March, 2011

Visiones de la Cubanosofia. le nouveau théâtre cubain.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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La Reina de la Fritanga. Photo: Nelda Castillo, Teatro del ciervo encantada

Le spectacle,   présenté au théâtre La Capilla dans le quartier El Vedado de la Havane,  est   réalisé par la troupe El ciervo encantada,  sous la direction de Nelda Castillo.  Sur une petite scène, on observe une série de tableaux–chocs qui représentent une vision extrêmement personnelle  de  l’histoire cubaine. Les figures métaphoriques, les unes plus grotesques que les autres émergent sur un échafaudage  à  deux niveaux, Cette incarnation scénique  d’une hiérarchie sociale à la manière de Piscator,  confirme  la barbarie des colonisateurs dans une ambiance explicitement théâtrale.

Première image, une  immense statue de la vièrge en poupée resplendissante  placée au sommet de cette structure.  Elle est  enveloppée de velours,  de dentelles et  de couleurs brillantes. Encastré dans cette figure de poupée-vierge, un visage pâle presque humain, s’éveille et ouvre les yeux au moment où on entend le tintement des  clochettes et la musique sacrée cubaine qui annoncent le début d’un nouveau rituel pervers. Voici la première étape de ce rituel désacralisé, la  “Cubanosophie!”, dont la dynamique essentielle est le calvaire et le martyr d’une nouvelle figure christique, José Marti. La figure  d’une vierge  androgyne à la  longue barbe noire, aux  gros yeux noirs, à la bouche édentée circonscrite de lèvres rouges et au regard de plus en plus diabolique, se lance dans une diatribe violente et haineuse. Ses  grognements, ses hurleme  évoquent  les derniers râles d’un vieux  en train de mourir, alors qu’elle  parle au nom d’une église  méchante,  raciste, et colonisatrice, avant de s’évaporer dans les coulisses.

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Lucia di Lammermoor: A Staging of Great Emotional Power.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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  Southam Hall at the NAC (Ottawa) vibrated with the arias of Donizetti last night as the firey Egardo (Marc Hervieux)  and the silver toned Lucia (Lyubov Petrova)  vowed eternal love and then melted into passionate embraces and  heart wrenching  despair. Blood, vengeance, madness and suicide  all the stuff of shameless melodrama because absolutely enthralling in the story of these  ill fated lovers, victim of a family feud in 17th Century Scotland.

The set of act II, “The Mariage contract”  with its magnificent upper gallery, its  long winding stairway, its dark passageways and long shadowy hallways, was the perfect place for the appearance of ghosts, troubled spirits and the madwoman of the chateau who slaughters her husband with a bloody knife and then comes slowly downstairs looking for her absent lover. This is the stuff that must have intrigued Sir Walter Scott, author of the novel that inspired the libretto. He  certainly  had a perfectly  theatrical imagination because his text conjures up images of Macbeth, of Hamlet (Ophelia), of Romeo and Juliet, of Gisèle and  of  all the most tragically mad  figures of  theatre and literature that one could desire. Lucia is a bit of all that and with Donizetti,s melodic music the artistic and musical direction by Tyrone Paterson as well as the general direction by Tom Charlton,,  success is guaranteed. 

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Fragments: A Quintet of Beckett One-Act plays Visiting from Les Bouffes du Nord

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Introduction

Peter Brook’s productions of Fragments, a quintet of Beckett one-acts, and The Grand Inquisitor, drawn from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, arrived at ArtsEmerson the week of March 21 for a two-week run to much fanfare.  It marked the first time in forty years that a Brook production had played Boston.   In 1971, his history-making idiosyncratic and theatricalist A Midsummer Night’s Dream (produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company) had astounded audiences and critics here. 

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Cash on Delivery: Ray Cooney’s son makes getting laughs an uphill battle.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

After many years of Ray Cooney farces, it appears the mantle of farce writing has fallen on to the shoulders of son Michael.

The younger Cooney has certainly learned the conventions of farce: confused situations, often rooted in a key lie, slamming doors, mistaken identities, semi-naked, dead or near-dead bodies, stereotypes and, if possible, satirical attacks on government institutions.

The recipe is in evidence in Cash on Delivery, but that does not make it a good play. And despite the fact that the Kanata Theatre production, which opened this week, is clearly the result of hard work and good intentions, it just isn’t very funny.

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Saint Carmen is a Visual Bombshell

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Jackie Richardson (Gloria), Laara Sadiq (Carmen).Photo Bruce Zinger

The powerful opening is arresting. The curtain rises slowly to reveal a dozen pairs of legs belonging to a group of prostitutes and transvestites. All clad in red — underlining that this is a red light district — the stylized chorus is a visual bombshell.

Following the form of ancient Greek drama, violent acts will take place off stage, but there is little doubt from the beginning that Carmen, now a country and western star, is taking a risk in returning to her roots. There will undoubtedly be violence when she dares not only to come back but also to sing about these people (rather than the cowboy songs for which she has become known.)

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The Select: Stage adaptation of Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises Shows Lady Brett Ashley As The Bright Light of the Show.

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

 The Select, performed by the oddly named Elevator Repair Service, is a stage adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises.  Elevator Repair Service or ERS is a collaborative founded in 1991 with the aim of devising theatre pieces from non-theatrical material.  In its early years, the company worked with found texts to create highly energetic, idiosyncratic shows.  Of late, it has drawn its works from classics of American literature of the 1920s:  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and now Hemingway. 

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The Shadow Cutter:a world premiere that did not live up to expectations

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Pierre Brault has become a legendary writer /performer of  theatrical monologues. In his Portrait of An Unidentified man (directed by Brian Quirt)  he plays Elmyr de Hory, the gifted art forger; in  his staging of Blood on the Moon, he becomes  James Patrick Whelan,  the assassin of D’Arcy McGee; more recently in  Five O’Clock Bells he became Canadian guitarist Lenny Breau. All these performances testify to Brault’s great talent as a writer, an actor and a mimic.
The resurrection of all these figures also shows to what extent Brault is seriously engaged in staging moments of Canadian history that have not had the attention they deserve. It is not surprising then that this world première of the life of Canadian magician Dai Vernon  produced great expectations among the theatre going public in Ottawa. We were, however, sadly disappointed.

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The Player’s Advice To Shakespeare. A One-Man Play of Epic Proportions

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Greg Kramer as The Player.  Photo: Barbara Gray.

The Player’s Advice To Shakespeare constitutes an anti-Establishment rant — Elizabethan style. Ottawa playwright Brian K. Stewart has a provocative agenda in taking real-life historical events — James I’s ruthless suppression of the peasantry during the latter’s 1607 revolt against encroachments on their liberty and economic survival — in order to mount an attack on none other than William Shakespeare. In this rousing script, which also seems to be asking us to seek contemporary parallels, the Bard is fingered as an acquiescent tool of the system, an Establishment lackey who failed to employ his formidable dramatic powers on behalf of justice for his society’s underprivileged and in support of revolutionary action.

The vessel for this outpouring of wrath — and yes, this is a one-man play — is a cranky and garrulous Tower of London prisoner known only as The Player. We meet this ragged rebel in his dungeon along with a table and bench, a plain wooden bowl, a flask containing some unspeakable beverage — and a carrot. The carrot becomes a particularly useful prop — even being employed for a bit of swordplay as The Player rambles on about the events and issues which led to his confinement and possible death. The primitive furniture is put to good use too — witness how, under John Koensgen’s nimble direction, that table suddenly becomes a lurching cart as The Player embarks on a journey to Leicester and into the reality of civil unrest.

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The PLayer’s Advice to Shakespeare: All That A Theatrical Experience Should Be

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Greg Kramer is mesmerizing. John Koensgen’s direction, together with Martin Conboy’s lighting and James Richardson’s sound, and, of course, Brian K. Stewart’s script make this world premiere of The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare all that a theatrical experience should be.

The presentation is suitably simple, with the focus firmly on Kramer, the Player, explaining how an actor in Will Shakespeare’s company happens to be in the Tower of London, waiting to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

The Player, once content as an actor in London, is moved to join the Midland Revolt of 1607 — the peasants’ reaction to the gentry enclosing common land to pasture their sheep. (The Enclosure movement was at its height during the 18th and early 19th centuries in Britain, but it had its roots in the earlier uprisings.)

Playwright Stewart is to be congratulated on the historical accuracy of the script, even if Advice occasionally becomes a generalized attack on the moneyed classes, then and now.

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The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare: a performance worthy of Stratford!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Greg Kramer as The Player. Photo: Barbara Gray.

Ottawa has finally done it!   The latest production of  the New Theatre of Ottawa, could proudly represent us at the Stratford or Shaw Festivals and in any case, it belongs on the  stage of the National Arts Centre English theatre. This has been a long time coming but the slow and steady growth of local professional theatre in this city has at last given birth to a truly great work of the stage.

Surprisingly, The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare, a monologue by  Brian K. Stewart, is his first play although the author is certainly not a stranger to the stage. However, the creative team of director John Koensgen (award winning actor who did several seasons at Stratford), lighting designer Martin Conboy, who transforms light into a mysterious living substance ,  and Greg Kramer, the immensely talented vocal and corporeal presence   that grips us for 90 minutes, have all united their talents to transform the written word into a living monument of performance excellence.

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Past Reviews