Anita Majumdar’s Double Bill a the GCTC: One good, one not-so-good.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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For the Ottawa Citizen.

Photo, Andrew Alexander. Featuring  Anita Majumdar.

Life by its nature is a fraught affair. Try living it as a female Indo-Canadian teenager at predominantly white Port Moody Senior Secondary in British Columbia.

That’s the setting for Anita Majumdar’s Fish Eyes and Boys with Cars, the simultaneously wonderful and disappointing double bill at the Great Canadian Theatre Company.

Majumdar wrote, choreographed and performs both shows. She blends exquisite Indian dance and acting that’s riveting in Fish Eyes but less so in Boys with Cars with issues ranging from teenaged (and, by extension, human) angst to patriarchy and cultural appropriation.

Fish Eyes, which Majumdar has been performing for a decade, finds 17-year old Meena despairing that “everyone’s living the dream” – as in making out and drinking beer – while she’s preparing to participate in an Indian dance festival.

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Next to Normal; a musical voyage into the depths of a tortured soul!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo of the Cast, from the Royal Ottawa Hospital site.

Diana, a mother suffering from depression and PTSD, is portrayed by singer/actress Skye MacDiarmid who immersed herself in this difficult role with passion, and total conviction, revealing her strong voice and enormous acting skills from the very first moments. This immediate burst of talent creates a break between the sadness of the content and the uplifting form of the performance and it gives us strength to continue watching, after all the subject matter is not easy. Fifteen years after the death of her 8 month old son, Diana remains traumatized by the event and never seems to have recovered. On the contrary, theC. Lee Bates staging and the music, directed by Paul Legault,  fore ground the hallucinatory presence of this “dead” son floating around the stage singing “I’m alive” , taunting the still grieving mother who cannot get the image of this young man out of her head as he clings to her memories and won’t permit her to let go of this past that is tearing her apart. That is the narrative essence of this Tony Award winning performance Next to Normal, now playing at the Gladstone until Saturday the 18th.

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Villes: Collection particulière. A production of the Théâtre de la Pire Espèce : visual genius on the stage of Lasalle secondary public school.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo, Pire Espece, Olivier Ducas..le magicien!

La Nouvelle scène is  still a hole in the ground but it is on the way to being built, said Anne Marie White , playwright, director and artistic director of the Théâtre Trillium as she introduced le Théâtre de la Pire Espèce….For the moment , all the Franco-ontarian theatres are performing at the LaSalle School on Saint Patrick street.

This time, Trillium has us sitting with the artists/technicians on the stage, as Wajdi Mouawad loves to have us do..and we were close to the inventions and magic moments, the machines, the sound equipment, the props and everthing that Olivier  Ducas  brought to life during this highly original spectacle..

A most original production that creates a whole universe of imaginary spaces and forms, linked to the conscience of Olivier Ducas who has reimagined the world, and set it up using contemporary forms and images taken from film, from computer images, from graphic design, from web cams, from spy cameras, from animated film techniques; a great mass of textures, colours, styles that meet and melt and explode…as the narrator who wields the camera tells us the story of his collection of towns, their different temperments, their forms, the way their elements are integrated..it is theatre with no characters, no narrative, no psychological types, no action, no elements that come from novels…but this is PURE cinema—and abstraction as seen by Kandinsky_ pure form, pure colour, ..space, texture, sound, light the essence of modern art..quite a magnificent creation ..and we are the "flâneur " in his little collection of cities.  Baudrillard is in the wings, so is Baudelaire , watching, wondering, taking it easy, enjoying the surfaces, the graffiti, the sounds , the new urban space devoid of living creatures..DONT miss this…Le théâtre de la pire espèce is a marvellous bundle of youthful creative energy from Montréal,  that we hope to see again in Ottawa.

Anglophones and Francophones…will enjoy this…

l’École des femmes : Un joyeuse adaptation hybride, portée par le metteur en scene et le jeu magistral d’Andy Massingham.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Version posted on the site  theatredublog.unblog.fr

Photo. David Whitely.

Cette traduction/adaptation de L’École des femmes par David Whitely, est une tentative de rendre la langue de Molière accessible à un  public anglophone qui connaît mal le théâtre français du dix-septième siècle. Au départ on ressent la présence d’un étrange anachronisme entre une mise en scène (John P. Kelly)  presque « classique » et le rythme naturel des répliques anglaises de style populaire au XXIe siècle écrites en alexandrins! En effet le XVIIe (en France) et le XXIe siècle (au Canada) ont réalisé une fusion qui finit par fonctionner assez bien, même si, pour certains  puristes, cette rencontre linguistique pourrait paraître indigeste. Malgré tout, l’événement, et le texte semblent avoir respecté la sensibilité de Molière. Cette langue contemporaine peu raffinée, semble  faire écho au côté frondeur de l’École… qui a  refusé les règles d’Horace et choqué certaines oreilles sensibles de la cour et des Précieux  « ridicules » (voir La Critique de l’École des femmes).

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The Boy in the Moon. A whispered confession transformed into a play is a difficult challenge for the GCTC

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

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Photo. Andrew Alexander

The world premiere of The Boy in the Moon is playing now at the GCTC theatre. Directed by Eric Coates, this is the stage adaptation of Canadian journalist Ian Brown’s well-known memoir, The Boy in the Moon. Playwright Emil Sher has adapted the memoir, which chronicles Brown’s experience raising a son, Walker, who was born with a rare, genetic condition that renders him mentally delayed, non-verbal, and physically handicapped. It is first and foremost a touching story, and Sher’s theatrical adaptation picks up on bold questions about the value of their son’s life, and the ever-present questions the Browns have about the nature of Walker’s inner-world.  The question of Walker’s “inner-world” is a thread that Sher weaves throughout the script. The story is told by the characters of Ian and Johanna on stage, played by Peter James Haworth and Manon St. Jules, respectively. Sher uses Brown’s book as a point of departure, and bolsters the script through interviews conducted with Ian and Johanna.

 

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The Boy in the Moon: A world premier that falters under the staging and the script.

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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The Boy in the Moon,” adapted by Emil Sher from the memoir of the same title by Ian Brown, chronicles a father’s search for the inner life of his severely disabled son, Walker. The book is quite introspective which presents a problem for the playwright. There’s very little interaction between the three actors and the script often feels like a disconnected series of musings and narratives.

Another problem is the casting. Peter James Haworth who plays Ian Brown and Manon St-Jules as Walker’s mother seem out of balance in both age and size. There’s no chemistry between them and we never get a sense of their relationship, only their relationships to Walker. Not only are they not connected to each other, they seem disconnected from their characters, especially Mr. Haworth. Miss St-Jules shows us more levels of her character, but the most realistic and connected moments are provided by Marion Day as Walker’s older sister Hayley, one of her multiple roles.

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The School for Wives: A Rollicking Whitely/Kelly event inspired by Molière.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

SfW Balcony LR David Benedict Brown, Catriona Leger, Tess Mc Manus, Drew Moore, Andy Massingham - photo David Whiteley v2

Set by David Magladry . Photo: David Whitely.

The five actors in 17th Century dress come tripping out on stage , dancing and bowing and acknowledging the audience with great glee and fun just before Chrysalde, a friend of Arnolphe bangs out the Three “coups” which signals the beginning of the show, on the French stage. The lighting suddenly suggests the gas lights of that period, the actors bow, move off stage and the performance begins. Director John P. Kelly proves from the first moments that he understands the stage conventions of French comedy of the 17th century where the extremely playful rhythms, gestures and lighting effects make one almost expect the actors to begin speaking French! “Vous venez , dîtes –vous , pour lui donner la main? “ but then out comes “You’re saying you’ve come here to offer her your hand in marriage ?” and off it goes in English.

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The School for Wives: Brilliantly directed production of a hilariously modern translation

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

Photo by Erin Finn

Photo by Erin Finn

If there’s one conversation I have had over and over again with fellow theatre lovers and critics, it’s on how to attract younger audiences to the theatre. Do you make theatre going mandatory in elementary schools? Do you change your advertising? How about we entirely update classics while keeping the period costumes and staying true to the original context instead? While we’re at it, let’s also translate the play to make it relevant for today, but ensure that it respects the complexity of language and ideas of the original. If possible, let’s also put in an homage to the 17th century rhyming scheme. Just, you know, make it sound like prose and keep our attention.

Seems like a lot to ask, doesn’t it? I’m going to be honest here. When I heard that Polsive and Seven Thirty Productions was putting on The School for Wives as translated by David Whiteley, I proceeded with caution and a heavy dose of fear. They say experience shapes our perceptions and I’ve seen one too many awkward “modernized” adaptations and translations of classics to avoid the gut reaction. Imagine my growing joy, then, as I realized the genius of the translation and direction in this production. Whiteley and director John P. Kelly have come together to create a work of art that is modern while still remaining reverent of the original. They’ve managed to capture Molière’s sense of humour and sharp critique of society and make it relevant for today’s audiences, young and old alike.  (more…)

Boy in the Moon. An epic family portrait that rises above the stage production of this world premier.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

BITM Manon St-Jules, Peter James Haworth pulling chair - photo by GCTC Andrew Alexander

Photo. Andrew Alexanderé.  On stage-  Manon St-Jules and Peter James Haworth

The acting space is nearly empty except for some carpets spread out in the middle of the floor. A series of beautifully lit rectangles suspended from the ceiling hang upstage, like fragmented screens where fractured drawings and rapid sketches of Walker, born with Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, appear and disappear at various moments. Downstage, actors perform the inner and outer journey of the parents, Ian Brown (Peter James Haworth) and Johanna Schneller (Manon St-Jules), telling their story of a severely handicapped son who has dominated their lives and given rise to Emil Sher’s play, adapted from the book by Ian Brown The Boy in the Moon. The story is moving, the dialogue is amazingly frank and honest. The question of abortion is raised at the moment of his birth while the most difficult moments of their early life with the son who has “deprived us of our privacy” and has exhausted them emotionally and physically, are portrayed with great precision and courage. The result is an extremely intimate portrait of a couple confronting a whole life of struggle with a child they love but whose needs devour their very existence.

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Perils of Persephone: Flashes of brilliance in a production that will grow as the play continues

Reviewed by Iris Winston

 

There are flashes of the brilliance of his Wingfield series in Perils of Persephone by Dan Needles, but only flashes.

This comedy about the Currie family being “helped” to deal with a possible spill of nuclear waste by an MPP and the media-savvy Premier’s assistant works some of the time, but neither the script nor the Ottawa Little Theatre production sustain the momentum throughout.

For example, one character has to give a long description of how her ancestor found the partial skeleton of a mammoth in the swamp on the family property. Even though Chantal Despatie, who plays the teenage daughter telling the story, does her best to sound enthusiastic and make the tale interesting, she is faced with a daunting task, particularly as she is talking to a pot-zonked truck driver (Andrew Stewart clings to this aspect in his one-note performance.)

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