“Love! Valour! Compassion! A fine ensemble production that is moving, amusing and brings one close to tears!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

It is not surprising that a thread of anger runs through Love! Valour! Compassion! given that Terrence McNally’s award-winning play had its première in 1994. This was a time when the scourge of AIDs was felling many, primarily homosexual men, and being HIV positive was a death sentence.

Buzz and James, two of the eight characters in Love! Valour! Compassion!, are near death. By contrast, long-time couple Arthur and Perry have escaped AIDs and mark their fourteenth anniversary together in physical health, as they repair the health of their relationship. Meanwhile, aging choreographer Gregory must come to terms with his inability to dance as he once could and deal with a recurring speech impediment. His balance is restored when he is with his young partner, Bobby, who is blind but undaunted by his disability. Another regular member of the group that meets at Gregory’s home is the angry and bitter John. With him is Ramon — handsome, virile, passionate and promiscuous — the catalyst who upsets the equilibrium the rest have achieved over the years.


Trisha Brown Dance Company: as fresh and contemporary as ever.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Photo: NAC    Set and Reset from the Trisha Brown Dance Company

Ottawa audiences were treated to an exclusive Canadian engagement by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, presenting some of choreographer Trisha Brown’s seminal experiments in postmodern dance performance. Trisha Brown began creating work in 1960 and she formed her Dance Company in 1970 so the four short works we saw, ranging over a period of 28 years, from 1983 to 2011, actually represented important moments of most of her creative career. What stood out was the way they all spoke to each other, all echoing elements that appeared in each of the other performances, each one appearing so fresh, and contemporary, without the slightest hint that anything was dated or past its time. This form of dance-performance gives one the impression that her work represents  a constant process of intense research as it tries to position itself in relation to that which already exists but that is somehow insufficient and even stifling and has to be overcome.

. Take If You Couldn’t See Me, featuring a single dancer who faces upstage the whole time. Dressed in a flimsy orange dress that glowed in those strong lights, she kept finding positions that foregrounded her arms, her legs, her hips, her shoulders until one suddenly realized that this performance was in the process of changing the spectators gaze. We are watching a body with no face, no eyes, no expression, no emotion and no psychological points of reference. It erases the narrative totally, covers the head in brown hair and deflects our gaze to the back of the body. What dancer has ever had to dance from that perspective before? We watch the creation of a new dancing body, .one that performs from the back using its shoulders, its feet, its heels, its buttocks and the fluttering skirt, …and Robert Rauschenberg’s lighting and costumes helped transform this flittering bit of sparkling orange light into a new moving being… Enchanting!


The Norman Conquests: A Historic Moment of Back to Back Theatre in Ottawa.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Photo: Julie Le Gal : Table Manners with David Whiteley, Margo MacDonald, Steve Martin.  (Apartment 613)

Robert Lepage’s (Les Sept Branches de la Rivière Ota) in Quebec city lasted six hours; the Belgian production Rwanda 94, at the Festival TransAmérique in Montreal went beyond 6 hours . These were both in French. In English Canada, such an event is almost unheard of and yet such a production has come to the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa. Director John P. Kelly, is staging British author Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy The Norman Conquests, based on a weekend in a middle class household in the British countryside where a family has come together because their aging mother is ill. Each of the 2 hour episodes which continue through the whole weekend, takes place at the same time but in a different room of the house, so the perspectives change and the audience is privy to different reactions and additional information which add depth and detail to this microcosm of British society that unfolds before our eyes. Thus, a great theatrical moment awaits you. Bring a sandwich and a drink and settle in.


The Norman Conquests: Round and Round the Garden an absolute treat packaged in a good laugh

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

AL Connors as Norman and Margo MacDonald as Sarah Photo by David Whiteley

AL Connors as Norman and Margo MacDonald as Sarah
Photo by David Whiteley

The Norman Conquests is a trilogy. It takes place in a family house in the British countryside, where Annie lives with her invalid mother. She plans to spend a weekend with her sister’s (Ruth) husband, Norman, in a hotel. Everything is set. Her admirer and neighbour Tom believes that she is to go alone, but actually wants him to come with her and Annie’s brother Reg and his wife Sara come to stay with their mother for that weekend. However, somehow things come askew, and they all  end up spending the weekend together as Annie’s guests. 

In the third part of The Norman Conquests, Round and Round the Garden, Ayckbourn still deals with the same domestic issues as in the previous two (Table Manners and Living Together). The characters are the same and it is the same weekend, but while Table Manners takes place in the dining room and Living Together in the living room, Round and Round the Garden is set in the garden. With the last part of the trilogy performed, this outstanding play wraps up in a meaningful way as a combination of a comedy of manners, domestic turmoil and above all, a fantastic character study.

Although comedy might seem to be a lighter genre of drama because of its humorous approach to reality, it is probably the hardest one to pull off. Because it is so easy to go overboard and make it a clownish non-artistic performance, it demands a huge amount of talent and innate sense of balance.     (more…)


News from Capital Critics Circle


Photo: Binary Rhyme.  Left to right:  Jeremy Sanders (Gabe), Skye MacDiarmid (Diana) and Kodi Cannon (Drs.Fine and Madden)

Theatre Fundraising Event in Support of the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health

indie women productions (iwp) is pleased to present NEXT TO NORMAL  at Centrepointe Studio Theatre from October 20th to 24th, 2015, directed by C. Lee Bates. In October 2014, iwp presented the multi award winning rock musical as a fundraiser for The Royal. With five sold out shows and a student matinee, a donation of $15,000 was turned over to The Royal to help continue the important work they are doing in our community.

Following last year’s production, iwp received considerable positive feedback about the show and also many regrets from those that were not able to attend during the short run. This remount will provide the opportunity for more people to see this unique, powerful and unforgettable musical that will entertain and, at the same time, raise awareness about the unique challenges families face when dealing with mental health issues.


“Dear Johnny Deere” Bang-up Season Finale at 1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque

Reviewed by Connie Meng

Photo: Jay Bridges

Photo: Jay Bridges

The 1000 Islands Playhouse is closing out their season with a foot-stomping production of “Dear Johnny Deere.” The book is by Ken Cameron and is based on the music and lyrics of Fred Eaglesmith, with additional music and arrangements by Music Director David Archibald. If you’re not familiar with Fred Eaglesmith, and I wasn’t, his funny and evocative songs have garnered numerous awards in the US and Canada in the country and bluegrass fields.

Playwright Cameron has woven a plot around 15 Fred Eaglesmith songs. Johnny, well-played by Greg Gale, and his wife Caroline, again well-played by Shannon Currie, are having emotional, financial, and farming problems. Into the mix comes Mike, played by the versatile Bruce Horak, with an offer to buy the farm. Mr. Horak also plays Johnny’s father and a snobbish tractor collector. The whole is narrated by the excellent Jeff Culbert playing Johnny’s neighbor, McAllister. The only cast member who doesn’t speak is the dynamite fiddler Capucine Onn. As you might expect, everything works out. These are all good actors, but the show is really about the music.

Listing a few of the song titles will give you the idea: “White Trash,” “Spookin’ the Horses,” “I Wanna Buy Your Truck,” “Old John Deere,” “Time to Get a Gun,” and “It’s Got a Bench Seat Baby” that includes a snippet of “It’s a Mighty Big Car.” All these actors are terrific singers, including Music Director David Archibald, and they all play multiple instruments. (more…)

The Barber of Seville: Modern take on the classic opera loses on atmosphere

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Photo: Nance Price

Photo: Nance Price

The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini, long proclaimed to be the opera buffa of all “opere buffe,” is one of the, if not the greatest masterpieces in its genre. It has been an audience favourite for almost 200 years (it was first premiered on February 20, 1816 in Rome) for a reason. Six years after its debut (in 1822), Ludwig van Beethoven said to Rossini (they were communicating in writing): “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. It will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but opera buffa; any other style would do violence to your nature.”

So, what is so great about this opera? Of course, it is the music (in operatic art it always comes first). Rossini gives the opera his own signature with his bubbling, melodic style, very often compared to champagne. The expression “Rossini crescendo” is coined after his famous musical crescendo, which culminates in a solo vocal cadenza. (more…)

Good to Go. Election show at the Cube Gallery:

News from Capital Critics Circle


Allan Harding MacKay : Court Painter: Good To Go!

October 6 – 25

The Great Game" Vernissage (The artist will be in attendance) Thursday, Oct. 8th, 6:00 – 9:00 pm  Get political at Cube Gallery as renowned Alberta artist Allan Harding MacKay casts his gimlet eye on scandals in the Senate, stirs the election pot, and pokes our public conscience. Court Painter, Good to Go! is an exhibition of MacKay at his searing, satirical best as he takes aim at all things political from the ongoing trial of suspended Senator Mike Duffy, the follies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the tomfoolery of some of Canada’s other top public figures.    

MacKays skillfully constructed collages are created from the vantage of the Court Painter as chronicler of Canada’s politicos, players, journalists and hangers-on in a revival of the traditional relationship between the artist and those who consider themselves to be the ruling elite.   Look closely at this contemporary take on The Court Painter and be prepared to be shocked and bemused by MacKay’s penchant for political peccadilloes.


The Barber of Seville : Extraordinary stage business challenges the singers.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Photo: Barb Gray.  Joshua Hopkiins (Figaro) and Marion Newman(Rosina).

Just as Brian MacDonald transformed Gilbert and Sullivan into light opera, just as Steven Sondheim’s musicals could often be considered light opera, why not do the reverse and transform Rossini’s Opera Buffa into musical theatre where all the spoken parts are sung in any case, and comedy dominates the whole event? This production, which originates in Vancouver is a treat for the eye and is clearly aimed at a general even non-opera going audience that just wants an evening of entertainment in the lush setting of the National Arts Centre. Why not? Opera is not the sole possession of specialists. If Opera Lyra has to seduce the audience by setting Count Almaviva’s attempts to declare his love to Rosina on the set of a 1940’s film of Carmen, (Bizet’s version I imagine) – a sort of mise en abyme musical, why not? It was all supported by conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia’s fine direction that emphasized the heightened comic drama of the artists and produced excellent moments of music. The chorus of extras who changed costumes, who ran around trying to get their  hair cut by Figaro, the cheeky foppish barber and stylist of the film crew, sung by Baritone Joshua Hopkins, created an amusing performance. Also film-like with gangster undertones were the two sinister body guards who kept close to Rosina so that her impatient lover Almaviva (Lindoro), could not get near her as Bartolo snorted with anger in the background. Director Dennis Garnhum created numerous stage dramas operating simultaneously and eventually he transformed the whole cast into excellent actors whose timing was impeccable, whose sense of fun worked beautifully. A comedy of near epic proportions!!


PigeonsAffamés: à la biennale de Zones théâtrales.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Photo: Théâtre du  Trillium

PigeonsAffamés ..conçu par Anne Marie White, vocabulaire corporel et entrainement physique : Mylène Roi; une production du Théâtre du Trillium.

Dance /théâtre/chanson/mime/choréographie/mouvement/sonorité/lumières qui font tourner la tête et vibrer les pulsations vitales…Curieuse rencontre entre le laisser aller et la discipline parfaite, entre les rythmes d’une jeunesse confuse et effrénée- et la contrainte d’une foule de corps obéissants. l’espace ou Étienne Decroux, Brigitte Haentjens et une boite disco se rencontrent! Que dire de plus??

Présenté à la Biennale Zones théâtrales, à Ottawa. 18 -19 septembre, 2015.