Stratford’s Antony And Cleopatra: The Whole is Lesser Than The Parts. Reviewed by Jamie Portman.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Yanna McIntosh as Cleopatra

Photo David Hou.

STRATFORD — There’s no denying the memorable moments in the Stratford Festival’s new production of Antony And Cleopatra.

For example — the ferocious outburst of sexual rage from Yanna McIntosh’s Cleopatra when she learns that Antony,  Gertain Wyn Davies, the love of her life, has married Octavia. Director Gary Griffin shows a keen sense of dramatic timing here, extracting a mounting tension from the scene before Cleopatra explodes into fury.

That sequence is splendidly theatrical. But, in contrast, we also get displays of tender intimacy. A lovely scene where McIntosh helps the aging and weary Caesar into his armour, has an easy familiarity about it: these are two lovers who know each other well, who are comfortable with each other, who respond to each other naturally.


Bernard Shaw’s early comedy, The Philanderer, makes a stunning return to the Shaw festival – reviewed by Jamie Portman.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Photo: David Cooper. Featuring Marla  McLean and Gord Rand.

NIAGARA-ONTHE-LAKE, Ont. — We’re not really getting full nudity on the stage of the Festival Theatre, but that’s still what the opening moments of The Philanderer manage to suggest.

We’re privy to a couple still in lustful embrace, and they leave us in no doubt about what has just taken place. The man is Leonard Charteris, an accomplished womanizer whose sexual confidence is only matched by his sense of sexual entitlement. The woman is Grace Tranfield, a current conquest and a young widow who has managed to convince herself that the charismatic Leonard is her new soul mate.


The Sea: a beautiful production at Shaw of a strange and beguiling fable that evokes an elusive something; reviewed by Jamie Portman.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Fiona Reid in The Sea. Photo: David Cooper.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont.  —   Edward Bond’s The Sea is perhaps the most personal play he ever wrote in terms of its relationship to his own life, and it’s certainly his most accessible.
But as the Shaw Festival’s sterling new production of this 41-year-old piece reminds us, it’s also a strange and beguiling fable, set a century ago in an East Anglian seaside village and turning its sights on two favorite Bond preoccupations — class and social disorder.
It can seem discordant in performance. The play can touch you to the heart at one moment — witness the poignancy with which its two young protagonists, beautifully played by Wade Bogert-O’Brien and Julia Course, experience a shared loss from a tragic death and also a shared yearning for escape from a repressive environment. Yet, within the compass of this same play, you’ll encounter a funeral service that degenerates into surrealistic farce.


Christina Casts its Spell At Stratford Despite Problematic Script: reviewed by Jamie Portman

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Jenny Young and Graham Abbey. Photo Cylla Von Tiedemann

STRATFORD — She bursts onto the stage of the Tom Patterson Theatre with cyclonic force, a female fury in the elegant garb of a male. But don’t assume we’re getting another variation of a trouser role here.
This not a case of actress Jenny Young simply dressing up like a man. She’s not just making like a 17th Century tomboy. It’s a moot point as to whether she voraciously inhabits the character of Sweden’s endlessly fascinating Queen Christina or whether Christina has taken occupancy of her. The bottom line is that she seizes our attention immediately as — all attitude — she starts berating a hapless court booby named Karl Gustav for his attempts to ravish her.
What comes through here with burning intensity is the forthright young queen’s revulsion at the thought of any intimate contact with a male. Indeed, as Young’s Christina spells out details of Karl’s attempted seduction, we wouldn’t be surprised if she upchucked before our eyes at any moment.


Box Office Opens for the Next Gladstone Season: Featuring Moliere, Tennessee Williams and George Walker!

News from Capital Critics Circle


The Gladstone Theatre

Starting NEXT WEEK the box office reopens for…
The Gladstone
2014–15 Season!

Special in OCTOBER  as a fundraiser for the Royal Ottawa:
Next to Normal, a Musical show to support Mental Health plays the week of October 15 …..

The Gladstone is thrilled to open it’s doors on our most exciting season yet of professional theatre!  With the much-anticipated remount of Hedwig and the Angry Inch already 1/3 sold before the box office has even opened, it’s never been more true that you should subscribe now to get the best seats before it’s too late! Subscriptions and individual show tickets are available online now, but if you prefer to buy in person or over the phone at 613-233-GLAD, the box office reopens next week, Tuesday-Friday, 9am–4pm.
The Gladstone 2014-15 Subscription Series:


A Lovely Sunday for Crève Coeur is a curious hybrid that suggests Williams is wrestling with his own demons.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Photo. David Cooper. Julain Molnar as Miss Gluck

In the Shaw Festival programme, professor/critic Annette J. Saddik writes that in the 1960’s , after his last complete full length play, Williams was exploring “anti-realistic styles, embracing contradictions (…) shifting between minimalism and excess, the tragic and the comic”. This comment certainly introduces us to A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur where the contradiction is already inscribed in the title of the play. However, I would certainly not define Williams’ earlier work as “realistic” by any means with its strong tendency towards expressionism (Streetcar) and even elements of symbolist drama (Menagerie) that he himself has explained in several of his introductions. Nevertheless the anti-realism is very clear in this work and if  Creve Coeur is noted for its “tragicomic playfulness” by  Saddik,  the play as well as this staging, pinpoint the problems that arise with Williams’ attempts at comedy.


Deborah Hay Triumphs Again At The Shaw Festival: Jamie Portman reviews Williams’ A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Photo: Emily Cooper. Featuring  Deborah Hay and Kate Manning.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — This is the summer when Shaw Festival actress Deborah Hay can do wrong.

She’s been in command of the flagship Festival Theatre stage since April with her brilliant performance as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. And now, she’s providing some sublime moments in the festival’s problematic lunch-hour production of Tennessee Williams’s neglected one-act play, A Lovely Sunday For Creve Coeur.

The setting is St. Louis, a city that looms large and traumatically in the playwright’s personal and creative life, and we first meet Dorothea, the character played by Hay, doing calisthenics in the living room. She is another of Williams’s emotionally maimed heroines — not as tragedy-bound as Blanche Dubois, but still vulnerable.


Shaw Festival Scores big with J.B. Priestley’s classic comedy When We Are Married.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Photo: David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — Acerbic American critic John Simon once observed that the Shaw Festival probably has the best acting company in the Western Hemisphere.
And the proof is again in evidence with the festival’s uproarious revival of When We Are Married, J.B. Priestley’s 1938 comedy about three Yorkshire couples who make the shattering discovery at their joint Silver Anniversary party that they were never legally wed.
The play is a cunningly executed fusion of character and situation. It is also a probing and at times painfully funny dissection of a particular culture and of a class system that achieves its own unique definition within the West Riding town of Clecklewyke, which is the fictional stand-in for Priestley’s own birthplace of Bradford.


The Charity That Began at Home: A Forgotten Edwardian Comedy That is a Sheer Delight

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Martin Happer as Hugh Verreker and Julia Course as Margery in The Charity that Began at Home. Photo by David Cooper. .

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — One of the happiest aspects of a Shaw Festival summer is an encounter with its latest archaeological discovery.

The people who run this internationally celebrated theatre are serious about its central mandate — to explore the world of Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries. And that, happily, has led to the rediscovery of neglected dramatists from the past.

When the festival launched a cycle of remarkable plays by Harley Granville Barker, it enjoyed some of the biggest triumphs of its 50-year history. But in the case of the forgotten St. John Hankin, it was rescuing a superb dramatist from an even deeper obscurity.


Stratford Unveils A Provocative New Take On Shakespeare’s Dream Play as Chamber Theatre.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Chamber Play. Photo: Michael Cooper. 

STRATFORD — Forty years ago, a movie called Earthquake arrived in cinemas, its impact heightened by a new system called Sensurround. The aim was to give audience members a truly shuddering experience — not just earth tremors but as close to the equivalent of a full-fledged quake as possible. So if you were an audience member, you felt as though both you and the auditorium were in danger of being shaken to bits.

Indeed, the legendary Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard started losing pieces of ceiling plaster when Earthquake opened there. And in Chicago, alarmed city authorities imposed severe restrictions on the use of Sensurround in its movie houses.