Zugzwang (Pedant Productions) SummerWorks 2011 Review

Zugzwang starts with a blast and hooked me right away. A man gets our attention as he enters from the back of Factory Theatre.  It’s clearly obvious that “it is ON!”

He makes his way to centre stage quickly and becomes even more compelling.  He tells juicy stories about an unlikely subject: chess!

That man turns out to be Simon the Arbiter (Andy Trithardt). He is the ringmaster in this three ring circus. The main act is chess, but others include friendship, girlfriends, dishes, OCD and chain-smoking.  In other words, you don’t have to be a chess geek to enjoy Zugzwang.

Chess geeks Igor (Dylan George) and Karl (Josh Rheaume) are also roommates. They sort of have an Odd Couple relationship. There’s domestic chores issues, food issues and of course ex-girlfriend issues.

They enter a community chess tournament. It is here where we meet another interesting “couple”. Sidney (Ephraim Ellis) is a nattily attired OCD sufferer. His main chess partner is Bob (Matthew Gorman). Bob is a riot. He’s someone we would expect to find at a European death metal concert.

The “music” scene is priceless on so many levels and must be seen. There were also one or two improvised “kismet” events. Sometimes the “theatre fairy” rewards great acting and writing.

As the six-hour chess tournament progresses, the inevitable happens. “Girl trouble” comes between the nerds and their addiction to chess. Nora Smith does a great job as “Susan”, the femme-fatale.

It’s great that in this overly-sensitive atmosphere we can still have a bit of fun onstage without the PC police busting down the doors.

I would have liked to have seen Igor and Karl at home after the tournament. Hopefully there is a sequel!


ZugZwang is playing at Factory Theatre Mainspace, 125 Bathurst Street, Toronto

Thursday August 4th 10:00 PM
Saturday August 6th 12:00 PM
Sunday August 7th  7:30 PM
Wednesday August 10th  5:00 PM
Saturday August 13th  10:00 PM
Sunday August 14th 12:00 PM

– All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.artsboxoffice.ca, by phone at 416.504.7529, in person at the Arts Box Office (located at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave., One block North East of Bathurst & Queen W. M-F 12PM-7PM, Weekends 10AM-8PM) (Advance tickets are $15 +HST and $1 service fee)

– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows