• Joe Szekeres

Presented by Theatre Aurora and The One Voice Project

Executive Producers: Sergio Calderone and Neill Kernohan

Production Design: Sergio Calderone

Lighting Design: David Buffham

Technical Design: Neill Kernohan

Director: Shawn Rocheleau Performer: Shelagh Hughes Carlini

By Joe Szekeres, Supervisory Toronto Critic for On Stage Blog

To conclude its’ One Voice Project of four short plays by Andrew Biss, Theatre Aurora presents ‘The Replica’, an uncomfortable dramatic monologue of what is billed as “an abused wife who reflects on her past and deconstructs the emergence of the replica that now haunts her present.”

Yes, at times, this story is extremely uncomfortable to hear the abuse this woman endures but Shelagh Hughes Carlini handles the subject material confidently. There were some stern matter of fact of truth moments that bothered me as to why this woman would not report her husband to the police for spousal abuse. And there were times where I was applauding why this Woman behaved like she did. (I’m trying not to give spoilers here).

Ms. Carlini is in clear control of her performance every minute thanks to careful direction by Shawn Rocheleau. I especially liked the juxtaposition of the, at times, rather cavalier description of the state of this Woman’s marital relationship (or lack thereof) between she and her unseen husband, Carl, but she colourfully painted for me a picture of a horrid man who only wants a trophy wife replica of the ‘perfect woman’ to parade about through business dinners and violent sexual lovemaking.

Throughout the approximate 26-minute monologue, Ms. Carlini does not leave her makeup table equipped with various products of eye shadow, eye liner and creams of all sorts. There is a makeup mirror to her right on the table. What is effective about her performance is Ms. Carlini’s natural use of reaching for various products while she is speaking directly to the audience. I was on every word she was delivering to us, and the prop was used effectively in the moment. Good stuff.

I’m not sure if this connection to the script is intentional or not, but I couldn’t help but think of author Ira Levin’s story ‘The Stepford Wives’ (1975 novel and first film, not the stupid second one). As the woman, Ms. Carlini is smartly dressed, coiffed, ‘made up’, and very attractive at the top of the production. As the Woman begins to remove her make up and the story’s tone turns very dark and horrific, there are moments where Ms. Carlini’s subtly shows that tinge of sadness in her eyes, much like the audience saw in the eyes of the character Joanna at the end of the first film. (sorry for that spoiler alert). For me, Ms. Carlini nicely played with the use of eyes and entire face to indicate many of the emotions she was experiencing while she had to live with her imbecilic husband who deserved to be carted off to prison.

I applaud Theatre Aurora for taking this opportunity to focus on strong performances of the spoken word through the one act play format. Cost to view any of these four one acts for 72 hours is $5. Click

Presented by Theatre Aurora and The One Voice Project

Executive Producers: Sergio Calderone and Neill Kernohan

Production Design: Sergio Calderone

Lighting Design: David Buffham

Technical Design: Neill Kernohan

Director: Kay Valentine Performer: Cam Lund

By Joe Szekeres, Supervisory Toronto Critic for On Stage Blog

Theatre Aurora has taken its ‘One Voice’ Project to a new performance level height of intensity in Episode 3 ‘A Small Act of Vandalism’ by Andrew Biss. The theatre website describes this brief plot: “Malcolm (Cam Lund), a gentle, middle-aged soul with a troubled mind, keeps his mother’s ashes sealed in a small porcelain box. What he keeps hidden among his memories, however, isn’t so easily contained.”

Death appears to be a topic that many elect not to discuss for various reasons – it’s morbid, it’s sad, it’s frightening. Here’s the reality though, folks, death isn’t going to go away anytime. We are going to have to face it that death will strike our lives and those whom we love. We may be ready for when it happens, and we may not be ready when it happens and punches us right in the gut. Some people I know respond to such heady/emotional/ sad topics in a variety of ways – humour, sadness, comedy but one thing for certain about death. Each of us does not respond to it in the same manner as another person.

At times, ‘A Small Act of Vandalism’ is many things about death – it’s bizarre, it’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s sad and a tad frightening and alarming to enter Malcolm’s world. Because there are so many emotional peaks and valleys underscoring this nearly twenty-five-minute passionate journey, the actor playing Malcolm must control his emotional releases in such a way that it’s not way over the top where it becomes hysterical and out of control.

That’s where Director Kay Valentine kept a watchful eye in transitions to ensure appropriate emotional consistency given the situation and particular time in which Malcolm tells us about his mother. A nice touch was the moment where Ms. Valentine moves Mr. Lund from his desk to stage right in front of another camera to continue narration. It seemed like the right time to shift focus albeit briefly.

Dressed in what appears to be a dark purple sweater and black dress pants, Mr. Lund is an affable and amiable gentlemanly storyteller. I really liked his accent (I’m assuming he’s British) as it’s used to utmost advantage in his narration. With a smirk and twinkle in his eye, Mr. Lund made me like Malcolm especially as he tells us some of the funny moments he experienced with his mother many years ago.

For those of us who have lost an immediate family member (parent, sibling, child) whether expected or unexpected, there is still a fevered passion and dizzying vortex of a storm in trying to weather through what has just occurred. Mr. Lund nicely shifts and varies his vocal tonality especially in recognizing when his mother’s sickness is not going to improve anytime soon. There were a few moments where I thought Lund would break down in tears or perhaps see them well up in his eyes, but he consistently maintained his composure while letting the words in the monologue tell the story.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise elements in this monologue because there are a few that I did not see coming at all, so kudos to Ms. Valentine and Mr. Lund.

As always, Neill Kernohen and David Buffham in their respective technical and lighting designs made me believe I was in a theatre for a few moments even though I’m watching this story on a screen.

To access Theatre Aurora’s ‘The One Voice Project’, visit and click the link. The cost is $4.99 to access each one act for 72 hours.

The bottom right hand picture in the poster web design is Cam Lund.

Big Theatre 4 (For) Small Spaces, Summer 2020 Production

Theatre on the Ridge

Performers: Reid Martin, Breanne Tice, Michael Williamson

Director: Carey Nicholson

Commentary by Joe Szekeres, On Stage Blog Toronto correspondent

To close out its “Big Theatre 4 (FOR) Small Spaces” theme this summer, Theatre on the Ridge selected Michael Ross Albert’s ‘The Huns’ which, according to Artistic Director Carey Nicholson, had its premiere in 2018 at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

This opening night reading/presentation of Michael Ross Albert’s highly engaging one act play of the intricacies of the corporate world connected me immediately to the plot’s action. The audience finds itself amid a presentation about to take place on account of a security fault and risk that had occurred the night before. I don’t want to spoil what went wrong as that’s all part of this fast paced, hard telling story of the hard knocks within a giant tech corporation.

For a presentation that was staged simply as a reading, the Summer 2020 company members kept me glued right to the end as I was on every single word and didn’t want to miss anything. There’s Iris (Breanne Tice) who is in charge of this presentation and who has spent some time on her power point presentation that she is about to share with her two colleagues present plus an identical virtual presentation with other company members all over the continent. We’re also introduced to Shelley (Reid Martin) who’s only on contract with the firm. It appears that Shelley’s temporary contracted is near its completion but unfolding events during this presentation may slightly change the course of events for her. And then there’s Pete (Michael Williamson) who does not want to be at this presentation. Pete is dressed rather casually for the office, shorts and short sleeved shirt with sneakers as he has to catch a plane with his buddies for a big bachelor party weekend before his wedding the following week.

I really hope Theatre on the Ridge decides to stage ‘The Huns’ fully sometime in a future season. It is a wonderfully crafted script of power struggles between three very interesting characters who appear sometimes on the edge of collapse for sometimes very funny reasons and for many poignant and gut-wrenching moments. Ms. Martin, Ms. Tice and Mr. Williamson’s naturalistic reading kept the story’s pace clicking along without appearing rushed.

One of the key elements which made this script fly right off the page is the pacing and timing of sound effects, sound cues and their operation at a very quick pace. Acknowledgement to Sabrina Pye, Michael Serres and Lyle Corrigan for their dedicated efforts to find and record the various voices and noises needed.

There are so many good moments in this production that I don’t want to spoil for audiences. When I was teaching full time, I sometimes recall the very long staff meetings the faculty had after some trying days within education. Having to sit through an hour-hour and a half meeting when you’re exhausted did put some of my colleagues over the edge. This is captured quite effectively under Carey Nicholson’s direction.

Add the fact that the technical equipment needed for Iris’s presentation was not working properly and she had to call someone from IT to ensure everything would work. The comical aftermath ensuring Iris on the phone with a nit-picking Pete who just wants to get on that damn plane combined with Shelley trying to ensure a calm approach was great fun to watch.

Pete utters a line that I wrote down immediately: “Is anybody normal anymore?” For me, this epitomized exactly what this sometimes frenetic paced, at time cutthroat corporate world has created of we humans. Do these big, high tech companies really care about their employees? When the truth finally comes out about one of the characters, there was a hushed silence in the audience around me that emphasizes even more the lack of human compassion and empathy sorely missing from these companies.

Get to see this staged reading. Performances continue August 13 and 14 at 7 pm at the Scugog Arts Space, 175B Queen Street, Port Perry. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased only online at

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