey fan like Veronica can see the beauty in singing and dancing hockey players, well, there might just be hope for everyone.

images from google images

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What to do about the Town November 5th to 7th

Wasn’t it just Summer? How did we land here, in November already? Believe it or not the first weekend of November is upon us and there are many indoor and outdoor activities to keep you busy this weekend!

Friday November 5th 2010

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

This always reminds me of school outings as a child and the delight I’d have in seeing farm animals in the city. My favorite assignment was finding out the various breeds of cows. In case you’re wondering, milk cow, eating cow and working cow are not the correct answers.

The fair is simply a wonder in the city. It boasts horse shows, dog shows, family friendly fun and a rodeo!! You can find unique arts and crafts to help kick start your holiday shopping. This event is at the Exhibition Place, $18.

National Women’s Show

This event is held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and is pegged as the Ultimate Girl’s Day Out. There are over 450 exhibits where patrons can shop, eat, catch a fashion show or even get a free makeover! Tickets are $12-16.

Saturday November 6th 2010

Day of the Dead 2010
This traditional Mexican occasion is where families honour their ancestors by leaving offerings or gifts on their graves. This 2 day celebration will be held at the Harbourfront Center and is a family friendly event. Free.

Sunday November 7th 2010

Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Classic
Canadian and US Hockey legends take each other on in this game as part of the Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Weekend. Past Inductees will be in attendance such as Brian Leetch, Joe Mullen and Peter Stastny. The pre-game ceremony will feature an appearance by Bobby Hull, Brett Hull and Steve Yzerman! Game is at the ACC, $39.25-69.25

Buffalo Bills vs. Chicago Bears

The Buffalo Bills are back in Toronto for the last time this year in regular season action against the Chicago Bears. NFL fans will be sure to flock on over to the Roger’s Centre (nee Skydome) on Sunday. They’ll have a tailgate party for all you fans as well. $Ridiculous

Images from official webpages

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ashley's Birthday Celebrations - Hitting Up Toronto's Hot Spots

We’ll admit it, we aren’t the type of girls who need a reason to crack open a bottle of wine or an excuse to celebrate, so for all intents and purposes, this past Thursday could have been any old Thursday. But it wasn’t. In fact, this past Thursday was Ashley’s 26th birthday - a very good reason and justified excuse to celebrate.

In the past for our birthdays, we’ve gone all out. We’ve rented rooms in clubs, we’ve thrown parties, we’ve gone to shows and ball games, but this year Ashley wanted something more low key; like dinner and a movie. So it was decided that we would go and see Never Let Me Go while waiting for another friend of ours to get off work and then head to the West end for dinner.

As life would have it, things never seem to go as planned. First, we hadn’t heard from our friend Jen all day. We didn’t know where she was, if she was still joining us, if she was okay, even. We teetered between worry and frustration while texting continuously on the way to the theatre.

Of course, when we showed up for the 6:10pm movie, it wasn’t playing. Any other night it would have been fine, but they had pushed the show for a screener, leaving us with a gap in our plans. There were plenty of other things available, but nothing would be over by the time we had to be at the restaurant. So, not knowing what to do to pass the time, we resorted to what we do best… drink.

We settled into a table at The Pilot, ordered a bottle of wine and spent the next hour or so catching up. The Pilot is a great little place, tucked just behind the main drag but still convenient enough to walk to. The service is always reliable and the food is pretty good, but it’s the patio that is the biggest draw. The Pilot houses a fantastic rooftop patio that is a great spot for post-work patio drinks in the summer. And even though it’s starting to get a little chilly out, the patio remains heated through the winter. If you’re ever looking for a place to disappear to for an evening, The Pilot is your place.

Somewhere between our laughter, presents and glasses of wine, Jen called and said she was on her way to Sushi Island to meet us. We quickly hopped on a streetcar and made our way over. One of our biggest issues with our regular sushi places is the seating. Often, in a huge restaurant with many tables, we end up seated squished up close to the next table and end up feeling like there is nowhere to move. Not only is Sushi Island nicely laid out, the vibe itself is welcoming.

The all you can eat menu, unlike some other restaurants, features a wider selection of food. Divided into different levels and price points, you can choose anything you want from the various selections and they will bring you combinations and platters, as oppose to the individual selections we’re typically used to. The presentation at Sushi Island is far superior as well; they take care to not only create a feast for the stomach but a feast for your eyes first. They also have a selection of maki rolls made with brown rice, making a healthy meal, even better.

It is, however, very easy to get carried away when ordering in this manner and if you let your eyes grow larger than your stomach, they will tack on an extra charge for anything remaining uneaten.

After another bottle of wine and a boatload of sushi, the three of us tipsy ladies made our way back out to the street in the direction of home. The one downfall to this location, however, is unless you have the warmth of a car to drive you where you’re going; it’s mighty cold waiting for a streetcar to slowly crawl along College Street. There never seems to be one when you need it.

Overall, it was a wonderful birthday with good company embraced in a few of Toronto’s cool little hot spots.

images from official webpages and (c)citygirlscapes