The Stratford Festival’s Bunny has sex on her mind.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Bunny – On The Run 2016

Photo: David Hou. Maev Beaty and David Patrick Flemming.

STRATFORD, Ont. — Hanna Moscovitch’s new play, Bunny, had its world premiere at the Stratford Festival the other afternoon — and this was a cue for theatre staff to go all cutesy for the occasion by wearing rabbit ears on their heads.

Given that we were definitely not in for a cosy afternoon of G-rated entertainment in the company of Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, it was more than a little bizarre to be confronted by ticket takers decked out like participants in a kiddies’ picnic. Or perhaps this was intended as some sort of ironic statement on the numerous sexual couplings we would soon be witnessing in the intimacy of the festival’s tiny Studio Theatre.

“Let me tell you about Sorrel,” announces Maev Beaty, the resourceful actress who will be guiding us through this saga of unquenchable sexuality and unfulfilled needs. Beaty is actually portraying Sorrel herself, although the script requires her to discuss her character in the third person. And Sorrel’s nickname is “Bunny” — hence the title — and that comes from that frightened rabbit-in-the-headlights look she gets when she’s in situations where her lack of social skills leaves her unable to cope.


An Inspector Calls: A Cohesive Production of a British Classic is the Final Play of the Perth Summer Season

Reviewed by Iris Winston


Poster from the Perth  Classic Theatre Festival. An Inspector calls  by J.B. Priestley, Directed by Laurel Smith. Classic Theatre Festival.     

Part social manifesto and part drawing-room drama, An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley is a play with a strong message about responsibility, caring and guilt. Add to this the playwright’s signature interest in time shifts and his criticism of class divisions in Great Britain immediately before the First World War and the scene is set for the inspector of the title to call on the wealthy Birling family and dent their complacency.

An Inspector Calls, which premiered in Russia in 1945 and in England the next year, is Priestley’s best-known play. It is frequently used as part of the British high school curriculum because of its value as an instrument of social history, as well as its interest as one of the classics of 20th-century drama.

As such, it fits in well with the Classic Theatre Festival mandate of presenting popular plays of the 1920s to the 1970s. It also poses a number of problems for any director because of its wordiness and lack of subtlety. In addition, audiences today are less tolerant of three-act plays (hence the usual condensation to two acts) and the often lengthy exposition.


New Play “In a Blue Moon” a hit in Gananoque

Reviewed by Connie Meng


Photo: David Cooper

Blue Moon by Lucia Frangione, directed by Daryl Cloran.

The world premiere of Canadian playwright Lucia Frangione’s new play “In a Blue Moon” is definitely worth a trip to Gananoque. It tells the story of Ava, a widow, (Anita Wittenberg), and her six-year-old daughter Frankie, (Emma Tow – Miss Wittenberg’s real-life daughter), who move to an inherited cottage. There they find Will, (Brett Christopher), a free-lance photographer and Ava’s brother-in-law, already in residence. As their relationships change and grow, we find ourselves increasingly caught up in their emotions and lives.

Drew Facey’s abstract and creative wooden cottage is backed by a giant moon. The cottage has an upper level which functions as both a bedroom and the roof. There’s also a free-standing and very slammable door. The moon is used as a screen for Conor Moore’s terrific projections and his lighting is also very good. John Gzowski’s music and sound are very effective and the costumes, designed by Marian Truscott, are just fine. I loved Frankie’s pajamas.


The Shaw Festival delivers a worthwhile Dance Of Death

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Dance of Death - 2016 Shaw 888

Photo: Emily Cooper.

There’s a peculiar moment in the Shaw Festival’s production of The Dance Of Death when a character arrives on stage carrying a head of cabbage.

But that moment has purpose. And it does have a connection to the emotional mayhem engulfing the stage. It’s also a reminder of director Martha Henry’s crafty approach to this potentially troublesome play. Given its volatile sensibility, why not introduce an an element of absurdity into a dramatic situation mired in marital discord? But no — perhaps “discord” doesn’t really describe the scalding enmity existing between Edgar, this perpetually soured artillery captain, and his resentful spouse, Alice, on the eve of their silver wedding anniversary.


The Servant of Two Masters renews commedia acting without betraying the spirit of Goldoni. A beautiful evening in Strathcona park.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Photo. Barb  Gray/Zack Counsil as Brighella and Sean Sullivan as Pantalone.

This rollicking production of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters , under the direction of Andy Massingham is intended to bring us back thirty years when Ottawa’s Odyssey Theatre Company first introduced Commedia dell’arte to the capital. This is in fact the same play but it isn’t the same production and that is the great lesson Massingham has taught us this time : adapting a play does not necessarily mean imitating slavishly the original text, the original style and the original way of performing the event. The question becomes therefore, when is a play no longer the play we thought we were watching?

I came across a similar dilemma this year with Dostoevsky’s The Double performed and directed by Adam Paolozza at the NAC, not because it was badly performed but because it had nothing to do with Dostoevsky’s novel except for some of the situations and some quotes from the original text that always appeared to be taken out of context. The problem was that Paolozza turned Dostoevsky’s disturbing book about paranoia into a clown show but the Russian protagonist is not a clown. He is going out of his mind in a nightmarish adventure .  Thus the Toronto  Company  might have advertised their version of the Double as a play “loosely inspired by The Double”.  As it was, their show was a serious misrepresentation of the Russian writer’s work and one could guess that Paolozza, who is interested in corporeal theatre, appeared to be using the text as a crutch for his own brilliant comic stage work that seemed to give little thought to the original narrative or characterization.


The Shaw Festival season triumphs again with Fugard play

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

masterindex  Photo David Cooper. 

Master Harold and the Boys, by Athol Fugard, directed by Philip Akin

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when the racism that has been quietly simmering beneath the surface begins boiling over in the Shaw Festival’s superb production of Master Harold And The Boys.

But that very difficulty is one of the points of Athol Fugard’s painfully nuanced play, set as it is in South Africa in 1950 when apartheid was tightening its grip. Fugard has a particular fascination for the conventions of day-to-day living in an entrenched racist environment, and for those moments when the conventions crumble and the veneer starts to crack. South Africa’s apartheid government had no problem spotting Master Harold’s lurking sub-text — which is why it banned performances of Fugard’s play in 1982 when it first came out.


“The Amazing Adventures of Pericles” introduce us to new faces of the Comedy of Fools!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


A Company of Fools presents Pericles, Prince of Tyre, in parks across Ottawa, July 4 to August 20, 2016. From left to right: Mekdes Teshome, Mary Ellis, AL Connors, Jennifer Cecil l to r: Mekdes Teshome (standing), Mary Ellis, AL Connors, Jennifer Cecil. Credit: Andrew Alexander Photography Goes with 0706 review fools

A Company of Fools presents Pericles, Prince of Tyre, in parks across Ottawa, July 4 to August 20, 2016. From left to right: Mekdes Teshome, Mary Ellis, AL Connors, Jennifer Cecil l to r: Mekdes Teshome (standing), Mary Ellis, AL Connors, Jennifer Cecil. Credit: Andrew Alexander

The Amazing adventures of Pericles: Prince of Tyre By William Shakespeare, adapted by the Comedy of Fools, directed by Catriona Leger

This is the  breathtaking adventure of the  Prince who finds himself  fleeing the anger of  King Antiochus and  setting out  to hide from the hired killer who is  pursuing him around an imaginary image of the Hellenistic world  from Tarsus, to Pentapolis. They continue  across the great sea to  Ephesus where shipwrecks, storms and much disaster separate him from his wife (whom all believe has died) .   Pericles then  comes into contact with the temple of Diana and the Middle eastern world of Dr. Cermion.  Fourteen years pass, Pericles’ daughter Marina has grown into a lovely young lady but before the nasty jealous Queen Dionyza can do away with Pericles’ daughter , terrifying  pirates  kidnap her and sell her to the  brothels of  Mytilene,  where she is befriended by  Lysimachus the kind governor. And so it goes until all are united at the end.  It’s  easy to immerse oneself  in this humungous mixture of plots and adventures and catastrophes and encounters of the most fabulous nature that suggest a twisted sort of Odyssey where all the themes and characters of all those  epic tales inflame the imagination of young men. And Shakespeare was no exception.


« Le serviteur de deux maîtres » renouvelle le jeu corporel sans trahir l’esprit de Goldoni. Une très belle soirée dans le parc Strathcona.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Photo: Barb Gray.   Zack Counsil (Brighella)  et Jesse Buck (Truffaldino)

La compagnie Odyssey qui fait revivre le théâtre de la Commedia dell’arte au Canada anglophone depuis trente ans, remonte aux sources de la troupe en présentant cette nouvelle version de Le serviteur de deux maîtres de Carlo Goldoni.

L’intrigue et les sous intrigues sont d’une grande complexité. Truffaldino, le serviteur du titre, est au service de Florindo, l’amant de Béatrice, et de Federigo le frère de Béatrice. Tout se complique lorsque nous apprenons que Clairice (la fille de Pantalone) qui aime Silvio (le fils du Docteur Lombardi) est promise à Frederigo , le fiancé décédé depuis longtemps. Celui qui se présente à sa place est sa sœur Beatrice travestie , ce qui ajoute du piquant aux relations tempétueuses qui bouleversent ce microcosme de la société vénitienne. Le tout devient rapidement une accumulation de malentendus, de jeux d’identités, et d’intrigues secrets. Truffaldino qui a juré de respecter l’anonymat de ses deux employeurs, provoquent des rencontres spectaculaires, rocambolesques, chaotiques qui frôlent la farce la plus pure. Le rythme de ces orchestrations physiques qui font courir les serviteurs, les maîtres et tout le personnel de l’hôtel, coupent le souffle, surtout lorsque  Zack Counsil (Brighella) s’envole avec la legerete  d’une plume. Le masque a fait vivre son personnage!  Une belle prestance .


Sparkling “Into the Woods” at Gananoque’s 1000 Islands Playhouse

Reviewed by Connie Meng



A very good production of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical “Into the Woods” is running at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. The cast, with a couple of exceptions, is strong and the actors can all handle the complex score. Drew Facey’s set, featuring an upper level walkway, 3 birdcage-like playing areas and, of course, woods, is excellent and his wonderful costumes cleverly fanciful. I loved the Prince’s high-top sneakers. The choreography by Shelly Stewart Hunt is good, especially for the Princes, although I felt it began a bit too early in the opening number and we lost some lyrics. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting is evocative and William Fallon’s sound first-rate and well balanced.

Speaking of sound, Musical Director Stephen Woodjetts has done an expert job with the complex vocals, especially the diction. When the show first opened in New York in 1987, the pit musicians called it “Into the Words.” He’s also done a great arrangement that allows only 5 musicians to convey the flavor and color of the original orchestration, with himself on piano, Greg Runions on percussion, David Smith on reeds, Bob Arlidge on bass, and the excellent Erin Puttee on keyboard.


A Robust Arms and The Man at Perth

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Logo: Classic Theatre Festival, Perth.

George Bernard Shaw sub-titled Arms And The Man an “anti-romantic comedy” when he wrote it in 1894. His intent was serious — to challenge romantic illusions about the glory of war. But his methods were playful as he set up farcical situations to make his point and created a memorable gallery of comic characters who continue to delight audiences more than a century later.

Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival has mounted a robust revival that declares its purpose immediately when we’re introduced to Raina, the romantically inclined heroine whose heart begins fluttering at the very thought of the heroic Balkan war happening around her. She — fantasizing with schoolgirl fervour about the stalwart conduct of her betrothed, Sergius Saranoff, on the battlefield — is actually bursting into song as the stage lights go up. To be sure, there’s no singing in the text of the Shaw play, but director Laurel Smith has cunningly chosen to launch the evening with a few bars of the aria, My Hero, from The Chocolate Soldier, the 1909 Oscar Strauss operetta based on Arms And The Man. That’s sufficient for actress Lana Sugarman, an ongoing delight as Raina, to start giving shape to a character addicted to head-in-the clouds romantic nonsense until she’s brought down to earth with a resounding thud by the Swiss mercenary who seeks sanctuary in her bedroom.