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Toronto’s Icarus Theatre Securely Ushers in Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero



A rumpled suit-tieing man sits behind the security desk killing time as we file into the Alumnae Theatre in downtown Toronto. He can’t seem to settle himself down, pacing around waiting for the midnight shift to end, and for the rest of his life to finally get back on track. He’s uncomfortable in his skin, this is clear. Still, it’s his inability to understand his place in his own world and how to move forward which hangs the heaviest, as this dynamic production of Kenneth Lonergan’s  Lobby Hero, ushers Toronto’s newest professional theatre company, Icarus Theater onto the Alumnae Theatre stage. The production dutifully unpacks the compelling action and inaction of the four intriguing characters that find themselves caught centerstage in a quagmire of complications. We watch them struggle and get tied up into ever-tightening knots of loyalty and emotions during the midnight shift at an upscale Manhattan apartment complex lobby, and we can’t seem to look away.

We know these kinds of simple but complex souls, where heroic moments are not so clearly defined, but are layered with regrets and bad choices that literally make you groan when made. These knots are the very fabric of a Lonergan drama, much like his Oscar-nominated film, ‘You Can Count on Me’ (2000), and the Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay, ‘Manchester by the Sea‘ (2016), and we gladly lean into these interactions with curiosity and care. The four rotate around one another as authentically as the straightforward set allows, even when the lighting changes are somewhat heavy-handed and distracting, giving weight to the actions of this crew of working-class security guards and police officers without ever playing all the cards directly. They are all solidly present in this strongly formulated drama that first premiered Off-Broadway in 2001 at Playwrights Horizons, and was subsequently nominated for a Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Olivier Award for Best Play during its West End run, all before transferring to Broadway’s Second Stage theatre in 2018 with a starry cast that included Michael Cera and Chris Evans, and here, as carefully directed by Liam Eric Dawson (SBTSF’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre), we find ourself completely engaged and transfixed by the constant twisting of the web that is slowly weaved.

Matthew G. Brown and Anthony Goncharov in Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero. Photo courtesy of Icarus Theatre Productions.

The two pairs, the police and the security guards, pulse forward with an ease and an urgency that keeps our focus tuned in and our blood flowing. There are pretty much no moments of boredom or lethargy that one might expect during the graveyard shift of a lobby security guard, although maybe a bit too many unnecessary actions, like smoking or typing at a computer, that seem more like busy work, rather than intentional or character driven. But overall, we are presented with well-played and orchestrated interactions that dynamically float around and through the issues of morality and ethics. Anthony Goncharov, the CEO and Artistic Director of Icarus Theatre, does his duty as the rambling and insecure doorman – wait, I’m sorry, I mean, ‘security guard’- named Jeff. He holds that title very close to his chest as tight as a child to a teddy bear, giving himself a nervous childlike energy that expertly resonates. Sitting at the center of this spin, he is trying ‘sorta’ hard to pull his life together after, what he calls, some ‘bad luck’ in the navy. His body language screams of a lost soul who wants to believe in salvation but is far too impulsive, sarcastic, and lazy, all at the same time, to really do the work to make solid gains in his life. He’s like a smart stoner without the stone, languishing behind a desk finding ways to sleep through his shift without ever appearing to be the loser manchild his hero father thinks he is.

With strong inspirational, yet somehow confrontational support from his boss, the solidly upright Captain William, played solidly but not so upright by Matthew G Brown (Stratford’s To Kill A Mockingbird), Jeff states he is being lifted, that is when he’s not being torn down by his own inaction, as well as by all the motivational encouragement coming at him from his boss. It’s a complicated mess to watch, as William is a good man, but doesn’t seem aware of the put-downs and hardness thrown at regular intervals at his subordinate.  But the twist of Lobby Hero and the conundrum of the play enters casually into that lobby. It is the problematic quagmire that hangs heavy on the back of Captain William. He is the first to broach the subject of “what would you do if…hypothetically speaking?” And that formulaic question sets everything in motion, trotting itself out repeatedly, and putting forth a fascinatingly moralistic idea that resonates. Who will be the man who stands on the higher ground at the end of the midnight shift? Who will be the hero of the moment who finally does the right thing for the right reason? Or will there, in the end, be any one character who can securely claim that title?

Anthony Goncharov and Emily Anne Corcoran in Kenneth Lonergan’s  Lobby Hero. Photo courtesy of Icarus Theatre Productions.

Balancing out the dynamics of these two security guards is a pair of cops that routinely show up in that same lobby each night for a variety of morally complex reasons. Connor Briggs (Sheridan College’s Nine; Netflix’s “The Killing“), finds an impressive weight within playing the overly confident policeman-narcissist, Bill, who likes to swing by every night for an on-duty personal visit to a pretty and obliging ‘friend’ up on the 22nd floor. Briggs wondrously inhabits that beautifully arrogant and cocky persona of a super-cop basking in his powerful magnetism and manliness. He won’t sign in, naturally, ignoring the request from the lowly security guard as Bill is far too aware of the belittling nervousness he can elicit from Jeff just by standing too close to him. He exudes from his very core the feeling that he has every right and privilege to do so, and rarely finds the reason to step back or down. He’s also fully aware of the hold he has over his police partner, Dawn. The #MeToo movement has yet to creep its way up on him, but it’s only a matter of time, as the way he engages with all, especially with his buddy William, is both uncomfortably icky yet somehow charming, pulling us in seductively while at the same time, making us what to stay clear of his masculine toxicity.

Waiting patiently down in the lobby with Bill upstairs doing his thing, is the rookie police officer and far too green partner, Dawn, played marvelously in an oversized jacket by Emily Anne Corcoran (Studio Theatre’s Richard III). She is totally smitten by her partner, believing in his boastful platitudes until the obvious dirt is pointed out to her by the overzealous Jeff. Jeff, you see, is awkwardly smitten by Dawn and the whole female cop thing, and doesn’t seem able to stop the floodgates of words that constantly come rattling out from his nervous mouth. Their growing chemistry and dynamic are brilliantly caustic, cute, and electric, although the shifting isn’t always on track and naturally forecasted. She constantly engages in battles with herself and others for what is right and wrong in any and all situations, trying so hard to become the hero cop she wants to be and the person that does the right thing in the end, even if it means throwing someone under the bus. Including herself.

Lust, power, and attraction are played out impulsively and organically within the smartly constructed dialogue of Lonergan, as all four bounce off each other in ways that are both surprising and thrilling. Lobby Hero is strangely dynamic, hilarious, and crisp with a fascinatingly strong moral conflict at its center, spinning everyone around without throwing anyone down with too much force. I’m not sure what the overall scheme is in Lonergan’s heart regarding these four, but it’s obvious he cares about them, hoping they find solutions in what lies ahead. One thing is clear though. What lies ahead for these four actors, and for the theatre company as a whole, is all thumbs up and applause, as we never get sick of watching them fight to stay upright, and hopefully become the hero of their story. I’m curious about what is next for Icarus as the midnight shift ends, and the next day’s production rises up like the sun.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to


The Olivier Awards Return



Celebrate the very best in British theatre in a star-studded evening as the Olivier Awards return to the Royal Albert Hall on April 2nd.

Three-time Olivier Award nominee & Primetime Emmy winner, Hannah Waddingham will be hosting the awards for the first time.

The event will feature performances from all of the Best New Musical nominees, including The Band’s Visit, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, Sylvia and Tammy Faye. Also performing will be Oklahoma! and Sister Act, both nominated for the Best Musical Revival award, as well as Disney’s Newsies, which has been nominated for Matt Cole’s choreography.

The multi-Olivier Award winner The Book of Mormon, will be performing to mark its ten-year anniversary in the West End. Additionally, special award winner Arlene Philips will be honored with a tribute from the cast of Grease.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on Magic Radio from 6pm with Ruthie Henshall and Alice Arnold hosting.

The highlights program will also be aired on ITV1 and ITVX at 10:15 pm in the UK and via Official London Theatre’s YouTube channel elsewhere.

And the nominees are:

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Out of Town

The Unpacking of the First Métis Man of Odesa, An Interview




Punctuate! Theatre is unpacking a love story. A love story about a couple. A love story about Ukraine. And a love story against an unbelievably complicated backdrop. Starting at The Theatre Centre in Toronto, the company is ushering forth the world premiere of First Métis Man of Odesa before it spins itself out on stages across Canada. Spanning continents and set against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Métis playwright and Punctuate! Artistic Director, Matthew MacKenzie (Dora Award-winning playwright for Bears, After the Fire, The Particulars) joins forces with his wife, the award-winning Ukrainian actress Mariya Khomutova (Odesa Film Festival Grand Prix – The Golden Duke award-winner NONNATwo People), to tell the story of their COVID courtship and share an intimate perspective on the personal impacts of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Matthew MacKenzie and Mariya Khomutova.

Drawn from their real-life love story, a story that is ultimately still unfolding to this very day, First Métis Man of Odesa unpacks the journey of Matt and Masha’s love that spans continents where distance and conflicts can’t tame their passionate connection. After meeting on a theatre research trip in Kyiv, a spark is struck, and a romance between a Métis Playwright and a Ukrainian artist is ignited, taking them from the beaches of the Black Sea to the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, within the onset of a global pandemic, the eruption of a brutal war, but also the many joyous moments that this union begets, including marriage and the birth of their son.

During the height of the lockdown in 2021, an initial version of this piece was presented as a radio play at Factory Theatre, written by MacKenzie and directed by Nina Lee Aquino. This March, First Métis Man of Odesa, as directed by Lianna Makuch (Pyretic Productions/Punctuate!’s Barvinok), makes its stage debut, offering a compelling continuation of the initial story told in that first radio play. The couple, Matthew MacKenzie and his wife, Mariya Khomutova, sat down with Frontmezzjunkies and thankfully answered a few questions about their incredible journey from that first love-struck connection to its World Premiere at The Theatre Centre in Toronto.

Tell me, how you decided to embark on telling your own story and what the beginning of this creative process looked like for you two?

Initially, Matt wrote an audio play for Factory Theatre about our romance, then getting married and having their son during the pandemic.  The plan had been to expand the piece for the stage, a plan that took on much urgency after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Both the pandemic and war have a deeply dehumanizing effect, so our hope in telling our love story is to share the human side of these major world events; a human side that headlines and news clips can’t fully capture.

What aspect of your character, or your involvement with/creation of this play resonates the most powerfully inside you?

For both of us, the opportunity to share all the joy, humour, anger, and frustration we’ve experienced in the past few years is a really therapeutic process.  Many of our friends and family only know snippets of what we’ve been through, so the opportunity to tell our story across the country is one we are deeply grateful for.

The phrase “you don’t know what someone is carrying with them” has really hit home over the past couple of years, as we have had to contend with some pretty epic challenges as a couple and as individuals.

Tell me a bit about what it is like to bring your character to the stage? What does mean to you to be telling this story?

We play ourselves in the play, but we very much play versions of ourselves in the play.  We had to mine conflict between us out of a few outbursts, as there haven’t actually been a lot of [conflicts] in our relationship so that we could bring the drama of what we are going through to the fore.

Challenges of playing ourselves have included the fact that [Matt] is not a trained actor, while Mariya is. Mariya though comes from a theatre tradition that was almost entirely focused on the classics, so playing herself in a play based on her life is definitely a new and challenging experience!

Tell me a bit more about your development process? Was there a typical ‘first read’ or was it different, given your own story inspired the work…

We were able to conduct several development workshops over a period of six months.  There was no shortage of content that we could derive from our lives, so the challenge was determining what to keep and what to let fall away. Even after our first read, we cut 15 pages from our rehearsal draft.  Events in our lives and in Ukraine will no doubt continue to necessitate the evolution of our script.

What’s been the most challenging part of this process for you?

For Mariya, it was buying into the idea (that is quite a common one in Canada) that a play about someone’s real life can be art.  Seeing Hailey Gillis’s My Ex-boyfriend Yard Sale, really helped her believe this was possible.

For Matt, it met the challenge of performing for the first time in ten years.  The last time he performed, he made his friends promise they would never let him perform again, but all agreed it didn’t make much sense for anyone else to play him in this piece.

The most rewarding?

Having already performed several shows in Kamloops, the most rewarding part of this process is sharing this story with refugees from Ukraine.  Their responses have been incredible and have really encouraged us to share our story with as many people as possible.

What do you want the audience to get from this play, and from your character?

We want the audience to join us as we relive our sweeping love story, from Odesa to Toronto.  We want the audience to see the human side of the conflict in Ukraine.  And we want the audience to leave the theatre with the hope that love can and will conquer all.

First Métis Man of Odesa is in Toronto for its world premiere run at the Franco Boni Theatre @ The Theatre Centre from March 30 – April 8, 2023 (opening March 31). Following the world premiere in Toronto, First Métis Man of Odesa will appear at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, The Cultch in Vancouver, and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg. For information and tickets, please visit

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Florence Welch, Martyna Majok, Rachel Chavkin and More On New Musical Gatsby Coming To A.R.T



Florence Welch Photo by De Wilde

Producers Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, Jordan Roth, and American Repertory Theater(A.R.T.) at Harvard University announced today that Gatsby, a brand-new musical stage adaptation of the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, will make its highly anticipated World Premiere at A.R.T. in 2024, and will be directed by Tony Award® winner Rachel Chavkin and choreographed by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh.

Rachel Chavkin Photo Credit Erik Tanner

Gatsby will feature music by Florence Welch, the Grammy Award-nominated international rock star of Florence + the Machine and Thomas Bartlett, the Oscar and Grammy Award nominee, with lyrics by Ms. Welch, and a book by Pulitzer Prize® winner Martyna Majok.

Martyna Majok by Josiah Bania

Gatsby will be produced at American Repertory Theater by special arrangement with Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, and Jordan Roth, in association with Robert Fox. Hannah Giannoulis serves as co-producer.

Sonya Tayeh

American Repertory Theater (Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director; Kelvin Dinkins, Jr., Executive Director) at Harvard University produces groundbreaking work to catalyze dialogue and transformation. Tony Award-winning and nominated productions include Jagged Little PillWaitressNatasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; All the Way; The Glass Menagerie; Pippin; Once; and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Its revival of 1776, a co-production with Roundabout Theatre Company, is currently touring nationally. Learn more at

Thomas Bartlett Photo Credit York Tillyer

Additional Gatsby news will be announced soon.

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