The University of Toronto Drama Festival is an annual competition of student-written and -directed plays at Hart House Theatre. This year, blogUT is pleased to provide reviews and critiques of each show for your elucidation and entertainment.
The second night offered more in the way of humorous tragedies, but the first two shows were plenty more dark than light. The last, a farce, couldn’t change the overall tone of the evening, which was less tragic than the first but more neurotic; the demons of this evening’s shows were mostly internal.
The DL-15 Incident by St Michael’s Arts Commission
Written by Vere Marie Khan, directed by Joseph Ianni and Victoria McEwan
Starring Arnold Lan, Madiha Choksi, and Sandro Pehar, among others.
St Mikes’ second entry into the festival is an abrupt departure from their first; a short but intense drama about love and obsession. Framed through a police interrogation of the mysterious death of a professor and his student, our lovestruck hero struggles to attract the attention of his classmate, whom he suspects is adulterating with their teacher. Lan brings a surprisingly earnest neurosis to his poorly-conceived character, convincing us that he means what he says even if doesn’t believe it. The rest of the cast work as mechanical plot devices between bloated monologues about love and life; Choksi’s tragic heroine is especially unimpressive as an intense but unemotive but loud victim of amorous betrayal. Though Lan’s passion mostly keeps the show afloat, a melodramatic script and ill-conceived direction make The DL-15 Incident a textbook case of how serious things can come across as silly.
Marianne, Are You Asleep? by UTM Drama Club
Written by Nicholas Potter, directed by Jaime Hernandez Lujan.
Starring Karyn McGibbon, Ben Hayward, and Megan Janssen, among others.
From its surreal opening to the oddball humour of its supporting characters, Marianne, Are You Asleep? is scores more developed than any other show so far. An expression of the mysterious and mystical corners of the human psyche, UTM’s second entry deftly balances tragedy and comedy without ever resorting to somberness. McGibbon and Hayward play off their extraordinary chemistry as a husband and wife looking for answers in light of their son’s sudden visions of his dead grandmother; Hayward’s exploration of his character’s unexpected dark side is especially chilling. A full set and seamless, human dialogue sell Marianne‘s less realistic moments, and a limited reliance on exposition and hokey metaphor offer a thought-provoking play that is never damp or dull.
Slay the Dragon by UC Follies
Written and directed by Brian De La Franier
Starring Victor Matak, Fraser Gottlieb, Jane Smythe, and Victor Valentine, among others
Slay the Dragon‘s programme synopsis insists that Monty Python is an inspiration, but UC Follies’ entry plays more like basement fan fiction than homage. No joke is original or landed well under De La Franier’s sloppy direction; at no point is suspense or surprise woven into the formulaic script. There’s little to say about Slay the Dragon that hasn’t already been said in the inverse about good comedy.