This Master Plan Doesn’t Prepare for a Slippery Sidewalk: REVIEW

The Master Plan at Crows Theatre - photo Dahlia Katz 6618
The Master Plan at Crows Theatre - photo Dahlia Katz 6618

Just like last year, Crow’s Theatre has kicked off its 2023/2024 season with a first class production: the world premiere of The Master Plan! Written by Michael Healey, directed by Chris Abraham and based on the book Sideways: The City Google Couldn’t Buy by Josh O’Kane, The Master Plan hilariously depicts the attempt by Waterfront Toronto to work with Sidewalk Labs to develop a section of Toronto’s Port Lands into a smart city.

In case you do not follow the goings-on at City Hall, in 2016, Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, was selected as Waterfront Toronto’s partner to create sustainable and affordable housing on the prime Toronto eastern waterfront. Sidewalk labs promised to bring climate-friendly tech to build this carbon-neutral neighbourhood named Quayside. Electricity for homes would be conducted along ethernet cables, buildings would be constructed of mass timber, which is not only much more affordable, but also has a higher fire rating than concrete. Walls in housing units would be modular so that dwellers could easily transform a two-bedroom to a one-bedroom if necessary. And modular roads, which would be heated to eliminate ice, would replace sidewalks! No one could argue that these are indeed exciting innovations! However, being a subsidiary of Google, Sidewalk Labs fully intended to capture the personal data of the new neighbourhood’s residents, which had Waterfront Toronto and Toronto citizens raising the red flag about data privacy! Would Sidewalk Labs promise not to sell this valuable data to other companies?

The Master Plan at Crows Theatre - photo Dahlia Katz 6618
The Master Plan at Crows Theatre – photo Dahlia Katz 6618

The Master Plan deftly unpacks the drama surrounding this proposed development and showcases the hamstrung communications between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs. It is referenced more than once that the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, Dan Doctoroff (played outstandingly by Mike Shara) is not a good listener. That is like calling Donald Trump aloof! Doctoroff’s business tactics are about as shifty as a telecom company sales call.

Anyone following Toronto politics will laugh at the truly hilarious depictions of the glacial pace at Toronto City Hall. Tara Nicodemo’s impersonation of Councillor Frances Nunziata haltingly reading a resident’s application for a backyard tree removal was bang on! Yanna McIntosh as former Mayor John Tory also had the audience in stiches mimicking his fast and fluent delivery. The ineptitude of Toronto residents who drive into the Queen’s Quay streetcar entrance was cheekily celebrated!

Joshua Quinlan’s minimal set featured a boardroom table and chairs. Video designer Amelia Scott’s digital screen not only reminded us that the story was about a company owned by the largest search engine in the world, but was used extremely effectively to provide information such as dates of meetings, names of Waterfront Toronto board members and other detail-heavy facts.

Philippa Domville as Meg Davis, Chief Development Officer at Waterfront Toronto, was particularly strong during her empassioned responses to the the legislative committee probing the auditor’s report. Shara brought a huge amount of charm, as well as intense competitiveness in his portrayal of Doctoroff. Peter Fernandes at the Tree executed his lines with brilliant comedic timing.

The Master Plan impressively checks off all the theatre-goer boxes: topical subject, witty writing, a dynamic story line and exceptional acting from the entire cast. Learn about the mind-boggling complexities of this development debacle while having a blast of a time!

Run time is 2 hours and 30 minutes including intermission.

The Master Plan at Crow’s Theatre runs until October 8, 2023. Purchase tickets online or at the Crows’s Theatre Box Office. Crow’s Theatre is located at 345 Carlaw Avenue.

You may be interested in reading, “Uncle Vanya at Crow’s Theatre: Chekhov’s Family Drama Delights: REVIEW“.