Dumbo Squid (Birdtown and Swanville) SummerWorks 2012 Review

Don’t be fooled by the adorable title: Dumbo Squid playing at SummerWorks is far from cute and cuddly.  An hour in the dark depths of Aurora Stewart De Peña’s play and my date and I were emotionally-eating banana pudding and gelato.

It’s a play that requires some sweetness afterwards to compensate for the violence (both implied and actual) and the incredible mounting tension throughout.

‘The Girlfriend’ and ‘The Boyfriend’ are up to something, and their motivations or exact plans are never uncovered.  There’s a disembodied young voice (‘The Girl’) punctuating the piece with cute, youthful insight.

Something is either going very wrong, or going exactly as planned, and due to the incredible acting of both Nika Mistruzzi and Kaleb Alexander, it is very disturbing to watch.

Like every SummerWorks show I’ve seen this year, this was a professional, dynamic performance that could easily be remounted to critical acclaim.  But that doesn’t mean it was fun to experience.

Director Charlotte Gowdy created such a terrifying scene in combination with the subtle but intentioned lighting by Oz Weaver and music and sounds by Alia O’Brien and Andrew Zuckerman that it was beyond theatre: it was a real life nightmare.

My date found it triggering and upsetting, and I was wholly impressed, but glad when it was over.

Thank heavens for ice cream.


  • Dumbo Squid is playing at the Scotiabank Studio Theatre at Pia Bouman (6 Noble Street) (not the Scotiabank Movie Theatre)
  • Remaining performances: Wed. August 15, 7:30 PM, Sat. August 18, 7:30 PM, Sun. August 19, 2:30 PM
  • All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://ticketwise.ca, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the Lower Ossington Box Office (located at 100A Ossington Avenue) Mon. – Sun. 12PM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows