THE TOP 10 TORONTO THEATRE SHOWS OF 2019

Most of these shows were either written or directed by women – or both. So is it any coincidence that this was one of the boldest and most exciting theatre years in recent memory?

Clockwise from top left: A Streetcar Named Desire (photo by Dahlia Katz); The Flick (Dahlia Katz); School Girls (Cesar Ghisilieri); Pass Over (Cesar Ghisilieri); Old Stock (Stoo Metz Photography); The Brothers Size (Cylla von Tiedemann).

Most of these shows were either written or directed by women – or both. So is it any coincidence that this was one of the boldest and most exciting theatre years in recent memory? Heading into a new decade with a couple of the women on this list at the helm of local theatre companies, the future looks promising. 

1. A Streetcar Named Desire (September 21 to October 27, Soulpepper)

In addition to restoring the reputation of Soulpepper Theatre after its biggest crisis, the company’s new artistic director Weyni Mengesha helmed this game-changing production of one of the world’s best-known plays, making us see, feel and hear new things in the script: exactly what revivals are all about. Amy RutherfordMac Fyfe and a diverse supporting cast of actors and musicians made this play about sex and secrets throb with vitality.

2. The Flick (October 6 to November 2, Outside the March/Crow’s Theatre)

Annie Baker’s intimate epic about the underpaid employees of a small-town movie theatre became, in Mitchell Cushman’s hands, a funny, poignant look at class, economic privilege and the changing of one type of life for another. Against Nick Blais’s hyper realistic replica of a movie house, the actors (Amy KeatingDurae McFarlane and Colin Doyle) got us involved in their ordinary lives in a way that felt truer than the artifice we often see on the big screen. Unforgettable.

3. School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (March 5 to 24, Obsidian in association with Nightwood Theatre)

Nina Lee Aquino’s production of Jocelyn Bioh’s play about students in an exclusive Ghanaian boarding school in the 1980s was so smart, funny and moving, I stayed for the talkback session – something I seldom do. But the more time spent in the company of gifted actors like Akosua Amo-AdemNatasha MumbaTatyana Mitchell and Bria McLaughlin, the better. Seeing them spark off each other was, to quote the Whitney Houston song belted out in the show, the greatest love of all.

4. August: Osage County (May 18 to June 30, Soulpepper)

Alcoholism. Suicide. Incest. Drug addiction. In Jackie Maxwell’s hands, this excoriating production of Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer Prize-winner resonated even more with the fucked up times than it did when the play premiered over a decade ago. The dysfunctional Weston clan convene at the Oklahoma homestead of a dead professor, and the man’s dying wife and one of his headstrong daughters (Nancy Palk and Maev Beaty) battle it out for supremacy. Seldom has catharsis been so needed – and so entertaining.

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