So many shows, so little time! There is so much opportunity for live theatre in Toronto that it is hard to choose what to see. Including the 8 shows we watched at the Fringe Festival, we're attending 13 different live theatre events in 5 weeks. Just these past two weekends, we saw "The Railway Children" and "Wishful Drinking" from our Royal Alex subscription and "Next to Normal", part of the Dancap season.
The theatre is designed to represent the train station with the seating on either side looking down on the north and south platforms and the real train tracks that run through the centre. When the action occurs at the train station, the entire length of the long theatre is used as the actors run up and down the platforms and scramble in and out of the tracks.
I expected sharp, witty, sarcastic anecdotes that provided good juicy details about her life and acting career. While we got some of that, I found the narrative and delivery to be weak. Sitting at the back of the theatre, we couldn't hear her whenever she turned away, looked down or otherwise mumbled her words, many times while delivering the punch line. She used the audience too much as a crutch, repeatedly picking on a few members in the front row to get a laugh, rather than letting her material speak for itself. We actually left after the first half so maybe the second act improved significantly - we didn't want to stick around to find out in case it didn't.
As the side effects of her treatment become more and more severe, Diana starts to wonder whether the cure is worse than the disease. At one point when she is so drugged up, she sings an extremely lyrical song about preferring to stay manic depressive than to feel nothing at all - "I miss the mountains .. the climbing and the falling".
"Do you wake up in the morning and need help to lift your head?
Do you read obituaries and feel jealous of the dead?
It's like living on a cliff side, not knowing when you'll dive.
Do you know, do you know what it's like to die alive?"
"I am the one who knows you
I am the one who cares ...
And if you think that I just don't give a damn
Then you just don't know who I am"
Why not simply end it
We'd all comprehend it
And most of the world
would say he's better off that way
To be free and maybe so is she
Next to Normal portrays the issues of mental illness in a raw, realistic manner that shows the devastation that it can bring to all involved. I was crying unabashedly by the end of the show.
Next up for us will be Lysistrata (a Greek Comedy) by the U of T Hart House Theatre, and Jesus Christ Superstar at Stratford. So many shows, so little time...Sadly we ran out of time to watch 9-5 The Musical, Hugh Jackman in Concert and more. I guess there are worse problems to have!