Stage Write: The Arsonists

Life on the fourth floor can get pretty dramatic (urgent request! interview cancelled! event emergency!), so we love the opportunity to sit back and watch the theatrics unfold on stage, rather than in our everyday lives. Last night we hit the opening night performance of  Canadian Stage‘s wickedly funny farce, The Arsonists, on stage now through December 9 at the Bluma Appel Theatre.

 The Arsonists set, designed by Ken MacDonald. Photo by Bruce Zinger

The play is set in an unnamed town plagued by a group of arsonists who charm their way into houses and then burn them down. Biedermann (Michael Ball) is a well-to-do homeowner whose evening is interrupted when a mysterious and burly stranger named Schmitz (Dan Chameroy) knocks on his door. Cunningly praising Biedermann’s humanity, the stranger appeals to his humanity (or guilt) and is invited into the home.

Schmitz soon invites his even stranger friend Eisenring (Shawn Wright) to join him and the pair move into the attic, blatantly setting the stage for a fire. They up the creepy factor as Eisenring cackles about setting up detonators and purchasing fire starter. Biedermann,  suspecting (or maybe even knowing) the strangers are arsonists, chooses to ignore the signs, even as they become indisputable. Neither Biedermann nor his wife, Babette (Fiona Reid) want to risk offending anyone or igniting the spark that will (literally) blow up the entire house.

Shawn Wright and Michael Ball. Photo by Bruce Zinger
What makes the play most interesting is the context. It was written by Max Frisch, a Swiss writer, less than a decade after the second World War. As Biedermann and his wife Babette watch the arsonists set up camp in their attic and are too mannerly, afraid or self-conscious to pass judgement or do anything about it, the parallels between Swiss neutrality, or even a modern contexts where people stay silent or complacent when faced with evil, are unmistakable.
The cast of The Arsonists

Now, don’t let the serious message or the fact that the script was written in 1953 fool you: written as a political farce, the play is funny. Actually funny, we promise. We were laughing out loud, and there are plenty of smart (albeit dark) jokes during the performance.

Shawn Wright and Dan Chameroy. Photo by Bruce Zinger

We especially loved the on-stage musicians, led by local songwriter Justin Rutledge, who act as a chorus throughout the play. The music has a Brit-rock feel, and provides a fun and unique narration between the scenes. Have a listen:

The set is the beautiful home where the Biedermanns and their maid (Sheila McCarthy) whisper about the arsonists from their living room, while you watch the arsonists (up to no good) in the adjacent attic. The changing lighting on the backdrop reflects the activities outside the house, and the sound of distant sirens echoes throughout the theatre, reinforcing the atmosphere of fear and chaos in the town.

We highly recommend the play for a night out. The show runs until December 9 and tickets begin at $24 (available by phone 416.368.3110, in person at the box office or online at Also, Canadian Stage has just introduced a ticketing app that lets you buy tickets – and reserve seats for your friends – through Facebook! To celebrate, they are offering $20 tickets for tonight’s show, and buy-one-get-one-free tickets for shows this weekend. Only available to Canadian Stage’s Facebook friends, so “like” that shit! 

/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”,”serif”;}

Sheila McCarthy in The Arsonists. Photo by Bruce Zinger.


Rave: For the love of the game

Once the temperature reaches a warm 18 degrees, Canadian’s do three things right away: put on shorts, find a patio, and enroll in après work extracurricular sports. Ultimate Frisbee, soccer and baseball are regular sports on the fourth floor, but our latest obsession is ping pong. While we have yet to join a league, the opportunity is coming. This summer, SPiN Toronto is opening its doors at King and Spadina (lower level of 461 King St. W. to be exact), and we are stoked to say the least.

We’ve had a one-track mind – all things pong. So much so that some of us are even considering a road trip to Milwaukee at the end of the month to watch the 2011 U.S. Open Table Tennis Championships. Yep. We’re that pong-core.

Table tennis has the uncanny ability to make us feel reminiscent about the past, and excited for the future. Fond memories of screened-in patios, a lake and playing the best out of ten come back at the mention of ping pong.

Let’s be fair – not everyone is rushing home to put on soccer cleats and baseball gloves. Some of us prefer to be more Fashion-able and throw on slingbacks. But guess what? You can have your cake and eat it too. Model and table tennis champ Soo Yeon Lee pongs in heels.

We love this video of Soo Yeon where the fashion and ping pong worlds collide in an elegant clash.
We can’t wait for the grand opening to try out this sexy pong thing for ourselves. We’ll keep you posted on how we do. Or keep up to date by following them on Twitter @SPiN_Toronto. Memberships are on sale now.

Rave: Bullet for Adolf

Close your eyes. 

Think back to summertime and your favourite memories: hanging out with your best friends, staying up late telling stories, enjoying the warm weather. Summer always comes jam-packed with reflection, and other people’s stories are often just as interesting and inspiring as your own.

 Photo Credit: Flickr

Woody Harrelson is bringing some of his personal summer memories to Toronto’s Hart House Theatre in his highly anticipated play, Bullet For Adolph – Almost A Comedy. The actor co-wrote the play and is in the city directing the show (previews today and tomorrow, and officially opening Thursday, April 21 through Saturday, May 7).

The play brings together a group of friends in the hot summer of 1983, in Houston, Texas.  The lives of eight people come together in unexpected ways during this memorable summer. The title refers to a gun once intended to kill Hitler, which plays a pivotal role in the plot.

Harrelson co-wrote the play with his friend of almost 30 years, Frankie Hyman. The two say the plot was inspired by their financially strapped days working construction together that same summer of ’83. The eight characters in the play are inspired by real people they knew.

To read an interview with Harrelson and his amazing Toronto cast, check out this story. Plus, Woody chatted with Rick Campinelli on ET Canada – watch it here if you missed it the first time. (He also does a little a cappella version of Happy Birthday – a must-see.)

Tickets are on sale now. And, find Bullet For Adolph on Facebook and Twitter.