Arms and the Man in Perth: A Delight from beginning to end!

Reviewed by Iris Winston


Photo: Jean-Denis  Labelle

Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Laurel Smith. A Classic Theatre Festival Production

A comedy of manners, bordering on farce, George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man pits romance versus realism, idealism versus pragmatism and flamboyant foolishness versus clockwork precision.

One of Shaw’s earliest and funniest scripts, Arms and the Man is set in a wealthy Bulgarian household during the 1885 Serbian invasion and subsequent peace between Bulgaria and Serbia.

The comedy revolves around two overlapping love triangles: the first involving Raina, the Bulgarian heiress engaged to the empty-headed exhibitionist officer Sergius Saranoff, and more attracted to the efficient Swiss mercenary, Captain Bluntshli, whom she helps to escape capture; and the second amongst household servants Louka, a maid with ideas above her station, manservant Nicola, content with his role in life, and Sergius.


Julius Caesar at the Saint Lawrence Festival: this youthful staging highlights an excellent Richard Sheridan Willis in the leading role.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Photos: Drew Hossick

Julius Caesar  by Shakespeare, directed by Rona Waddington,

During the first moments of the play, the Roman tribune admonishes the silly  people of Rome for wasting their time rejoicing about Caesar’s triumph over Pompey : “You blocks you stones, you worse than senseless things!” Especially since the same crowd recently cheered Pompey when he came to Rome. In this first tableau, Shakespeare and director Rona Waddington make several points. The Tribune , a male role, is played here by a woman so we know we are in a contemporary world of theatrical fun (never mind Brecht) , especially as the carnival atmosphere bursts joyously onto the stage. The audience is seduced immediately . This first contact also emphasizes the important notion that the fickle Roman crowd is easily manipulated by any talented orator such as Mark Antony, Brutus or Cassius whenever it serves their purpose, and this is one of the important strategies of Shakespeare’s text which clearly appears to be indestructible, no matter what one does in the acting space.


Odyssey Theatre’s The Servant of Two Masters a rolicking good time

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

First published on: July 22, 2016  in the Ottawa Citizen. 

Zach Council and Sean Sullivan from Odyssey Theatre perform for the media at Strathcona Park in Ottawa Friday July 15, 2016. Odyssey Theatre is performing The Servant of Two Masters under the stars at Strathcona Park from July 21 to August 21.

Zach Council and Sean Sullivan from Odyssey Theatre perform for the media at Strathcona Park in Ottawa Friday July 15, 2016. Odyssey Theatre is performing The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Andy Massingham. at Strathcona Park from July 21 to August 21.  Photo: Tony Caldwell

You’d be hard-pressed to find profound insights in it, but Odyssey Theatre’s production of Carlo Goldoni’s 1745 comedy The Servant of Two Masters sure is fun.

Jesse Buck plays the titular servant Truffaldino, a wily and perennially famished fellow who lands himself in the absurd situation of serving two masters at once. One of them is the stylish, self-admiring Florindo (Joshua Wiles). The other is Beatrice (Sarah Finn) who is Florindo’s lover and has come to Venice to be with him.  Except Beatrice is disguised as her pompadour-proud brother Federigo. And Federigo is actually dead, killed by Florindo. Beatrice, meanwhile, is owed money by a wealthy miser, whose daughter …

You see where this is going, right? Down the rabbit hole of a plot so deliciously convoluted that to summarize it would leave your head spinning faster than governor Chris Christie trying to defend Melania Trump’s plagiarized convention speech earlier this week.


Much Ado About Nothing. A lively production set in the Jane Austin Period!

Reviewed by Connie Meng


Photo.David Baker

Much Ado ABout Nothing by Shakespeare. Directed by Craig Walker. A production of the  St. lawrence Festival, Prescott

I recommend reading the excellent synopsis in the program, as this is one of Shakespeare’s most confusing comedies.  Set by Director Craig Walker in the period of Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice,” the plot twists through multiple misunderstandings, plotting, and eavesdropping.

The cast helps with the clarity, especially Michael Man as Borachio, an easily persuaded villain, and as the Friar who, in Act II, clarifies various deceptions.  Sarah English gives us a nicely three-dimensional Hero, as does Audrey Clairman as the maid, Ursula, and Jesse Nerenberg is a satisfyingly nasty villain in Don John.  Oddly, the broad acting style of Gabrielle Lazarovitz seems more suited to her Dogberry rather than her Beatrice.  However, she sings beautifully and in the opening scene she and Melissa Morris as Balthasar sing a lovely duet of an Italian Art Song.


Servant of Two Masters. Massingham’s staging of Goldoni is intriguing, engaging and funny from the first second! A Winner.

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska


Photo: Barb Gray.Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni. Directed by Andy Massingham.  An Odyssey Theatre production 

Almost as a rule, plays start slowly and develop into something interesting as the story unfolds. Fortunately, director Andy Massingham forgot all about this, and instead made “The Servants of Two Masters” intriguing, engaging, and funny from the first second. The play starts with the characters presenting themselves. One by one, they come dancing on the stage, promising an evening under the stars (and sporadic rain) full of fun and delight. Odyssey Theatre premiered its “Theatre Under Stars” production with the adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s best known comic play, giving it a more contemporary twist (the play is set in late fifties), and so proving the old art form of commedia dell’arte to be timeless.

Of course, as the story is a replica of commedia dell’arte, the narrative itself is not the center of attention. On the contrary, it is a simple tale about love, error, and deception. A young couple, Clarice (based on Isabella) and Silvio (based on Flavio), celebrate their engagement, when Truffaldino (based on Arlecchino) enters and announces that he has come with his master Federigo, Clarice’s former fiancé who was presumably dead. While Clarice tries to whimper her way out of her predicament, hot headed Silvio to fight it, master Federigo (in reality Beatrice disguised as her brother) attempts to get his hands on Pantalone’s (Clarica’s father’s) money. Florindo Aretusi (in love with Beatrice) comes looking for his love. Sly and capable Truffaldino (who has no idea that his master is a woman) seizes the opportunity to double his income. Now as a servant of two masters (Beatrice and Florindo) he juggles his duties masterfully, except for a few unfortunate errors, which lead to unexpected and hilarious developments.


Creative “Julius Caesar” at the St Lawrence Shakeskpeare Festival at Prescott.

Reviewed by Connie Meng


Photo by David Blake.  Richard Sheridan Willis as Julius Caesar. 

Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, directed by  Rona Waddington.

The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival has opened their season with a strong and creative production of “Julius Caesar.”  Director Rona Waddington, with special permission from Actors Equity, has recruited 18 volunteers to play soldiers, senators, and citizens along with the 12 professional actors.  These volunteers do a fine job with the complex staging, as well as making some very nippy costume changes.

There are two real stand-outs in this generally strong cast.  Ash Knight as a wonderfully nuanced Brutus and Richard Sheridan Willis as the complex Caesar are both expert at handling the language.  My companion said for once she didn’t have to translate in her head. Jesse Nerenberg’s Cassius tends to be on a single note of anger till Act II, when we see more of his wiliness.  As Octavius Michael Man does a nice job, also doubling as the timid Cinna.


The Stratford Festival scores with its two Breath of Kings plays

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Breath of Kings Redemption – On The Run 2016

Photo.David Hou. With Geraint Wyn Davis and Ayala Mengesha

The first point to be made about the Breath Of Kings duo, now at the Stratford Festival, is that they bring Shakespeare’s history plays to renewed, freshly burnished life.

The histories can be a hard sell these days, despite the fact that they contain some of Shakespeare’s finest writing. Richard lll, with its irresistible villain, is of course the exception. But in general the history plays, although indispensable parts of the canon, can often seem problematic when it comes to attracting audiences.

One immediate virtue of Graham Abbey’s masterful distillation of four major works — Richard ll, the two parts of Henry lV, and Henry V — into two epic evenings of entertainment is that they should win over the must reluctant playgoer. That’s because they provide narrative clarity, honour some of the greatest moments of Shakespearean verse,  and bring immediacy to a particularly turbulent period in English history. They also make for exciting theatre, thanks to a powerful ensemble cast, which includes Abbey himself in a crucial role, and to the incisive direction of Mitchell Cushman and Weyni Mengesha.


Cuisine and Confessions: A New Take on Dinner Theatre by Les Sept Doigts de la Main

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin


Photo Alexandre Galliez. Performer Anna Kichtchenko

Boston welcomes back Les Sept Doigts de la Main (the Seven Fingers of the Hand) in their latest production Cuisine and Confessions, the fourth circus show that the company has brought to ArtsEmerson. The seven fingers (as the performers are referred to) have grown to nine for their current production. Cuisine and Confessions, like their earlier works, combines acrobatics, dance, song, storytelling, juggling, aerial silks, and occasional live music. Most of the Cuisine and Confessions performers trained at Montreal’s National Circus School, which gives a particular unity to their style.

As often the case in contemporary theatre, the immersive show tries to break down the barriers between performers and audience. At the opening, some of the artists play catch with the spectators using props such as balls and eggs, while other artists approach a few spectators to ask if they would like to participate. Those who agree are brought on stage at various junctures, perhaps fed a bit of food, get a few laughs, and return to their seats.


Barefoot in the Park: OLT offers believable characterization of a rather dated play.

Reviewed by Iris Winston


Photo: Maria Vartanova

Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon. Directed by Richard Elichuk. A production of the Ottawa Little Theatre.

When Barefoot in the Park premiered on Broadway, it was an instant hit, running for more than 1,500 performances — a record run for a non-musical play. In 1967, the movie version starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, was also a success.

That was half a century ago. And in the 50 years since the mid-1960s, attitudes towards marital roles have changed massively. This means that the play frequently creaks along, particularly when it is presented as a three-act show.

Unless the comedy — which Simon wrote as a tribute to his first wife — is given a stellar production, we are more likely to notice that it is a dated piece than to appreciate the core of the story: that opposites attract and that there is a steep learning curve in the early days of any marriage. In addition, the play relies heavily on the oft-repeated, and now stale, joke about the location of the overpriced, walk-up apartment where newly weds Corie and Paul Bratter are enjoying their first taste of marriage and near-divorce.

As directed by Richard Elichuk, with assistance from Dianna Renée Yorke and Susanna Doherty, the Ottawa Little Theatre production is at its best when focusing on character definition.


A Woman of No Importance: The Shaw Festival lays an Egg with Oscar Wilde play.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Photo: David Cooper. A Woman of No Importance.

It seemed welcome news when the Shaw Festival announced that it would be tackling Oscar Wilde’s A Woman Of No Importance this season. One hoped that the festival would be redressing the  wrong done this play in a previous production in 2004. After all, this current revival would be in the capable hands of Eda Holmes, a director responsible for some of the finest moments in the festival’s history.

How quickly can one’s high expectations be dashed. The production now on view at the Festival Theatre seems intent on baring the play’s weaknesses and diluting its strengths. It’s hard to be believe that the same director who unveiled a brilliant production of Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession in May could follow up with such a mish-mash.

To be sure, A Woman Of No Importance has long been considered the slightest and most problematic of Wilde’s plays. It begins with an extended upper-class gathering,  the sort of situation that allowed the playwright to indulge himself with barbed and witty epigrams about society. But it’s a scene fraught with hazards — the most immediate of which is the challenge of keeping the endless talk, talk, talk from turning static.