As You Like It: The Heightened Playfulness of the Fools Creates an Excellent Performance

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Barb Gray. Katie McArthur and Katie Ryerson.

A fun-filled production of As You Like It where the masterful touch of Scott Florence’s direction heightens the humour, the corporeal performances, the playfulness as well as the seriousness and the lyrical effusions of this delightful pastoral romance . The actors articulate their lines so that they never lose control of the text, producing  a comic performance that always serves the play. The rivalry of the brothers Orlando and Oliver, the banishment of the old Duke into the forest of Arden by his younger brother, Frederick, the banishment of Rosalind who also flees to the forest of Arden with her cousin Celia, leads to  games of hidden and confused identities, the main impulse of their pastoral romp. Rosalind becomes young Ganymede, Celia becomes “his” sister Aliana, and the peasant girl Pheobe does not hide her lust for that young man, while Orlando flits about the forest posting his love-sick verse in the trees, pining for the beautiful Rosalind who is really right under his nose the whole time.

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Two Gentlemen of Verona: Prescott’s Production of Shakespeare sparkles!

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photo by   Andrew Alexander. Perfoming are Warren Bain & Quincy Armorer

A sparkling and witty production of Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” is running in rep with “The Tempest” at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott, Ontario. If you’ve never seen what is possibly Shakespeare’s first comedy, this is a good production to start out on. Director Ian Farthing has made judicious cuts and tweaks that clean up some problems with the script, particularly the awkward dénouement. He’s also set the play in the late 1920s, a perfect period for this light-hearted tale of friendship versus passion.

Andrea Robertson Walker has designed a background set of panels painted with soft pastel colors in art deco style. There’s a gauzy curtained entrance up center. The musicians are visible throughout on the center platform. Vanessa Imeson has designed great period costumes in shades of white, cream and beige with deco-like accents of black and brown. She’s even come up with what are often neglected – wonderful period shoes for both the men and women.

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Come Blow Your Horn. Perth Classic Theatre Festival presents Neil Simon’s debut play.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle

The generation gap is at the core of Come Blow Your Horn, Neil Simon’s debut play, first performed in 1961. Like many of the prolific playwright’s later scripts, this comedy is semi-autobiographical, highlighting his sometimes difficult relationship with his older brother and his father.

The ambivalence of his feelings for his older brother is clearly demonstrated in Come Blow Your Horn when 21-year-old Buddy (a.k.a. Simon) leaves the parental home to move in with 33-year-old Alan and emulate his playboy lifestyle. In addition, the sense of responsibility Alan feels for Buddy comes through loud and clear, which is why a number of his actions and words in Act II are a carbon copy of their father’s words and gestures.

In the Classic Theatre Festival production directed by Laurel Smith, Matthew Gorman as Buddy and Lindsay Robinson as older brother Alan are on a seesaw between characterization and caricature, combined with heavy and periodically irritating Brooklyn accents. Fast and funny, but not entirely convincing and never moving, they play up the comedy and play down the reality.

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The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare. David Warburton highlights the performative nature of his character with great emotion and much nobility!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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David Warburton as The Player­. Photo by Andrew Alexander

This performance is a unique event in the annals of professional theatre in Ottawa. The original production of Brian K. Stewart’s play, also directed by John Koensgen, was received with such enormous enthusiasm by myself and my colleagues that the New Theatre of Ottawa won the Capital Critics’ Circle 2011-2012 prize for best actor, (Greg Kramer) best director (John Koensgen). Soon the company was making plans to bring the show to the Edinburgh festival, and in spite of the tragic death of Greg Kramer in Montreal, the plans have gone ahead. This is certainly what Kramer would have wanted if his spirit were watching over the New Ottawa Theatre at the moment and I am also sure that David Warburton, the actor who will be performing the role in Edinburgh would have had Kramer’s full support.

We saw a preview the other night of the show, the first time it has been seen by an audience and I was struck by the enormous authority that Warburton brings to the “Player”. Just to refresh your memory, this Shakespearean actor is languishing in prison, waiting for his fate to be sealed because he sympathized with the bloody Midland revolt (which broke out in 1607). This is the period following Queen Elizabeth’s death and the rise of Jacobean vengeance tragedies, traces of which are clearly in Stewart’s script, plus a reference he makes to Coriolanus which Shakespeare was writing at that period. .

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The Book of Mormon: Excellent performances but the combination of satire and sappiness is both ridiculous and incongruous.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

 

The Book of Mormon

Photo. Joan Marcus

It is commendable, but not surprising that the Mormon Church took the high road when reacting to this satirical musical about their religion. The potty-mouthed satire of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (co-creators of South Park) and Robert Lopez (co-creator with Jeff Marx of Avenue Q) is too ridiculous to cause any harm to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Often fun, more often obscene, the combination of satire and sappiness is too incongruous to be classed as great. It is loud. It does poke fun at such other musicals and singers as The Lion King and Bono. But it could hardly be called incisive or consistently witty, except for those who find monstrous parodies of erect penises and loud repetition of “I have maggots in my scrotum” knee-slappingly funny.

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The Book of Mormon Rocks!

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

The Book of Mormon

Photo. Joan Marcus

You can’t help but speculate on the reception had The Book of Mormon been served up for Ottawa audiences when the National Arts Centre opened in 1969. Ashen-faced horror? Walkouts? A boycott of the NAC?

As it is, the delightfully offensive and sharply funny musical by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone (known for, variously, television’s South Park and the irreverent Broadway show Avenue Q) garnered thunderous applause Wednesday night. Clearly, we revel in obscenity-laced, slice-and-dice attacks on everything from shiny-faced Mormonism, and by extension all forms of intransigent religious belief, to pop culture heroes like Bono.

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Driving Miss Daisy: OLT’s version of this Pulizter prize winning play.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

daisyIMG_7726 Charlotte Stewart as Daisy.  Photo.Maria Vartanova

Wheels are life changing for young and old. For teens, who have just earned driving licences, the right to drive signals freedom. For seniors, who may no longer drive, loss of their wheels means the end of independence.

So it was for 72-year-old Daisy Werthan of Atlanta, Georgia, in 1948. After she crashes her car, her son, Boolie, forces his fiercely independent mother to accept that her driving days are over. The first task for the chauffeur he hires to ferry her around is to convince her to ride with him. (That takes six days — the same length of time that it took God to create the world, he muses.)

The 1987 dramaa Pulitzer prizewinner and successful 1989 movie starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman — traces the developing trust and deepening friendship between the wealthy Jewish widow and her black chauffeur over 25 years (1948 to 1973) — a quarter century that changed the face of the U.S. It also touches (lightly) on the civil rights movement and desegregation in the south. At the same time, playwright Alfred Uhry makes it clear that Daisy and Hoke are not only bonded by religious and racial prejudice, but also by aging and growing infirmity.

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National Theatre Live. Coming on October 23.

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Skylight    Captured live in London’s West End   In cinemas from October 23

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1000 Islands Playhouse: Jake’s Gift a Love Letter to Veterans.

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Julia Mackey as Jake  Photo: Tim Matheson

Jake’s Gift,” a one-woman show written and performed by Julia Mackey, is a powerful tribute to Canadian veterans, specifically those who participated in the World War II D-Day landing on Juno Beach. Inspired by her trip to Normandy in 2004 for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Miss Mackey and Director Dirk Van Stralen created Juno Productions to present and tour this piece across Canada. As Americans we hear mostly about Omaha Beach. It’s good to be reminded that our neighbors to the North also had a major part in the landings. The two main characters are Jake, a veteran in his 70s who has returned for his first visit to Juno Beach since the war and Isabelle, a lively and inquisitive 10 year-old French girl. As they gradually become friends, Jake is finally able to come to terms with his past.

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1000 Islands Playhouse. “She Loves Me” sparkles

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Alison MacDonald.  Photo: Jay Kopinski

The 1000 Islands Playhouse is running a wonderful production of the musical romantic comedy “She Loves Me.” With music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, who also wrote, among other, “Fiddler on the Roof,” and book by Joe Masteroff, it’s always been a favorite of mine. Being a geezer, I saw the original Broadway production in the 60s and, since it’s not often done, was really looking forward to this production. I was not disappointed. “She Loves Me” is just as much fun and as tuneful as I remembered.

The plot revolves around two co-workers in a parfumerie in 1930s Hungary who constantly squabble, unaware of the fact that they are each others’ anonymous pen pals. Your imagination can take it from there.

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