Narnia: A flawed production with lots of spirit

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

NarniaEarly on in Narnia, a cranky housekeeper tells the four Pevensie children, sent to the English countryside during World War Two, that they all “have that ‘I’m going to explore Marbleton Manor’ look. Forget it. The Age of Exploration is over. Understood?” Thankfully, the four completely ignore her and, as a result, are transported to the magical world of Narnia. The story, by C.S. Lewis, is a childhood classic and combines allegory and adventure into an exciting and through-provoking work. It’s a big bite for any company to take and 9Th Hour Theatre makes a valiant effort with the complex, often quite dark subject matter. The performance has its flaws, but manages to respect the depth of Lewis’ work, while still keeping it appropriate and fun for the younger members of the audience.

The story takes the Pevensie children – Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy – to the land of Narnia, a frozen wasteland of perpetual winter (but never Christmas) ruled by the White Witch, Queen Jadis (a wonderfully expressive, over-the top Gabrielle Lalonde). After stumbling into this land, the four meet magical talking animals, as well as their once king, Aslan. The children are informed of a prophecy stating that, as sons of Adam and Eve, they are to be the future kings and queens of Narnia. They join the revolution and, with the help of Aslan, defeat the White Witch. Other than an entertaining adventure, the story is also an allegory for Christ’s sacrifice. Aslan gives his life for the wayward Edmund, who betrays his siblings and joins the White Witch, becoming her prisoner. (more…)

The Arabian Nights comes to Cambridge: Spinning Ancient Tales for a Modern Audience.

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Christopher James Webb and Andrew Tung - Photo A. R. Sinclair Photography

Photo: A.R. Sinclair

The Central Square Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts is currently presenting Arabian Nights as their holiday show, making the festive season more welcoming to all. This universal classic compilation, which has its roots in tales that originated across centuries in Persia, India, and Arabia, among others, is fittingly played by a multi-racial cast. Out of the hundreds, if not a thousand and one stories, adapter Dominic Cooke selected five, two of which, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” and “Sinbad the Sailor” are well known. Familiar character names are somewhat exoticized; Schahrazad instead of Scheherazade, for instance.

Advertised as a family show, it contains sexism, abuse of power, and violence that in 2014 have a disconcerting pertinence to current politics, given recent news accounts of beheadings in Muslim countries. The framing story tells of the King’s vengeance against all women because of his dead wife’s infidelity. Each night, he rapes a virgin and has her beheaded the following morning. In this version, however, Schahrazad volunteers as a victim in the belief – validated in the end – that she will be able to change his thinking through the power of storytelling. She is willing to risk death to be able to save the lives of young women. Her ploy is to entertain the King with tales so that he will spare her to hear another.

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Alice Through the Looking Glass at the National Arts Centre: nonsensical sense and visual wildfire for the contemporary gaze.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photographer: Barb Gray. Karen Robinson as the Red Queen, Natasha Greenblatt as Alice.

When Jillian Keiley meets Lewis Carroll and James Reaney, I’m tempted to say that the witty story and vastly playful language of Carroll that hinges on all sorts of sly social comments (“words mean what you chose them to mean” says one of the characters) are soon taken over by a bouncy and colourful staging that plays directly to children’s fantasy. There are balloons, flying things , and all sorts of unimaginable props, with Bretta Gerecke’s complexly designed and striking costumes , Kimberly Portell’s magical lighting , John Gzowski’s sound, Jonathan Monro’s orchestrations and especially Dayna Tekatch,s choreography, all taking us in various directions at once . The production team stars in this fantasy that leads to pure visual chaos and muddles the narrative but it certainly holds the audience’s attention because of the visual excitement it generates, almost for its own sake where staging is based on non-stop gags and costumes that take your breath away.

Obviously the spirit of Carroll has been relocated in the visual which suits a theatrical language for young people because much of the book’s wit has a whole level that is not for children.

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Alice through the Looking Glass : Like Tim Burton on Uppers

Reviewed by Connie Meng

DSC_0027Photo. Barb Gray. Natasha Greenblatt as Alice, Herbie Barnes and Darrell Dennis as TweedleDum and TweedleDee

Jillian Keiley’s production of “Alice Through the Looking-Glass,” adapted by James Reaney from the Lewis Carroll classic, is awash with ingenious and colorful sets and costumes, audience participation and good music. However Carroll’s thoughtful and philosophical parts of the story, even the fact that it’s a coming of age for Alice, are drowned out by all the bells and whistles. I’m afraid Alice purists will be dismayed, but this version is great fun and undoubtedly entertaining.

A co-production with the Stratford Festival where it played last summer, it uses the all the technical aspects of that production, but with different actors. Bretta Gerecke’s chess board floor slopes upward toward the back, perfect for the Red and White Queens to slide down. The squares even light up as Alice makes her moves.

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Phèdre de Jérémie Niel: Une lecture jeune et fiévreuse qui remonte au passé pour cerner le présent.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Marie Brassard, Benoît Lachambre, Emmanuel Schwartz

Photo. Alexandre de Bellefeuille

Cette interprétation de Phèdre, sombre et inquiétante, évoque un monde de dieux cruels qui interviennent directement contre les trois protagonistes qui incarnent les pulsions pures, manifestations des forces d’origine de l’humanité. L’œuvre s’inspire de Sénèque (Hippolyte) et surtout de Racine (Phèdre). Cette version commence par Thésée (Benoit Lachambre) qui pleure la mort de son fils Hippolyte et de sa femme Phèdre, dont les cadavres gisent à ses pieds. La suite devient un retour en arrière cauchemardesque, orchestré par le Coryphée (Mani Soleymanlou). Assis dans la salle, il remonte à la scène, regarde l’espace du jeu un peu perplexe, consulte les textes jonchant le sol pour organiser la sélection des extraits et donne des indications d’éclairage aux techniciens. Cette impression de mise en abyme donne au personnage du coryphée une fonction peu habituelle. Il est celui qui gère le spectacle, parlant à peine mais il est aussi celui qui invite les protagonistes mythiques sur scène, des figures à mi-chemin entre le visible et l’invisible, propulsées par des sonorités vrombissantes et la respiration terrifiante des dieux qui surveillent chacun de leurs gestes. Le concepteur et metteur en scène Jérémie Niel a éliminé les confidents ainsi que la princesse Aricie pour ne garder que les trois figures essentielles de la catharsis, celles qui doivent toucher les spectateurs et les transformer par la pitié et la frayeur. Le jeu commence bien!

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The Radio Show: Christmas Classics: ends Sunday, December 14 at The Gladstone

News from Capital Critics Circle

The Gift of the Magi,’Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Little Prince and other timeless treats.

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Photo Kathy Arnold.
December 10–14 (preview December 9)
Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Featuring works by O. Henry and others
Directed by Teri Loretto-Valentik and David Whiteley

Always a song and story spectacular, the popular Radio Show is back! This time, it’s an evening of heart-warming holiday classics for the entire family. Join us for an night of vintage fun with live re-tellings of The Gift of the Magi, ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Little Prince and other timeless treats. The Gladstone Sisters are back with some local celebs and sing along carols and the result is pure enjoyment for the holidays.

Tickets:

Adult: $29.49 + $0.60 ticket fee + HST = $34
Senior (65+): $25.95 + $0.60 ticket fee + HST = $30
Student/Artist*/Unwaged: $17.10 + $0.60 ticket fee + HST = $20
Preview performance: $15.33 + $0.60 ticket fee + HST = $18

*including Theatre Ontario members

Narnia coming to Ottawa next week.

News from Capital Critics Circle

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^Narnia coming soon, Photo. Kathy Arnold

Necessary Monsters: A Carnivalesque Journey Through the Dark Side of Human Nature

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

BCA ResCo - SpeakEasy Stage Company - Necessary Monsters

Evelyn Howe as Faye the Fairy.  Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

John Kuntz’s fantastical Necessary Monsters (whose title is borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges), now at Boston’s Speakeasy Stage, first saw the light of day in 2011 at the Boston Conservatory where Kuntz devised it with his acting class. Impressed with its possibilities, the Speakeasy Company decided to give Necessary Monsters its professional début. Although Kuntz staged it at the Conservatory, directing chores for this production are in the capable hands of David R. Gammons, who has often worked with John Kuntz, a well-known Boston actor. In Necessary Monsters, Kuntz plays the waiter Stephen, a rare kindly character; Theo, a maniacal psychiatrist; and a nameless steward. Necessary Monsters’ fourteen roles are performed by eight talented actors.

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Mechanicsville Monologues: The book is available in bookstores now.

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Mechanicsville Monologues are now available at Perfect Books at 258 Elgin St., beside Elgin St. video. Two complete shows are included with every copy including the burlesque interludes. Every copy we sell helps us fund our next production. The gorgeous Hintonburg/Mechanicsville woodcut/collage style cover is by Dave Bromley.

Donnie Laflamme’s work is contributing to the popular history of Ottawa..

….AR.

The Tale of a Town: the Ottawa portion of the show reveals disparate stories that remind us we are still one community

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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Toronto’s FIXT POINT theatre company is on a three-year, nationwide mission. Its goal: to remind us who we are by interviewing residents of cities and towns across Canada about their memories of their main street areas and then presenting the highlights of those interviews in mixed-media shows collectively called The Tale of a Town. FIXT POINT creates a new show for every city or town, drawing on local and other actors as collaborators and performers.

When The Tale of a Town Storymobile, a small, round-shouldered trailer outfitted with benches and audio equipment, arrived in Ottawa in mid-November, residents from Orleans, downtown and Wellington West contributed their memories inside it as well as online and by telephone. The FIXT POINT team quickly put together and rehearsed the show and this week performed it over three nights in those same three areas of the city. We attended the Friday night show at the in-the-round venue in Orleans – an empty retail site adjacent to the Shenkman Arts Centre. On stage performing multiple roles, singing and playing musical instruments: Ottawa performers Emily Pearlman, Patrick Gauthier and Katie Swift as well as visiting artists Adam Paolozza and Norah Sadava. Behind the scenes: FIXT POINT’s co-founders/play creators/directors Lisa Marie DiLiberto and Charles Ketchabaw.

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