The Shaw Festival serves up a defanged Dracula

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — You know there’s something wrong with the trendy 1985 version of Dracula currently available at the Shaw Festival when you quickly start yearning for the old Hamilton Deane-John Balderston stage adaptation of Bram Stoker’s celebrated vampire shocker.

To be sure the latter is somewhat creaky and happy to indulge in old-fashioned melodramatics. But it can still have a potent impact on stage and was still scaring the daylights out of playgoers in a 1977 Broadway revival starring Frank Langella. (more…)

Only Drunks and Children tell the truth: a tough-minded play fuelled by the author’s background in stand-up comedy!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Only Drunks. Taran Kootenhayoo, Joelle Peters. Photo by Stephen Wild Photo: Stephen Wild. Taran Kootenhayoo and Joelle Peters.

Drew Hayden Taylor is a prolific playwright, also well known for his stand-up comic routines which bring out his corrosive and provocative humor as well as ideas that stimulate much thought. Published in 1998 and winner of the 1996 Dora Mavor Moore Small Theatre award for Outstanding New Play, Only Drunks and Children tell the truth was first produced in Toronto (1996) by Native Earth Performing Arts. This new production in Gananoque gives us a chance to see the work of an author who has not yet had enough exposure on the mainstream theatre circuit in spite of his many plays that have already been published. .

Taylor raises delicate questions about stereotypes and racism and mistaken attitudes in the non-native community of Canada with regards to native people . Here, he takes a close look at Grace, a young woman of Ojibway origin, from Otter lake, who was removed from her family by the Children’s Aid Society when she was a child because the Society assumed the father had abandoned the family which was not true. She became “Janice” in Toronto where she grew up in a non-native family . As time passed, the cultural memories of her former life, slipped quietly away. The white set by designer Jung-Hye Kim shows us a symbolic place where all culture has been eradicated, as the invisible paintings and other objects that decorate the room only exist in the memory and the imagination of the owner or of those who are still in touch with her past.

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The Shaw Festival triumphs with Middletown

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Middletown, Photo: James Cooper

Middletown. Photo:David Cooper.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. —  We seem to be entering a somewhat skewed universe when we attend the Shaw Festival’s production of American dramatist Will Eno’s Middletown.

For example, what’s with the conflicted town cop, played by Benedict Campbell, brutally throttling a mouthy good-for-nothing, played by Jeff Meadows, and commanding him to acknowledge the wonder and awe of life’s mystery? (more…)

The Shaw Festival’s Dancing At Lughnasa offers outstanding acting

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo. David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — There’s Fiona Byrne, poignantly convincing as Kate, the oldest of the sisters and a bundle of laced-in repression. She’s a school teacher, painfully aware of being the only real wage-earner of the household at a time of gathering economic travail, devout in her Roman Catholic faith, and fiercely devoted in her own humourless way to her family.

There is Serena Parmar, a mixture of resilience and vulnerability as Chris, the youngest of the sisters. She’s the mother of seven-year-old Michael and unemployed — her life on hold because of Michael’s vagabond father, Gerry, who is more absent than present in their lives.

And then we have two particularly close sisters  who earn a bit of money by knitting gloves at home and selling them: the quiet and reflective Agnes, whose silences, in Claire Jullien’s intricately embroidered performance, tell their own tale. Agnes in her own way is the chief carer for Rose, the sister who has never really grown up: she’s portrayed by Diana Donnelly with a joyous, child-like innocence that also leaves you aware of her emotional fragility.

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The Shaw Festival delivers a riotous Androcles and the Lion.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Androcles1297967606191_ORIGINAL

Photo: David Cooper.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — The other night Tom Pidgeon, the Ottawa Little Theatre’s longtime technical director, made a memorable contribution to the Shaw Festival’s riotous production of Androcles And The Lion.

He ended up on the stage of the venerable Court House Theatre — playing the lion.

Pidgeon happened to be in the audience that evening, and had been plucked from its midst, equipped with a scrofulous wig and bedraggled tail, and assigned the task of delivering assorted roars, growls and moans until actor Patrick Galligan, in the role of the kindly Christian tailor, Androcles, removed a painful thorn from the creature’s paw.

The motley magnificence of Pidgeon’s effort earned an appreciative burst of applause before he was allowed to return to his seat and become a member of the audience again. But not an invisible member of that audience — no one in the house really was.

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More dragons, please! La Machine in Ottawa

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest reviewer Laurie Fyffe

Photo: Laurie Fyffe.

La Machine with its dueling dragon and gigantic spider has come and gone, leaving in its wake a flurry of excitement over what one can do with public space. Ottawa audiences came out in droves to witness two fantastical creates enact their fictional quest on Ottawa streets before discovering each other in a grand finale on Lebreton Flats. Given extraordinary license to tie up traffic, two mechanical beings transformed this city’s boulevards and multilane, downtown thoroughfares into scenic displays of awe and wonder. Kids were hoisted aloft to gaze at monsters that roared, spewed smoke and arrived in an array of wondrous musical accompaniment.

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Molière dans le parc » : Le Fâcheux théâtre impose son style et amuse le public de tous âges. !

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Sasha Dominique (le Docteur), Sylvain Sabatié (le Barbouillé).    Photos:  © Martin Cadieux

Sylvain Sabatié et toute son équipe de professionnels bien connus dans la région nous plongent dans un des moments les plus marquants de l’histoire théâtrale française : la rencontre entre Molière et les comédiens italiens  avant même que Scaramouche et la commedia dell’ arte trouvent  leur place à la cour de France. Les Italiens avaient  déjà  laissé des traces importantes sur le jeu de Molière en Europe,  lorsqu’ils jouaient sur la place publique. Ce modèle du jeu  grotesque et vulgaire, l’essence même du théâtre populaire, du théâtre de la foire et tout ce qu’il y avait de plus divertissant et  attirant des spectacles de la rue (more…)

Classic Theatre Festival delivers a worthy Candida

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Candida. Photo Jean-Denis LaBelle

Candida By George Bernard Shaw, A Perth Classic Theatre Festival production directed by Laurel Smith

PERTH, Ontario — One of the pleasures of an Ottawa Valley summer is Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival, which has an impressive track record for mounting quality fare.

Its current production of Candida, Bernard Shaw’s 1894 play about turmoil within the household of an Anglican vicar, is no exception.

On the surface, this may seem no more than a comedy about the unsettling impact of a romantic young poet named Eugene Marchbanks when he enters the lives of James Morell, a cleric whose Socialist convictions and gift for rhetoric have won him public prominence, and Morell’s beguiling wife, Candida. But Laurel Smith’s discerning production finds deeper currents in the central situation — which involves the youthful Eugene’s infatuation with Candida, an infatuation so intense and so openly critical of Morell that it leaves the latter increasingly insecure about her love.

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Avignon. Dance poem by Radhouane El Meddeb: Face à la mer, pour que les larmes deviennent des éclats de rire.

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

FACE A LA MER - 71e FESTIVAL D AVIGNON -

Concept, dramaturgy, choreography Radhouane El Meddeb; Artistic collaboration Moustapha Ziane; Stage design Annie Tolleter; Music Jihed Khmiri,  Production: La Compagnie de SOI; Tunis – Paris

A reflection on movement, music and chanting, this performance is about the pain of exile, the impossibility of return or of changing history.  Radhouane El Meddeb, a Tunisian-French dancer and choreographer,  dedicates his work to the people of Tunis, those who left and those who stayed behind. The central image is the sea towards which all the  dancers’ gazes are directed. They  come onstage, one by one, moving past each other, looking intensely at the audience, or rather at the sea.

In the first part of this one-hour show, there is not much action but rather tension and mistrust. The dancers move across the stage, stiffen their bodies, afraid to brush by each other, avoiding eye-contact. Their only point of connection is that sea, the gaze they cast towards the spectators. This sense of discomfort is transmitted to the audience as well: how do you react to action that is devoid of any internal  movement?

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Motown, the Musical allows these hits to shine once more!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Motown, the Musical. Performing the Jackson 5. Photo: Joan Marcus

Motown, the Musical. Book by Berry Gordy; music and lyrics from the legendary Motown catalog . Broadway Across Canada in association with Work Light Productions. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright/ Plays Southam Hall, National Arts Centre

The musical legacy of the remarkable growth of Motown speaks for itself through this jukebox musical — which is just as well because the book by Motown founder Berry Gordy is nothing to write home about. (more…)

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