Theatre review: A Woman Is a Secret — Six looks at love and lust


Published:

Directed by META winner Andrew Shaver, the play brings together 11 seasoned actors accompanied by Juno-nominated singer/songwriter Matthew Barber.

Image credit: John Gundy

TORONTO, Ontario — Oscar, Tony, and Pulitzer winner John Patrick Shanley was in attendance at The Theatre Centre this weekend for the world premiere of his new work A Woman Is a Secret, an evening of six short plays inventively exploring love and sex from various angles. For this show, directed by META winner Andrew Shaver, Rip Jaw Productions collaborates with Storefront Theatre and SideMart Theatrical Grocery, and brings together 11 seasoned actors, accompanied by Juno-nominated singer/songwriter Matthew Barber who warms you with a voice and a soundtrack as comfy as a loveseat. 

Shanley won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay with the romantic classic Moonstruck (1987), and his after his dramatic play Doubt (2004) won both a Pulitzer and the Tony Award for Best Play, his screen adaptation (2008) starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman went on to be nominated for five Oscars including Best Adapted Screenplay.

Characters, actors and scenes

It’s hard to know how to apportion the credit, but between the playwright, the director and the actors, each of the pieces in A Woman Is a Secret is an achievement, and collectively they are a triumph. The plays contain secrets I won’t reveal here. 

Amongst many fine performances, a few that stand out are Rip Jaw founder Anna Hardwick as the outrageous titular waitress in the opening short play “The French Waitress”, Karen Knox as the direct and self-assured Kasia in “Poland”, and the magnificent and multiple-award-winning Martha Burns as “The Banshee”.

Providing the icing on the cake and the filling between the layers, Barber sings and strums nostalgic love songs selected by Shanley and, with support from the cast, music sets the mood scene after scene. 

Behind the scenes

Together, director Shaver (founding Artistic Director of SideMart Theatrical Grocery), set and costume designer Hanna Puley, sound designer Brian Kenny, and lighting designer Kim Purtell manage to set the stage so unobtrusively that a single space imperceptibly transforms from one world into another, allowing the characters in each of Shanley’s six pieces to come to life in a place made just for them. 

Take-home

Insightful, soulful, funny and heartening, all in one sitting. Shanley dares us to love more courageously, more perceptively, and more extravagantly. There are too many good things to say about this satisfying, multifaceted collection of plays. You just have to see it for yourself.

Playing until April 5 at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St. West) 

Two hours, 15 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission

Note: This production of A Woman is a Secret is honoured to partner with Sistering, an organization that supports homeless and marginalized women in Toronto. Theatre-goers are encouraged to contribute to the production’s Sistering Intimates Drive by bringing new women’s underwear, bras or feminine hygiene products to the show and quote “Sistering” at the Box Office to receive $5 off ticket purchase.

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Evan Andrew Mackay is a Toronto playwright and humorist who writes about culture and social justice.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

Toronto's venerable Cowboy Junkies hit Massey Hall

Toronto's venerable Cowboy Junkies hit Massey Hall

The Cowboy Junkies have quietly become one of the most important bands to come out of Toronto, and more than three decades deep they continue to turn gorgeously crafted albums that speak of the times in a way that is unique. Their latest, All That Reckoning, proves the band still has a lot to say. But it took some time to get there.
Posted 3 days ago
The biggest art bash in Toronto turns 20

The biggest art bash in Toronto turns 20

Posted 3 days ago
SCTV reunion takes shape

SCTV reunion takes shape

With a live event on May 13 at the Elgin Theatre and a Netflix reunion special directed by Martin Scorsese in the works, SCTV alum and Toronto native Dave Thomas spoke with Post City about the history of the iconic show and being a lifelong McKenzie brother.
Posted 2 weeks ago
Toronto set to host massive exhibit of renowned UK street artist Banksy

Toronto set to host massive exhibit of renowned UK street artist Banksy

The Art of Banksy has already show in Melbourne, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv and Auckland, but Toronto beat out Athens and Stockholm to host this new incarnation. On June 13, The Art of Banksy, a new exhibition the acclaimed UK street artist, will open in Toronto at a raw exhibition space at 213 Sterling Road.
Posted 3 weeks ago
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module