Friday, March 17, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

Fairview is a very tricky play. It was written by the brilliant Jackie Sibblies Drury and premiered in 2018 in New York and, oh yes, it won the Pulitzer Prize. It is now playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre, Toronto, in a co-production by Canadian Stage and Obsidian Theatre. 

Like all great tricky tales, it starts innocuously and disarms you from any expectations of anything problematic or, well, tricky. When the lights go on, we see a well-appointed dining room and sitting room. Beverly (Ordena Stephens-Thompson), an attractive, well-dressed woman is peeling carrots, dancing and looking at herself in the mirror. A happy scene but she does reprimand her loving husband Dayton (Peter N. Bailey) for watching her without saying anything. She is a bit uptight but they are a loving couple.

Beverley is preparing a fancy dinner for her mother’s birthday and she is in fact frazzled but we enjoy the scene of what looks like a regular comedy. Her know-it-all, bitchy sister Jasmine (Sophia Walker) arrives and her teen daughter Keisha (Chelsea Russell) enters and ruffles some feathers but nothing that a comedy can’t show without raising any suspicions.

Beverley’s brother Tyrone, the lawyer, is held up and will be late. Mamma locks herself in her room and does not come down. Beverley’s tension about the dinner rises to a pitch and she faints. End of the first act of a classic family gathering comedy-drama but your eyebrows should be creeping up your forehead.

Ordena Stephens-Thompson, Peter N. Bailey,
Sophia Walker and Chelsea Russell

Second act. We see exactly what we saw in the first act, only no one speaks. We see the entire first actmimed by the actors and we listen to what sounds like a radio talk show. Within minutes, your eyebrows will become your hairline.

Four people participate in the talk show and you know from the start that the topic for discussion is race. The fist question is, if you could, what race would you choose? The race topic is discussed until the mimed first act finishes and then some. The radio talkers may be talking about something serious (they do) but the level of intelligence displayed does not grasp our attention or encourage listening. Dialogue that is peppered with the word “like” without comparing anything and “you know” thrown in regularly, a rich dose of the “f” word and other additives to conversational English, simply pushes your attention to other venues.

By now you are a long way from thinking that this is a family comedy. But there is more to come. Mamma, called Suze (Sascha Cole) comes down the stairs dressed like a queen or some other pretentious creature. The lawyer Tyrone (Colin A. Doyle)  comes in, a young man wearing a seriously colourful baseball hat sideways, a chain and looking like anything but a lawyer. He is Jimbo, Keisha’s friend Erica is Mack (Jeff Lillico) and by this time your eyebrows are at the back of your neck and you are not sure where you are.

I will almost stop here but the four voices that you heard on the radio broadcast appear on stage as characters some of whom you may be able to recognize.

No peeking into the playscript if you have it, because you will get into the depth of the play and find some information that you missed during the performance. You will still be puzzled.

The play ends with Keisha addressing the audience directly and asking those who identify as white to go on the stage. The whites in the audience are supposed to make room for the cast members. It goes on for some perplexing minutes and many people from the audience do go on stage and in fact fill the playing area. That is the trick that Drury ends the play with. 

As to the ending. you will have to see the play and figure it out for yourselves.

Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury in a production by Canadian Stage and Obsidian Theatre continues until March 26, 2023 at the Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St, Toronto, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press 

Sunday, March 12, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

“Do not be confused by the plot.”

That is the advice given to the audience by the Storyteller, a character in the epic, two-part drama now playing at the Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I am not sure if it is meant as a warning or as a soothing thought for us if, at the end of five hours, we are in fact confused by the plots?

The full titles of the two parts are Mahabharata: Karma. The life We Inherit for part one and Mahabharata: Dharma. The Life We Choose for part two. The two parts can be seen in one day as matinee and evening performances or on separate days.

The play is based on an Indian epic that may be some 4000 years old. It started as an oral poem and various versions have survived in the original Sanskrit. It was fully translated into English in the 19th century and published in 5000 pages. That is nothing compared to the current Critical Edition of 13,000 pages in 19 volumes. In the 21st century, Carol Satyamurty has provided us with a “Modern Retelling” of the epic in 843 pages of blank verse. It is this version that Ravi Jain and Miriam Fernandes have used to adapt and write  for this production.

There are 24 characters of various significance played by 15 actors. The plot takes us over a number of generations of kings, queens, princes and princesses, lesser mortals, gods, and an opera singer dealing mostly through the wars of two closely feuding families, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The Storyteller (Miriam Fernandes) narrates much of the tale as we meet the ambitious cousins, the fights for kingship, the marriages, the offspring and much more.


The cast of Why Not Theatre’s Mahabharata (Shaw
Festival, 2023). Photo by David Cooper.

The epic has serious philosophical underpinnings dealing with war, peace, honesty, avarice, ambition, power and, finally, gaining of a place in heaven. The grand themes are interwoven with the human virtues and vices of the characters. There is a band on the stage in Part I and the Storyteller’s narrative is frequently accompanied by the playing, in the background, of original music and sound designed by John Gzowski and Suba Sankaran as well as traditional music, Hasheel Lodhia, consultant.

There is a fascinating game of dice with Yudhishthira (Shawn Ahmed) and Shakuni (Sakuntala Ramanee) in which the latter plays with loaded dice and wins everything that Yudhishthira has including himself, his brothers and his wife. Yudhishthira and his clan are condemned to exile for a term of 12 years with  further condition that they may not be found anywhere during the thirteenth year. If they are, it is back to exile.

The War results in death and destruction of mythical proportions and the production did not fail to remind us of the effects of war in our time and more specifically what is happening in Ukraine. 

The two parts of Mahabharata tell many grand stories and if there is a problem, it is neither in the grand myth nor its adaptation for the stage: it is us. Make that, me. I knew almost nothing about the Indian myths and most of the names were unknown to me. If the play had been based on Biblical stories or Homer’s epics, familiarity would have kicked in immediately and the plot would have been easy to follow.

Meher Pavri as the Opera Singer, with Neil D'Souza as Krishna and 
Anaka Maharaj-Sandhu as Arjuna in Why Not Theatre’s 
Mahabharata (Shaw Festival, 2023). Photo by David Cooper.

Shive (Jay Emmanuel) preforms a lengthy dance routine with some familiar poses but aside from that, I understood very little of the purpose of the segment.

In part 2, there is an extended opera aria sung by Meher Pavri. It contains moral and philosophical wisdom. The program tells us that this is a 15-minute Sanskrit opera adaptation of the Bhagavad Gita (The Song of God), which is the most sacred and famous chapter of the Mahabharata epic. The Bhagavad Gita tells of a conversation between the God Krishna and the great warrior Arjuna.  This assuages my ignorance a little but does not give me enough context to understand the segment.

The opera is written by Fernandes and Jain with a score by John Gzowski and Suba Sankaran. A work in progress, no doubt, but what is the Bhagavad Gita Opera doing in this production?

My reaction to the two-part production of Mahabharata is one of admiration and perplexity. The production is by Why Not Theatre and London’s Barbican. It was commissioned by the Shaw Festival. It looks like a significant leap up and forward for the Shaw and it should be staged in London.

With any luck, I may see the London production and not be confused by the plots, or the names or the other perplexing details of the plays.  


Mahabharata: Karma. The life We Inherit, Part I and Mahabharata: Dharma. The Life We Choose Mahabharata, Part II written and by Ravi Jain and Miriam Fernandes from Carole Satyamurti’s retelling of the myth opened on March 9, 2023, at the Shaw Festival’s Festival Theatre, 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

Hamilton, the musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, represents entertainment on a grand scale. It is back on tour in Toronto at The Princess of Wales Theatre and it is scheduled to stay there until August unless, of course, its stay is extended again. 

I say on a grand scale not because it has the largest cast, though it is big enough, or the most spectacular dancing and singing. They are indeed spectacular but the adjective grand refers to the excitement the opening night performance at The Princess of Wales generated and the thrill and anticipation it has created world-wide. Hamilton has become a legendary musical before it has run its current performance history.

Why? Well, it has a grand if unlikely story to tell about the American revolution in general and Alexander Hamilton in particular. Alexander who? Miranda does not mince words about our hero. The opening line of the musical describes him as a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and that’s just the beginning of the description of his lowly beginnings.

Jumping ahead, Alexander Hamilton became one of The Fathers of the United States, the first Secretary of the Treasury and the man who structured the American financial system. It would be boring to list all his accomplishments but that did not hinder Miranda from doing a musical about him and one of the most successful ones at that. 

HAMILTON And Peggy National Tour – Company – © Joan Marcus

The music is written through with considerable variations in musical style and genres but at the core it is a hip-hop affair.

I confess my lack of enthusiasm for the hip-hop genre but Miranda did not consult me on that point. Nevertheless, the music and songs tell a story and generate and provide thrilling singing. The thirty-four numbers cover a large musical and emotional canvas. There are heroic, argumentative and frequently stentorian pieces as well as comic ones and scenes of pathos and tenderness.

The almost historically based lyrics cover a swath of early American history with luminaries like Hamilton (DeAundre’ Woods), George Washington (Darnell Abraham), Thomas Jefferson (Paris Nix), Aaron Burr (Donald Webber, Jr.), Eliza Hamilton (Morgan Anita Wood) Angelica Schuyler (Maria Harmon), King George (Manuel Stark Santos) and other recognizable figures. Santos as King George is quite hilarious when he presents the doltish King dreaming of getting the United States back.

The relentlessly charged music and lyrics, with appropriate variations, carry the plot forward without ever letting the audience’s enthusiasm linger. That is what I call entertainment on a grand scale.  

No musical can survive without dancing and Andy Blankenbuehler’s chorography is a model of energy, erotic attraction and simple joy. Kudos to the dancers.

HAMILTON And Peggy National Tour – Company – © Joan Marcus

The problem I had was that the thickly laid lyrics were not always understandable and some of the humour escaped me and I assume it was because I simply did not hear it in the avalanche of words coming from the stage from single actors or several singing together as well as the ensemble that made up a chorus.

After we get some background about  the life of Hamilton, we see him rising through the ranks in New York in revolutionary America. Woods is a wiry and and almost ethereal actor and we never wonder at the success of “the son of a whore”. The ambitious and brilliant Hamilton meets the. equally ambitious but patrician Aaron Burr, the constitutional expert James Madison (Brandon Louis Armstrong), Thomas Jefferson and the strategist George Washington as well as the aristocratic Schuyler girls and marries the beautiful Eliza.

Hamilton is greatly attracted to Eliza’s sister Angelica (Maria Harmon) and has a ruinous affair with Maria Reynolds (Malika Cheree).

Thomas Kail directs what is a complex and obviously difficult production and judging by what we see on stage he does not miss a beat.

Alexander Hamilton, the highly accomplished writer and political commentator from a lowly beginning who made an immense contribution to early America is probably more famous for the way he died in 1804 at the age of 47 or perhaps 49 (date of birth uncertain). He fought a duel with Aaron Burr, the Vice President of the USA and was killed.


Hamilton by Lin-Manual Miranda, book music and lyrics, inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow continues until August 10 , 2023 (at least) at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. West, Toronto, Ontario.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

In the famous words of Leo Tolstoy, happy families are all alike; every dysfunctional family  is a great source of material for drama, comedy, satire and soap operas. It gets an additional blast of energy if it can reach to the even greater source of material: the Bible.

Playwright Paolo Santalucia has done all those things in his new play Prodigal,  now playing at the Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre in Toronto.

Santalucia’s version of the dysfunctional and Bible-associated group is the wealthy Clark family. The patriarch  is Rowan Clark (Rick Roberts), who is rich, well-connected, has a mistress and is being considered for the position of Governor-General of Canada.  

His older son Henry (Cameron Laurie) is a model of rectitude (in other words, a stupid bore) who is about to marry Sadie (Veronica Hortiguela), a lovely and ditzy influencer (able to make money from stupid people) and a daughter Violet (Hallie Seline) who has brains and hates her mother. Rowan and his wife Marilyn (Nancy Palk) also have a younger son Edmund (Dan Mousseau) and now you may turn to Luke 15; 11-24. Yes, Edmund is the Prodigal Son with a few additions by Santalucia. Edmund is a drug and alcohol addict, and can alliteratively be described as dissipated, debauched and  dissolute. He has found temporary happiness with Levi (Michael Ayres), a man he met in the flight back home and has  engaged in enthusiastic erotic exercises with him.

Dan Mousseau, Cameron Laurie, Rick Reberts. Photo: Dahlia Katz

Rowan’s mistress Simone (Shauna Thompson) is also his assistant and paramour and the two express devotion to each other. Simone is beautiful, bright and knows what she wants. Rowan gives every indication that he wants the same. His wife Marilyn has the the emotional depth of a bowl of soup but she does know the price of things and is deeply concerned about the fate of her flowers and her chestnut tree. Just one more complication: Levi is Simone’s brother and he is an illegal migrant with a criminal record who wants to stay in Canada. A homosexual binge with Edmund is just the beginning for him.

Roberts’ Rowan Clark is a patrician gentleman who sets the aristocratic tone of a family of high standing but reality throws in some serious roadblocks to maintaining that status. A beautiful mistress may be fun but not something you can put on your resumé. Worse, a prodigal wastrel of a son who has returned home with the mistress’s brother is more like an earthquake than a roadblock.  Robert’s gives a superb performance as the anxious aristocrat trying to keep up appearances.

The central character of course is Edmund and Mousseau has a tough role to handle. He has to present an emotional and physical wreck whom we see in alcoholic and drug induced stupor. Edmund does show some insight into his behaviour but the role is highly demanding and Mousseau does outstanding work.

Shauna Thompson plays the Preacher, a character who opens the play with a sermon about forgiveness and redemption and makes the closing remarks providing nice bookends for a play that does have some roots in the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. Thompson can join any evangelical church if acting jobs dry up.  

Veronica Hortiguela and Meghan Swaby. Photo: Dahlia Katz

The backdrop of the play is a fancy dinner at the Clark house where Pauline (Meghan Swaby), a chef and her husband Quentin (Jeff Yung) are serving the hoity-toity Clarks. The no nonsense and sharp-tongued Pauline and the henpecked Quentin provide much of the humour of the play.

Santalucia manages to give some substance even to the secondary roles of Marilyn, Sadie and  Violet and Nancy Palk, Veronica Hortiguela and Hallie Seline earn kudos for their performances.

The set by Mark Hockin  shows a part of the kitchen of the Clark residence which consists of an island with cooking facilities and is separated from the rest of the house by a white wall. It does the job very well.

Santalucia directs his own play and except for a ridiculous musical interlude, he does a fine job.

Santalucia makes intelligent use of the material for drama, comedy and satire provided by a dysfunctional family. He has the moral and religious overtones of the Biblical parable but he does not overdo them, praise the Lord. But a story about internecine hatreds of the wealthy with the added flavour of discovered infidelity, political ambition and a son who is a total loser can often brush shoulders with soap opera dimensions. We still like the story, enjoy its development and await the resolution of the many plot strands. Unfortunately, there are far too many plot strands that are left dangling and the play seems ready for a TV serial.


Prodigal  by Paolo Santalucia in a production by The Howland Company and Crow’s Theatre continues until March 12, 2023, at Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M4M 2T1.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press

Monday, February 13, 2023



Reviewed by James Karas

For its second opera for the 2022/2023 season, the Vancouver Opera is offering Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a delightful and superbly done production. Conductor Jacques Lacombe and director Aria Umezawa handle the musical, vocal and dramatic parts of the opera with expertise leading to a standing ovation.

Britten shaped the libretto with his partner Peter Pears from Shakespeare’s play by making major cuts but remaining faithful to the remaining text. The editing resulted in presenting three worlds in the opera, each requiring different musical treatment. They judiciously removed the opening scene in Athens and almost all the action takes place in the woods outside the city.

First there is the magic of the fairies with their king Oberon and queen Tytania. Then we have the world of the young lovers escaping the rigours of Athenian law and parental control. They are Demetrius and Hermia, and Helen and Lysander who provide an outpouring of delicious romantic poetry and a deluge of hilarious acrimony. The third world is that of the Athenian artisans who rehearse a play for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta.

Daniel Moody and Magali Simard-Galdes as 
Oberon and Tytania surrounded by chorus. 
Photo Tim Matheson

Countertenor Daniel Moody and Soprano Magali Simard-Galdes deliver splendid singing as the fighting King and Queen of the Faeries. They argue over a boy that Oberon wants, and he has the ethereal and mischievous Puck to help him wreak havoc among the lovers. The four gorgeous lovers’ quarrels and reconciliations have lyrical poetry and beautiful music that are a delight to the ear. Kudos to tenor Spencer Britten (Lysander), baritone Clarence Frazer (Demetrius), mezzo-soprano Hillary Tufford (Hermia) and soprano Jonelle Sills (Helena). The fight scene is choreographed beautifully by Anna Kuman and done hilariously.

The six artisans who rehearse and put on the story of Pyramus and Thisbe to celebrate the wedding of Theseus (Neil Craighead) and Hippolyta (Stephanie Tritchew) are outstandingly successful. The artisans are Bottom (Peter McGillivray), Flute (Asitha Tennekoon), Quince (Luka Kawabata), Snug (Peter Monaghan) Snout (Ian Cleary) and Starveling (Jason Cook). They deserve collective and individual praise because they are simple and touching people who form a comedy troupe to bring the house down.

McGillivray as Bottom deserves some extra applause for his braggadocio and showmanship. He is turned into an ass and Tytania falls in love with him.

Kunji Ikeda should be charged with theft. He plays the speaking-only-role of the spirit Puck. He is athletic (cartwheels and flips), engages the audience for laughter and can be seen on stage and in the audience at will. He mixes up the lovers and moves at the speed of light. Obviously, director Umezawa deserves the credit for developing the character of Puck for Ikeda to do it. We love him.

The set by Craig Alfredson features diaphanous panels and magical scenes are projected on them. Centerstage consists of a raised platform with a hole in the middle with steps on each side leading to the top. It is turned around as necessary.

Britten’s music represents the ethereal world of the fairies, the romantic music of the lovers and the earthy tone of the artisans. It is not always easy music, but the Vancouver Opera Orchestra does outstanding work. The Children’s Chorus opens the opera with the lovely “Over hill, over dale” and is a pleasure to hear throughout.

The three worlds of the woods finally go to the place where order is established and the artisans perform their outrageous version of Pyramus and Thisbe. Oberon and Tytania are re-united, the lovers are reconciled, Theseus and Hippolyta are married and the artisans score a triumph.

Director Umezawa has done superb work in general and in particular in staging the lovers’ quarrel, the scenes of the artisans and Puck’s delightful activities.                                                    

An outstanding production from the Vancouver Opera.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten opened on February 11 and will be performed on February 16 and 19, 2023 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 630 Hamilton St. Vancouver, BC.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review appears in the newspaper.

Friday, February 10, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

Things I Know To BE True is an outstanding play by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell and it is now playing at the CAA Theatre in Toronto.  Don’t waste your time with other duties: see this amazing production.

Bovell builds his play around a happy, loving family that lives in a suburb and all is going well. Bob and Fran Price have four grown-up children who will bring problems that Bob and Fran never expected when they dreamed of the “usual” progression of life through love, marriage and grandchildren. Fate does not always arrange matters as dreamt.

The play begins with a monologue by Rosie (Alanna Bale), the youngest child of a startling incident that she was involved in. She is on the verge of adulthood and  went to Europe where she met a beautiful Spanish lad who bedded her and proceeded to steal her money and other possessions and disappear. She returns home distraught but the family supports her and the ugly incident is put behind.

(L to R, clockwise) Alanna Bale, Daniel Maslany, 
Christine Horne, Michael Derworiz, Seana McKenna 
and Tom McCamus. Photo Credit Dahlia Katz

The family gets together upon Rosie’s return and we hear a great deal of family minutiae that resonate with most people. Dealing with a coffee maker, bringing chickens for dinner, recalling old incidents and numerous other mundane events, many repetitive ones, that make up family life.

But some events are not mundane at all and the picture of the happy family begins to show fissures. Pip (Christine Horne), the oldest is married to a wonderful man and they have two children. But she has fallen out of love with her husband and is leaving him, to go live with another man.

Mark (Michael Derworiz) looks effeminate, and his parents suspect that he is gay. But it goes much further than that. To the utter shock of his parents, Mark reveals that he is transgender and wants to change his sex. He calls himself Mia and in the final scene appears wearing a dress. He is starting a new life away from home. 

Ben (Daniel Maslany) is a successful worker in the financial services sector. But he is greedy and, worse, has become a drug addict. He has siphoned off a small fortune from his employer and may end up in jail.

Rosie too wants to spread her wings and leaves the family to go live in another city.

Fran (Seana McKenna) has diverted a large amount of money from the family expenses just in case she separated from her husband Bob (Tom McCamus). Unlike her daughter Pip, she stayed in the marriage for the sake of the children. She had an unconsummated affair with a patient in the hospital where she works as a nurse.

Rosie has decided that she wants to break away from her parents and plans to drive a long way away from her parents.

The father seems befuddled by what is happening around him. It seems he was not aware of the issues facing the family in the past and has difficulty comprehending the present. He is happy tending his garden and all he wants is for his children to grow up, marry and provide him with grandchildren

The vision of a once happy, working class family that is now falling apart is a mirage. There have been unresolved issues all along but they were hidden or camouflaged, or temporarily ignored but they were always there and life somehow went on.  

The genius of the play is the intricate integration of the mundane events of life with the tragic occurrences that separate and destroy the family. The great success of the production is the ability of director Philip Riccio to present all the details of this family’s banal and  tragic events in a coherent, realistic, credible and superb manner. He has two great actors in McKenna and McManus who show masterly intonation, gesture, movement and emotional gauge through the comic, the dramatic and the tragic parts of the play.

Bale, Derworiz, Horne and Maslany give outstanding performances as Bob and Fran’s children. The issues that develop between them and the parents are never resolved.

The set by Shannon Lea Doyle consists of an ordinary kitchen on one side and a garden on the other side. The latter is the symbol of happy and perhaps not so happy memories in the life of the Price family.

This is an outstanding production with its superb cast that captures the humour, drama and tragedy of the one family and provides marvelous theatre.


Things I Know To Be True by Andrew Bovell in a coproduction by David Mirvish and The Company Theatre will run until February 19, 2023 at the CAA Theatre, 651 Yonge St. Toronto, Ontario.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas 

In 2013 Atom Egoyan, the brilliant film director, put his own stamp on Richard Strauss’s Salome when he staged the opera for the Canadian Opera Company. That production is revived for the COC’s current season and it has lost none of its luster.

Egoyan brings much of his cinematic expertise to the production and we get a riveting Salome. He makes extensive use of projections including for the always problematic dance by Salome for her step-father, the lecherous and unhinged Herod, Tetrarch of Judea.

A few plot points. Herod (Michael Schade) is married to Herodias (Karita Mattia), his late brother’s wife. Her daughter Salome, a girl in her teens, has developed an obsessive attraction, make that lust, for St. John the Baptist, Jochanaan in the opera, (Michael Kupfer-Radecky) who is a prisoner of Herod’s. The saint is kept in a cistern under the palace terrace and can be heard fulminating through a hole.

Egoyan’s production is set entirely on the terrace of the palace which consists of green-gray concrete walls with a few openings. It fits his dark and gloomy view of the opera. The floor is slanted and we see the basement below where the Baptist is imprisoned. There are projections above the terrace showing a kaleidoscope of scenes. At first, we see Salome luxuriating in a swimming pool and then a projection of the Baptist’s mouth as he announces the coming of the Son of Man and condemns Herod and Herodias for their sinful life. The view of his mouth projected on the screen gives us direct contact with the Baptist who otherwise is supposed to sing through a hole in the floor.

Ambur Braid as Salome (top left), Michael Kupfer-Radecky
 as Jochanaan (below), and Frédéric Antoun as Narraboth (top right). 
Photo: Michael Cooper

Soprano Ambur Braid has the toughest role in the  opera and her performance is simply superb. She has a big, powerful voice and throughout the opera and especially in the long final scene she gives outstanding results. In the final scene, she holds the bloodied head of the Baptist, kisses the lips in triumph for having him be headed and in defeat at being unable to get him to return her passion. She shows a huge emotional range as demanded by Strauss and it is a thrill to see and hear her.

Baritone Kupfer-Radecky sings with the sonorous and powerful intonations of a believer who condemns sinners and rejects Salome’s powerful expressions of passionate love. She is clearly psychologically unbalanced in her love for him but it is beyond control. Christ’s  disciple is not moved.

Tenor Michael Schade gives us a Herod who is clearly deranged in his lust for his stepdaughter, his fear of putting the strange Jochanaan to death and a man driven to the edge by Salome’s refusal to dance for him. Numerous offers do not sway Salome and “Half my kingdom for a dance” does not cut it until he promises “anything” and he gets his way. Schade was not always at his best and at times sounded strident or was overpowered by the orchestra. It may be because he was acting like a lunatic that he gave that impression.

Karita Mattila sang Herodias quite effectively. She gave impressive performances as Salome at the Met about 15 years ago and her voice may have deteriorated over time. Her Herodias was generally good but at 62, it is a very commendable performance.

Michael Schade as Herod, Karita Mattila as Herodias (back), 
and Ambur Braid as Salome. Pphoto: Michael Cooper

Salome’s dance is sometimes considered of central importance to the opera, probably influenced by memories of Rita Hayworth doing the Dance of the Seven Veils for a leering Charles Laughton in the 1953 film. There are few singers who can dance and directors must find a way of presenting it. Egoyan uses video projections showing. Salome on a swing with various backgrounds. He uses shadow performers (Clea Minaker and Faye Dupras) to do the dancing to the revival choreography of Julia Aplin. We realize that Salome was abused as a young girl and that may explain her conduct towards John who may have been the only man who did not abuse her. Does she kill him in order to make love to him?

The costumes by Catherine Zuber were from “any era” that you want. Captain Naraboth (Frederic Antoun) wore a khaki-coloured suit and tie and the guards sported the same colour costume that blended with the colours of the walls of the terrace. The arguing Jews wore white as did Herod and Herodias. The latter had orange gowns on top. Salome wore a bathing suit and a white gown at the start and a white gown later. They were adequate.

Strauss’s music requires an orchestra of Wagnerian proportions with 105 players. It is one of those operas where the music dominates, making the life of the singers more difficult than usual. The COC Orchestra under Johannes Debus gave us a full concert’s worth of a performance.

Egoyan adds his own touch to the end of the opera. According to the libretto, Herod orders the guards to kill Salome. In this production, Herod grabs Salome and is about to strangle her when the lights go out. End of the opera.

This is an extraordinary production by any measuring stick and a Salome not to be missed.


Salome by Richard Strauss opened on February 3 and will be performed seven times until February 24, 2023, on various dates at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario. Tel:  416-363-6671.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review appears in the newspaper.

Monday, February 6, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

Fall on Your Knees is a 6-hour theatre epic, played in two parts at the Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto. The first part is titled Family Tree and it covers the period from the early 1900s to the 1960s. This is a review of Part 1 which centres on the lives and experiences of the Piper family from the time James Piper falls in love and marries the 13-year old Materia Mahmoud to the time when they become grandparents. The family saga continues in Part 2 with recollections and revelations from the past.

We witness the good, the bad and the ugly parts of the lives of the extended family over many decades. There are moments of happiness and humour; there are fights, assaults, and murderous attacks. We get to see them all in mostly realistic theatre that holds its own for much of the time but also strolls through the lives of the characters with some strain on our attention span.

For a start, we are in Cape Breton and we meet James Piper (Tim Campbell), a strapping young man, a piano tuner, who meets Materia Mahmoud (Cara Rebecca) and they fall in love. Mr. Mahmoud, (Antoine Yared), her father, a Lebanese immigrant, holds the old-world morality, disapproves of the relationship and ties up Piper and gives him a few hammer blows. James and Materia get married and they are deliciously happy. For a short while. Their relationship turns ugly. Details withheld.

They have three daughters, Kathleen (Samantha Hill), Frances (Deborah Hay) and Mercedes (Jenny L. Wright). There are some moments of happiness but most of their lives are punctured with misery and distress.  Kathleen has a promising singing career and she goes to New York to study to become an opera singer. She returns home pregnant with tragic consequences. Frances is the family clown and Hay takes advantage of every opportunity to create comic scenes. Frances becomes a hooker. 

Tim Campbell and Cara Rebecca. Photo: Dahlia Katz

James goes off to fight in The Great War, is invalided and discharged. Eventually he supplements his work as a piano tuner by engaging in bootlegging. He also drinks to excess. Mercedes stays home to look after his needs and endures his perennial dictatorial conduct. Though he shows affection and has some positive traits, Piper has a violent streak in him and he strikes his wife and daughters brutally with the expected consequences. He dotes on Kathleen with suggestions of incestuous attraction to her, hates Frances and loves Mercedes.

The is an intentionally sketchy description of the plot involving the central characters. The play has a much larger canvas with the Mahmoud family at the beginning, Frances’s experience in a Catholic school run by nuns, the bar where Frances sells herself and the story of their “sister” Lilly (Eva Foote) and the Piper’s Jewish neighbour Mrs. Luvovitz (a funny Diane Flacks who also acts as a nun), and a number of other characters.

We meander through the lives of the characters and there are flashes of violence that are shocking in their brutality. When James Piper strikes, as he mistakenly hits one daughter, he loosens a tooth. Other assaults are more targeted and lethal. But there are issues with the development of the plot. The chronology of events is sometimes opaque and I was not always certain about the identity of some of the characters. 

Frances’ descent into the lowlife is graphically illustrated and we have our breath taken away when Materia attends to the delivery of Kathleen’s child(ren) when she returns from New York impregnated by an unknown man.

The acting is superb from Campbell’s hulking Piper displaying decency with an undercurrent of brutality and perhaps incestuous interest in his daughter. Deborah Hay gets the juicy role of Frances and she gets kudos for making the most of it among the unfunny roles played by the other actors. Flacks’ Mrs. Luvovits is a decent woman with some humour that again becomes noticeable.   

The play has a rich assortment of music with a band on stage playing. It is a good diversion and perhaps appropriate considering James Piper’s trade.

The set by Camelia Koo features black cables around the playing area and rising to the top of the stage. The scene changes from the Mahmoud residence to the Piper house, to New York, to school, to the sleazy bar where Frances works with speed and a minimum of props being used. 

The adaptation of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s popular novel took 8 years and it has involved some significant persons in Canadian theatre and generous amounts of money. Alisa Palmer and Hannah Moscovitch adapted the novel for the stage. The two are also credited as co-creators as well as writer (Moscovitch) and director (Palmer). There are seventeen other people listed  as members of the creative team. Five theatre companies are credited for the production, namely the National Arts Centre, Vita Brevis Arts, Canadian Stage, Neptune Theatre, Halifax and the Grand Theatre, London, Ont.

The production will travel to Hamilton, London, Halifax and other theatres across Canada.


Fall on Your Knees, Part 1 by Alisa Palmer and Hannah Moscovitch, adapted from the novel by Ann-Marie MacDonald ran until February 5, 2023, at the Bluma Appel Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review appears in the newspaper.

Thursday, February 2, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas 

Can you write a good play about a weather forecast? Would you see play about a weather forecast when you know very well what the weather was like on the date for which a forecast was necessary? The answer is a resounding Yes.

The play is Pressure by David Haig and it is now playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto. You should see it for many good reasons the most essential being that you will enjoy it thoroughly.

Let’s begin. It is 1:00 p.m. on Friday, June 2, 1944 and the weatherman is Dr James Stagg (Kevin Doyle) who must forecast accurately what the weather conditions will be on Monday, Morning June 5. General Eisenhower (Malcolm Sinclair) informs him of the enormity of the reason. He informs Stagg that 7000 vessels, 160,000 ground troops, 200,000 naval personnel, 15 hospital ships, 8000 doctors and 4 airborne divisions are about to embark on the biggest amphibious landing in history. Everything is ready and the only thing that can stop the expedition is the weather. Stagg has to predict it accurately or the landing could prove to be a disaster.

We are in the opening scene of the play. Haig builds up suspense, provides humour and human conflict and personal problems to keep the plot moving and fascinating and entertaining us.

Foreground L-R: Philip Cairns, Malcolm Sinclair, Kevin Doyle. 
Background L-R: Stuart Milligan, Laura Rogers, James Sheldon. 
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Colonel Irving Krick (Philip Cairns) is the expert American meteorologist who knows the historic weather for June 5th and believes that the same conditions will prevail on June 5, 1944. Stagg, a meticulous scientist, looks at the evidence carefully and disagrees with Krick. The American and British forces’ brass, General “Tooey” Spaatz (Stuart Milligan) and Air Chief Marshall Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory (David Sibley), in their smart uniforms, must choose whom to support. But the decision lies solely with Eisenhower. He is gruff and humane and the play does nothing to denigrate his status.

The lovely Lieutenant Kay Summersby (Laura Rogers) is Eisenhower’s chauffeur and private secretary and Haig presents them as close to each other without suggesting a more intimate relationship. Summersby does not want the war to end because that will finish her relationship with the general. She is a decent human being and perhaps the most attractive character in the play.     

Eisenhower is ready to order the landing to begin on Monday, June 5. Stagg cannot be certain because as he makes it clear, long-term forecasts are informed guesses and twenty-four hours are considered long term.  

The personal relationship between Eisenhower and Kay Summersby is in the end tragic for her. But we see her humanity in what is happening to Stagg. His wife is in hospital having a difficult delivery and her survival is up in the air. He wants to go and see her but the armed guards well not let him. Security, you know. Kay makes arrangements through Eisenhower and she goes and sees his wife.

Malcolm Sinclair as General Eisenhower and Kevin
 Doyle as Dr. James Stagg. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

The acting is outstanding.  Doyle as Stagg starts as a dour, unsmiling professional but develops into a decent human being, knowledgeable and sympathetic. Sinclair’s Eisenhower is commanding and demanding but deeply aware of his responsibility and as such he is also humane. Cairns as Krick is arrogant, a bit silly and one may say typically American. A fine cast overall.

The set by Colin Richmond consists of an unprepossessing large room with huge maps of the Atlantic from Newfoundland to the French coast. Wind currents are shown on it and there is a constant flow of information about changing conditions. Not all of it is comprehensible to mere mortals but we always know what is happening and whether the prevailing conditions or the forecast are favourable for an amphibious landing on a massive scale.

The world knows that Stagg’s conclusion about weather conditions were favourable for the landing June 6th and not on the 5th as planned so meticulously. Eisenhower took Stagg’s advice over that of that of the American Krick. The landing was successful.

Haig does justice to the persons planning the Normandy landing and Pressure, directed by John Dove and Josh Roche is a wonderful, suspenseful, humorous and humane play that is a joy to see.


Pressure by David Haig continues until March 5, 2023, at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W. Toronto, Ont.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review appears in the newspaper.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

The Canadian Opera Company has chosen to revive its 2016 production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro that was directed by Claus Guth for its 2023 opener. No one doubts Guth’s intelligence and brilliance as an opera director and even a cursory view of his career reveals a man who has directed many productions at the top tier of opera houses. 

The current revival was marvelously sung but it has so many incomprehensible, annoying and pretentious angles that they almost succeeded in wrecking one of the best comic operas in the repertoire. Mozart and the singers fought back fiercely and the evening went well despite Guth’s ideas and intentions whatever they might be.

Let’s look at the positive aspects of the production that make it worth seeing and received enthusiastic approval from the audience. In no particular order, I heap praise on soprano Lauren Fagan on her mainstage debut at the COC. As Countess Almaviva, she sang with beauty and passion in spite of being mauled by Cherubim (stay tuned) during her singing. She sang “Dove Sono” with a gorgeous vibrato teeming with emotion.

Soprano Andrea Carroll as Susanna, Figaro’s spunky fiancée and the Countess’s maid showed vocal talent and comic ability as she tried to survive the Count’s and Cherubino’s lust. As with almost everyone else in the cast, she had to act with the serious if not deadly constraints put upon her by Guth. 

A scene from the Canadian Opera Company’s production of
The Marriage of Figaro, 2023, photo: Michael Cooper

Bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni as Figaro was dressed almost identically with the aristocratic Count Almaviva sung by bass-baritone Gordon Bintner. They sang with lively sonority. Pisaroni has a lot of comic parts to do but he had to settle for the few opportunities allowed him by the director. Bintner sounded authoritarian in voice and manner until he was brought to the marvelous scene of grace where he asked his wife to pardon him for his unfounded suspicions and misconduct.

The hormone-driven Cherubino can be hilarious but in this production, he was amusing and vocally highly adept. He is permanently sexually aroused and Guth allows him to paw and maul the Countess, Susanna and Barbarina (Mireille Asselin) to the point of almost simulated coitus. I am not exaggerating. We see him on top of the Countess and Suzanna.

Toronto veteran bass Robert Pomakov’s Dr. Bartolo was right on the mark with his singing and comic business and with Megan Latham’s Marcellina they made the perfect pair.

Guth’s helpful comments from the 2011 staging of this production are noteworthy. He stated that in Figaro “Mozart not only allows all kinds of intense human passions but also portrays how they can get out of control and escalate to extremes.”  He further pointed out that he wanted “to follow the characters into their darkest psychological depths.” We may have enjoyed the production a lot better if he kept in mind that this is a comic opera that does indeed deal with love, manipulation, jealousy, mistaken identity and in the end resolution and a happy ending.

A scene from the Canadian Opera Company’s production of
The Marriage of Figaro, 2023, photo: Michael Cooper

Let’s take Guth’s invented, silent character, Cherubim (Uli Kirsch). He is dressed the same way as Cherubino except for the angel’s wings on his back. He appears at the beginning of the opera when he jumps on the stage through a window and what appears at first as a curiosity becomes increasingly more annoying as he drops in with frightful regularity ad nauseum. I have no idea what he is supposed to do or represent. He jumps on the Count’s shoulders, interferes with what people are doing and never fails to be a nuisance that should have been kept in Guth’s imagination instead of being foisted on us. He is invisible to the rest of the cast and I wish he would have done us the same favour.

When it comes to human passion, Cherubino and the Count are believers and practitioners of sexual assault as they grab women in Trumpesque fashion to the point where abuse is the mildest term one can use. The Count garbs his distraught wife so forcefully that she slaps him. None of the extent of sexual abuse shown by Guth exists in the opera. This may be descending into the psychological depth of the characters but all you are doing is removing the comedy of the opera. In short, the singers deliver solid singing. For the rest they have millstones around their necks and with or without a Cherubim they manage to erase the fun of The Marriage of Figaro and as for the darkest psychological depths, I will take a pass.

The set  by Christian Schmidt consists of a large stairwell with an open space at the bottom. That is supposed to be Figaro and Susanna’s bedroom and he usually measures a place for their bed, There is no measuring in this production except for a ridiculous gesture by Figaro. In the later part of the opera the stairs are removed and the action takes place in a bare space with  grey walls and no furniture at all.

The costumes by Schmidt are all aggressively modern black and white. The cast could pass for puritans. 

The music by is deliciously played by the COC Orchestra conducted by Harry Bicket.


The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart opened on January 27 and will be performed a total of eight times until February 18, 2023, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario. Tel:  416-363-6671.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review appears in the newspaper.

Sunday, January 29, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

Fifteen Dogs is a play by Marie Farsi based on the novel of  the same name by Andre Alexis. In the novel Alexis takes a flight of the imagination where the gods Apollo and Hermes decide to give dogs human attributes and bet on whether any of them can live and die happily unlike the rest of us mortals.

Farsi’s play indeed has fifteen dogs of various breeds and characteristics who are granted human traits including speech of sorts and the ability to understand love and people to some extent. The play also features gods, muses and people. All these characters are played by six actors who have their work cut out for them. They have to change costumes, be people and dogs in quick and varied order.

Here are some examples of the number of roles that the actors have to tackle. Laura Condlin plays Max, Bella, Rosie, Clare, Nira, Clotho, Old Woman, and Narrator. All of the actors narrate part of the play because most scenes would not make much sense without Alexis’s text.

Peter Fernandes plays Lydia, Athena, Benjy, Atropos and Narrator. Stephen Jackman-Torkoff plays Ronaldinho, Prince, Miguel, Bobbie, Zeus and Narrator.  Tom Rooney, one of the best in the cast, gets off lightly with the number of roles – Manjoun, Randy and Narrator but plays one of the most significant parts.

Tyrone Savage has four roles and one of them is a major part: Atticus, Apollo, Driver and Narrator Mirabella Sundar Singh plays Agatha, Frick, Frack, Dougie, Hermes, Lachesis and Narrator.

The cast of Fifteen Dogs. Photo: Dahlia Katz 

That adds up to a crowd of 33 characters made up of dogs, mortals and immortals. The actors are people who pretend to be dogs who pretend to be people or at least have many awful and some decent  human tendencies. The actors as dogs bark, howl, roll over and usually speak pidgin English and we need to believe that the canines are “human” in accordance with the transformation or transfiguration meted on them by the gods of Olympus.

That is a big and complicated  crowd to be handled by six actors and I had difficulty following all the changes and permutations of the plot. My real problem was watching actors pretend to be dogs that pretend to be people. The novel asks us to imagine dogs acting like us – murderous, cruel, ambitious, decent, loveable and needy. I could not make the leap from that to a whole play dominated by the conduct of dogs with human characteristics at that.     

The play does cover a lot of human ground as some of the dogs become attuned to people and our behaviour. Love, hatred, fidelity, treachery, kindness, cruelty, hatred, power, submission are all there and if you can overlook many things you can take the play as a staged myth with mostly modern overtones which may take away from the mythical context.

The play takes place in Toronto and we have specific places like High Park, names of streets in the west end of the city and a pleasantly familiar setting. The Greek gods and the rest of the characters wear mostly a hodgepodge of modern costumes (some differ and Zeus is the exception) and we meet Hermes and Apollo in a Toronto bar.

Marie Farsi adapted Alexis’ novel for the stage and directed the play. The movements and quick changes in scene and characters looks nightmarish but Farsi handled the whole thing adeptly.


Fifteen Dogs by Marie Farsi adopted from the novel by Andre Alexis continues until February 12, 2023, in Guloien Theatre at Streetcar Crownest Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M4M 2T1.

James Karas is the Senior Editor – Culture of The Greek Press. This review appeared initially in the newspaper.