Toronto
2 min

Newbie do

Most plays are too darned long - and then there's rhubarb

DISTURBED PASSIONS. Eryn Dace Trudell directs Caridad Svich's trance fable on sexual identity; part of the first week at Rhubarb. Credit: Xtra files

The largest curated festival for developing works produced by any Canadian theatre company, the Rhubarb Festival returns for it’s 23rd season at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre.



This year marks the debut of newbie director, Kelly Thorton, currently the dramaturgical intern for Factory Theatre and was an assistant director at CanStage for the workshop of Brad Fraser’s Outrageous.



Week one (till Sun, Feb 11) sees Sonja Mills offering some sage advice to all parents in her play Mom’s Favourite Jesus: Don’t raise children together, it can only lead to misery.



“It’s a real-time tale about just how horrible people can be to each other.” Mills stresses it is not a true story, nor is it autobiographical in any way. However, she admits she did have the misfortune of being raised with two older brothers, and so she knows of what she speaks when it comes to sibling friction.



This is the first piece she’s ever written (or directed) for Rhubarb.



“I really dig the format. I think all playwrights should be forced to cram their work into a half-hour time slot. It’s amazing just how tight a script can get when you have no choice but to cut, cut, cut. All plays could benefit from this kind of reworking. Nine out of 10 plays I see are too fucking long.”



Nightwood is what creator Caridad Svich describes as a “poetically charged landscape of floating cradles, liquid tattoos and mutating serpents. A trance fable about the nature of sexual identity.”



Directed by choreographer Eryn Dace Trudell, the piece sounds like a fairy-tale turned rock opera, blending elements from Santeria, Greek myth and glam rock, in order “to create a little universe of disturbed passions,” says Svich. The play follows the journey of a young man through childhood, adolescence and sexual initation.



What Svich likes best about the Rhubarb festival is its sense of adventure and freedom. “As for the audience, I hope that the images from the piece stay with them, that something in the text resonates with them.” What’s important to this acclaimed playwright and songwriter is that the piece makes the audience see the world a little differently “I hope that they leave the theatre in a different spirit than when they came in.”



The first week also includes The Bitch And The Bastard by Scott McKay, Sardine Mean by Lindsay Price, AC 198 by Mike McPhaden, Great White Hopes by Mellissa Bell and Stem by Les Vaches (comprised of Erika Hennebury and Ruth Madoc-Jones) and House Of Slacks (Greg MacArthur and Clinton Walker).



Each evening over the three week fest begins at 7:30pm (Wednesday to Sunday) with an assortment of teasers from the fest’s programming; 30 minutes productions follow in four spaces ($15 per night; $20 per week); at 10pm each night is an hour long Arena Show performance ($8).



Peep Shows, a combo of art installation and performance, are open to viewers at 8:30pm and 9:30pm nightly.



All performances at Buddies In Bad Times (12 Alexander St); call 975-8555.