The Railway Children : An enjoyable journey through the children’s memories at the OLT.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo. Maria Vartanova

Transposing from one medium to another is always challenging. Yet, The Railway Children has been made into a movie — several times — has been a radio play and, since 2008, a stage play by Mike Kenny. Adapting the Edith Nesbit’s children’s classic to the stage carries particular challenges. First, the storyline is episodic in nature, which can hamper the flow. Then, Nesbit, a committed socialist and one of the founders of the Fabian Society, uses the children’s adventures as a political platform. In addition, because The Railway Children is the youngsters’ view of the events that led to their family’s drastic change of fortunes, it requires a dusting of wonder in its delivery.

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Viol( Schändung) : a magnificently choreographed production of Bothos Strauss’ reworking of Titus Andronicus

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Sixteen tableaux performed by a huge cast of students including a chorus that not only speaks but also transforms itself into parts of the set and integrated symbolic forms, reveals the enormous talents of Miriam Cusson, candidate for the Masters in directing in the theatre department of Ottawa U. She actually choreographs as much as directs this string of sado masochistic rituals of martyrization, and frenzied physical desire set off by the site of the sacrificial victim – violated, slashed and mutilated. A playful mise en abyme of a contemporary horror show where the director brings in the voyeuristic faces of the chorus peering out from the back of the set as they gaze on a whole society coming to pieces. There is the lust, the exhibitionism, the penitence…some of the most violent human instincts come crashing down on the spectator in this captivating parade of ceremonies that holds our attention every second of the evening. . The thread that runs through the performance is inherited from the Elizabethan (or Jacobean) Vengeance tragedies of Thomas Kyd a contemporary of Shakespeare; however, it owes even more to the ultimate vengeance tragedy Thyeste by the roman playwright Seneca that so intrigued Artaud

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The Glass Menagerie: A great tribute to an important play.

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

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Photo.  Courtesy of  Bear & Co.  Cory Thibert  and Sarah Waisvisz

he 1930s were an era that quaked in the wake of the Great Depression. Americans had barely emerged from the horror that was the First World War before plummeting into financial ruin. Tennessee Williams, in his contemporary masterpiece The Glass Menagerie, captures in minute detail the heart of one working-class family who symbolize the convergence of history, family, and place—a trifecta that barres them from exacting any agency of their own.

Director Eleanor Crowder offers the audience a production that captures the listless, hopeless, and desperate spirit of Williams’ play, and emphasizes Tom Wingfield as the driving agent of this drama.

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The Glass Menagerie: A beautiful performance by Tim Oberholzer as son Tom, the narrator of this memory play.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Rachel Eugster and Sarah W aisvisz.  Photo:

This production of The Glass Menagerie , one of Tennessee Williams most important works for the stage, is not a “striking revival” , nor is it “stunning”, “elusive” or even “heart-breaking” but it is certainly surprising. Tim Oberholzer’s performance as Tom the brother/ narrator, and figure closest to Williams own character, was so powerful and so charged with authentic feeling that it shifted the focus away from the women who are at the very heart of this memory play and set it squarely on the near tragic struggle raging within the young narrator. I have never seen such a thing happen with this play and yet it is true. Oberholzer gives  Tom a depth that is very unusual.

The production generally had moments that were quite good especially in the second part when the gentleman caller ( Cory Thibert) comes to visit the timid and terrified Laura (Sarah Waisvisz) but there are also many details that kept interfering with the smooth-running of the show. Why was the little table with all the glass figures hidden off to one side where we could barely see the glass figures or that little unicorn that becomes a powerful symbol in the play? Laura is supposed to have hurt her foot  so that she normally limps. Here the director has chosen to show us Laura the way her mother sees her, with no limp. That removes a certain degree of pathos that is necessary to make us feel that Laura is someone special. Strange choices by the director.

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Fidler on the Roof: This Production is a Splendid Anniversary gift.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Orpheus Musical Theatre Society has given Fidler on the Roof a splendid 50th anniversary gift with its current production.

One of the best loved musicals of all time, Fidler on the Roof by Joseph Stein, with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick is based on the stories about Tevye the milkman by Sholem Aleichem, first published in 1894. The focus of the stories, the musical and the 1971 movie is on Tevye’s vain attempt to maintain Jewish tradition in a changing world. In addition to dealing with each of his three oldest daughters moving further away from the accepted custom of their father selecting appropriate husbands for them, he and his fellow villagers face expulsion from their home during a pogrom.

As directed by Michael Gareau, the Orpheus production is particularly noteworthy for its clarity, attention to detail and respect for the traditions that are Fiddler’s raison d’être. From the simplicity of the opening and the purity of the sound from Danny Albert’s violin through strong characterizations, fine ensemble work, assorted musical highlights and spectacular visuals, this Fiddler has a magical quality.

While the heaviest responsibility falls on the lead character — and Christopher Mallory brings a fine singing voice and a robust characterization to his Tevye — this production is marked by a number of high quality dramatic and musical performances, as well as by an interesting and suitably spare set design from Cindy Bindhardt and fine lighting effects from David Magladry.

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Extremely Short Play Festival: Smooth Direction and Some Sensitive Performances Highlight This 95-minute Collection of Short Plays.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Creating a satisfying dramatic whole in a few minutes is often more challenging than writing a much longer piece. (Remember the adage: “Had to write a long letter. Didn’t have time to write a short one.”?)

Yet, at least three of the plays in this year’s edition of The Extremely Short New Play Festival are dramatically complete and consistently interesting.

Of particular note is Blue Fluted Plain by Adam Meisner, a wrenching tale of family tragedy that tackles the question of the impact on those involved by family connection. Quartet, Pierre Brault’s delightful, tongue-in-cheek look at speed dating, also makes a lasting impact.

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Extremely Short Play Festival: Short, Sweet and not so sweet. Festival lives up to its name.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

 

John Koensgen's New Theatre of Ottawa, has put on three short play festivals.

Photo. Caroline Philips.   John Koensgen’s New Theatre of Ottawa, has put on three short play festivals.

The third edition of The Extremely Short New Play Festival lives up to its name with at least one of the plays ringing in at around two minutes, the longest running maybe five times that, and the whole collection – 10 shows in all – clocking in at about 90 minutes including intermission.

The shows, some good, some not so much, are mostly by local or Canadian playwrights. Mary Ellis, Gabrielle Lazarovitz, Brad Long and John Muggleton handle all the acting, and New Theatre of Ottawa’s John Koensgen directs.

Israel’s Yohanan Kaldi has contributed two very short pieces about the soulless absurdity of institutions. In one, a prison warden (Long, too flip in the role) orders the extermination of fleas that a prisoner (Muggleton) has been training. In the other, a would-be library user (Long again, this time bang on) wreaks a tasty revenge on two control-freak librarians played by Lazarovitz and Ellis. Kaldi’s tiny, well-built plays zip by but leave an unexpected and disquieting echo.

Mikaela Asfour’s Rasha, about two young siblings and violence, comes and goes making little impression. Muggleton is menacing as the brother, but having Ellis, good as she is, play a young girl is ill-advised.

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Some Solid Theatre At This Year’s Extremely Short Play Festival

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo.Andrew Alexander.   Mary Ellis and John Muggleton.

Ottawa’s Extremely Short New Play Festival can always be depended on to yield surprises. To be sure, some entries may prove profoundly uninvolving even even though they mercifully last only a few minutes. But there are always others that yield rich dividends.

Such is the case with the 2014 edition, which continues at the Arts Court Theatre until Nov. 30. As always, director John Koensgen and his actors use a bare stage and the simplest of props. As always, there’s a professional flow to the evening, with one play giving way to the next with a minimum of fuss. And most importantly, the playbill again features a quartet of solid actors — Mary Ellis, Gabrielle Lazarovitz, Brad Long and John Muggleton — giving their all to the material and, in the process, demonstrating their versatility.

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More from the Capital Critics’ Circle Awards

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Photo Brie McFarlaine:   Eric Coates, artistic director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company accepting the award for Best Actor: Paul Rainville   from Alvina Ruprecht

MOnday November 17, 2014.

 

 

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Photo Brie McFarlaine.

Ian Farthing accepting the Audrey Ashley award at the Capital Critics’ Circle awards ceremony on Nov. 17, 2014.

Both Fun & Feeling with “A Craigslist Cantata”

Reviewed by Connie Meng

If you’re looking for an entertaining evening, “Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata” currently running in the NAC Studio certainly fills the bill. Written by Bill Richardson and Amiel Gladstone with music by Veda Hille, the 80 minute chamber musical is quirky, tuneful, wistful and funny. Entirely sung, the lyrics are taken from or inspired by ads on Craigslist – some bizarre, some outrageous and some surprisingly touching. Not everyone needs a potato cannon or headless dolls, but we can understand the longing to make some kind of connection.

Robin Fisher’s simple set of a light-colored wood floor with a grand piano up left and percussion equipment up right is backed by a flat jungle gym of black piping. Her costumes are good, allowing for just enough minimal changes of costume pieces. Kimberly Purtell’s lighting is excellent, often providing a soft pervasive glow. I especially liked the hanging work lights.

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