The Daisy Theatre : ferocious humour fuels great theatre!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Alejandro Santiago: Little Woody Lindon and Meyer Lemon.

Ronnie Burkett is back in Ottawa, creating havoc and palpitations as he unleashes his special brand of ferocious humour on our city. This time, our creative genius from Western Canada, has freed himself from a narrative, from a script, from a specific lineup of acts as he puts many of his performance choices in the hands of his favourite audience: menopausal ladies and gay guys!! Yes the audience is offered choices and thus, no one is spared, everyone goes through the Burkett meat grinder this time and one leaves the theatre with one’s head twirling!! Such a show!

This time he has created a theatre within his theatre, The Daisy Theatre proscenium puppet arch is set up in the middle of the stage. It features a sequence of performances by his puppet characters drawn from former shows but that appear on their own, putting on their own individual monologues that reveal their naughty secrets, the underbelly of their obsessions, their troubles and their true selves. They are cleansed of any serious narrative that turned them into characters in a play because now, they are on stage as “themselves”, that is, as manipulated by Burkett who takes advantage of the situation to confront his puppets, and ultimately to put himself in the foreground. His multiple voices, his flowing monologue, his quick and clever shifting from one situation to another as his characters tumble out nonstop is a marvel to watch and hear. He grabs the various puppets all set up backs stage, hangs over the little puppet stage, gives stage directions to the lighting people to the sound director and off he goes with no apparent prompter of any kind because there is no script as he keeps reminding us.

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Extremely Short New Play Theatre Festival. A good evening of discovery with some genuine surprises!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo of cast. Courtesy of John Koensgen and the Extremely Short New Play Theatre Festival

11 short plays presented one after the other , each one lasting a maximum of 10 minutes, selected out of a total of 150 from all over the continent, is a definite sign that this “Short New Play” event is catching on and enticing young writers to submit their work. Judging by what we saw opening night (Saturday Nov. 27) at the Avalon Theatre on Bank St. there are several individuals who can write for the stage and who are not at all hampered by time constraints, in fact it seems to propel their writing on. The difficulty is usually how to finish the piece and make it all tie together, or finish the evening by opening a new door to something even more exciting, distressing or disturbing!

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Welfarewell : Social Satire or Middle Class Indulgence?

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest reviewer, Jim Murchisson

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Photo: Phoenix Players. IEllen Clare O’Gallagher  in Welfarewell.

It was a cool, dank Friday evening as I headed into the warmth of the Gladstone Theatre to see the Phoenix Players production of Welfarewell. As I entered into the theatre I was greeted by a cozy, economical little set made up of three primary playing areas: stage left a table and chairs serve as various meeting areas (rehearsal hall, police station, holding room, etcetera) centre stage is used primarily as a jail cell but doubles as a courthouse with minor adjustments and the stage right space works well as a tiny basement apartment or bank teller’s area.

The premise of the play is pretty interesting as it goes. An aging actress can no longer make ends meet and strategizes to commit a crime, anticipating that she might enjoy a better quality of life in prison in her waning years. Playwright, Cat Delaney inserts Shakespeare, liberally ensuring that there are some great lines in this play, but she does not meet the challenge of matching the power of Shakespearean dialogue with her own.

The problem is that Cat Delaney’s characters are sadly stereotypical. You have the feeling that this was written by someone observing poor souls from a suburban window and dropping a loonie in their hat while looking the other way. The result is a play of middle class indulgence rather than social relevance.

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Empire of the Son: An important father-son portrait curiously dilluted by this production

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. courtesy of the NAC, English Theatre.

The Empire of the Son is a one man show that raises important questions which much contemporary theatre is asking. Questions of memory and migration, of individuals trying to define their identity by discussing their origins, or their parents origins, or the difficulties related to generational conflict, or fitting into a host society that did now always open its doors to these newcomers attempting to rid themselves of the trauma of rejection or violence suffered in the past. Such writers/performers such as Wajdi Mouawad, Mani Souleymanlou are emblematic of this but even more recently during Zone Théâtrale (Ottawa) we saw Sans Pays, by budding playwright Anna Beaupré Moulounda. She is a product of a Québécois mother and a father from the Congo, discussing growing up in Abitibi and what it meant to be an outsider. These cases are all different and they show how migration, generates multiple questions that each individual must confront.

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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago: A judicious choice of choreographers that creates a revealing evening.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Tod Rosenburg . Falling Angels by Jiri Kylian, music by Steve Reich.

There is no doubt that Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is focusing on an extremely contemporary realm of performing bodies that is having important consequences on the way we see “dance” and on the way we speak of an activity called “dance”” but which definitely needs a new designation . Let’s just say, last night we saw and heard “life in movement” as the Company prefers to name what it does.

In keeping with this orientation towards corporeal research, the Hubbard Street Dance has brought together some of the most important names in contemporary dance whose works were already created earlier in Europe. However, presented together in this special evening, the connections and the links between all these choreographers become all the more obvious and extremely revealing: the way their perception of the moving body and its relationship to sound and choreographed movement, appears to be even more closely tied to recent technology, to the way bodies are exposed and defined through contemporary images, videos, tablets, iPhone, all the means currently at our disposal to project and redefine the human creature, without necessarily showing the audience these sources directly. Whizzing throughout the internet, human consciousness becomes the expression of disarticulated body parts that almost appear to disengage themselves from the human brain and become involuntary reactions , provoked by the physicality of sound around them.

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The Extremely Short Play Festival 2016 : At the Avalon watch for it.

News from Capital Critics Circle

Programme:

War on Thugs by Brad Long
The Cold Blue Flame of Love by Brian K. Stewart
Anniversary by Ronit Rubinstein
The Paperboy Comes Before Dawn by Aaron Adair
B4U Know It by John Levine
Hitchers by Joe Purcell and Kate Danley
The Patient by James Belich
Blind Date by Christine Weems
Please Remain Seated by Gary Choy
Check-In by Ron Frankel
Necktie by John Minigan

THE ESNPF 2016 WILL TAKE PLACE AT THE AVALON STUDIO November 25, 26, 27 and December 2, 3, 4 @8 PM
Tickets $23

Cantata Singers of Ottawa’s Christmas concert Dec. 8 presents a varied programme – fun for the entire family.

News from Capital Critics Circle

 

The Cantata Singers of Ottawa’s Christmas concert, “Family Christmas Spectacular”, takes place on December 18 at 3 pm in St. Joseph’s Church, 174 Wilbrod Street.

Artistic Director, Andrew McAnerney has designed a programme to put everyone in a Christmas mood for the week before Christmas.  And audience participation will be encouraged! The programme is designed to appeal to people of all ages, children, seniors and family groups.  It’s a perfect opportunity for grandparents, aunts, uncles to have that pre-Christmas outing with their grandchildren, nieces or nephews.  (FYI: Children under 12 are free.)

The CSO season brochure describes it as “Favourite Christmas music old and new – including sing-alongs, fanfares, descants and more!”  The concert programme will deliver on this promise.

Those attending will be hearing glorious Christmas music performed by the CSO and their guest artists: Ottawa Children’s Choir; harpist (and JUNO Award nominee) Caroline Léonardelli and the Cathedral Brass.

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The Addams Family: Orpheus Stars Shine Under a Supermoon

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest critic Jim Murchison

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Photo, courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre

The original creator of The Addams Family, Charles Addams could likely not have imagined the long lasting effect he would have on popular culture when he inked his first drawing for the New Yorker in 1938. Countless reincarnations in TV, animation and film have allowed these characters to endure into the 21st century.

The musical version written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa is a well crafted tale of love discovered, love lost and love regained that has been a favourite theme since civilization first picked up a pen, a quill or a rock and started writing. This isn’t heavy stuff. It is quintessential entertainment, the perfect antidote for the post election blues and although the play is about an eccentric, wealthy American family living in New York there are no other frightening similarities to the first family elect. They’re a little macabre to be sure, but generally loving.

The front curtain for this production is a drop of portraits of the Addams’ framed by cobwebs. When it lifts, it reveals a gnarly old tree stage right stretching its craggy limbs over a dark gated cemetery as if ready to pluck someone up and toss them towards the gorgeous full moon.

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The Addams Family: Orpheus Musical Theatre makes the most of a mediocre story.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo, courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre

Charles Addams has a lot to answer for. He was the cartoonist who created the one-panel cartoons about the ghoulish Addams Family that appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1938.

He could not know that his creation would become an American institution. Stories of the family morphed into a television sitcom in the 1960s, followed by a cartoon version in the next decade, two movies in 1991 (starring Anjelica Houston) and 1993 (The Addams Family Values) and even a video game and a very popular pinball machine later in the decade. Finally, in 2010, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (the pair who wrote the script of The Jersey Boys) developed a Broadway musical version with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.

Does the musical work? As much as any one-gag repeater with a wafer-thin storyline and constant reminders of one-panel cartoons can. Does Orpheus Musical Theatre Society make the most of a mediocre product? Unquestionably.

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Straight Jacket Winter: Une poétique de chaos de grande envergure!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Renaud Philippe

L’esprit de Réjean Ducharme (l’Hiver de Force, prix du gouverneur général) plane sur ce spectacle. Un couple, emblématique de la contreculture des années 1960-70, en proie à une profonde solitude et un malaise existentiel, se déplace à travers le pays. Ensemble, ces jeunes sont à la recherche d’un « paradis perdu », qui donnerait du sens à leur vie quotidienne inhabituelle, un espace qui serait leur « chez eux » dans ce Canada hivernal  qui ne semble pas vouloir les accueillir. Ils sont désormais installés à Vancouver, l’autre bout du pays, loin de leur monde montréalais où ils ont du mal à se faire des amis. Toutefois, même lorsqu’ils reviennent voir la famille au Québec, ils ont l’impression que la vie les a dépassés, ils n’y sont plus tout à fait chez eux. Voici que les contestataires des années 1960 deviennent des figures emblématiques de la postmodernité puisqu’ils incarnent le flux constant de l’existence et ils finissent par se retrancher dans leur seul refuge leur petit appartement , où  seuls leurs rapports passionnels, leurs pulsions créatrices remplissent l’espace/temps de leur existence.

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