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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CCCAwards for the 2013-14 season

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Photo, Barb Gray.   Best design (Professional) by James Lavoie for The Financier. Winner of the new Cube Gallery award.

 

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Photo Kathi Langston THE CRITICS!!!

 

OTTAWA, November 17, 2014 – The Capital Critics Circle today announced the winners of the fifteenth annual theatre awards for plays presented in English in the National Capital Region during the 2013-2014 season. The winners are:

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Ian Farthing  wins the Audrey Ashley award for excellence in his field. His work with the Saint Lawrence Shakespeare Festival opened up a professional Shakespeare Festivalfor all the actors in the area and opened new posibilities for theatre in the area…

Tim Oberholzer  won  the CCC special award for his performance as Hedwig ……in Hedwig and the  Angry Inch

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Photo: Nicole Milne, Cast of Glengarry Glen Ross.

Best professional production:The Avalon Studio’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet, directed by Geoff Gruson.

Best community theatre production:The Orpheus Musical Theatre Society’s production of Monty Python’s Spamalot, book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle, directed by Bob Lackey, musical direction by Terry Duncan, choreography by Christa Cullain.

Best director (professional):Ron Jenkins for Enron by Lucy Prebble, National Arts Centre English Theatre.

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Do You Want what I have got. A craigslist cantata: quiet jibing at human foibles.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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Bree Greig and Marguerite Witvoet

Photo: Barb Gray.

Richardson’s occasionally deranged sense of humour and eye for the poignant are well-paired with Hille’s partiality to the offbeat. The combination emerges in numbers like performer Bree Greig’s ode to transience, in which she sings about 300 stuffed penguins that she’d like to dispose of now that she’s finished university and is living, jobless, back at her parents’ home, and is aware that her youth is vanishing over the horizon. It’s a number that starts out funny and ends up wistful.

Dmitry Chepovetsky gives us a total scammer who offers, for a fee, to care for the pets of those who believe they’re going to be carted off to the ever-after in the coming Rapture. Chepovetsky, who’s a pleasure to watch, also depicts the just plain weird side of human desire when he sings an ad looking for someone to sit in a bathtub of noodles (cooked noodles, mind you) in a one-piece bathing suit. What part of the brain, you ask yourself, births such fantasies?

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Do you want what I have got? A Craigslist Cantata; Witty Cyber Hi-jinx at the NAC.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Bree Greig  Photo: Barbara Gray

Fans of the Cantata singers of Ottawa might wonder what the relation is between Craigslist and their own style of singing and musical accompaniment but they should be reassured that this is much closer to Cabaret . This collage of musical numbers that work to different degrees, brings together various popular rhythms , dance music, Kurt Weill ”ish” sounds of discordant and dramatic moments, musical parody and a lot more. A generally good musical score underlies this quirky musical event bringing to life a musical and physical interpretation of the nature of that web site that advertises everything, that seeks anything at all . It accumulates ads and letters that don’t connect, that don’t allow for any kind of traditional dramatic thread. In other words, at first glance it all appears to be pure chaos, projecting a cyber-microcosm of people searching for everything and anything and then wondering if anyone is listening, or if anyone cares! At least the musical plays heavily on that theme. Each musical number is an independent moment of its own and each number stands alone, some more strongly than others. Each one reveals the most intimate needs of the voices on line, transformed into musical sound expressing the most intimate desires, the most special lifestyles, the most inhabitual objects one searches for or needs to get rid of. And it all moves about on Robin Fisher’s set that shows rows of compartments along the back, representing the many categories that construct the site in space.

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The Story of Holly & Ivy. A Rag& Bone Puppet Theatre presentation

News from Capital Critics Circle

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RAG AND BONE PUPPET THEATRE

A CHRISTMAS DOLL, A NASTY OWL, AND 14 SCHOOL CHOIRS
Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre presents The Story of Holly & Ivy at the Centrepointe Studio Theatre November 21-24, and at the Shenkman Arts Centre December 10 to 13.

Ottawa, Ontario – When you’re a kid, it’s hard to resist waving at your parents. There you are, on stage in a real theatre. The lights are on, the house is full, and suddenly there they are, your whole family, waving at you! Do you wave back?
Fourteen different school choirs will accompany Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre’s performance of The Story of Holly & Ivy this year. Approximately 375 students will help bring to life this charming story about an orphan girl, Ivy, played by ten-year-old Sydney MacLellan. On Christmas Eve, Ivy meets a special doll (Holly) in a toy shop owned by Mr Blossom (musician Russell Levia). She also meets a nasty owl and a childless couple, Mr and Mrs Jones (John Nolan and Kathy MacLellan).
The Story of Holly & Ivy, by Rumer Godden, was first published in Ladies Home Journal in 1958. The production has become a popular annual event for Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre. “The Story of Holly & Ivy is the highlight of our year,” says John Nolan. “We love working with the kids in the choirs, and watching them enjoy the show.”
And how does the company solve the waving problem? “Easy,” says Nolan. “We get everyone to wave before we start the show.”
Tickets are $10 each or four for $32; available at ragandbone.ca. Donations of non-perishable items for the Food Bank are welcome. Website:
ragandbone.ca    More about the show here.

Ashes to Ashes: Unicorn Theatre does justice to the haunting work

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

On particularly dark days when I have binged too long on depressing world news or, as I am wont to do, taken a tumble down the darker holes of historical reading, a rather grim mood settles over me. In such cheerless moments, optimism becomes harder to summon and thoughts about the way we live and our never-ending ability to hurt one another start spinning. At first glance, Harold Pinter’s Ashes to Ashes seems like the wrong play for me. A layered, disturbing work that touches obliquely on the Holocaust and, by extension, all of human history, it seems downright depressing. However, as horrifying as references to “babies being ripped out of their mother’s hands” by one of the main characters are, plays like Ashes to Ashes are a secret weapon against depression and pessimism. This is because Ashes to Ashes, while touching on the horrors of history, is at its core a play about our ability, whether innate or through an artistic medium such as theater, to empathize with our fellow humans, even if we haven’t suffered as they have. The more ability we have to understand others, the less of a chance there is that we will continue being the victims of history. Directed by University of Ottawa MFA Directing Candidate James Richardson and supervised by Dragana Varagić, Unicorn Theater’s production is haunting and stays with you long after you’ve left the theater.

Two characters, Rebecca and Devlin, confront each other in a lamp lit room. Their relationship is intentionally murky (is he a lover? therapist?) as he interrogates her about a violent, sexually dominant past lover. Rebecca’s answers are elliptical and often seem meandering. She answers his questions with more questions or non-sequiturs. Of course, when critiquing a production of Ashes to Ashes, it is imperative to remember that this isn’t a play about characters, but about ideas. Devlin and Rebecca are concrete entities which serve to house abstract ideas. Devlin, as mannered as he is, represents the aggressor through his relentless questioning. History for him is something entirely separate from himself, something to be compartmentalized, academically understood, and dragged from Rebecca if necessary. Rebecca, on the other hand, represents history’s empathetic subject. She identifies with both its victims and aggressors through her empathy, becoming an echo for its horrors as she slips in and out of memories that strongly suggest the deportation and interning of Jews in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Rebecca’s experience culminates as she is transformed into one of the women whose children are torn away on the train platform, while Devlin’s aggression grows until his apex echoes the violent actions of her former lover. (more…)

Bad Jews: A Savagely Funny Play About Religion, Family, and Identity

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

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Photo: Craig Bailey. The actors are l. to r. Allison McCartan, Victor Shopov, Gillian Mariner Gordon.

Josh Harmon’s hilarious comedy Bad Jews at Boston’s Speakeasy Theatre deals with a serious, and for many, uncomfortable issue, secularism vs. religiosity. The play pits two extreme adversaries against one other. Formidable and pious Daphna (formerly known as Diana) a senior at Vassar, with plans to move to Israel, join the Israeli army, marry an Israeli boyfriend, and become a rabbi is at odds with her cousin Liam, an aggressive and decidedly non-religious graduate student in Japanese cultural youth studies, who intends to marry his WASP girlfriend. Two other characters, Liam’s brother, Jonah, performed with sensitivity by Alex Marz, who builds his characterization around being unobtrusive, and Liam’s girlfriend Melody, peacemaking and naïve, round out the cast. Through most of the performance, the latter two appear to be the play’s losers.

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